One of my favorite things to do to relax and unwind as is watch cartoons. Taking my mind off the daily reality of adulthood and responsibilities is major for my self care, and my sanity overall – and one of my all time favorite shows to engage in is the classic King Of The Hill. The show focuses on the main character Hank; and his daily life as a husband, father, devoted propane salesman, and leader of his rambunctious group of friends and neighbors.
Included in these neighbors, is the fictional super hero that is Kahn Souphanousinphone. On the outside he may be a selfish, egotistical jerk that likes to throw his money and status in his neighbors face, but on the inside he’s just like you and me: A wandering soul navigating through life with mental illness. Kahn suffers from bipolar disorder, and viewers become privy to this information when he reveals to Hank that his wife Minh makes him take medication to “even out his moods”. Kahn then lets Hank convince him that he doesn’t need to take his medication since he wasn’t sick…
Fast forward a few days, and Kahn begins to show the first signs of mania: He comes up with a grandiose idea to build a souped up robotic grill that offers the total entertainment package. (Named the The Commander In Beef, might I add). The next day he gets up at the crack of dawn to begin building his masterpiece, revealing to Hank that he stayed up all night working out the details, and that he had the entire project mapped out in his brain. Hank begins to take more of a liking to Kahn after being exposed to his manic traits, describing him now as being outgoing, funny, energetic, and overflowing with passion. The next manic episode viewers get to experience, is when Hank and his neighbors go to visit Kahn, and they’re greeted with a over zealous man that’s simultaneously ironing clothes, baking cookies, and doing lunges. He admits to his friends that bright ideas come to him all the time, which is why he stayed up all night folding laundry, alphabetizing his CDs, and learning how to paint a self portrait. Like Kahn, I too experience episodes of mania where I can function off little to no sleep, and I often come up with very creative, yet totally random ideas. This raw, ambitious energy is a huge factor in why many people with bipolar disorder stop or refuse to take medication. You feel unstoppable and ready to take on the world – who doesn’t want to feel like they can take over the world?
But of course, with those bouts of mania comes the opposing emotion of depression; which our dear fiend Kahn experiences as well. After a few days of intense energy and resourcefulness, he falls into a crippling depression. Hank and his friends can’t comprehend how Kahn’s personality can change so extremely from one moment to the next, that is until Hank shares the information that Kahn hasn’t been taking his medication. Best friend Dale asks what the medication is for, and when Hank tells him that they’re to even out his moods, he explains that expression is often used to describe people suffering from Manic Depression. The gang quickly springs into action to check on their neighbor, where they find him in a disheveled state, laying on the couch in complete darkness. They’re greeted this time by an empty shell of Kahn, who expresses that “Sadness covers me like a blanket. Tuck me in, let me die”.
Hank, like many people in the real world, doesn’t understand that Kahn’s mental state can’t be shifted by trying just harder. He attempts to cheer him up by enticing him with funny movies, ice cream, and a pep talk that makes him cry…Been there and dealt with that. Mental illness can’t be managed simply by trying or doing harder. It just doesn’t work like that. For most people, it takes years of therapy, and usually a lifetime of medication to manage symptoms. So in light of this newly acquired education, the guys decide to go and replace Kahn’s prescription so he can get back to feeling like himself. Unbeknownst to them however, is that while they were out getting his medication, Kahn’s mood was taking a upward swing back into mania. When they return to Kahn’s house, they find him doing step aerobics and working on a piece of machinery for the Commander In Beef. Yes, bipolar mood swings can be that rapid and intense.
The episode ends with the guys finishing the super grill just in time for Grill-Stravaganza, and most importantly an emotionally stable Kahn. He and Hank share a moment of reflection before eating a burger together, and after taking a bite Kahn expresses that you can “taste the pain”. This revelation resignated with me deeply. The reason being, is that after going through my own bouts of depression and mania; I too like to revisit the journey my emotions lead me on, no matter how dark or dangerous. I may have Bipolar Disorder, but it doesn’t have me. Embrace what makes you #PerfectlyImperfect and #MentallyStrong Dreamers! And with that, I leave you with the following video for your viewing pleasure from The King of The Hill, “Just Another Manic Kahn-Day”:
– Jasmine JeNay