Safe Zone

My home is rarely tidy. It’s comfortable and warm but our furniture is worn, there are books everywhere and I only vacuum when I know I have guests coming. I believe there’s always something more interesting to be doing than housework and I live by this philosophy. I wish I were more house proud but I’m not.

My home is, however, a safe place. For myself, for my family and for anyone who needs it. The kettle is always on, we have tea and coffee and beer and crisps and anything else we might need is just round the corner. There’s a spare bed during the week (or a couch always) and a shoulder to cry on any time. We can sit in silence or we can watch crappy TV (or good TV). You can have a bath or a shower, and borrow my fluffy robe. You can even use my good conditioner.

What I’m trying to say is nobody should be alone when they need someone. Nobody should feel alone. It’s important to realise that it’s okay to not be okay and that we don’t have to be strong all the time. We have the right to ask for help and we should also be there for each other when we need it. Life is hard and frenetic and it’s very easy to lose sight of ourselves and other people in admist our daily life.

So my home is a safe zone and my shoulder is a sturdy one. My ears are open. I don’t have a clue about a lot of things but I do know how to just be there. And I know how to make an excellent hot beverage.

#mentalhealthawareness #bethere

*Post inspired by a status update on social media (not written by me).

A History of Silence

The other week was Mental Health Awareness Week and I had planned to post this then as a celebration of my own mental struggles – but of course I never got the time/had the energy to sit down and polish off the right words. I do think it’s great that this week is marked in the calendar and that it prompts so many valuable discussions. In the wake of the devastating news about Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbits, it feels especially poignant.

Where do you even start though when you’ve been plagued with doubt your whole life? And why does it always feel so narcissistic to talk non-stop about this stuff? I’ve dealt (and sometimes ignored) my own depression and anxiety since teen age. I always thought I was just supremely anti-social and lazy (I am lazy) but I’ve come to understand that it’s not that black and white. Sometimes the feeling of not being able to physically haul yourself out of bed isn’t just because you’re a sloth. As for being around too many people, that’s all symptom of the same condition. Some days I can’t bear the thought of having to deal with another living soul. My family used to describe me as sensitive and you know what, I really am – and there’s nothing wrong with it.

When I first moved to Brighton I was grappling not only with a dramatic move and adult life away from home but with crippling loneliness. I didn’t like myself very much, felt hideous 24/7 (adult acne did not help) and all I wanted to do was hide away. As I adapted to my new life some of that fell away but I’d fall hard for the wrong men and then feel everything ten fold. The first time I sought (not very good) assistance from a medical professional was because of a man (I had an affair with someone completely unavailable). Really it was about all those feelings backing up one on top of the other and having no understanding of how to deal but the boy was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I was immediately medicated with no other discussion and whatever I took then was not the one. My doctor was well-meaning but not exactly open to a conversation about mental health and I guess I didn’t really care to understand the whys then, I just wanted to be ‘fixed’.

A few years later, during my black period (age 24-30), I was in a very bad place. I was trapped in a relationship that was slowly killing me. For the most part I was numb and uncaring about everything but inside I felt trapped, scared and I did not want to be part of anything anymore. I walked on eggshells around a man that scared and controlled me in subtle ways. When he told me I was crazy I believed him. When he told me I was lucky he didn’t hit women, I believed him.

Well, hindsight is a wonderful thing and it’s sometimes hard to remember how bad things were then but they were the pits. I thought seriously about ending it and planned my out meticulously, something I’ve never really told anyone and certainly nobody at the time. I had it all mapped out but now I think if I’d gone through with it, it would have been a cry for help. Not to trivialise the choice to end a life, I have every sympathy for anyone in that position but I personally wanted a way out or for someone to reach out and tell me what to do. I’m thankful I didn’t act on that and one day did find the strength to leave him. I still dream about that time and live in dread that one day I might bump into him again.

