On Mr. Robot and its portrayal of mental disorders

I like to spend time with my husband watching television at night- and often I pull out my laptop and only half pay attention, dealing with emails or surfing social media.

When he put on the series Mr. Robot, I couldn’t stop watching.  The main character, Elliot, suffers from social anxiety disorder (and probably other disorders as well) and the portrayal of what it’s like to deal with mental illness is absolutely spot-on. I can’t give any details or I risk spoiling the story for people that haven’t seen the show, but I was amazed at how well the show was able to nail down the sensations people like me go through at times.

My own particular blend of problems is not entirely without merit. For example, I go through hypomanic periods of greater activity, happiness,  creativity and self-confidence, and these periods bring with them a lot of good ideas. One of them turned into my cancer-fighting gut bacterial project (find information here) and others have led me to ideas for how to reduce greenhouse gases produced by farm manure digesters, or how to make antimicrobial molecules which target ony specific pathogens better able to be taken up by cells, and so make those molecules more likely to be useful medicines. I also have had a lot of different recurring dreams, and while some of them are unsettling many are harmless, even entertaining. For example, I keep thinking I might have met the cast of Family Guy at a coffee shop in North Hollywood.  I’ve also got a memory of meeting Julius Sharpe (a writer) at the same cafe at a different time, where he complimented me on my polka-dot sunglasses.

I have turned some of my odd notions into the plot for my novel Infinity (which I will get to when I finish my current work, Anagama).  For those unfamiliar with my work, Infinity is a story of a bipolar scientist who is the target of  bizarre attacks which  she never quite believes happened, and how her descendants must use time travel and quantum entanglement devices to try to rescue her.  Anagama is set in a dystopian future where Zurvan Corporation is able to designate kidnapped people as property if their genomes are sufficiently different from “normal human”; two designated non-humans and their allies join forces in an attempt to bring down Zurvan and find freedom.

I’ve been struggling with food poisoning symptoms today, but as I type this it is only 3 pm in the afternoon and the house is quiet. I should be able to pull off another couple of chapters this evening, and/or transcribe what I’ve written in my notebook to my digital files. I’m not too far off track in terms of my writing schedule for Anagama.

If you haven’t seen Mr. Robot, I strongly suggest you do- I found it absolutely fascinating, and the most realistic, and sympathetic, portrayal of mental illness I’ve seen on the small screen in a long time.

Move over, kitty!

I’ve written before about my struggles with maintaining my productivity in the face of carrying out a full-time day job that’s creatively exhausting and also completing deadlines associated with my other interests.  These include my personal cancer research project, and the general audience science articles I write for The Conversation. I don’t get paid for the latter two things, though I may be able to fund part of my salary via grants for the research project, and I find the science article outreach to be rewarding on an emotional level.  Today I wrote a 500 word outline of an article that will be about evaluating the risks and benefits of a new technology, with a focus on the debate surrounding neonicotinoid pesticides and bees. Since the final article will only be about 800-1000 words, I guess you can say it’s already half-written!

So that was useful, but I promised myself I’d do more creative fiction writing as well- and while I struggled for a few weeks to get anything written down since my last blog post, I did manage in the past three days to write four chapters for my novel-in-progress Anagama, as well as edit a number of other chapters to fix errors in continuity or to make events seem more plausible.  I actually sat down with a printout of what I have written so far as well as a notebook that I’m scribbling in longhand, since I wasted a lot of time in the past paging back and forth in my lengthening novel document, trying to find chapters I had written previously to remind myself of details, or try to regain a feel for a certain setting.  This new system of writing is far more efficient and relaxing for me, even though I write more slowly than I type.

I still need to sit down and type all the scribbles into my computer (something I look forward to, as I know from experience at this point I edit and re-edit, adding in details, which I find extremely satisfying), but I am happy with my progress.  Upon finishing this blog post, I will probably try to write another chapter (though this one will not be fuelled by espresso drinks, as the previous four were).

The fat orange cat was sitting in front of my camera for a while there, but determined effort on my part has made it shift its fluffy butt away. With luck, I can keep it occupied while maintaining my current good health and energy levels, and stay on track to finish a first draft of Anagama by the end of the year.