Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Owen Wilson: All Too Human

Some have hinted at substance abuse, others referenced recurring battles with depression. In watching celebrities like Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan crash and burn before the unflattering lights of the tabloid media, there is a covert undercurrent of contempt -- for their senses of entitlement, their reckess indulgances, and their public displays of psychodramas --as if common sense went out the window and there was no one there to intervene and save them from their dysfunctional selves. But Owen Wilson's predictament struck a far different chord n me, as if despite what he accomplished in life, there was something of a dormant maliase waiting to surface at the most inopportunte moment..

Some in the entertainment world interpreted his 'perceived' suicide attempt as a cry for help, and perhaps rightfully so. Success in the entertainment world doesn't necessarily translate into personal happiness. I am not in any professional position to delve into his psychopathology. But I can tell you this: depression, substance abuse, and other serious mental health issues are much more common than many people realize, and the whole celebrity culture magnifies and exacerbates it even worse. Given the pressure-cooker environments that so many performers are operating within, where the pressure from image-makers is to superimpose a image or the ideal that's expected of them, doesn't it come as no surprise that some might be stretched to the breaking point?

I have had more than my share of stress fractures in my emotional life -- academic pressures, toxic relationships, financial hardships. All these and more can wreak havoc in one's emotional and mental states. But once mental health issues like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, bipolar disorder enters into the equation, we're entering a mine field, especially if left untreated. It is unfortunate that we have to put on a false facade rather than be honest with ourselves and how we express our feelings. Men tend to have more problems admitting to emotional struggles than women do. It is a cultural problem that may have played a key role in Wilson's situation.

Mental illness is a disease. It is not a disgrace, not is it something to be ashamed of. It is a medical illness that many insurance plans will not cover. Far too many funny men -- from Lenny Bruce to John Belushi and Chris Farley -- have been taken from us much too soon, even as they were laughing on the outside yet still crying and suffering silently on the inside. Like them and others before him, Owen Wilson was clearly experiencing severe inner conflicts, which manifest themselves in destructive ways. The self-medication with drugs and alcohol was all too symptomatic of this. It is my hope that, as he continues to heal, he comes through this ordeal an much stronger person. And that once he finds his voice, he would be able to speak up for himself and become a beacon that shines brighter than any star wattage ever could produce.

And that would be a more inspiring story than any celluloid biopic can ever tell.

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