First off, if you haven’t seen “This Is Us,” go do yourself a favor and watch all of the first season. Make sure to have a box of tissues by your side too. I have never been so invested or attached to a show like this before. That’s saying a lot if you know how much I love “Gilmore Girls.” This show is much different than that and from most shows today. It hits all the right emotions in me in every single episode.
The one thing I have loved the most about this show is the awareness it’s bringing for mental illnesses, specifically anxiety. Randall, who is a middle-aged African American man, has experienced anxiety attacks all of his life. They showed us him having anxiety attacks as a child while writing a paper, having anxiety attacks before his daughters were born, and now having anxiety attacks because he just has a lot going on in his life.
The writers didn’t make us aware of this until the last two episodes of the first season. I love the fact that they did it this way because they first showed us that Randall is a man with a successful career, a wife, and two beautiful daughters. He seems to be the perfect man who has no flaws — until his anxiety starts to build up and he starts having anxiety attacks again. I’m not saying this makes him imperfect; it just makes him seem more human. He ends up having to be hospitalized for awhile until he is better. The writers don’t focus on the hospitalization as much as they focus on how he made a comeback from it.
Another aspect of this show I appreciate is all the support he receives. He does not seem like an outsider to his loved ones, which is the way it should be! His brother sacrificed his career just to be there for him and to take him to be hospitalized. His wife goes to therapy with him.
His birth father told him he was surprised Randall deals with all of this because he seems to be really put together. Randall replied by saying he is “too together.” These words. If I had to describe someone with anxiety, including myself, I would use these two words.
When his father was asking about his anxiety attack, he used the word “breakdown” and then immediately asked if that was the correct language to use. Wow! Not many people are aware of the correct language to use for people with mental illnesses; most don’t even bother to ask. Randall responded by saying there are a lot of ways to word it, and he threw out different phrases people used. Randall, himself, called it “anxiety” and “anxiety attacks.” They were then able to talk about it more openly because there was a two-way street of empathy.
It amazes me how I can see myself within Randall. Even though he is of a different race, gender, generation, occupation, and economic status I can see myself. I saw myself while he was shaking in the shower crying. I saw myself while he was on the floor of his office hyperventilating. I saw myself while he was calling to cancel big plans because of his anxiety. I saw myself while he was talking to his therapist. I saw myself while he was trying to explain his anxiety attacks to his father. I saw myself when he learned to let loose a little bit while driving with the windows down.
The fact that I was able to see myself within him made me feel even less alone. It made me realize how universal anxiety truly is. I’m sure if this show was in a different language that I didn’t know and I was watching these scenes of Randall I would still feel the same way. Not only is the writing of this show amazing, but the acting of Randall is out of this world. He embodies anxiety attacks so well that it’s kind of freaky. But in a good way. I am beyond thankful for this show and for Randall.
I have noticed a big change just within myself coming out about my mental illnesses. More people on my Facebook feed are sharing or writing about mental health. I have noticed TV not being afraid to bring up mental illnesses and doing it in a respectable way. My biggest hope is for this awareness to keep on spreading. One day I hope the majority are understanding and knowledgeable of people with a mental illness.
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Photo from This Is Us – Facebook