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'Insecure' Season 4, Episode 9 Review: Why Nathan's Diagnosis Gives Me Hope

Sunday’s penultimate episode of HBO’s “Insecure” was titled “Lowkey Trying” and this was certainly evident in Kendrick Sampson’s character, Nathan. We discover more about his season 3 disappearance when he tells Issa that he doesn’t just struggle with depression, but that he was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. 

The show chronicles the personal, professional and messy misadventures of Issa Dee (show co-creator, Issa Rae) as she works to manage complicated relationships and evolving friendships while finding her place in Los Angeles. We find Issa reconnecting with recent flame, Nathan, while passionately rekindling (on undefined terms) an intimate connection with her ex, Lawrence (Jay Ellis). As she’s helping Nathan settle into his new apartment, Nathan, who’s often full of surprises regardless of his unassuming disposition, shares why he vanished when their relationship was deepening. 

On the heels of an awkward and slightly tense exchange in the kitchen, Nathan shares: “I didn’t just disappear. I found out I’m bipolar… Now I know I just told you that I was feeling depressed, but when I went back to Houston I found out for sure. And, um, honestly, that was a relief.”

He continues with explaining his reason for keeping the news close to the chest, how he feared being labeled and how he wanted space and time to adjust. 

As someone who was diagnosed last January, coming out to anyone with such a stigmatized illness is an act of painstaking courage. Fortunately for me — and Nathan — my revelation was met with grace and care. Issa deeply listened, demonstrated genuine empathy and allowed him to be vulnerable and share his challenges. 

Nathan tells Issa: “I got some clarity on the type of people I want in my life, and you one of em.” This struck close to home as I’ve been intentional about curating my own friend circle. I’ve done this to ensure that I’m making healthy decisions for myself (not drinking, getting to bed at a decent time, not engaging in risk taking behavior, etc.). Understandably, some friendships have melted away due to the heartbreak and emotional harm to those I’ve loved. 

So much shame and guilt can accompany a bipolar diagnosis, especially after having had a severe manic or depressive episode. We don’t know what specific type of bipolar disorder Nathan has, but we’ve seen some potential symptoms based on his actions in previous episodes. From assaulting a fellow Lyft passenger, to having public sex on a Coachella Ferris wheel, to his aforementioned disappearance to Houston. These are all assumptions though, but if it does all add up to them being symptoms, I’m personally pleased with the writer’s choices on how to depict the disorder. Sometimes characters aren’t carefully written and can — at times — be a caricature of the illness instead of a humanized, nuanced depiction.

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Nathan’s character isn’t a representation of an anomaly. As witnesses and survivors of racism, police brutality, marginalization and disenfranchisement, our mental wellness as Black people is often under attack. According to Mental Health America, “Adult Black/African Americans are 20% more likely to report serious psychological distress than adult whites.” 

Many of us have chosen to respond to the trauma literally passed down to us by attending therapy, uplifting each other through local and national programs and by working to infiltrate and change the same systems that often tell us we’re not worthy of something better. With the gruesome murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, I’m reminded of how little my life can matter, but Nathan gives me hope. I find comfort in his decision to take care of himself, to be open about where he falls short and to be persistent in his career and life. This all reminds me that things can absolutely work out. That while I’m still processing and healing, there’s always tomorrow, and new opportunities to keep lowkey trying.

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Image via Insecure on Facebook