Bipolar and In Love

Writer-director-star Aaron Fisher on how art imitates life in his debut feature, Inside the Rain.

I take 18 different prescription medications daily for my mental health. I know you’re probably thinking, “Holy shit, that sounds like too much!” But this is actually the drug cocktail that has allowed me to fully function in my adulthood, having been diagnosed with the following illnesses: severe bipolar disorder, ADHD, OCD, PTSD, borderline personality disorder, binge-eating disorder, body dysmorphia, hypochondria (I was once 100 percent convinced I had a brain tumor) and terrible anxiety and dread with just about everything I do on a daily basis. It takes me a lot of effort just to get by each day, making sure to follow a routine. Shit, shower, shave. Eat three square meals a day. Early to bed, early to rise. And I work out at the gym four to six times per week. If I stray from this schedule, I become depressed.

Why am I telling you all of this? Does it seem too personal to disclose? If I didn’t, I would be doing a disservice to my debut feature film, a romantic comedy called Inside the Rain which comes out in theaters nationwide on March 13. I wrote, directed, edited and star in this loosely autobiographical film.

I play the part of Ben Glass, who has all of the aforementioned disorders. In the film, Ben is suspended from college following a misunderstanding involving the medications he takes. Kicked off campus pending a school hearing and back at home with his parents in New York City, Ben indulges his misery at a strip club and has a chance encounter with a woman, Emma Taylor (Ellen Toland), who works at the club once a week as a human sushi platter. Ben falls in love with her and she agrees to help him make a movie to prove his innocence. Ben’s new psychiatrist, Dr. Holloway (Rosie Perez), calls the movie a “manic delusion,” but Ben recruits an out-of-work movie producer, Montgomery Pennington (Eric Roberts), to help him make the short film.

Ellen Toland in Inside the Rain.

Emma is a sex worker – she does porn, escorting, erotic modeling, and other forms of the trade. Why is the love interest a sex worker? That’s a good question. As I said, this film is loosely autobiographical.

In real life, I met a sex worker on a mainstream online dating site. I didn’t know she was a sex worker until we finally met up in person. It was then that she told me what her job was and I fell head over heels in love with her at first sight. Whether it could have worked out or not is debatable. Can you really date a sex worker? I don’t have an answer for that, but I did find a new appreciation for those who choose to be sex workers.

Her personality was larger than life. She was the most charismatic person I had ever met. She was Russian, tall, lanky, athletic, and thin but not too skinny. Her hands and feet were large. She had blonde hair, a large forehead, high cheekbones, a jaw line cut from steel, and striking blue eyes that were so big she almost looked like an alien (in a good way). Her face was impossibly symmetrical.

Aaron Fisher and Ellen Toland in Inside the Rain.

And she truly enjoyed her work, honest to God, for better or for worse. She was very intelligent and educated – it wasn’t like she couldn’t have chosen to work in another field. She could definitely do math in her head 100 times faster than me.

In online comments, some people have said that I am “romanticizing” bipolar disorder and “romanticizing” falling in love with a sex worker. Some called Emma the “whore with the heart of gold.” Upset by these comments, I wrote back to people and denied that I was doing that. But recently I started thinking, maybe I am guilty of romanticizing bipolar disorder and sex work.

That being said, I’m writing from my own personal experiences as a human being who fell in love. I’m severely bipolar and yet functioning these days because of my medications and talk therapy. Although my heart was terribly broken when our relationship fell apart.

Ellen Toland and Aaron Fisher in Inside the Rain.

I’m no longer in love with her and thankfully I’m no longer in a rough patch with my mental health. We were both outsiders looking for validation of some kind. Without knowing it, we were both desperately trying to figure out how to feel a sense of acceptance in society, no matter how small.

There’s no denying that falling in love changed me. Somewhere in my brain, something chemical happened. I’m not a neurologist, but I know it did. As short as it lasted, being with her was one of the most magical experiences in my life. And I remember every moment of it as if it were yesterday.

Aaron Fisher’s first feature film, Inside the Rain, co-starring Academy Award nominees Rosie Perez and Eric Roberts, is in theaters nationwide from March 20. He wrote, directed, starred in and edited the movie, which premiered at the Woodstock Film Festival, was selected as the Centerpiece of the Twin Cities Film Festival and has been an official selection at numerous film festivals including the Nashville Film Festival. Most recently, the film won Best Feature Film at the Big Apple Film Festival and Special Jury Award Narrative Feature at the Cinema on the Bayou Film Festival. Fisher graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. His short film Love Out of Mind has been an official selection of numerous festivals, including the Max Ophuls Prize Film Festival in Germany, and he wrote, directed and starred in the web series Single and Baller, which is featured on Tubi.