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What This Scene in 'Insecure' Can Teach Us About Depression


On behalf of everyone battling mental illness, Issa Rae, I accept your apology.

Apologies are life-altering. The good ones, the bad ones and especially the ones you never receive (but that’s a word for another post).

In the season 2 finale of “Insecure,” Issa and Lawrence exchange two very good apologies that give hella perspective into the importance of communication when battling mental illness in relationships.

For those of you unfamiliar with the show, I need you to stop playing and get into the #blackexcellence that is “Insecure.” After the two seasons leading up to this episode, Issa and Lawrence find themselves still sorting through the wreckage of what was their long-term relationship. As far as blame goes, #TeamLawrence will argue that Issa cheated, while #TeamIssa defends her with the fact that Lawrence was unemployed and depressed for the bulk of the time leading up to her infidelity. Regardless of what bandwagon you support, the season finale leaves both squads with a lot to process. This particular scene was huge for obvious reasons (see Issa’s tear jerker daydream of what could’ve been), but for someone like myself, who battles mental illness, the apology exchange sequence is what stuck with me the most.

My name is Amanda and I battle with bipolar depression and anxiety. (There, I said it.) Having dealt with these issues my entire adult life, I have more than a few instances that demonstrate the negative impact that mental illness can have on relationships. For anyone who deals with mental illness or loves someone who does, I am sure that you too can tell stories of broken lines of communication, and the distance, insecurities, mistrust, etc. that can come as a result.

Through a lot of tears, journaling, therapy sessions, etc. I can say I have grown in my ability to communicate through my lowest moments. I am also blessed with an incredible woman committed to loving me into my best self. With this support system in place, I now understand how important communication is and how a heartfelt apology can go a long way in mending a relationship damaged by mental illness.

Let’s break this scene down…

Lawrence’s apology gives people like myself a good framework on how to open the lines of communication with their partners. He does two key things that can open/mend the lines of communication in almost any relationship. First, he identifies how his mental illness has impacted the relationship.

Lawrence: “Look, I’m sorry. I set these expectations for myself, and I just, shut down, if they don’t go how I…I just uh…I’m sorry.”

In that statement, Lawrence gave Issa a look into how his mind worked. This is priceless information for people trying to help their loved one battle mental illness. Of all the things that someone should be expected to do for their loved one, reading minds is not one of them. It’s not Issa’s fault that Lawrence sets expectations for himself. It’s not her fault when they don’t go as planned. But she bears the brunt of him shutting down; a direct result of his expectations not going his way. Imagine if Issa knew about the internal expectations and pressure that Lawrence put on himself. She could have spoken to them; reassured him that his self-worth wasn’t tied to his plans. She would have been able to avoid taking it personally when he refused to talk to her and shut her out. If these apologies had happened sooner in the series, Issa’s daydream of forever could have been a reality.

The second part of Lawrence’s apology that we can all learn from is when he acknowledged how his actions hurt his partner.

Lawrence: “For not being who you expected me to be. For who I expected me to be.”

In this statement, Lawrence acknowledges that who he was in a depressed state is not who Issa was used to. It may have very well been her first time ever seeing him that way. And without communication from Lawrence to help her see what was going on, Issa had no way of knowing why her loving, caring boyfriend was all of sudden so distant and cold. How then could she have been expected to be there for Lawrence when he needed her the most?

To all of my fellow mental health warriors, I urge you to speak up. Give words to what’s going on inside at all times. Make a habit of expressing how you feel and what you think. In good times and bad, learn to find your voice. Once you find that voice, use it to ask for help. Let your loved ones love you. Tell them what you are feeling and thinking. Tell them what you need. The people who are meant to be in your corner will be grateful you opened up to them, and those who aren’t will show you how to let them go and make space for the ones who are in it for the long haul. There is no instant fix when a relationship is damaged, but communication is the best way to start and stay on the path to a better relationship.

Now, I want to turn my attention to those amazing souls who love someone with a mental illness. You are attempting to love someone battling something that may be as foreign to you as a language you’ve never heard. As complicated as that can be, Issa’s apology epitomizes what I believe is the single most important way to connect with your loved one. Ready for the secret to loving someone with a mental illness? Here goes:

Be honest.

Sounds way too simple to be effective, right? Let’s look at the end of Lawrence and Issa’s apology exchange.

Issa: “And when you were going through what you were going through… I just didn’t know how to handle it.”

Simply admitting that she didn’t know what to do for Lawrence when he needed her the most shows that it wasn’t anyone’s fault. It validates Lawrence by telling him that she saw what he was going through. It also sends the message that she wanted to help (because she loves him). So much meaning in such a small statement.

And if that’s not enough, the healing communication continues…

Lawrence: “I mean, what could you have done, tho?”

Issa: “More. That’s when you needed me to be better for the both of us, and I didn’t even know how to do that for myself.”

Lawrence: “That makes two of us.”

At this point, both Issa and Lawrence have put their guards completely down. Their apologies addressed so much angst that had been building since season 1. You could hear the sigh of relief as Issa heard Lawrence speak like the man that she fell in love with. Lawrence’s face softened while listening to Issa speak to him with love instead of annoyance. Healing is hard, but that exchange gives a blueprint for how to keep the process moving along.

The silence, hug and even more silence as Lawrence left the apartment was bursting with all of the communication (and subsequent happily ever after) that could have been. For every honest and kind word that was shared between Issa and Lawrence, there was so much more yet to be addressed. My fingers are crossed that the two characters get back together (in your face, #TeamDaniel), but that remains to be seen. As we watch to see what happens in the next season of “Insecure,” let the lessons learned in season 2’s finale not be soon forgotten.

Be honest.

Be vulnerable.

Be kind.

I challenge you, whether you battle mental illness or you love someone who does, to not allow your happily ever after to be derailed by lack of communication.

Image via “Insecure” Facebook page.