Ahead of my #TalkMH chat this Thursday, I wanted explore two of my favourite TV shows and look at how they portray mental illness.

Gilmore girls

As much as I hate to say it, because GG is my absolute favourite TV show, I strongly dislike how it portrays therapy.

In season 6, episode 11 (‘The Perfect Dress’), Rory is asked to attend therapy following her recent time away from college. From Lorelai’s initial reaction (‘I can’t believe you’re going to a therapist’ followed by a joke about the old cliché of therapists asking about your mother) to the actual session itself, nothing in this episode is handled sensitively at all.

The scene itself is an absolute farce, starting with Rory’s obvious disdain towards her therapist and ending with over-the-top crying. It makes me cringe every time.

Rory Gilmore crying

Afterwards, she calls Lorelai and opens with, ‘Guess who’s crazy?’

Huh.

I’ll forgive it though, because this episode first aired back in 2005 and let’s be honest, Gilmore girls was never particularly PC.

Fast-forward to 2016 though, and we have the revival episodes. *Warning: Spoilers ahead!*

Sigh. Where to start?

I had high hopes when Lorelai sensitively suggested Emily see a professional to help her through her grief. But then we get to the therapist who seems alright at first, but quickly becomes more and more ridiculous.

Firstly, can we talk about the obvious frustration and lack of empathy she shows when she’s rushing them out of their sessions?

And then, when she turns up in Stars Hollow (I’m sorry, why?!), bounds up to Lorelai (so unprofessional!!) and announces she’s auditioning for the musical, I couldn’t stop myself from sighing. So we’re supposed to believe that Emily and Lorelai were such difficult clients they drove her to give up her career as a therapist in favour of performing in small town musical? Sure. That makes sense.

Girl rolling her eyes

I feel like the therapy was used more as a comedic device than to drive the plot. Case in point: the infamous letter that Emily mentions to Lorelai that never comes up again. I’m not saying therapy can’t or shouldn’t be portrayed in a funny way, I just think the humour here missed the mark. And I was disappointed that we didn’t see the whole thing handled more sensitively.

That said, I liked that Lorelai continued to go by herself, and ultimately her sessions did lead her to somewhat of an epiphany about her own life.

Overall though, not impressed.

The Big Bang Theory

Now, I’m sure you know where I’m going with this.

I know a lot of people don’t particularly like how Sheldon’s OCD is portrayed but personally I can relate a lot to him.

The rituals (knocking three times), the obsessive need for closure and to an extent his cleanliness, all struck a chord with me.

Sheldon knocking on the door

This is perfectly illustrated in season 7, episode 8 (‘The Itchy Brain Simulation’), when Sheldon likens his need for closure to an ‘itch on his brain’ that leaves him feeling uncomfortable and anxious. I can’t think of a better way to describe OCD. He urges Leonard to walk a mile in his shoes by wearing an itchy jumper. OCD is so difficult to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it, so I think it’s particularly clever that Sheldon suggests mimicking it with a physical sensation.

Though Leonard gains a better understanding of his friend’s struggles, he still teases him and calls him crazy. Rather than taking offense though, I applaud the show’s accuracy. It’s been my experience that people often can’t relate, so Leonard’s lack of understanding rang true with me.

In another episode, Sheldon’s girlfriend Amy tries to help him overcome his OCD, by encouraging him to start various tasks without finishing them. Challenging his compulsive need to see everything through is very difficult for Sheldon and I really related to his struggle. The strain is visible on his face and the episode ends with him doing the tasks again, this time to completion.

While some could argue that The Big Bang Theory stigmatises OCD, I would personally disagree. I think it’s great that the show is helping to ‘normalise’ OCD and bring it into the mainstream. More than that, I like that it doesn’t just focus on cleanliness, as of course there’s so much more to it than that. Anything that helps more people realise this is a good thing in my book.

It’s not always a perfect representation, but I find it relatable and at times very sensitively handled.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. If you can’t make it to the chat (this Thursday 13th April at 8:30pm) please feel free to tweet me, or leave a comment below.

