When it comes to the daily struggle that is anxiety, I've never quite felt as though I could explain why I feel the way I do or why it impacts so much... That is until I saw this movie.
Welcome to Marwen, starring Steve Carrell, is based on a true story about how a man crippled with mental illness overcame his obstacles in order to gain control of his life again. On April 8, 2000, Mark Hogancamp was brutally attacked outside of a local bar in Kingston, NY based solely on the fact that he was different. Mark was a creative man who often found joy in the idea of wearing women's heels. This simple quirk that made him who he has fueled his attacker's ignorance enough to beat him nearly to death. After the attack, Mark was left with no memory of his previous life but was given the burden of PTSD and chronic Anxiety.
The film follows his journey through the use of photography, specifically that of inanimate dolls and action figures, as a therapeutic means of recovery. While we all root for Mark to overcome his challenges throughout the movie, I became more fixated on the mysterious antagonist that Mark combats constantly. She takes the form of one of Mark's photography subjects, a doll who personifies a Belgian Witch by the name of Deja Thoris. Each doll in Mark's photography represents someone important, either good or bad, in his life. However, as the movie goes on, Deja does not seem to be created from anyone in his life making her origin a mystery. That is until you realize Deja isn't necessarily a person in his life but rather the one thing robbing him of his freedom, his memory, and his recovery… His anxiety medication.
Growing up with anxiety and being medicated for it, I was relieved to finally have a representation of how it truly feels to live in a foggy cloud of "anxiety relief". The cathartic moment that Mark has when he realizes that he is the only one who can overcome his disease resonated with me so deeply as I felt the exact same way when I decided to stop taking anti-anxiety medication. When drugs are brought on as the initial solution to anxiety or PTSD, it does not deal with the problem at hand but only masks it just as it did for Mark.
The culture surrounding mental health is one of taboo and burden, to say the least. People avoid the subject and jump to a quick solution like medication when in reality, mental health takes work, time, dedication, and most of all understanding. The concept of Deja controlling Mark's life is exactly how I felt on my medication. While this route may work for some people as it can restore a chemical imbalance, this has become the go-to for many victims of mental health issues. Medications, regardless of their use, are a drug and drugs create dependency.
Seeing a context for mental health that does not include Zoloft or Xanax as the end-all, be-all cure is refreshing and comforting. Although Mark's case is incredibly severe compared to my own, I can take this film now and say, "THAT is what it feels like, THAT is what I'm going through, THIS is the change we need to see." If you've ever felt like you can't explain your mental illness and you can't relate to others about it, please watch this film and understand that you're not alone and you can defy the odds and bring your life back into your own hands.
Take a look at the real Mark Hogancamp's work, it is phenomenal.