Life since has been up and down of course because it’s life but it’s been good. That anxiety though just doesn’t want to let go. Everywhere I go I am constantly wrestling with the internal voice that tells me I’m worthless and failing at everything. Every time I walk into a new social situation I’m sure everyone hates me – and I will often lie awake at night because I forgot to say goodbye to someone and have probably upset them in some irreparable way.

It’s a funny old battle – the war between this negative voice and the real me – but they are both me and we have to find a way to co-exist. I’m medicated again, I started up on Sertraline about ten months ago and it seems to be suiting me. My lovely doctor also got me signed up to some CBT training and counselling and has generally been adorable every time I’ve rocked up to her office and sobbed my heart out. I’ve been lucky this time and things feel more manageable. Some environmental changes can trigger a particularly bad period but other than that I’m coping.

My heart goes out to anyone with the same feelings and it breaks my heart when another person loses their battle but I understand. Suicide doesn’t make a person weak and if that’s the only way to find peace then I get it – although I would hope there’s always another way.

Things might be getting better and there is less stigma attached to these mental conditions but we still have a long way to go.

Here are a few deeply relatable illustrations about anxiety that I love:

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Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (Film) Review

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Not much preamble this time around – just a whole lot of paranoia in a super-seventies setting. Hurrah!

Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971)

IMDB Synopsis

A recently institutionalized woman has bizarre experiences after moving into a supposedly haunted country farmhouse and fears she may be losing her sanity once again.

My Review

Jess (Zohra Lampert) is elated to be out of the institute she’s been residing in. If she’s haunted by her time there, it doesn’t show, at least not initially. She seems very optimistic, even child-like in her excitement to be ‘free’.

She’s on the road with her husband Duncan (Barton Heyman) and his hippy friend Woody who’s along for the ride for some inexplicable reason. The couple (and their third wheel) are driving in a hearse toward their new life in remote Connecticut.

Which, horror fans, could never go wrong. FYI Jess is still seeing things, in the form of a young blonde woman trying to get her attention but to save face, she’s keeping that to herself for now.

When they arrive in their new town, they’re bemused to find a not-very warm welcome awaiting them. The pretty much all male community are openly hostile, guess they just don’t like out-of-towners. Our rag tag trio laugh it off, even when the ferryman to their tiny island mumbles something ominous under his breath. (Seriously, have these people not heard of red flags?).

Things get freakier when they arrive at the house and Jessica sees a strange woman on the porch. She thinks she’s losing her shit again but it soon transpires that the others can see her too and when they chase her down, she reveals herself to be Emily (Mariclare Costello), a drifter who’s been squatting in the house while it’s been empty. Liberties.

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Riding in hearses with boys

Jess sees something of a kindred spirit in Emily and invites her to stay the night. DON’T DOOOOOO ITTTT! Sensing that Woody is into her, Jess then persuades Duncan to let her stay indefinitely. HONESTLY, DON’T! I would say for a woman who has previously been treated for her fear and paranoia of literally everything, Jess is very trusting and non-suspicious. I think this makes me love her but also want to stab anyone who wrongs her – and strange girls in remote locations seldom turn out to be baggage free, not in the movies, just saying.

Anywhoo, the gang become quite tight and all is well and good for a while, until Jess is grabbed from below the water by what looks like a dead lady during a swim. She understandably freaks de fuq out but nobody believes her and this irritates me. I mean, I get it but at least try and be kind guys, could you?

Duncan and Jess decide to sell some of the antiques in the house to a local dealer. The dealer is a little friendlier than the others and tells the couple a horrifying story about a girl who drowned in the lake behind their house just before her wedding day in the 1800s. Rumour has it the body was never found and that she roams the island as a vampire (sure). Duncan gets shirty about this, fearing it will freak out his wife but she tells him his constant worrying is the thing making her ill. You go, Jessie.

