The Big Bang Theory and Me and BPD

After my last post, which was pretty heavy as it dealt with the crappy symptoms of BPD I experience, I thought I’d write about something a bit more light-hearted. Specifically, a TV show. Bear with me, I promise it’s relevant. 

Before I continue, I am really not interested in what other people think of my choices of TV. It’s all personal preference, and for most people TV is a way of relaxing and switching off. For some people that means watching back-to-back documentaries about serial killers, for others it might be endless episodes of The Repair Shop (we have a backlog of these recorded on our Tivo box, as we both find it incredibly soothing to watch), for others it may be soaps. Whatever floats your boat. 

Since I left hospital in November, I’ve found TV really therapeutic, distracting and, as weird as it sounds, a good way of adding structure and routine to my day. At first all I could watch was endless American sitcoms on E4, although this has shifted and evolved and now I’m feeling able to watch grittier stuff like Killing Eve and Chernobyl. And I’m doing a lot more during the day now, getting out and seeing people, so I don’t need the comfort of such gems as Melissa & Joey and Baby Daddy at specific times every day.

One show that has really helped during both my period of illness and subsequent recovery is The Big Bang Theory. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s a US sitcom about four male scientists and a ‘hot’ blond woman who befriends them. It ran for 12 seasons, with two more female cast members being added along the way, and it basically charted the lives of the characters as they formed relationships, careers and figured out things in their lives. The things that drew me in were the theme song, performed by The Barenaked Ladies (they also did ‘One Week’: a total banger), and the character of Sheldon, who is never officially diagnosed with any condition (his mother had him tested) but shows classic signs of obsessive compulsive disorder and some autistic traits. Working with young people who struggled with social situations and relationships at the time, I felt the show (mostly) presented his character with sensitivity and compassion, and within a few episodes I was hooked, and laughing a lot.

This show has been a pretty big constant in my life for a long time, not least because it took over from Friends as the show that E4 showed CONSTANTLY, and watching characters I knew really well always felt like being welcomed back to somewhere familiar and safe. I remember quoting Sheldon to Tom on our third date. He did not laugh.

When I fell ill last year, I stopped doing a lot of things that had previously made me happy. I couldn’t face doing things that didn’t make me feel ‘right’ anymore, and I could not face a lot of the shows that were bringing out new episodes. We still have a lot of Westworld to catch up on. But The Big Bang Theory (most of which is on Netflix) was still something I turned to for comfort and familiarity, which I desperately needed when I felt completely unmoored from everything that used to hold me steady. I watched it feverishly, trying to absorb the humour and happiness of the characters. Sometimes it helped, sometimes it didn’t, but they were always there for me. Some things did not change.

The final season of the show began around the time I was hospitalised in 2018, and a new weekly episode on a Thursday night was something that immediately became part of my routine. It lifted my spirits and gave me something, however small, to look forward to each week. Knowing it was the final season was bittersweet, I felt I needed to drink in every episode and appreciate them. I follow all the actors on social media, and to know they were all feeling emotional about the show finishing, that the show meant as much to them emotionally as it did to me, touched me and made me feel even more attached to them and their characters.

A special mention at this point has to go to Mayim Bialik, whose character Amy Farrah-Fowler was introduced in season 3 and quickly became my favourite. (Our cat has her full name as part of her middle name. She is Stella Smoky Amy Farrah Fowler Poulton. Yes, really.) Mayim is the only member of the cast who has a PhD in real life, she runs her own website: Grok Nation, and regularly posted videos during the last season about how she was handling the end of the show, and the impact it was having on her emotionally. Basically, I love her.

Ultimately, the end of The Big Bang Theory came a couple of months after I made the decision to leave a job I have held for 9 years. Watching these people who had worked on the show for 12 years come to terms with the end of an era really helped me feel less alone in that time (obviously they had a bit more money to soften the blow than I did!) and seeing how sad it made them only made me love them more. Mayim Bialik regularly refers to herself as ‘unemployed’ and often addresses the uncertainties this brings through her social media. OK, so we aren’t in the same boat exactly, but maybe the same sea?

Kunal Nayyar (Raj) regularly posts on Instagram encouraging people to be kinder to themselves. Kaley Cuoco (Penny) rescues anything with four legs, and enjoys sharing videos of her dogs, horses, rabbit and, most recently, goat. Jim Parsons (Sheldon), Johnny Galecki (Leonard) and Melissa Rauch (Bernadette) all support each other on social media, and it’s clear all the cast have a close bond. Simon Helberg (Howard) also seems lovely but doesn’t really have a social media presence.

ANYWAY, I could write pages and pages about much I love this show, but the main point is that for me it is the TV equivalent of being wrapped in a comfy blanket and drinking a hot chocolate. It makes me laugh, no matter how many times I’ve seen each episode, and I’m pretty sure I could go on Mastermind with this as my specialist subject.

I know none of the cast will ever read this, but The Big Bang Theory has played a massive part in supporting me throughout my recovery, and for that I want to thank them for their whole universe.

Bazinga, and out.

Sarah x

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