Sharon and Lisa: EastEnders (08.03.17)

I’ve had some time to think about tonight’s two-part EastEnders episode. It was intense, emotional, and raw.

It was great acting by Lucy Benjamin (Lisa Fowler), Tilley Keeper (Louise Mitchell), Steve McFadden (Phil Mitchell), and Letitia Dean (Sharon Mitchell) that made this storyline segment come to life.
It’s difficult to portray mental respectfully and accurately. Tonight’s episodes captured both the pain and indifference of watching a loved one suffer from mental illness. (In this case, the indifference and anger came from Phil.) What I found interesting was Sharon’s **transformation **throughout this story arc.

Sharon, in the end, became Lisa’s most important ally.

I have to say, Sharon isn’t my favorite character. In fact, since she returned from Italy, she’s been a little stuck-up and self-righteous. Sharon has always been the step-mother who occasionally attempted to care for Louise. Once Louise entered the hospital, then Sharon became the parent we should’ve seen months ago. She even questioned Lisa fiercely about her intentions to stay in Louise’s life. However, Sharon gave her a chance to be with Louise, even convincing Phil it was best for her. (Phil was not as welcoming based on his history with Lisa.)
Sharon, in the end, became Lisa’s most important ally. She went from believing that Lisa had tricked her so well, that she missed the signs. Then Sharon tried to rationalize that Lisa may have taken her medication, and that Louise may have asked her to go out. Finally, as Sharon and Phil got to the hotel, she realized that Lisa’s actions may be due to her illness, and that Phil wasn’t totally blameless. (Keep in mind Sharon managed to do this analysis with Phil yelling, screaming, and threatening in the background.)

Living with mental illness is a daily balancing act.

When she grabbed Lisa’s hand and helped to guide her to Louise as they left, that was a phenomenal moment. I survive and live with major depression. I connected deeply to Lisa’s story. Living with mental illness is a daily balancing act. The medication you take helps to regulate your body chemistry and to give you clarity. That clarity helps you to recognize the triggers that can pull you into an episode at any moment.

Indifference and anger from family members, friends, neighbors, and coworkers can be a major trigger. We saw that with Phil. (His history of physical and mental abuse pushed Lisa to shoot him.) We heard it from the residents of Albert Square who knew Lisa previously.

However, it’s the moments of understanding and compassion that offer the most comfort to people who suffer from mental illness. That was captured eloquently in the closing moment between Sharon and Lisa. I appreciate that the writers (and executive producer Sean O’Connor) were thoughtful in their portrayal of Lisa’s mental illness and that Sharon was chosen to be the voice of compassion.

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