evan’s review published on Letterboxd:
on psychosis // the most psychotic letterboxd entry ive ever written
I suffered severe psychosis earlier this year, I fucking hate talking about it now because it's the most humiliating thing anyone can go through; I've got amazing friends and family who still love me but I also damaged relationships beyond repair which keeps me up at night. Long story short I went through months of grandiose delusions about threats to my safety and generally whacked out conspiracy theories which got so out of hand that I had to be hospitalized for two weeks. I had no idea why I was in a psych ward at the time - it was the scariest goddamn experience of my whole life, living in a tiny hallway, my autonomy totally stripped from me, I couldn't even kill myself if I tried.
I call my psychosis Superhero Mode because part of what I experienced was a heightened sense of self, I felt like my third eye was wide open and I could see all sorts of injustice clearly. It's common amongst those with bipolar disorder to go through this and literally think they're like Jesus or something. I remember talking a lot about Neo and how I felt like "The One" - but "no, The One is all of us, we all have the power to wake up," I kept saying. I don't miss psychosis but I do miss feeling invincible.
A lot of the first 45 minutes of this film brought up emotions I'd buried inside of me, dark echoes of a time in my life when I didn't know what was real. Neo is trapped in a mental hospital from hell during the first act of Resurrections. He realizes something's off about his reality - he's already tried jumping off a building in hopes of flying away - but in an act of cruelty, The Analyst frames this as a suicide attempt. So henceforth, Neo lives under the pretense of suicide, perpetually moving further and further away from the truth as The Analyst manipulates his fragile mental state. It's a cruel concept, the program who controls the Matrix disguising himself as a therapist who stays in close proximity to Neo to control him while feeding off his energy. To further sedate him, The Analyst prescribes Neo not only blue pills, but companion programs - friends and coworkers who essentially puppeteer both he and Trinity. And to fully zap his brain out of reality, Neo's lived experiences are bottled up into a video game called The Matrix Trilogy. Meta self-referentiality as mental warfare. Without intervention fron Bugs and Morpheus, Neo will forever be trapped in this state. Although he really is living in a simulation, it doesn't matter that his dreams and hallucinations are ushering him toward the truth - within the walls of the Matrix, that truth *is* psychosis, according to The Analyst.
I'm comparing Analyst’s Matrix to a mental hospital because it's a dehumanizing stasis in which Neo's autonomy is utterly stripped from him, moreso than in the first film. Astoundingly, the doctor I was assigned to diagnosed me with bipolar disorder without ever telling me what that meant, so my imagination went wild during my stay because I was still in psychosis. I thought the intense physical and mental pain I was feeling was part of my illness, and not a result of me being given a medication which my body was rejecting. I was told I was a danger to myself when in reality I had no intent to hurt myself, but the repeated insistence made me even more confused about what was going on and why I was there. I was not given a therapist to speak to, instead I had a very brief daily meeting with a scary looking doctor who would assess my symptoms as fast as possible so he could move onto the next patient. We had half-assed group therapy mostly about coping skills, and an art therapist who treated us like infants. We were told to be grateful for our nasty hospital food while the staff would eat delicious looking outside food in front of us. The windows were faded so you could hardly see outside, we couldn't go outside anyway. The AC was freezing cold at all times. Couldn't wear shoes, had to wear grippy socks. I had a thin prison mattress and my bathroom smelt like the shits of a thousand mental patients before me. One guy had it out for me for some reason and almost tried to beat me up. My social worker yelled at me a lot for not seeming to care about my own discharge, when in reality I had no fucking clue what was going on. Bloodwork at 6am, snack at 7pm, meds at 10pm, you can have one of the pre-approved books from the “library,” you have to sign up for shower time, you have to fill out a food menu the day before and if you don’t you get the grossest food ever. I can’t express enough how much the hospital felt like a simulation. This environment only made my fragile mental state more confusing, I was totally vulnerable and there was nobody to turn to, except for apathetic nurses that felt a lot like Neo's fake coworkers. For the first time in many years, I thought about killing myself. I brought up my suicidal ideation as a sort of passing joke to my doctor, which landed me an entire extra week inside. The absolute worst part was every time I was agitated, scared, or tearful, I would get an apathetic shrug from a nurse and a "you're not using your coping skills properly." Coping skills??? I have no idea where I even am. I'm terrified. I want to scream but if I scream I'm going to get a syringe full of sedation juice up my ass. I'm agitated beyond belief because I'm being forced to take mystery drugs that are giving me what I later learned is called akathisia. While I firmly believe I needed intervention at the time, I was not offered a place to heal, instead the only thing I learned is that the mind is an incredibly fragile thing and when you're already questioning your own reality, it can be broken easily. I was a shriveled up mess by the time they finally let me out, because I had been under sedation for an extended period of time.
I've been thinking a lot about how Neo nearly tries to commit suicide right before being saved by Bugs. He's on a rooftop, at night, looking at a pigeon which flies away. He mutters something to himself about how it'd be easy to fly, but he's drunk and clearly at the end of his rope. He no longer wants to question his reality, he just wants it all to go away. I nearly cried at this scene because it's heartbreaking to see someone who was once so mentally powerful be manipulated to the point of attempting suicide. Even more tragically, he probably wouldn't have even succeeded if he tried thanks to the Analyst.
The Analyst's iteration of The Matrix is so sinister because it aims to break Neo down under the guise of his own mental health. Neo gets his little office and his little suicide attempt, while being infantalised by a lunatic psychologist. His Matrix Trilogy game reminded me a lot of art therapy. His game awards felt like a pacifier similar to the times in the mental hospital they'd hand us a newspaper or something to calm us down. His altered image his hospital gown. I felt for Neo so deeply, especially during the redpilling scene when The Analyst makes a last ditch effort to sabotage Neo by telling him he's having a psychotic break. It reminded me what it was like to be totally out of control of my delusional thinking, and how painful it was to finally take a step back and return to reality. Neo's reality is a cold and dark world, and it takes finding his inner strength again to be able to return to it. My reality coming out of the hospital felt similar - I fell into a deep depressive episode and it's only been recently that I've found some shred of inner strength to be able to reach back out to friends and face the world.
This film made me hurt for Neo but it also made me so joyful - I found it so cathartic to watch Neo find his superpowers again, and most importantly to remember what was most important to him: Trinity. Their love is the most optimistic bright light at the end of the tunnel there's been in sci fi blockbuster hollywood - Neo's want to believe in her ability to escape the Matrix the same way Bugs believed in Neo is freedom, something I've been learning in group therapy lately.
In many ways, this Matrix feels to me a lot like what it's like to experience a depressive episode with bipolar disorder. The stagnancy, the unwillingness to change - it's a pit. The back half of this film feels like what it's like to put your trust in others to allow yourself the freedom to become yourself again.
I don't know if all this really... makes sense.... but hopefully you get the gist. This film really reminded me what it's like to be in a psychotic state and Neo's constructed environment brought me back to that simulation feeling I felt in the psych ward. It was triggering in a scary but ultimately cathartic way. Those final frames make me weep :') Recovery is always possible, I hope.