“It’s astounding that something you went through at such an early stage of your life still has such a potential to be destructive,” Glenn Close says in the final episode of Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry’s mental health docuseries, The Me You Can’t See. “I think that’s childhood trauma.”
For the actress, it was her upbringing in the religious group, Moral Re-Armament. “From when I was seven to when I was 22, I was in this group called MRA, and it was basically a cult,” Close explains. “Everybody spouted the same things and there was a lot of rules, a lot of control… It was really awful.”
MRA is founded on the idea of the “Four Absolutes” — absolute honesty, purity, unselfishness and love — and being raised under those extreme beliefs left her family “broken up,” Close says. As an adult, she reasons that that trauma has contributed to the dissolution of her three marriages.
“Because of the devastation, emotional and psychological of the cult, I have not been successful in my relationships and finding a permanent partner and I am sorry about that,” she says. “I think it is our natural state to be connected like that. I don’t think you ever change your trigger points, but at least you can be aware of them and maybe avoid situations that might make you vulnerable, especially in relationships.”
Close now lives in Montana, where she finds comfort and companionship with her sisters, Jessie and Tina. “I’ve come back to my family,” she says. “I’m connected to them, when I used to be a whole country away from them for all of my career.”
The episode continues with frank discussion of mental illness within the Close family, including Jessie’s hospitalization for and subsequent diagnosis with bipolar 1 disorder and her eldest son, Calen Pick, being diagnosed as schizophrenic.
Close remembers the moment her sister reached out for help. “We all happened to be in my parents’ house in Wyoming, and I remember her kids were already loaded in her car and she came up to me across the driveway and said, ‘I need help. I can’t stop thinking about killing myself.’ For me, it was a shock. She ended up in McLean Hospital — a psychiatric hospital in Massachusetts — I took her there. She was finally, at age 50, properly diagnosed as bipolar 1 with psychotic tendencies,” Close says, growing emotional as she shares, “Jessie told me she was afraid that if parents found out that she had bipolar 1 that they wouldn’t allow their children to play with her daughter.”
With a dearth of mental health experts in their hometown of Bozeman, the Close sisters are now working to bring a psychiatric ward to their local hospital. “This issue, if it’s in our family and if we’re dealing with this kind of pain and this kind of fright and this kind of sense of shame, there are millions of other families who are going through the same thing,” Close says.