Labels: A Street Performance to Fight Stigma

I wrote a post a little while ago asking for your help, I was working on an idea for a performance that would challenge the stigma and misconceptions surrounding mental illness.

First of all, a huge, huge thank you to all of you who responded! It was much appreciated and made me think a lot, I honestly can’t thank you enough for sharing your time and thoughts with me.

Secondly, here’s what I’ve decided to do:

This Friday afternoon I will be walking around my local town centre wearing a coat and carrying a suitcase, I’ll then stop in the middle of the crowds, put down and open my suitcase which will contain flyers about my performance as well as flyers for various mental health charities. After doing this I’ll take my coat of to reveal that I’m wearing clothes with ‘mentally ill’, ‘depressed’, ‘psychotic’ written all over them. Gradually I’ll start taking my clothes off to reveal words like ‘friendly’, ‘committed’ and ‘loving’ written all across my skin.

DSCN0385

Once I’ve done this I’m going to stand around reading ‘Glamour’ magazine and perhaps handing out a few of the flyers in my suitcase. I haven’t decided yet how much eye contact I’m going to make with the members of the public, I’m leaving this down to how I feel on the day.

DSCN0383

This was a difficult performance to come up with for me, I’ve tried really hard to strike a balance between making a statement and tying not to be self indulgent- I wanted to do it wearing a mask so that I could remain anonymous, but we agreed that this would add a sinister dimension to the performance that I didn’t want… so me it is…

’til next time,

Wren x

Advertisements

Grey

Children are brought up to see the world in black and white. I think it’s probably because it’s easier that way, but I know that as I got older and older I started to struggle with the way that I was seeing the world. More and more situations were being presented to me that I didn’t understand, or that I didn’t have the moral knowledge to deal with.

It was then that I started to realise that the world couldn’t be as simple as people had first explained it to me.

My primary school wasn’t officially ‘Christian’ but it still taught that God made the world in seven days and we sang hymns in assembly. I was brought up with the Bible and ‘Christian values’ and I never really questioned it.

I was lucky enough to find Paganism when I was about eleven and immediately agreed with its ‘grey’ morality. I’ve always had a strong sense that things in life aren’t clear-cut, they’re complex and difficult and to try and live by black and white values will only cause you pain and frustration.

I’ve recently been watching a programme that has brought my ideas of morality to the forefront of my mind, it’s called ‘Life and Death Row’ and has been shown on BBC3 here in the UK. If you’re able to then I would highly suggest watching that- actually, no, stop reading this right now and go and watch it. It’s probably one of the most unsettling and thought provoking things that I have ever seen and that I think I will ever see.

As humans we seem to create a morality that tells us that we shouldn’t feel the things that we feel- the Bible makes it clear that we shouldn’t be lustful or envious or greedy, this means that when we do feel these emotions we also feel guilt.

I don’t know about you but I don’t think this is right- I love Paganism because it accepts that humans do feel these things, that we do commit terrible acts and ‘sinful’ things. It accepts that sometimes we want things that we shouldn’t- and it says that that’s okay.

I’ve never personally liked the idea of ‘white magick’ I don’t think there’s such a thing. The universe needs a balance of bad and good in order to function. If you don’t have one then how can you ever hope to recognise the other? It’s wishful thinking to pretend that something can be wholly good or wholly bad, we wouldn’t live in the society that we do if that were the case.

Don’t be afraid of the dark, it has its place in our world as much as the light does. Don’t allow it to dominate your thoughts or worries- it’s no more powerful that the light, it’s just necessary. Embrace what you fear, embrace what you love; we live in a world of grey- and the more you think about it the more you realise how amazing it is.

Blessings,

Wren x

‘Drama’ Doesn’t Necessarily Mean ‘Acting’

I’ve wanted to write about this for some time now, over the years that I’ve been studying drama and acting it’s occurred to me that people focus far too much on the idea that acting is the only way to get involved with the performing arts industry- or that it’s the only way to perform.

It’s really not, there are hundreds of different roles in the industry, and here are a quick guide to some of them:

Producing – if you loves numbers and organisation this is the role for you, producers are the ones making things happen. They’re the people that I probably have the most respect for.

Directing – needs creative vision and good people skills, I’ve directed a few things and you certainly need confidence and a little sense of self importance. You have to believe that your vision is the best but at the same time be flexible.

Stage management – does what it says on the tin. These are the people responsible for making sure the backstage and technical aspects run like clockwork during a performance. My best friend is currently studying to be one of these and so I have a soft spot for them. Not a job I could do!

Costume – again fairly self-explanatory, if I couldn’t perform then I think I’d love to design and make costumes. If you have a passion for dressmaking and are addicted to the rush of theatre then this might be for you.

Make-up – again this is something that interests me, for a long time I’ve been interested in training as a make-up artist. I think that my love of performance and lack of time and money will mean that I won’t be able to realise this dream but it’s a creative career that’s not just confined to theatre/film/TV.

Dancing + Singing – people often think that performing = acting… it doesn’t. Look at musical theatre performers, they combine all three disciplines; singing, dancing and acting. You could easily pick one of those three and pursue it as a career.

Physical theatre -if you’re a performer who is very physical and loves using your body to communicate then physical theatre might be the road to go down. Acting isn’t just Shakespeare and being naturalistic, there’s a whole realm that combines movement, gymnastics and physicality to create theatre.