Meanwhile, Jess can sense the sexy tension between her husband and Emily – and she does not like it one bit. It comes to a head when she goes grave rubbing (exactly what it says on the tin), sees the blonde girl again and is lead by her to a rather macabre scene. Her so-called friends do not believe her about the body she’s just uncovered (yeah, the macabre scene is the body of the antiques dealer) but they do see the girl. So at least there’s that. The girl runs off when she sees Emily… hmm.

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Jess was not a Free Hugs kind of gal

Later Duncan suggests that Jess goes back to the city (AKA hospital) and she makes him sleep on the couch. GOOD. While here Duncan does something he will live to regret and I don’t care anymore. If you’ve seen one douchey husband in film, you’ve pretty much seen them all.

Anyway, lots of awful things happen from hereon-in. Jess is made to feel like she’s a liability and she finally puts two and two together about her new frenemy, Emily (even though we’ve arrived here ourselves already) – and it all goes to Hell, quite literally. The fact Jess is a supposed nut-job goes against her so hard at the end.

As usual though this is a lesson in stranger danger. The mental health element could be worse but is still clunky and annoying. I find Duncan quite quick to disbelieve his wife who is a joyous person. In my version of this film Jess would get sick of the bland men and start a new life with super-vixen Emily while the townsmen do their evil bidding instead. Now that would be a GREAT film.

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Who run this island?

My Thoughts

I won’t pretend that this is the scariest movie of all time, or even the most dynamic. However, it is atmospheric and builds up the feeling of paranoia well. Most of the characters are the worst (not you, Jess) so I don’t really care about their outcome. It bothers me that a mouse gets elaborately murdered halfway through the film (I had to cover my gerbils’ eyes). Otherwise, there’s a nice 70’s sheen to this movie.

Fin.

My Rating

3/5. Eery.

What did my love think of this one? Would she bite in the neck and turn it into something inhuman or take it for a ride in her hearse? Find out here.

Uncle Robin 1951 – 2014

Robin-Williams-robin-williams-32089824-2798-3916Yesterday most of the world woke up to the news that Robin Williams had passed away.

I was in a decidedly un-glamorous place as I scrolled through Facebook and found out for myself (embarrassing source of all my news). My subsequent scream from the bathroom caused Mr Bee to get very annoyed when he realised I hadn’t just been injured or attacked.

It is always strange when a beloved celebrity passes away. This year we have already been rocked by the passing of another favourite, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and in similarly shocking circumstances (all still alleged). Hoffman from a heroin overdose in his own bathroom and now Williams, who is believed to have taken his own life.

It’s just so very sad. I guess when you think about death at a not even that old age, you hope for something quick and painless. Tragic, of course but natural. To consider the ongoing suffering of somebody famous for making others feel better is a bitter punchline in itself.

This morning as I was stomping around the park thinking about this subject and of what Robin meant to me, I got to thinking about the joke Rorschach tells in Watchmen:

I heard a joke once: Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life is harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world. Doctor says, “Treatment is simple. The great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears. Says, “But doctor… I am Pagliacci.” Good joke. Everybody laugh. Roll on snare drum. Curtains.

Moral of the story: you never know.

Now, I don’t feel qualified to comment on what sort of torment must lead a person to such a hopeless place. I don’t think it’s the cowards way out though.

I know a few things about mental illness and depression, I know a bit about addiction but all my experience is second hand. I know it’s serious and that we should be able to talk about it openly, without judgment and help should be readily available. It goes further than that though and I understand this.

I just feel incredibly sad. I feel as though the world will genuinely have an empty hole in it now. Robin always felt like an uncle to me and when we spoke about him, Mr Bee and I called him ‘Uncle Robin’.

Had he been my real uncle (and I do love my actual uncles), I imagine Robin would have been able to fix anything with a hairy armed bear hug. Nothing could be bad within that embrace and nothing would ever light up the room like that smile. That laugh.

Now this is my fantasy, of an uncle I’ll never have but I’m sure his own children felt that way about him. I’m sure his friends, his wife, all his loved ones felt that way too. I hope he’s at peace now.

Rest easy, Peter Pan.