Living with Bipolar is Messy

Enlightened: A series worth watching

Alicia Rust


“You’re a mental patient.”

These four words were used as a weapon.

Those words cut me to the core when I heard actor James Rebhorn spit these words out to actress Laura Dern in the HBO series Enlightened. With those four words, he undermined all she was working for to make positive changes and help others. He used these four words as a weapon, a knife to the soul.

How many of us, who have struggled with mental illness, have been pained by the ignorant words of others? Sometimes, we feel the judgement in others’ silence, as well. We lose friends, jobs, support systems. We’re “too much” for others. Hard to love. Hard to appreciate. Hard to understand.

The series Enlightened premiered October 2011.

Surprisingly, the show was gifted a second season even though viewership was utterly low (only about 222,000 viewers in the second season). It was an ahead-of-its-time program and canceled before the planned trilogy could be completed (only 18 episodes in total). Dern plays the lead role of Amy Jellicoe; she also co-created and co-produced the series with director, writer, and actor Mike White (who plays her timid, lonely coworker).

White & Dern as Tyler and Amy in Enlightened.

The Upshot of the Show

Enlightened is a dramedy featuring Amy Jellicoe (Laura Dern) returning to work after a nervous breakdown. During her time away from work, she seeks treatment at a holistic rehabilitation facility. Upon returning to the company, Abbadon Industries, she finds that her position had been filled. However, due to her new diagnosis of bipolar disorder, the head of HR rehires Amy because otherwise she could possibly sue for discrimination on the basis of a medical condition.

Amy’s new position is demeaning, and she views this transfer as an attempt to get her to quit of her own volition. Soon Amy realizes that the company is corrupt; and she wants to be an agent of change by taking it down from within as a whistleblower…



Alicia Rust

Writer. Lover of dark chocolate, coffee, tea, & being me. I’m an anxiety-ridden, chronic depression survivor...