 

 

Just a quick post to check in as it’s been a little while and I’ve got something very exciting to share…

I’ve just had my last ever CBT session!

It’s been a long old journey, with two separate therapists and many, many issues to work through. But I DID IT!

If you follow me on Twitter you may have seen that I’ve not been very well over the last couple of weeks and that just after my birthday something happened that once would have been my worst nightmare: I threw up.

If you don’t know, I have HAD emetophobia, a fear of vomiting. At my worst, this phobia controlled my life, made me starve myself and turned simple things like eating in public into a massive source of anxiety. As is common with emetophobes, I am very rarely ever sick. But for some reason, that night I was.

And you know what? I was completely fine. I mean, I didn’t enjoy the experience, obviously, but I stayed calm throughout, cleaned up after myself and took it in my stride. That might seem small to you, but to me it was a huge achievement.

Since then my confidence has grown and grown. I now eat things with my hands at work, eat chicken on a regular basis, and a few days ago did something I honestly never thought I would be able to do – I ate a sweet without washing my hands first. I didn’t try to tip it in my mouth, or pick it up with the wrapper. I just plunged my hand in the bag and went for it.

The list of small victories like this goes on and on and I’m ridiculously proud of myself.

This time last year I was at my absolute lowest point. I honestly felt hopeless. It’s been a long, difficult road, with almost 40 sessions of counselling and a prescription for Sertraline, an SSRI. Now, I feel like a new person.

No, that’s not quite right. I feel like the old me is back. The version of myself that finds joy in things, smiles for no reason and has goals, dreams and drives.

I was almost bursting with happiness when I reeled off this list of achievements to my counsellor and she looked so damn proud of me.

I went in knowing it was likely to be my last session. I felt ready. I’ve learned what I need to be kind to myself, to support myself during difficult times and to listen to my rational thoughts rather than my obsessive ones. I’m still recovering, but I feel confident enough to go it alone now.

Right before I said goodbye to my counsellor she said

‘You did this’

‘It’s not easy, but you did this.’ I can’t tell you how proud that made me feel. Finally I believe in myself again. All that trust in myself I’d lost over the years (for one reason or another), is coming back.

I feel invincible.

Afterwards I walked to work in the sunshine and treated myself to a milkshake.

Elliot drinking Starbucks

I reminded myself of this scene!

I’ve got this. I’ve bloody well got this.

Recovery is possible. There is hope. I hope that I’m proof of that.

If you think CBT could help you, speak to your GP, who may be able to refer you to local NHS services. Or, check out the BABCP website, to find a private therapist in your area.

A while back I decided to do a Q&A and loads of you tweeted me lovely questions. Thank you so much to everyone who took part, I was so nervous no-one would ask me anything!

Erika (@TheWeInMe) asked, ‘If you could only choose 1 thing-one sentence of support-to say to someone struggling with mental illness what would it be?’

I would say that recovery isn’t a straight line. You’ll have good days and bad, ups and down, but in the end you will get better. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help, whether that be to your loved ones, a counsellor, or your GP. You are not selfish for telling other people what you need, and it’s OK to not be OK. Be kind to yourself.

Oops, that’s more than one sentence.

Joe (@themanicmedic) asked, ‘If you had control of all the penguins, how would you take over the world?’

I love this question! I would command the penguins to do a giant flash mob to ‘Jump Around’ by House of Pain. This would undoubtedly be the cutest thing ever, and would eventually become the most successful viral video the world has ever seen. With the vast amount of money I would make from this, I would start to solve the world’s problems one at a time, and quickly be elected Prime Minister. My cabinet would be the penguins, and we’d travel the world together using the power of sheer cuteness, whimsy and joyful dancing to bring peace to every nation.

Laura (@lauradavis_96) asked, ‘What and when were you diagnosed with and how did the diagnosis make you feel?’

This is a tricky one as I’ve never really been formally diagnosed. I’ve always known I have emetophobia, but didn’t really know I also had OCD until my counsellor suggested I might. I was in denial initially, until I realised she was right. Having a label for it and a better understanding of what I was going through was actually a huge relief. Throughout counselling, everything clicked into place and I realised that I’m not alone which was a huge comfort. Finally I understood myself better, which is definitely the first step to recovery in my opinion.

