Friday, 24 October 2014

Should we laugh in the face of mental illness?

In Australia, ABC television recently aired Mental As. To anyone hearing about this for the first time, it was a week of prime-time programming on the topic of mental illness.

I didn't actually watch any of the shows when they were aired (read: my priorities were out of whack last week), but thanks to my dad, who is a Foxtel IQ whiz, everything was taped. I watched it all yesterday, so now I can talk about it.

It was interesting to note that many of the fundraising and awareness-raising programs were fronted by comedians. At first I was like... guys, pretty serious issue right here, what's with all the jokes?

The Friday Night Crack Up, featuring a bunch of high profile Australians throwing cakes at each other, was one such example of how comedy has been used to shine a light on mental health.

The response to Mental As in Australia has been really positive. Should we be using comedy to tackle mental illness more often?

Tackling mental illness comes in two flavours. There is helping people who are mentally ill, and there is destigmatising this process in the first place.

For sufferers who are in the darkest depths of mental illness, stand-up comedy and 2-hour variety shows that make light of its seriousness might not be the best thing. I know that when I've been down, a good shoulder to cry on and a couple of sincere listening ears are best.

Outside the sufferers circle, comedy definitely has a place. It can break down barriers and open communication lines, which is what we need right now. Broaching the subject in a light-hearted fashion makes it more accessible to people who have no prior experience with mental illness. Of course, the comedy shouldn't be callous or cheap to the degree that mental illness isn't taken seriously, but it definitely does have a place.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

That's just criminal.

I went to a police museum not so long ago.

Let it be known that museums are not my favourite outing of all time. There's something rather unappealing about standing around for long periods of time, waiting for engrossed family members to catch up. (And to make it worse, I saw at least three kids under the age of five who were holding up WAY better than me.)

Anyway once I decided to GROW UP and focus on the exhibits, things got interesting.

I found a collection of photographs from what is thought to be the largest archive of police forensic photography in the world. We're talking upwards of 130,000 mug shots. Or rather, smug shots, because it would seem that prior to reliable forensic testing, criminals looked less guilty on film.

The photographs featured an array of delinquents, con-artists, loan sharks, drug pushers, prostitutes and murderers. Labels aside, these people look completely normal. If you saw one on the streets of Sydney in 1900, you wouldn't have known they were the head honcho of a large drug ring just by looking at them. And if I hadn't been in a police museum, I wouldn't have known either.

This got me thinking, like most things do.

Firstly, for the sake of argument I'm going to assume that you aren't a criminal. As a fellow law-abider, I'm confident that you don't have murderous tendencies, a drug trafficking history or other illegalities to hide from the world.

Criminal activity aside, I bet there are still non-criminal things you choose not to disclose. Things for which you can't be arrested, but that you keep from others just the same.

It's very common to keep things inside. And sometimes this pays off. (Go to the Police Museum in Sydney if you want photographic evidence.)

But there are plenty of cases where containment doesn't do individuals any good...

I'm trying to challenge this by putting things out there. Because if I've got stuff going on, there is no point keeping it to myself. I talk about it. Explore it. Use it. I'm at this point now where playing it "safe" is not an option.

Being open and honest is worth it. The only downside is that where I live, some people who read my blog tend to give me awkward, knowing looks when I pass them in the street. But even that isn't exactly a downside for me. My only gripe is that I can't give them a look of compassion and understanding in return, because they don't write tell-all blogs for me to read. But I would if I could.

Anyone nuts about dried fruit?

Hi guys,

I was eating dried fruit the other day, and came across these. I've no idea what they are. Does anybody know?

Monday, 20 October 2014


There are some pretty decent trees near my place. At particular times in the day, sunlight illuminates networks of leaves in way more detail than my camera can capture. 

I've always wondered how trees decide which direction their branches should grow in. What makes branches twist and kink like they do? Is it available sunlight? Perceived protection from wind? Is it all just random?

Friday, 17 October 2014

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

I will first apologise for the potentially incoherent nature of this post. I am emotionally charged and might not make as much sense as usual.

So I've got this thing going on at the moment, where pretty much everything in my life is going well, except for one aspect.

This problematic portion is really getting to me. Whenever I remember it is there (which is often), it seems to require a decent amount of my time in the form of wasted hours mulling over circumstances I can't change.

So I'm like, well, do I just let it be? Or do I push to fix it? Or do I change myself so that I mould to the situation better?

This last question is of interest to me, and perhaps to you.

As a person managing mental illness, how do you know if you need to change?

In the past, I have placed unhealthy and unfair levels of blame on myself for feeling and thinking in the way that I do. I'm more about acceptance these days - I do a lot of "this is just how I am".

That said, I acknowledge that at times, I can be an intense person. Sometimes, I have so many thoughts zooming around - "let's do A!", "I want to start B!", "What would happen if C?" - that I get overwhelmed by my own mind. I overthink, tie myself up in knots, then undo those knots and retie them in newly painful ways. When this happens, the problem is made bigger. I know this and I work towards avoiding it, but inevitably it still occurs at times.

Like now.

My point is this: there is a situation, and then there is my reaction. And I just wish I knew how to tell which one needed fixing more.

Do you ever get this too?