What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
Dear Amanda Bynes,
I’m currently in Lagos, Nigeria for a few weeks. Electricity is spotty so waking up to whirling fans and charging phones is a big deal. This morning, I woke up in a bit of a sad mood, but I got out of bed, thankful for the electricity and went to the parlor to turn on the TV. To my surprise, your movie, "What A Girl Wants" was on.
I’ve never admitted it, because no one ever asked, but I’ve seen this movie well over 20 times. I think it’s adorable. I think you are adorable in it.
I’ve also never admitted that I’ve seen every episode of "What I Like About You." I felt far too old to be a “fan” but definitely loved that a girl your age (since your Nickelodeon days) was embracing her comedic chops. I even remember an interview you did with Leno talking about how you got started in stand up. You were all of 9 at the time. I was looking forward to your growth and where you would end up. I knew you would be huge.
You’re 26 now and I was right, you're huge, all over the place. But not for the reasons I predicted.
Over the last year, I’ve noticed an increasing pattern in your behavior. It began as a few odd tweets, the declaration that you were giving up acting, a peculiar Instagram or twitpic of yourself. As a mental health advocate, you could say my spidey senses started tingling.
As someone who lives with a mental illness, the red flags were crimson and lost amongst the clouds. Much like I felt you were. I remember thinking to myself, "Something is wrong here.” But I’m not a doctor. I’m just a girl who has sent her share of odd “harmless” tweets in the middle of a sleepless night.
As time went on, your behavior began to concern me. It wasn’t any one thing, it was all of it. The sudden blonde hair, the dimple piercings, the selfies of you topless, the stories and videos of you locking yourself in a dressing room for hours, trying on clothes after clothes. I won’t recap tabloids because I know they stretch the truth, but when your family released a statement confirming an undisclosed mental illness my worst fears were realized. I recognized it.
I recognized both those who were using you as a punchline and the legion of misguided young girls who have crowned you some sort of Legend of Billie Jean folk hero. That I don’t understand at all. What I didn’t see was anyone really reaching out to help. I’m not saying it didn’t happen, I’m saying it was lost in the crowd of those taking pleasure or comfort in your roller coaster ride.
Last week, Jenny McCarthy Tweeted concern and you lashed out, then apologized almost immediately. You said in an interview with Radar Online that only “Ugly people think you’re insane.” I don’t think you’re insane but I think you’re in desperate need of help.
I’m not a doctor. I’m a woman who has been where you are several times. I know where you are. You’re on a high right now. It feels like you own the world. Like you're the most amazing, smartest, most gifted person in the entire universe and everyone else is wrong, wrong, wrong. They don’t know you. They don’t know how wonderful you are and how great you feel. They don’t get you. You feel free. You feel untouchable.
I know that place.
You want to buy everything. You don’t need sleep or food or anyone who wants to pull you down from this up place. You feel like you’re part of the joke. Everyone is laughing and you’re laughing with them. Like the note being passed around during math class that has the whole class giggling, except, Amanda, in this setting, you are the note.
The basic laws of physics state that what goes up must come down. You are in a dangerous place, this high will remove the floor and you will crash. And there will be no one there to catch you.
You need help. You need help. You need help. You need to find someone who will love you enough to tell you the truth about your behavior. I’ll say it again, I’m not a doctor. I can’t and won’t give you a diagnosis, but I recognize you. I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder at 27, just one year older than you are now. Thank God there was no Twitter or Facebook or Instagram back then. The shame and constant reminders would be too much to bear.
I had a yearlong nervous breakdown, each symptom getting worse and worse until backstage while on tour, I was found in the fetal position underneath the sink in my dressing room. It was my stage manager, Alice, who crawled under the sink and held me and told me that if I didn’t get help, I was going to die.
I’m saying this to you, Amanda, "If you don’t get help, you’re going to die."
There is no place else to go. The highs will wear off, the dawn or realization will set in. And if you don’t have someone or someones to help you navigate this precarious mental landscape, you will die. I hate to be harsh or blunt but the time for soft talk has passed. I don’t know you. I’ve never met you and my heart breaks every time there is a story or joke at your expense. I can only imagine how your family feels. I can only imagine how helpless and broken. I can only imagine how worried.
But beyond that, I know exactly how you feel. I know there are moments when it gets dark and the shadow falls, you feel something, maybe you shake it off and Tweet. Maybe you go and spend $40,000 on something you don’t need and try to out run the shadow. You can’t run forever. One day, you will need to rest and that’s when I fear for you the most.
I Tweeted you about a week ago, I’m sure you didn’t get it. After my second, hospitalization 3 years ago, I have managed and treated my illness successfully. I get up every morning hoping that today is the day I’m cured. I don’t need to take my meds today. I’ll be OK.
Then I remember the brain spinning. Then I remember the uncontrollable crying. Then I remember that I want to live so I drag myself up and I take the morning pills and before bed, I take the night pills. I want to live. I want you to live.
You may not need medication. You may only need therapy or a change in diet, I don’t know. But I do know that you need help. I’m a stranger, a woman half way across the world at the moment, writing you words you may never read but I want you to live.
Your movie is still on, it’s the scene where you convince the British musician hottie to play some James Brown and liven up the posh boring party. You’re dancing. You’re smiling. You’re alive.
Please, do something that insures you return to the dancing, smiling and living. Not just this twisting in the wind, these antics entertaining those who don’t care about your well-being. Let your family back in, Amanda, let them help you. Let them help you live.
I wish you the best. And I hope those wishes reach you somehow.