More thoughts on mental health in the theatre – point me in the direction of better stories.

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Just so you know chaps, Spoilers ahead…

Two weekends ago I went to see the play Equus with a friend of mine. I don’t want to turn this blog into a ‘review of psychological plays’ blog, or indeed give the impression that I am more cultured than I am, always off to the theatre. The reality is more sitting in bed watching telly with my partner and cats rather than glamorous outings to the theatre. However I do have some more thoughts on this issue after seeing this play.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post on Cypress Avenue by David Ireland (which was on at the Royal Court Theatre) but now I can’t seem to find the blog post, only the title – did anyone see the text? – it was a good post (even if I do say so myself) but wordpress seems only to have saved the title. I don’t know what happened, and I don’t think I’m going to re-write that post. Basically by thoughts were: was very funny, and probably has a lot to say about the legacy of violence in Northern Ireland. It’s the kind of play that middle class people  who are mostly untroubled by violence or poverty (I say this being a middle class person) come out of saying things like ‘shocking’, and ‘very powerful’. However from the point of view of talking about mental health, it’s really problematic. I’m really fed up with the ‘traumatised man goes mad and kills his whole family narrative’, it’s time for the ‘person goes through trauma and then turns that experience into something positive for them and their community’ narrative’, or the ‘person goes through trauma, and it’s pretty horrible, but they end up ok, and don’t kill anyone narrative.’ So that’s a summary of what that was about – I am sorry if you ended up seeing a blog post with a title and no content (especially after I claimed I was going to be a bit more consistent with my blogging again).

Cypress Avenue was a relatively new play compared to Equus, which was written by Peter Shaffer in 1973. I liked this one better, performed at the Stratford Playhouse, as I will explain, but I have different issues with this one. So basically it’s a play about a boy who blind’s six horses with a spike, which was a real world event in the 1970’s. Apparently the playwright wanted to think about what would drive a person to do such a thing. The story is of a boy who has built a vivid inner mental world that results in the blinding horses situation. It’s quite an intellectual play, based on a psychoanalytical perspective that ultimately manages to tie (because it’s freudian after all) everything back to some sexual event. I’m being a bit glib and a bit brief here but that’s the jist of it – I enjoyed the play and think it’s worth seeing/ reading. There were some really wonderful physical performances by the actors, and it very much treats the young man as a person, as a human being in pain, not as some kind of monster. I liked it for that. I also like that it kind of raises the question of whether it is right to take away someone’s belief system, just because it does not align with the majority view, although it does not answer this question (I am not sure that it could).

But here’s my problem with it. Many times through the play we hear that ‘the boy is in misery’ but we don’t actually see much of that on stage. So it’s a bit of sanitised view of that misery, and mostly we just have to take the word of the ‘professionals’ on the stage that this is the case. The boy has built an elaborate belief system around horses, and he then goes on to violate that belief system by attempting a sexual act in the stable (the symbolic Temple of Equus). The whole play basically treats mental illness as a puzzle – if you can just solve the puzzle then you will fix the person. I just don’t think it works like that in real life for many people. It’s an intellectual approach to mental health that I don’t think really respects the kind of pain and distress that people live with and go through. Many people who experience mental health problems (including myself) haven’t built elaborate belief systems that can be analysed and ‘solved’ in this way. Many people have been through understandable trauma, or live difficult, stressful lives, or are bullied and belittled on a regular basis or made to feel by society that they are ‘wrong’ in some fundamental way. It’s not a complicated secret to them where their pain comes from, what is complicated is how to alleviate that pain. For most people experiencing mental distress – it’s not a puzzle that can be solved and fixed, it’s an ongoing, day by day experience that they continue to endure. Understanding your own story can be the start of a healing journey, but it’s rarely the whole solution.

So, I still think we need better stories about mental health. However, as I confessed to at the beginning of this post, I am someone who mostly sits around with her partner and cats watching telly, it’s very likely that I have missed them. I would very much appreciate it if anyone has any good recommendations for plays, films, or books that give a more nuanced picture of mental health. Drop your recommendation in the comments – at some point I will write a post about the results.

Posted in Anxiety, Art, Craft, creative work, Theatre | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Reading to scare you while very pregnant: This changes everything (Naomi Klein)

So I have, while heavily pregnant with my first baby, been reading ‘This Changes Everything’ by Naomi Klein (here be affiliate links, fyi) and I have to say it is simultaneously the most terrifying, and hopful book I have read about Climate Change (by which I mean it’s the only book I have read about climate change so far – I plan to change this!).

As I blogged about just after Christmas, the closer I get to having my baby, the more I worry about the world I am bringing him into. I look around and feel like society as we have designed it right now isnt good enough. It doesn’t work well for so many people. In the UK if you have a mental health problem, a disability, if you are poor or from a marginalised community, your opportunities are automatically limited by the many punative systems we have designed.