When I saw my GP he didn’t officially diagnose me with anything, but he prescribed anti-depressants. I have also been prescribed beta-blockers for anxiety. So to an extent, as far as my doctor is concerned, I have depression and anxiety.

Depression is a serious illness so I’m careful not to throw the word around lightly. To be honest, I’ve always wondered whether it was just a series of very shitty events that made me feel the way I did, rather than an actual medical reason. All I know is that my medication is helping me and that’s all that matters.

Hannah (@hannahrainey_) wondered, ‘What is your greatest achievement? Something you’re really, really proud of yourself for?’

To be honest, surviving last year and coming out of it stronger than ever. I sought out the help I needed, took some huge, scary steps and put myself through a lot of pain, all the while learning to trust myself to do what’s right for me. I learned to put my needs first and gained the strength to open up to those around me.

I learned that the right course of action is sometimes the hardest, but in the end you’ll only come out stronger than before.

I’m proud of Geek Magnifique, and the amazing people I’ve meet through blogging. I’m proud of myself for following my dreams and landing an amazing job.

But most of all, I’m proud of myself for not giving up.

‘If you could have dinner with one person, alive or dead, who would it be and why?’ – Rich (@RichBiscuit21)

It’s a tough one. Probably my Grandpa, as I never got to know him, but I’ve been told he was the loveliest man.

Possibly my Dad, to try to right some wrongs and repair our relationship.

Or maybe Louis Theroux. Because, well, Louis Theroux. *Heart eyes*

Charlie Brooker is also very high on my dream dinner party guest-list as I reckon we’d really hit it off. I think we have similar views on the world, and I’d love to pick his brain as I think he’s an absolute genius. He’d be amazing to chat to, and he suffers from emetophobia like me, which makes me like him even more!

Kat (@thekatway) was curious to know, ‘Who made your profile picture? And what good things have come from being a MH advocate so far?’

My profile picture (below) was made by the supremely talented, and wonderful, @AlohaLolaCards – check her out!

Cartoon image of me

The best thing about being a MH advocate is when people tell me I’ve helped them. Knowing that I’m helping people to feel less alone is a wonderful thing, and I feel honoured to have met all the incredibly courageous, inspiring people I have through blogging.

Mel (@melreylaw): ‘Do you ever get comments from people who think social media jobs are easy? What’s your response?’

I definitely get a lot of, ‘So what do you actually do? How is that a full time job?’ as people just imagine I’m sitting on Twitter all day. I explain that there’s a lot of planning and strategy that goes into it, and that my role encompasses many other things, for example writing blog posts and email marketing. To be honest, I’ve learned it’s easier just to say I work in marketing! Less questions that way. That or I joke that I’m a ‘professional tweeter’ and have a laugh about it.

And finally, another lovely question from Laura: ‘Name five things you’re grateful for.’

  1. My friends and family. Of course this includes my wonderful husband!
  2. Having a home and stability.
  3. Doing a job I love.
  4. Animals.
  5. Pizza.

Puppy eating a slice of pizza

I’ve been mulling over the latest series of Mr Robot, in particular the complicated relationship between Elliot and Tyrell, and I have some theories.

First of all, while there’s no way Elliot could have completely made up Tyrell (there are far too many holes in that theory), I definitely believe he’s ‘glamorized’ him somewhat, and let his imagination fill in some gaps.

Tyrell has too much power

Elliot has made E-Corp the enemy in his mind (case in point, the fact he refers to it as ‘Evil Corp’), so it makes sense that Tyrell would be an embodiment of this idea. He takes on the role of the ‘classic corporate bad guy’ right from the start, when he ‘kidnaps’ Elliot and has him brought to his boardroom full of lawyers.

