A woman in Scottsdale, Arizona, discovered the extent of the consequences one can suffer for publicly attacking not just the act of wearing a mask, but masks themselves, during a national pandemic. Melissa Rein Lively expressed deep regret for destroying a Target mask display, ripping them off of their hangers and throwing them all over the floor for employees to clean up, while filming herself.
The video begins with Lively saying she’s been “looking forward to this s**t all my f***ing life” before she starts throwing around the masks in a cuss-fueled fury. Near the end, baffled young Target employees approach to ask her to please stop, and she claims that “you let everybody else do it.”
“I can’t do it because I’m a blonde white woman?” she asks the two clearly confused workers.
The video quickly went viral after she herself posted it online, and she says that as a result she lost all of her clients from her public relations business and her husband is now filing for divorce. She blames a stress-induced manic episode resulting from her bipolar disorder and says she spent a week in a mental health facility following the incident.
“I think mental illness has been really something that has not been addressed as a result of this pandemic,” she said. “Because what happened to me was scary and it changed my life forever. I felt I had absolutely no control over my actions.”
Stress, including the kind many are experiencing due to the pandemic and other pressing social issues, can trigger manic episodes like this. However, others who have come into contact with her say that this is not the first time she has engaged in questionable and offensive actions. A “former associate” said that she had seen Lively use the n-word in social media posts.
“I don’t want to discount mental health,” the associate, Adrienne Bryant, told the Arizona Republic. “But mental health is not her escape of who she is as a conscious being.”
Target employees called the police after Lively attacked the display, but they let her go without incident or charges. After she got home, her husband called the police due to her mental state, and she was taken to the mental health facility. Not everyone has such positive interactions when the police are called, particularly for psychological issues.
Lively, meanwhile, has promised to commit herself to getting her mental health back in order and re-earning people’s trust.
“It’s going to take a long time for me to rebuild the trust from people, you know as I get my life and career back on track,” she said. “I love what I do and am passionate about what I do and I’m going to fight this.”
Though many people have expressed sympathy for Lively, others have pointed out that blaming mental illness for this kind of behavior is a choice of privilege.