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New Audible Original 'Apocalypse Untreated' Tackles Mental Health and Medication

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Writer and comedian Gaby Dunn, who has bipolar disorder, went camping at a mountain with her then-girlfriend. During the trip, Dunn was asked what she would do if something bad happened. Dunn responded that her bipolar disorder symptoms would act up because she only had “a certain amount of medication” with her. This experience inspired Dunn to create the upcoming Audible Original series “Apocalypse Untreated.”

“Apocalypse Untreated” follows five teenagers who are at an inpatient wilderness program for their mental health when the apocalypse starts. The teenagers not only have to fend for themselves at the end of the world but must navigate what will happen when they run out of psychiatric medication. This leads to questions about how prescriptions drugs affect them.  Dunn said of the characters:

There’s definitely some characters that represent people who don’t want to take medication. There’s some characters who are desperate to get their meds. There’s some characters who feel free without them. There’s some great conversation and arguing between  characters about if medication makes you your true self, or if medication hides your true self.

Dunn told The Mighty that teenagers generally struggle with their identity anyway. Even in less chaotic times, it’s typical for teenagers to ask questions like “Who am I?” and “What do I want?” Dunn said. The characters in “Apocalypse Untreated” grapple with figuring out where their medication, mental health and the complexities of just being a teenager intersect. And trying to fend for themselves at the end of the world, of course.

While this Audible Original is a fictional thriller, Dunn wrote realistic characters with mental illness who do not perpetuate harmful stereotypes. It was important for Dunn to do this because she has seen “a lot of stories of people being afraid of people with bipolar disorder.”

Dunn highlighted the films “Midsommar” and “Split” as examples where mental illness is associated with violence and other harmful representations. “I just thought it would be better to show these characters as fully rounded people,” Dunn added of her “Apocalypse Untreated” characters.

In addition to helping inspire the premise of the series, Dunn shared that her bipolar disorder also impacted the production of “Apocalypse Untreated.” “When I was writing it, I had to take a break for a couple months because I was having a depressive episode,” Dunn said.

She said it’s also frustrating that people believe the stereotype that bipolar disorder makes you hyperproductive because of mania.

“When I was depressed, I couldn’t write,” Dunn said. “I had to email Audible and be like ‘Remember how you bought this thing about mental illness from me? Well, I can’t do it.'” In her situation, Audible was understanding and extended her deadline for the project.

Dunn said that people who listen to “Apocalypse Untreated” can expect “a lot of destigmatizing of mental illness and of disability.” Plus, the hard questions of what to do during the end of the world. You can listen to “Apocalypse Untreated” when it premieres on Audible Sept. 24. 

Cover art courtesy of Audible

Originally published: September 10, 2020
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