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Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Explains Why, When It Comes to Mental Illness, Labels Aren’t Always a Bad Thing

Rebecca opens the golden envelope that contains her diagnosis—in her imagination, anyway.

Still via YouTube

Maybe none of it was ever really about Josh. We already kind of knew that, but it was gratifying to hear it said out loud on this week’s episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the appropriately titled “Josh Is Irrelevant.” Rebecca is back in West Covina, where she and her loved ones are dealing with the aftermath of her suicide attempt. For Rebecca’s friends, that means helping her get on the path to recovery and dealing with the emotions that the incident has dredged up. For Rebecca, it means recognizing that Josh is neither the source of her problems nor their solution, and finally getting the help she needs.

That starts with a new doctor, Dr. Shin (Jay Hayden) and a new diagnosis. Rebecca has previously been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and OCD, but the accompanying treatments and medications didn’t work for her, and Dr. Shin believes that’s because they weren’t the right ones. When it comes to mental illness, labels can be helpful. I’m not talking about labels like “crazy” or “insane,” of course, which only worsen the stigma around an already stigmatized subject, but the correct diagnosis can be a critical step toward making sure someone with mental illness isn’t just getting help—they’re getting the right kind of help.

Rebecca thinks so too, and sings “A Diagnosis,” a soaring “I Want” number that honors Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s musical theater roots. She’s excited to end the uncertainty that comes with almost thirty years of feeling awful but not knowing why, not to mention the parade of doctors and naturopaths who threw drugs and weird treatments at the problem: “And when I tried to find the reason for my sadness and terror/ All the solutions were trial and error/ Take this pill, say this chant, move here for this guy …”

But Rebecca’s expectations for her diagnosis, which she imagines in a gold, awards show-style envelope, might be a little too optimistic. “Obsessives with numbers, hoarders with cats,” Rebecca sings. “I could really rock a tin foil hat.” Any diagnosis will do, really, if it will give Rebecca a sense of community. She even gets backed up in the song by the new “voices” in her head, having decided that schizophrenia wouldn’t be so bad if it means she knows who she is.

Despite Rebecca’s sunny outlook, the show’s approach to Rebecca’s diagnosis is, to borrow a phrase, “a lot more nuanced than that.” She doesn’t feel the sense of belonging and relief she thought she would when Dr. Shin tells her she has Borderline Personality Disorder. “It’s not something I have, it’s something I am,” she tells her friends, despondent over what she reads online about its stigma and how difficult it is to treat. She even goes in search of a “better” diagnosis. It’s not until her psychiatrist walks her through the DSM checklist that Rebecca accepts that she meets all the criteria and decides to start going to group therapy, which should have a major impact on the show in the future. The label isn’t a cure-all that will magically make everything OK, but it does give her a path forward.

If all that was getting a little too earnest for you, fear not, because the episode’s other song is full of toilet humor, an area in which Crazy Ex-Girlfriend consistently excels. (See: Nathaniel’s pooping-his-pants scene, Darryl’s many unintentional double entendres, or Rebecca’s vivid metaphor for going No. 2 unexpectedly: “When I disarm the whole security system, the back door unlocks with the front.”)

As poop jokes go, this one is complicated, so here’s some background: While Rebecca is taking her first steps to recovery, Valencia (Gabrielle Ruiz) has been documenting the entire journey on social media. But what began as a well-meaning attempt to help Rebecca quickly becomes a way for Valencia to score affirmation and swag for herself as the ringleader of the now-international #BunchOfFriends. Heather (Vella Lovell) calls her out on it, telling her, “you’re so full of it. You’re like, so full of crap,” which prompts Valencia to sing an entire song about … activism?

Let’s take a moment to appreciate the lyrics here:

There’s a rumbling within me,

Something I just can’t ignore.

I thought I could contain it.

I can’t hold it in anymore.

It started as just a trickle

Loose and undefined

Now it’s starting to solidify

Into something we can all get behind.

The beauty of “This Is My Movement,” a scatological take on anthems like “Fight Song,” is that Ruiz is so sincere in her delivery that until she reaches the chorus, you’re not quite sure whether she’s talking about … what you think she’s talking about … or whether you just have a dirty mind. Fortunately, there’s no doubt once we reach the line “I’ve really, really got to shhh—ine a light on this issue.” Valencia is figuratively and literally full of crap, because, as we learn at the end of the song, she hasn’t pooped in a month, which, girl. Go to the bathroom! Or, like, a doctor.

Constipation aside, “This Is My Movement” also serves as a dig at Dear Evan Hansen-style activism, the kind that takes one person’s tragedy and spins into inspirational internet virality. This is evident when a suicide lifeline operator appears behind Valencia to join her in song. “What’s your hashtag?” asks Valencia, and when she learns the woman doesn’t have one, she tells her that her work helping teens doesn’t count as a movement. Let alone a big ol’ stinky one.

Best Song of the Week: “A Diagnosis,” which is heartbreaking and hopeful and sincere and funny all at once. Rebecca’s response to being told she’s a sex addict: “Yes I like penises, but who doesn’t?!”

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