My Bag


My name is Jameela Jamil. Welcome To I Weigh Community.

Two years ago we started an Instagram account to try to create a safe and radically inclusive space on social media. A lot of us want to help others and change the world for the better, but don’t know where to start.

Activism can seem daunting. Sometimes it’s just hard and lonely. At I Weigh Community, we don’t believe it has to be that way. We believe in brick-by-brick activism, and making a difference in large numbers. We’re going to have to come together and do this as one to really shift the narrative of our society.

I Weigh Community will introduce you to new voices, artists, activists and movements. These are the people we believe we need to listen to. We are still learning, and we’re inviting you to come and learn alongside us so we can all grow together. It’s never too late to want to help and understand each other better.

This movement is so important to me, and I look forward to getting to know you all.

Jam x

“You sure this is it?” I ask, staring up at the brick building as my family pulls into the parking lot. It looks more like a Holiday Inn than a psychiatric hospital, sitting unassumingly across from a Taco Bell. It’s hard to believe my baby brother is inside.

“Fun fact: It’s a converted motel.” My dad sounds almost cheery, obviously relieved to have company. Yesterday he spent six hours here alone, waiting for my mom and me to arrive. Since my brother G hadn’t signed an information release form yet, the staff couldn’t tell my dad anything, so he sat in the lobby watching reruns of House Hunters and reading glossy pamphlets cover-to-cover. Now my dad parrots back all the “fun facts” he learned about the hospital, and my mom and I pretend to be impressed.

We walk through one set of glass doors, then glimpse a white-haired woman behind a desk who smiles and waves before buzzing us in through another.

“Welcome to Visiting Hours! I’m Sue.” Sue’s voice is a specific type of sunny, the fake kind only found in the Midwest. “Who you here for?”

“#3617.” My dad knows the drill — since they think of my brother as a number, we have to, too.

Sue nods and gestures for us to sit. We do.

“Fun fact: This hospital has 144 beds,” my dad says. 

I pick up a pamphlet about the discharge process.

“Did you read this one?”

“Not yet,” he says, and I notice he looks scared. “We’re just…not there. Not yet.”

Fun fact: Symptoms aren’t hard to spot – as long as you know what they are.

For the majority of my brother’s manic episode, I didn’t realize he was manic. I just thought he was a genius.

“Hear me out,” he texted. “I work at a lacrosse publication. You’re a feminist activist. If we can infiltrate lacrosse bros with feminism, we can overthrow the patriarchy.”

Delusion of grandeur. Noun. A false belief wherein a person perceives themselves as being supernatural or having special powers.

“Damn G,” I replied. I typed the rest without irony or checking my ableism: “That’s so crazy it just might work.”

The next day, G wrote again. “Ricky Gervais can help. He tweeted about me today.”

Ideas of reference. Plural noun. False beliefs that random occurrences in the world or pop culture are directly related to one’s self.

That weekend G texted me roughly ten times an hour. He sent multiple theories about how to dismantle sexism, some with more plausibility than others. 

“Sorry for all the texts,” he said. “My brain’s going a mile-a-minute here.”

Flight of ideas. Noun. A slew of thoughts, often described as feeling like the mind is moving at “a mile-a-minute.”

“Just glad you’re passionate.” I sent, then pat myself on the back for being a good sister. “Let’s FaceTime about this on Thursday?”

Thursday is tomorrow. G is already in the hospital. I’m here, too — sitting in the lobby, just waiting to hear his voice again.

Fun Fact: Unless you’re a doctor, don’t diagnose them yourself.

Unlike my ignorant ass, my dad knew something was up. And so when G began rambling about events that never occured, my dad went into hero mode, driving three hours to Columbus, Ohio to take his son to the emergency room. There, G was given a diagnosis of schizophrenia and forwarded onto a behavioral facility.

And now, as we wait at that facility, my dad is visibly nervous. I know why — because his own mother was hospitalized for schizophrenia and ran away from home, leaving him and his brother to raise themselves. We still don’t know her diagnosis was correct (it came from 1950s doctors using electroshock therapy), but my dad certainly seems convinced. 

Unlike my ignorant ass, my dad knew something was up.

“What did you tell them about the family history?” I ask.

“I told them it was probably schizophrenia because that’s what my mom had.”

“Dad, what the HELL.”  It feels easier to blame him for this than it does to blame myself for not noticing something was wrong. “We don’t even know that’s what she had!”

“I do.”

“Even if you did, you still don’t know that’s what G has.”

“I do,” he says softly. “I can tell. It’s the same.”

One week from now — a week after our first visit to the hospital — a nurse will look at G’s chart and tell him he has schizophrenia. G will call me during the middle of the night, screaming in protest.

One week and one day from now, a doctor will tell my family that this diagnosis was always a temporary one, just a way to get G out of the emergency room and into a psychiatric facility.

Two weeks from now, a different doctor will tell us that G is actually bipolar. Most likely, my dad’s mom was bipolar too. 


Two weeks from now, a different doctor will tell us that G is actually bipolar.

