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We've all suffered. The pain we endure stratifies based on our circumstances. Perhaps the most privileged among us only shows signs of bruising, nothing that breaks the skin; a blemish on an otherwise pristine canvas. The majority of us have shallow cuts that suture with care, tending, band-aids. Then there are those whose lacerations have sliced deep, wounds fresh, throbbing and persistent, slow to turn to scars like the plethora of slashes before them.

As for me, I've always chased the ache of emotion, but not necessarily my own. It was only natural that I would earn my degree in the study of the mind's torment: Psychology. Covering #Shameless has allowed me to delve deep into the psyches of complex characters in a way that is impossible on television shows that are tentative to break the surface.

The material that Ian and Mickey's reunion gave me to explore was tantalizing. I burrowed in to analyze, experience, and share. My articles for "Ride or Die" and "Happily Ever After" opened the flood gates, and suddenly I wasn't seeking pain to throw myself into anymore, it had found me. Needing to understand how this fictional couple has had such a profound impact on so many, I created a survey to gather information, discern patterns. What I learned was eye-opening and powerfully beautiful.

Some may wish to paint the fandom as out of touch with reality, allowing their lives to be so deeply touched by the power of a writer's pen or an actor's talent, but what I found was to the contrary. The responses I received were introspective and grounded. Fictional characters by definition are not real, but what they allow the viewer to tap into is authentic. The vulnerability of both Ian and Mickey's characters has been a conduit for many to probe into their hurt and reflect on their own experiences

The distress is palpable and reverberates through social media. Fans are emphatic that , and through this message they are also declaring "I deserved better." Mickey personifies the pain they've endured and offers them hope. They are hungering for Mickey to have his happy ending because they want to believe that they could have one, too.

Read on and experience, in their own words, what means to this fandom.

Survey Demographics

Although not statistically accurate or representative of the fandom as a whole- Over the course of 4 days, I received 150 surveys all via Twitter. Of those respondents, the age range of was 13-72, with the average age being 24.7 years. 68% of respondents identify as female, 29% male, and 3% gender fluid or androgyne. 60% consider themselves members of the LGBTQ community. 95% of respondents from the United States identify as Democrat/Liberal/Progressive, roughly 2.5% Republican/Conservative and 2.5% Green.

A Raw Look at Love

The thing that drew me to Ian and Mickey’s story was that they are not perfect by social standards, but they are perfect for each other. They fit together like pieces of a puzzle. One doesn’t make sense without the other. I feel connected to them because my life hasn’t been easy. I root for them because I feel their pain. I cry when they cry, laugh when they laugh, and fall in love when they fall in love. If there would ever be two people that would deserve happiness, it would be Ian and Mickey. --Masi, 27, Research Engineer/PhD Student, Sweden

The unconditional love Ian and Mickey have for each other has impacted me deeply. They aren’t just each other’s first loves in a romantic sense- they are each other’s first true love in a familial sense as well, which makes their connection a thousand times stronger. It’s the kind of relationship that we would be lucky to experience in real life. Some of us have yet to find a person to grow with, the person that accepts and sees exactly as we are. --Muriel, 19, Student/Waitress, Italy

I fell in love with when I’d fallen out of love with my life. I was lost to motherhood, to marriage, to the crushing knowledge that the young, sexy woman I’d once been- was now someone who spent their days drowning in monotony and dirty dishes. The relationship between Ian and Mickey was so surprising, it was exhilarating. It gave me the hit of excitement and adrenaline I’d been craving. provided the opportunity to indulge in the excitement of the illicit, of the experience of falling in love, of the delicious agony of heartbreak. Being there, with Mickey and Ian, gave me the chance to right wrongs. Watching them felt like watching pieces of my own past, and reliving my own experiences through their story. It felt like a chance at redemption, an opportunity to heal wounds, to say things I didn’t say, to be there when I wasn’t. I’m more passionate, more excited, more filled with joy and a commitment to art and beauty than I have ever have been. --Samantha, 29, Stay-at-Home Mom, Australia

Hope Against All Odds

I had my own wild, intense love when I was younger. I've lived a couple more decades and I have still never loved anyone like how I loved him. So, in terms of passion and intensity, I relate to the connection between Ian and Mickey. There was also a very difficult separation, and it was a complete separation. It's the story of Mickey Milkovich accepting himself, becoming emotionally vulnerable, able to be touched and impacted by the one he loves that gets me the most. Due to conditions at home and school, I had walked around the world defensive and on edge. I became violent, abused drugs, and drank in excess just to deal with life. It wasn't until I met that guy, the love of my life, that I became emotionally vulnerable for the first time and it was fucking transcendent. He broke my heart. When you see the story of Mickey opening up and being able to love and be loved, man I want the world for him. I want the risk and courage that he has displayed to be rewarded. I want that so fucking badly. Mickey has a devotion for Ian that I have had in relationships and I feel like I never get it in return. Mickey hasn’t gotten it in return either. Maybe that’s why I keep holding on, wishing it for him as much as I wish for myself. --Susan, 43, Psychotherapist in Private Practice, USA

Ian and Mickey show me that no matter what comes our way, we can make it to the other side. Raising my kids in this world is scary. When I was 14 I lost my best friend due to suicide from bullying. I fear the challenges my own children will face. There are people out there that fight these battles day in and day out, and someday, that may be my kid. But, watching all Ian and Mickey had to overcome, while continuing to have each other’s back is breathtaking and makes me hopeful. --Katie, 29, Stay-at-home Mom, Canada

