Kirstie Alley & My Mum

Kirstie Alley

Many years ago I answered an ad in the newspaper for an office traineeship. It turned out to be an ad placed by the Church of Scientology in Brisbane. Also turned out not to be an office traineeship, but that’s another story.

When I went for the ‘interview’ they had me watch a propaganda video where a bunch of people, many of them celebrities, talked about how wonderful the church was, how it had changed or even saved their lives.

One of these celebrities was actress Kirstie Alley. She spoke quite passionately about the church, and claimed she would have committed suicide if it weren’t for them.

After I’d been working at the church for a little while another girl, who we’ll call ‘Rebecca,’ started working there, too. Rebecca watched the same video, but immediately called bullshit on Kirstie Alley.

Now, Rebecca and I became friends on her first day there. I was already very tired of the hypocrisy of the place, as well as the fact that my monthly train ticked ($33) cost more than I was earning  per month. Yes. You read that right.

Rebecca and I spoke of the difficulties in our lives, how we were both struggling with depression. Lots of deep and meaningful conversations within a very short time.

And yet, Rebecca refused to believe that Kirstie Alley could suffer from depression.

“She’s famous, and she’s rich. What could she possibly have to be depressed about?”

This, to me, showed a stunning lack of insight. I could understand this kind of ignorance from someone who had never experienced a mental illness, but Rebecca . . . she was in a worse place mentally than I was. How could she still not understand that mental illness does not discriminate? That race, fame, religion, gender, sexuality, wealth, and status do not protect you?

And while this was the first glaring example of lack of insight and understanding I encountered, it definitely was not the last.

My Mum

One day during a visit to my grandparents. Grandma mentioned to me that Mum had had a small breakdown only days before.

My father had had a go at Mum about the state of the house. It was messy and dirty. Mum broke down and said she was deeply depressed, and the housework was just too overwhelming for her at that time. She needed help.

A couple of weeks later it was my birthday, so Mum and Dad came to visit. I was mired in a severe case of post-natal depression at the time (which eventually developed into psychosis, so yeah, it was bad.)

Housework had pretty much gone out the window for me, too, just has it had for Mum. But, knowing I was going to have visitors, I did my best to make the house look presentable.

Mum and Dad came and we had what I thought was a pleasant visit.

The next day I got an email from my mother telling me the house was a disgrace and I should be ashamed. She reminded me that all through my own childhood she’d managed to maintain a clean house, blah blah blah.

I had three panic attacks just reading the email.

I could not believe my eyes. This, from my own mother, from the woman who was at that exact same time having the exact same difficulty, and who’d broken down while explaining it to my Dad.

What the actual fuck?

I was freaking out. I wound up ringing Lifeline so I could speak to someone who could calm me down. I don’t know if the man I spoke to could even understand half of what I was saying at the beginning, I was so emotional, but he did a wonderful job of bringing me back down and helping me see things more clearly.

Later that day I emailed Mum back, repeating what Grandma had told me about her situation, and I questioned how Mum could have a go at me for the exact same thing she was struggling with herself.

Her reply the following day was to basically say, “I knew you’d get all defensive. Just get your shit together.”

More panic attacks.

I couldn’t believe back then, and frankly I still can’t now, how a woman who has struggled with mental health issues her entire life could show such a lack of compassion and understanding for another woman in the exact same circumstance, let alone her own daughter.

As I’m writing this, I’m wondering if it was one of those instances where you see an aspect of yourself that you don’t like in someone else and you take your anger and self-loathing out on that other person instead of yourself . . .

Either way, this wasn’t the only time my mother behaved this way. I have seen it time and again, and it continues to upset and confound me.

My Point

Personally, if I know someone is struggling, I always make allowances for them. After all, I know what it feels like to suffer through depression and anxiety and panic, how hard just being awake can be some days. I’ve been suicidal more than once. I’ve been homicidal, too. I’ve been all kinds of fucked up. So I’m happy to cut fellow sufferers some slack.

I’m also pretty damned good at figuring out when someone is a fellow sufferer. A few minutes into our first conversation I can tell. My soul recognises something in theirs; similar scars, a kindred spirit.

As well, I know all too well what it’s like to have the people around you not believe you’re really sick. It’s fucking heartbreaking. Not only are you struggling to survive, but the very people who are supposed to be your life raft stand by and call you a liar, even as you sink beneath the waves.

What’s the point of all of this?

I am asking you to show the compassion and understanding and respect that you ask others to show you. If you someone who is struggling, give them a hug, a kind word, hang out with them if you can. Do something, anything, that you know has even a chance of helping them.

And above all, BELIEVE them.

Being believed, having people accept you and your reality, is one of the greatest gives you will ever receive. Give that gift to someone else. You might just save a life.