Even as interim CTO, it’s hard to believe that he would have that kind of influence, to the point that even the police turn a blind eye. He has a table full of lawyers for a meeting with Elliot, which seems as unnecessary to me as it does unlikely. I suspect that this whole encounter has been warped in Elliot’s head. He even questions it in his mind – ‘Please tell me you’re seeing this too?’

In contrast, when Elliot as Mr Robot meets with Tyrell, it’s very much on his own turf. Tyrell goes out to Coney Island, where Mr Robot leads the meeting and even manages to intimidate him. The balance of power has shifted, and the way the scene is shot is darker, gloomier, and missing the gloss of the earlier boardroom scene.

Tyrell Wellick

Tyrell represents what Elliot wants

I believe that on some level, Elliot wants what Tyrell has. Not the money or power, but the family. Elliot on numerous occasions references his own loneliness and desire for ‘normality’, and as far as I can tell, Tyrell is the first person to enter his life who has that, or at least a version of it.

His therapist has had a string of failed relationships, Angela is dating a douchebag who cheats on her, his sister has commitment issues, and he grew up in an unhappy household. Tyrell on the other hand has an outwardly perfect life, with a beautiful wife, nice home and a baby on the way.

Elliot romanticizes this life. When he meets Joanna for the first time the sky noticeably brightens behind her and the focus softens. In contrast to her threatening words, the scene has an eerie serenity about it, a visual representation of the rose-coloured glasses Elliot sees the Wellicks through.

Joanna Wellick

Tyrell’s life is exaggerated

While it’s clear that Sam Esmail enjoys throwing in homages to classic movies, I think there’s more to it than that.

The American Psycho references turn Tyrell into an extreme version of the typical ‘corporate villain’, and while Tyrell has obviously done some very questionable things, I think there’s an element of exaggeration on Elliot’s part here.

The salute to Fight Club towards the end of season one (‘Where Is My Mind’ playing softly as Elliot and Tyrell stand together in the arcade) led many to believe that Tyrell was Elliot’s Tyler Durden. As I’ve mentioned already, I don’t think this is the case, but I think it could be a subtle suggestion that there are elements of Tyrell’s life that Elliot has made up or embellished.

Fight Club

Another thing I noticed was that we only ever see Joanna eating pickles. It’s the ultimate pregnancy cliché, and perhaps the sort of thing a person like Elliot, whose limited understanding of pregnant women probably comes from movies, would come up with. This one’s a bit of a stretch, as Elliot never actually sees Joanna eating, but I think it’s another subtle suggestion that there’s an element of fiction to Tyrell and Joanna’s life together.

Tyrell’s Facebook profile, where he lists Swedish Hard House as his favourite music and lingonberry jam as one of his likes, could either be interpreted as Tyrell messing with Elliot, knowing he was going to try to hack him, or it could be Elliot’s mind filling in the gaps with Swedish stereotypes. What if he never actually found Tyrell’s profile?

During the sitcom episode in season two, Tyrell continues to be somewhat of a caricature, caring more about his designer shoes than his own well-being. Obviously this whole episode is meant to be darkly funny, but the humour relating to the other characters stems from much deeper things (the abuse Elliot and his sister suffered as children, for example), while Tyrell’s never scrapes below a superficial level. He remains comically shallow, suggesting a lack of deeper understanding of his character on Elliot’s part.

We know that Elliot is an unreliable narrator and we also know that Tyrell is a very complex character. I think in general there’s so much about most of the characters we’re yet to learn, but I predict that the biggest surprises in store will be to do with the Wellicks, and the dynamic between Elliot and Tyrell.

 

So on Monday I tweeted that I’d had some really exciting news. I was going to hold off sharing it until things were a bit more definite, but I can’t wait any longer.

We found our dream house!

Our offer has been accepted and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that everything goes smoothly.

It could obviously all fall through, so I’m trying not to get my hopes up too much, but I keep finding myself mentally decorating every room (I can already tell you, there are going to be fairy lights EVERYWHERE!) and browsing furniture websites. I can’t help it, I’m excited!

I can’t wait to share the process with you and start bombarding you with pics on Twitter. Sorry in advance. 😉

Girl dancing excitedly