The book was written in 2014, and I am at least one book behind now, so I have some catching up to do. But I am glad I have made a start on better educating myslef about what can be done.

I think what I like about Klein’s book, so far, is that she positions the fight against climate change within the fight against many forms of social injustice, so that building a society that can address climate change will also mean building a society that works better for everyone. I think this is the big message I will be taking away from this book. If you have not read this already (and if you are interested in, or worried about climate change you probably have already!) I suggest thinking about opening this one up.

I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

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A late Valentine’s card

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I wanted to make a little update, I’m trying to get back to more regular postings, but still struggling a bit with feeling tired and fitting everything in. We managed to move house just before Christmas and have generally been trying to tidy up and sort out things for the baby. We are organised I think, in a haphazard kind of way. I am super close to my due date now and doing quite a bit less than I thought I would be doing at this point of time. However I did manage to make this valentines card for Mr Magpie.

I am interested in what people think of this design? I rather like it and am wondering if I should tidy it up a bit and make it available in my online shop? What do you think?

I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Posted in Art, Craft, Paper, pregnancy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

2019: Thinking about Now or Never Times (part two)

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In my last blog I wrote a bit about what I had been doing last year, which apart from being pregnant and moving house twice, turned out not to amount to much. However in this past year, where I’ve been feeling a new person grow and develop inside me I have noticed that I have felt differently, or at least more strongly about things than I had before. I have been thinking a lot about how, in a number of ways, this time of my life feels like a kind of ‘Now or Never’ time. The new year is always a good time for reflection so I wanted to put some of these thoughts out there – I’m very interested to know if other people have reached similar moments in their lives.

  1. Having a baby at all – Over the last few years I became increasingly conscious of my biological reality. My time was running out, egg wise. So from that point of view it really felt like ‘now or never’. We have been immensely lucky to have been able to access IVF on the NHS and appear to be having a healthy pregnancy. So in some ways this issue now feels like it’s almost past, although I won’t feel properly comfortable with that until he’s safely out in a few weeks time.
  2. Living a creative life – I will go on maternity leave in a few weeks time and everything will change for me. I’ll not be doing the day job for about a year, and may find that I can squeeze in enough scraps of creative time to build a different kind of career. I do very much like my day job, which is in mental health research, and think it is important. But it’s emotionally very tiring work and my heart does pull me towards something more creative. Maybe with all the change that will be happening in the coming year, this could be a good time to try to change that too. However, everyone I have spoken to who actually has a baby has said to me not to make any plans, at all, so I may be thinking well beyond my actual capacity to do stuff here.
  3. Reproductive rights – In my last post I talked about the tiredness I have been experiencing and how rubbish that has left me feeling. In many ways I have not felt myself. My pregnancy was very much a wanted pregnancy, and I have been fortunate never to experience an unwanted one. However, I have watched repeated assaults on women’s reproductive rights in the US this year with an increasing sense of dread. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be forced to go through an unwanted pregnancy. My very wanted pregnancy has really taken a toll on me physically and psychologically. I am completely in awe of what women can do when it comes to bringing new life into the world, and now I have experienced it cannot understand why it is not written or talked about more. But that superpower should be under the control of the women it is happening to, not a bunch of grumpy wealthy old white men.
  4. The climate – This is the one is the most profound ‘now or never’ moment in my list, not just for me, but for humanity. As I write this Australia is on fire. Homes, precious wilderness and entire towns are being lost. People and animals are dying. In London in the spring and summer this year I saw a number of Extinction Rebellion Protests and was very much on side with them. One evening my partner and I walked out onto Southwark Bridge, which had been closed by the protesters. There was a carnival atmosphere on the bridge and many of the protesters had bought art work, food and set up impromptu talks and musical events. The sun was setting and the air was hazy and warm. We walked, hand in hand, down the centre of a road that is normally reserved for cars. The effect was very romantic, but the air was hazy because it was full of pollution, and the protesters were there because we are at the vital tipping point now. We don’t have time to waste. I see a deep political cowardice on this issue running through governments across the world. Many of our politicians were happy to talk about having to make ‘difficult choices’ when they were merrily imposing austerity on the people least able to pay for it in the UK over that last ten years. But now, presented with an existential threat, they appear to wring their hands and say ‘oh but it’s too hard’. I’ve yet to hear the rhetoric of ‘difficult choices’ being applied to the petrochemical industry, or to our consumer culture. But now this is where the action needs to be taken, this is where those difficult choices need to be made. I wasn’t pregnant when my partner and I walked over the bridge that evening. But I have since thought about it a number of times and have felt guilty about having a baby. What kind of life will he have if we don’t act seriously now?