Take care of you xox

5 Valuable Podcasts for Mental Health

Yay for the Internet!

Podcasts are an excellent example of how the internet is being done right.

If you’re into it, there’s a podcast for it. You can learn so much, you can discover new communities, you can be entertained, soothed to sleep, motivated, intellectually stimulated, challenged, energised, calmed, advised, charmed, intrigued, guided, swayed, stirred, enlightened, uplifted.

You have access to academics, comedians, leaders, learners, explorers, questioners, entertainers, educators, musicians, actors, artists, writers, athletes, doctors; the weird, the brilliant, the funny, the helpful, the confronting, the mind-boggling, the been-there-done-thats and the what’s-nexters.

For. Free.

Podcasts & Mental Illness

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, you are definitely not the only one struggling with mental health issues. Being human makes it a near certainty that, at some point, eventually, you will need help.

Now, I’m not suggesting that listening to mental health oriented podcasts is going to solve all your problems, nor am I suggesting that they should take the place of medication and/or professional therapy (or whatever treatment you may be pursuing), but I absolutely believe that podcasts can be a valuable part of your overall support and education strategy.

About This List

This post exists because podcasts in general have helped me through some very dark times in recent years. The thing is, I never spent much time listening to podcasts devoted explicitly to mental health. Instead, I just looked for things I found entertaining and used them as a distraction.

So, to compile this list (and to help myself out, too) I went to a Facebook group I’m part of called Podcasts We Listen To, and asked the other members what mental health podcasts they had found useful during their darker times.

The response was instant and very heartening. People were keen to share the tools they’d used and how they found them useful. Many of them also wanted to see this post when it was done, so, “Hi, guys!” *waves*

After I got my responses, I compiled a long list and got onto Podcast Addict (the app I use to listen, though many are available). I subscribed to every one on the list and downloaded at least three episodes of each so that I could get a feel for the presenters and guests and what they’re providing for listeners. I also wanted to be able to provide more detail in my descriptions than I’ve seen in other lists, some of which are just copied and pasted from iTunes.

A Quick Note Before We Begin

This post is about five of the podcasts people recommended to me. The overall list is much longer, so to avoid overloading you with information and options, this is only the first of what will be a series of blog posts on this particular topic.

5 Valuable Podcasts for Mental Health – The List

#1  Other People’s Problems

This is the first one from the list that I tried, and I fell in love with it immediately.

Hillary McBride, with the permission of her counselling clients, records sessions for us to listen to. These are real people dealing with real problems (I feel like I’m introducing Judge Judy!)

Several times each episode, Hillary will pause the recording to speak directly to the listener, explaining why the client is speaking/thinking/acting/feeling a particular way, and what may need to be done to address it.

As you listen to these people articulate their thoughts and emotions, it’s incredibly easy to identify with them. There are so many “Me too!” moments, and to then have Hillary explain that, as crazy or stupid as they may feel about it, what they’re doing is ‘normal,’ and is to be expected after what they’ve been through . . . this offers no small amount of comfort to the listener, too.

I identified strongly with “Sloan” (client names are changed to protect their privacy) in the first episode I listened to, and cried through at least half of it. In a good way!

I think there’s real value here, too, in that if you’re struggling to make someone in your life understand what you’re going through, or why you behave the way you do, having them listen to this could bring them closer to really grasping what you’ve been trying to tell them.

(Thanks to Keri Stephenson for this recommendation.)

#2  Terrible, Thanks For Asking

Nora McInerny, like many of us, has been through the emotional wringer. A series of devastating losses has led to her exploring the rocky, difficult, and yes, sometimes beautiful landscape of grief, depression, and anxiety.

This is a beautifully written podcast about often stark, bleak realities. No stone is left unturned as she digs through her own emotional baggage, and she is equally thorough when talking with her guests.

The potential for triggers in this podcast is high, but its honesty and forthrightness is vital for people hoping to confront, understand, and deal with what happens internally when the shit hits the fan.

And you know it will.

(Thanks to Emma Cremer and Melissa Wheeler Tulloch for this recommendation.)

#3  Savvy Psychologist – Quick & Dirty Tips

Note: there are two Savvy Psychologist podcasts. For this post, I’m looking only at the Quick & Dirty Tips version. I’ll be exploring the long-form version in a future post.

Dr Ellen Hendriksen has a no-nonsense manner that really appeals to me. She takes complex psychological subjects and breaks them down so that the average person can relate to and understand them with ease.

She explains the ‘why’ behind our emotions, negative or positive, so we know the reasons for some of the strange things we do and say and feel, and then goes on to give you an actionable list of steps you can take to deal with them.

