Grey’s Anatomy, for all its faults, succeeds in realistically portraying the huge amounts of mental and emotional pressure that people, especially those in high-stress professions like surgery, endure throughout their lives. We’re all a little crazy. Sure, the doctors at Seattle Grace often have more outlandish problems than we do in the real world, but the emotions that they portray, the way they reach out (or don’t reach out) to their friends when they need support, the way their personal lives bleed uncontrollably into their professional lives and vice versa, all of that is so relatable. We’ve all been in the Dark Place.
Last night’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy underscored just how much pressure everyone has and how it affects their mental health. Sometimes, in the case of Derek (Patrick Dempsey) and Meredith’s clinical trial patient, Greta, it’s literal pressure on the brain from a tumor. With Greta, however, I thought it was a big cop out on the part of the writers to have her Prince Charming actually turn out to be a real person. If patients’ lives are supposed to be metaphorical reflections of the lives of their physicians as is often the case on Grey’s Anatomy, are we to believe then that the Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) and Derek’s love, instead of existing only in delusional fantasies, is as real as Greta’s Andre, and that they should keep waiting until the time is right? I certainly hope not because I really can’t take any more of this will-they-or-won’t-they nonsense. Greta died in the end, so I hope this means that Derek and Meredith’s relationship will too.
Most of the time, however, our eroding mental health and subsequent incapacitation are usually because of more nebulous reasons. Cristina (Sandra Oh) spent the episode still reeling after realizing that Burke had completely written her out of his history. Ava suffered post-plastic surgery trauma, inventing pregnancies and generally being a complete basketcase. George (T.R. Knight) was so busy running around being everyone’s helpful little assistant that it’s probably only a matter of time before he too needs therapy.
This is, of course, not a comprehensive list of Seattle Grace staff and patients suffering from psychological maladies. I haven’t even gotten to Meredith Grey who is quite possibly the most messed up character in all of TV. Seriously. Her mother attempted suicide when Meredith was just a child – Meredith barely had a chance at a happy, wholesome life.
What keeps me watching Grey’s Anatomy is for the small, incremental triumphs the characters gain over their emotional difficulties. I love the way Meredith and Cristina are able to understand and support each other in so few words. I cheered for Lexie (Chyler Leigh) for finally finding the strength to stand up to Cristina and Meredith. George won me over by swooping in to take care of Tuck, allowing Bailey (Chandra Wilson) time to work through her marital issues with her husband.
However, that doesn’t mean I don’t want everyone to be peachy-keen either. Grey’s Anatomy wouldn’t be the same if everyone were shiny, happy and stable. We need characters like Mark Sloan (Eric Dane) to try to overcome their personal pathologies, but then lose their resolve at the slightest provocation in the Elevator o’ Lust.
-Debbie Chang, BuddyTV Staff Writer
(Image courtesy of ABC)