When, three weeks from now, we explain this to G, he will say: “Seems like you’re the crazy ones.”

It will sound like a joke, but it won’t be one, entirely.

Fun fact: a mental health crisis won’t get you out of paperwork.

That morning, while I was packing for the trip to the hospital, my phone rang. It was G.

“Get me out of here,” he said. “Now.”

“You have to sign a release of information,” I replied. “And you have to put my name, dad’s name, and mom’s name on it. Otherwise they won’t tell us anything.”

“I’m not signing shit. I need to leave,” G said.

“I hear you, but it’s the first step to getting you out.”

“Fine. Whatever.” He hung up.

Remembering this, I glare at Sunny Sue. She could easily have mentioned this release form to my dad yesterday while he waited for my mom and me to arrive, and the fact that she hadn’t clearly told us how “polite” she really was. Instead, I had to learn about the proper legal documents through hours of Googling and an episode of Law & Order I’d coincidently watched last week.

Thank you, Dick Wolf. You’ve done more than you know.

Fun fact: ask questions and get answers (by any means necessary).

There is no way to understand the present while we are in it — our only choice is to wait until the future becomes the present and then that becomes the past, something we can squeeze and harvest for insights, learnings and reflections. Fun facts. Learning something almost makes it worth it.

Something my family will learn soon is that a signed release form itself doesn’t guarantee answers — the information flow problems run much deeper. The nurses are understaffed, so busy they can barely make time to give us the names and doses of his meds.

We’ll hound them for updates:

How’s he doing?

Is there a diagnosis?

What’s the difference between schizophrenia and bipolar?

Can we tell you his medical history?

Will you tell us what comes next?

The nurses are understaffed, so busy they an barely make time to give us the names and doses of his meds.

We’ll call multiple times a day, getting a different nurse each time. We’ll memorize their names, noting who’s helpful and who couldn’t care less.

But somehow, the thing that will ultimately grant us access will be my 69-year-old father making small talk with a woman who turns out to be the hospital director. Upon learning this, he’ll begin to flirt, somehow convincing her to give him a direct line. We’ll call this number as a family, putting my phone on speaker and demanding to walk through G’s file.

“Wow,” she’ll say. “It’s rare to see families who care as much as you.”

And because this is the way we finally learn what’s going on, my mom won’t even be mad.

Later, I’ll recognize that this wasn’t about my casanova father as much as it was about our family’s privilege. Health insurance. Two parents. A nuclear family. All of us white.

But I’ll never tell this to my dad — the confidence he gained from successful smooth talking was far too critical for our family’s morale. We’ll confront this in other ways. At other times. For other people.

Not now. Not for us. I wish we could, but we can’t. We don’t know how.

Fun fact: Support systems need support too.

Still in the waiting room, we have no idea what we’re about to embark on. I feel disoriented, and if I feel that way, I can’t imagine how off-center G must be.

Visiting hours are from 6:15-7:15pm. The room smells like tomato soup the way a hospital does, which is a good reminder that yes, this is a hospital, and G is here to get medicine. 

We walk inside and sit in front of his chair. His hair looks like it hasn’t been cut in months, and I remind myself he’s only been here for 24 hours.

This is a hospital, and G is here to get medicine.

We haven’t seen each other since Christmas, a holiday to remember because I’d sneakily given him a vape. When he unwrapped it and my mom asked what the gift was, we’d replied in unison: “NOTHING.”

I settle into the image of this beautiful brother-sister bonding moment.

“How ya feelin?” I ask cheerfully.

G stares at me in disgust.

 “Fucking terrible, obviously.” His eyes dart back and forth across the ground. “Can you help me get out?”

“We’re doing everything we can,” I say.

“It’s not enough!” he shouts. “You’re on their side! Should’ve figured.”

Then, before any of us can tell what’s happening, he gets up and walks out, leaving the three of us with each other again.


We head to my dad’s tiny street-level hotel room, glancing out the window at sunset and asphalt.

“What should we do?” I ask. 

“TV?” my mom suggests. “Maybe The Office, since G loves that show?”

“FuN FaCt,” I say condescendingly, “the Fire Drill episode is his favorite.” My dad doesn’t seem to process being the butt of the joke. Instead, he cracks a smile.

“Yeah, G loves that one,” he says. “Let’s put it on.”


  • Jen Winston is a writer, creator, and social strategist living in Brooklyn. She runs a feminist social platform under the handle @jenerous, which she started after the 2016 election to help her stay mad. Jen’s work has been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN, Washington Post, and on LeBron James’ Instagram. She is currently working on a memoir called Greedy about bisexuality, womanhood, and memes.

    Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Jen Winston

  • Sara Fratini is a Venezuelan illustrator based in Madrid. She enjoys painting murals around the world and drawing every single day. Her work focuses on women, human rights and feelings. All the emotions that are hard to express take shape and life into her lines. She draws with her heart, collaborates with different NGO’s, and she is the co-founder of La Guarimba International Film Festival in Italy.

    Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Sara Fratini