Understanding why someone/something is the way it is is incredibly valuable, but being given practical ways of dealing with it is (in the words of many a Mastercard ad) priceless.

(Thanks to Anna Watson for this recommendation.)

#4  The Mental Illness Happy Hour

This is a very popular one, and upon listening to a few episodes, I can see why.

I love the candor of everyone involved. Paul Gilmartin talks to his weekly guests about their mutual struggles with diagnoses, medication, therapy, family, work, and all the other things associated with living with mental illness.

You will recognise yourself in these conversations, you will identify with the highs and the lows, and hopefully you’ll learn or be reminded that your illness doesn’t have to be the only thing going on in your life.

In the episodes I’ve listened to so far, the guests have all been working professionals, usually artists/performers of some kind, and I think it’s important to know that you can be unwell and still contribute to society in some way, still have a fulfilling life, even if it’s not exactly the one you planned.

I felt instantly at home listening to these interviews, and look forward to hearing many more.

There is an online community attached to this podcast, too, so if you want to chat with some folks who know exactly where you’re coming from, head over to www.mentalpod.com and go to the forum.

(Thanks to Emma Cremer, Kelly Beth, Bryan Dusseau, Melissa Wheeler Tulloch, and Alison Forman-Rickert for this recommendation.)

#5  Sleep With Me

I’ve heard about this podcast dozens of times, and when several people brought it up in the Facebook group again, I finally decided to check it out.

So, does it work? Well, each episode is about an hour long. At the start he introduces the podcast to any new listeners, explains what he does and how it’s supposed to work, and then he goes on to tell you a bedtime story to lull you to sleep.

I’ve had it playing when I went to bed for the past four nights straight, and I’ve never even made it to the part where he starts telling the story.

At first I thought it wasn’t going to work, because while I’m listening to the first part I feel more alert than I usually do when I’m going to bed. Then my mind starts to wander, which is bad because that usually means I’m going to be awake for a few hours.

But then, somehow, I’m focused on his voice again. And then it’s morning and I’m the proud owner of a very full bladder.

So yeah, it works for me. And it seems to work for a hell of a lot of other people, too. It’s a long-running podcast with a devoted following.

Of course I can’t guarantee that it’ll work for you, but for people like us who often struggle with sleep, giving it a try can’t hurt, can it?

The host seems to be a lovely guy with a genuine desire to make at least one part of our lives easier. I don’t know who he is, but I love him for it.

(Thanks to Candice Stearns, Nancy Sinclair, Melissa Wheeler Tulloch, and J.R. Kinyak for this recommendation.)

Bonus Podcast

While I believe that information is invaluable when you’re living with a mental illness, there are plenty of times when it’s better to focus on something besides yourself and what’s going on in your own head.

As this is a post about podcasts, I thought I’d give you a bonus suggestion that has nothing whatsoever to do with mental health, unless you consider that old adage: laughter is the best medicine.

I first heard about this podcast in the same Facebook group I mentioned earlier, Podcasts We Listen To. Every time someone asks for recommendations for something funny or just a list of people’s faves, this one never fails to come up again and again.

My Dad Wrote A Porno.

I saw the name so many times just after joining the Facebook group that I just couldn’t resist checking it out, and I am so glad that I did.

Jamie Morton’s dad has written a series of ‘erotic’ eBooks called Belinda Blinks. I put erotic in quotes there because they’re anything but. To be brutally honest, they are poorly written trash, and I’d be surprised if they even managed to turn on a twelve year old boy.

But, when Jamie gets together with his two friends, Alice Levine and James Cooper, the stories take on a whole new life. James reads a chapter per episode to his friends, and they all comment on things as he goes along.

Might not sound very exciting the way I’m describing it, but this thing is spit-take, laugh-out-loud funny, and people around the world have embraced it.

If you can’t handle sexually explicit language then this is definitely not the podcast for you, but if you reckon you can handle listening to physically impossible sex scenes written by someone who clearly has no understanding of female anatomy (even though he’s married and has at least one child), then I cannot recommend this one strongly enough.

Good day, bad day, any day, this thing will make you laugh. Loudly and inappropriately. In public.

(I was going to mention this podcast on one of these posts either way, but I want to acknowledge Melissa Rose from the Facebook group for her mention of it, too.)

Before I go…

I hope you take the time to check some of these out, and I’d love to hear your own opinions of these podcasts, as well as suggestions for others that you think would benefit people in our situation. Whether they’re mental health related or, like My Dad Wrote A Porno, are better suited for those times when we need a thorough distraction (and maybe a good belly laugh), I want to hear about them.

As I’ve already mentioned, today’s post is just a small selection of the suggestions from the Facebook group, so keep an eye out for the next Mental Health Podcast post.

Take care of you xox

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