’s relationship gave me hope. After all the things that Ian and Mickey had to go through for this relationship to work, it has to be worth it in the end. Nothing or nobody could stop them from loving each other. This really makes me think of how I want to love and to be loved; how I want to protect and be protected. --Charlotte, 16, Student, France

Stunning Character Development

Mickey and Ian’s relationship is about evolving and growing together, no matter how hard times may get. It’s about being able to find yourself when you’re with your significant other. Ian gave Mickey hope and allowed him to open his heart. Mickey was finally able to embrace his true self, all thanks to Ian. Neither Mickey, nor Ian is perfect and the same goes for their relationship. Yet, they find peace within each other. --Chris, 16, Student, Italy

Mickey’s character development was incredible. The way he showed deep, true, unconditional love for Ian is something that I’ve not seen elsewhere on TV. You can actually feel how much he loves him. They are two strong, unique characters coming together to create a beautiful bond. --Valerie, 18, Student, Finland

What impacts me most about is how they helped each other grow. Ian helped guide Mickey through a very important time of discovery and Mickey did similar for Ian. That’s an incredibly valuable story, especially for people struggling with mental illness. ’s relationship fills people with hope that it is possible to find someone who understands you, who accepts you for who you are, and stands by your side in the good times and bad. --Kasia, 20, Student, Poland

Exploration of Mental Illness

deeply touches my heart because the relationship mirrors a relationship I had. I wanted to save this person, help her get out of an abusive relationship, give her love and be loved. She started to love and trust me and then my first depressive episode hit. I see myself in Ian and I judge him because he gave up on the relationship with a person he wanted to be loved by; he made Mickey free, he made him attached and then he refused him. I see my love in Mickey and that is why I worry about him so much. --Polina, 23, Japanese Teacher, Russia

’s relationship means the world to me because like Ian, I am bipolar. They give me hope that there are people out there like Mickey that will love me unconditionally, even to the darkest corners of my mind, when I can’t find the strength to love myself. --Amy, 20, Student/Writer, USA

I suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder and have had trouble developing friendships and romantic relationships throughout my life. Witnessing Mickey’s character development helped me tremendously. He went from hiding his emotions for Ian to showing how much love he has. Mickey made me want to show the love that I feel for all the people I have in my life. --Julie, 24, Medical Assistant/EMT, USA

LGBTQ Representation

In my career as a US Correctional Trainer I was around gay inmates, both male and female. I didn't much like it but I tried not to judge. They never bothered me, but I just never understood it. I thought gay men were fairies, or even queer. Now, I'm very ashamed of that because watching changed everything for me. Over time I fell in love with Ian and Mickey. I began to understand that love is love. I remember when they first kissed I yelled “Fuck yeah”! What did for me was really show me people I could relate to in both in Mickey and Ian. I was ashamed that I had been so ignorant and uniformed. I didn’t understand, but now I do. As their love story developed I cheered them on and began to hope that other seniors like myself, or anyone that was uniformed could be enlightened. I cried so hard for when they separated and I love that #Shameless kept it open for Ian and Mickey to reunite in the future. I am grateful to Shameless for teaching me with a beautiful love story. It’s one for the books as they say. --Scottyee, 72, Retired U.S Correctional Trainer, USA

had a great impact on my life the moment my father decided to watch with me. As he watched seasons 1 through 5, my father went from being a straight forward homophobe, to a man that understood love is love, no matter the gender. ’s beautiful story helped my dad get rid of his prejudices about the LGBTQ community, which I am a part of. --Jacqueline, 27, Forensic Psychologist, Mexico

Mickey speaks to me on a personal level. As a closeted gay male, I grew up in a verbally abusive home on the rough side of town. He was the first gay male on television that I have ever related to. To see the fan base support a character like Mickey, who in my whole life, I have only seen people refer to as a sick and twisted individual has been therapeutic and empowering for me. --Adriel, 27, Creative Director, USA

Brilliantly Brought to Life by Cameron Monaghan & Noel Fisher

Cameron and Noel make every line, every look, every touch significant, iconic, and therefore, worth remembering. They understand the characters better than what's shown on the scripts, and it translates perfectly on screen. They have remarkable chemistry that manages to change the whole dynamic of their scenes into something honest and intriguing.--Paula

Noel Fisher and Cameron Monaghan are both incredibly talented actors, but together they bring out the absolute best in each other. The chemistry they have is rare and special and a real treat to watch. They have grown together with their characters over the years and carefully created and exposed the many layers of Ian and Mickey’s relationship, from adolescence to adulthood.--Jill

They bring a raw, real intensity and chemistry! Their performances are complex and nuanced. They make you feel without words. --Johna

They both speak with their eyes and connect so deeply well with the other. The intensity of their performances makes them unbeatable.--Cristy

Cameron and Noel are absolutely breathtaking. They incorporate the emotions their characters are feeling in a way I've never seen before.--Saleha

Cam and Noel were made for these roles. They understand their characters way beyond the scripts. They bring out the best in each other and their chemistry is off the charts. I can't think of a better pairing.--Amber

Noel is consistently amazing with his thought-provoking, powerful performances. Cameron gives us a thoughtful and intimate portrayal of someone struggling to come to grips with mental illness and realize it does not define him. Together they have an effortless chemistry that truly bring Ian and Mickey to life and together in a dynamic and compelling way.--Jessica

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