I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Posted in climate change, creative work, infertility, pregnancy, Reproductive Rights | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

2019: Thinking about Now or Never Times (Part one)

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Lots of people over the last few days have done a kind of ’round up’ of 2019 in which they talk about highlights and low lights. I didn’t actually blog for the majority of 2019, taking an unplanned break due to personal circumstances which I will explain. For that reason I don’t really have a blogging round up to do, but I do have some thoughts about 2019 I’d like to share.

What I did in 2019

In early 2019 I moved house and started my first round of IFV. Those of you who were (probably quite disappointed by now) followers of this blog will know that I had struggled with treatment for infertility for over a year before this. To be honest I did not expect it to work for me, but I was entering the final few years of my 4th decade and was very aware that it was a ‘now or never time’ for something like IVF to work, so we went for it. In May this year we became pregnant on our first go, and we have stayed pregnant. I am now seven months pregnant, my belly is large and I can feel my baby squirming about inside me through out the day, which is pretty amazing. Having managed to get pregnant, my partner and I decided to move closer to my sister, who has also had a baby this year. So we bought a house and moved again just before Christmas. It has been an eventful year.

What I actually did in 2019, instead of blogging

Since becoming pregnant I have experienced quite severe tiredness. I thought that it would be something like anxiety that got me, but actually I have been in a good place, mental health wise, for most of the year. I was also worried that something would go wrong with the pregnancy, but so far we have been very lucky. However, I have been incredibly tired throughout the whole of my pregnancy, and the IVF beforehand. So tired t that most of the year has passed in a daze. I have managed to keep up the day job, and have taken very little time off sick. However I have struggle to keep up the kind of thinking, and creative stuff I was doing, often losing many extra hours a week to napping. I have managed to write quite a chunk of my novel here and there, but it will need significant re-writes at some point. I have also been watching a lot of crime dramas in a kind of mindless daze.

It has left me feeling rather rubbish, because, apart from the amazing feeling of him moving about inside me, I cannot claim to have enjoyed this much wanted pregnancy that a team of scientists and clinicians helped me and my partner to create. I have a number of friends who have not found IFV successful for them, and so I feel very guilty about actually complaining, but let’s say I have not felt myself. Last year I was swimming 5KM swims, and at times this year I have barely made it up the stairs. I’ve not really been able to help my partner much with the logistics of moving house, again, although I was able to unpack a lot of boxes when they arrived. I don’t know if this level tiredness is normal, but I have to say if it is then frankly I don’t know how women with large families do this over and over again. Still, not long to go now, and hopefully it will all be worth it.

So that’s mostly what I’ve been doing this year: lying about, watching telly, or sleeping.

I also make art. You can things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Posted in creative work, creativity, infertility, Living in London, pregnancy, wellbeing | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Baby Magpie

It’s been a little while since I last blogged, and quite a while since I blogged a proper update. There have been a few reasons for that. For those who follow the blog you will know that I had IVF earlier in the year and was feeling very tired. Now I have a more positive reason to feel very tired. We were very lucky, and our first go at IVF took. So after about 3 years of tests and treatments, baby magpie is on his or her way. I am currently about four and a half months pregnant and am really feeling it. Turns out it takes a lot of energy to grow a baby.

I’ve been struggling with energy levels but have managed to do little bits of art and writing here and there. I think my big challenge over the next few months will be to think a bit about how to keep the creativity going when I am a new mum without completely stressing myself out about it. I am sure other people manage this. I wasn’t at all expecting we would have success with the IVF and so am still a little shocked, even as we are almost half way through. I imagine this will take a little time to figure out. I will try not to make too much of this blog about being a mum, there are lots of others around that do that very well. However I may make some posts about being both creative and a parent – and if it is possible for me to do those two things together.

In some ways I feel it is a bit of a ‘now or never’ time. I will have some time off work, which will mostly be filled with a baby but it could be an opportunity to think differently about how I do things. With that in mind I have just started a writing course which is designed to help me develop my novel. I’ve also set up a patreon here. I’m not necessarily looking for paying patreons, but I would like to build up a bit of a following there as I am posting some different bits over there, including some of my writing. So far I have no followers, it’s kind of lonely. If you fancy keeping track of what I’m doing artistically with a few more photos and videos please follow me.

Other than that, I’m going to try to get back to posting more regularly, pregnancy permitting. I hope you are all well, and would love to hear from other bloggers who have faced ‘now or never’ moments, and what they did with them.

That’s all for now,

Magpie.

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Reasons to be greatful: lazy afternoons in the park

It’s been really hot in London the last few days. I’m not great with the heat and tend to really struggle.

This morning I swam with my sister and then my partner met me at the park with a picknick. We grabbed a spot under some oak trees. He has gone off for an ice-cream and when I look up this is what I can see. Not to shabby huh?

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Art and cats

So this has been my afternoon. Art and snoozing cats. Not too shabby huh.

I also make art. You can things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying.

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