Techies – where would we be without the amazing, hard-working and infinitely knowledgeable tech-y? Sat in a cold, dark, silent theatre, that’s where. I have total respect for these ladies and gentlemen, they’re the ones on sound, lighting and generally making it all happen.

Community theatre – is an often over-looked branch, this is bringing theatre to youth groups, vulnerable people, offenders and many more. Drama is an incredible tool that can help and change people’s lives for the better.

Drama therapy – again, this is a way of using drama to benefit others. It’s a powerful tool that can go a long way to helping people overcome mental health problems and/or trauma. If you have a real passion for psychology or want to go into counselling then maybe this is something that you can explore.

Teaching – and we finish with the most obvious one, so many actors become teachers! It’s a stable way to do what you love and pass it on to the next generation.

Hope that was interesting, I’ll be coming at you again on Friday for your weekly dose of Paganism!

’til next time,

Wren x

Why ‘My Mad Fat Diary’ Is Important Viewing

If you live in the UK and own a television then you are no doubt familiar with the TV series ‘My Mad Fat Diary’, shown on E4 this is a series about a teenage girl growing surrounded by mental health problems. The series is based on a book by the same name by Rae Earl, the book is a compilation of the diaries that she wrote aged 17 after being released from a psychiatric ward.

At the moment the show is nearing the end of its second series, it took me a little while to actually bring myself to watch it- I was very apprehensive and wasn’t sure what it was going to be like, but it only took me one episode before I totally fell in love.

This is a show that is warm, funny and bluntly honest. I can’t put into words what I feel about it but it’s brought into sharp focus a lot of things for me, I think that the best thing about it is that it makes me feel normal.

It highlights the every day crap of living with a mental illness, making all of the small things that most of us have to live with into normality, it also does an amazing job of showcasing the brand of humour that seems to be unique to people who have suffered from a mental illness.

There’s a lot of work to break down the stigma surrounding mental illness, there’s no one way to ease away years of bad feeling and fear surrounding it… but seeing a programme like this that doesn’t highlight or focus on mental illness but on a person who happens to suffer from it can do a lot to help people understand.

I really love this programme, I’d love it even if I wasn’t a mental health blogger or sufferer, but I love it even more because of those things. There’s not much for me to say other than that I feel we should have more books and TV programmes like ‘My Mad Fat Diary’, it shows everything that I would want to say about mental illness- namely that it’s not some scary entity, it’s something that happens to people, real, normal people.

’til next time.

Wren

Festival

So, what’s the point of having a festival?

This is something that occurred to me today, I think that it’s very interesting the way that in our society people still celebrate festivals such as Christmas or Easter when they’re not Christian and they don’t believe in the meaning behind them.

I also think that festivals are very important, they symbolise something more than what they’re about. In Paganism especially they’re a way to mark the changing seasons and points of the year. The three more autumnal festivals mark the three points of the harvest for example and the Equinoxes mark the moment that we tip into the lighter or darker half of the year.

As humans I believe that we need days like these, we need days that are special and important and on which we are encouraged to stop and think about our lives. We need excuses to celebrate and have a good time, and festivals on the whole provide those excuses for us.

I think that this is why a lot of atheists- and in fact people of all faiths- will celebrate festivals like Christmas, because if they didn’t then they wouldn’t have anything to celebrate at all. I’m sure you all know the ‘holiday feeling’ and how amazing the run up to festivals is.

Festivals are our way of releasing, they give us an outlet and a reason to be free, even if it’s just for a day or so.

From a religious point of view festivals are important because they give us a slot of time to purely dedicate to the Gods (or whatever you worship) I see it as a kind of detox from the craziness of modern living. It’s an excuse to take some time to breathe. meditate and reconnect.

As well as this festivals are important for family and community, they provide us with a reason to come together and celebrate loved ones and society. Think of festivals like ‘Mother’s Day’ and ‘Valentine’s Day’- whilst they may be an excuse for most card companies to make a shit-tonne of money they also give us a day to celebrate people in our lives that we love and remind ourselves why we’re thankful to have them around.

Blessings,

Wren x

Why I Wear Make-Up

Happy Wednesday everyone! Hope you’re having a fabulous day wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. Today I want to talk about make-up and my relationship with it.

I didn’t start wearing make-up until  was about seventeen. I had no interest in it and always thought that it was for ‘other girls’ who were popular and pretty and confident. I was struggling so much with my depression and other mental health problems that basic hygiene was tough for me, let alone spending time on my appearance.

When I was about sixteen I started playing around with make-up, when I was feeling very down I used to steal my Ma’s things and mess around with creating different looks. It was a way for me to have some time for myself, I found it strangely soothing.

Time passed and my interest in vintage fashion grew, I started building up my own make-up collection and experimenting with recreating looks from history. I grew to enjoy make-up more and more.

I love make-up; I don’t wear a lot of it, I just enjoy the little that I do wear. My favourite part of getting ready is putting it on- I can easy spend an hour applying it perfectly for a night out. I love the little amount of ‘me’ time that it affords me.

There seems to be a theme that strong, independent women don’t wear make-up. That it’s a weak thing to do and means that you’re insecure with your appearance. I don’t mind not wearing make-up, I’ve spent most of my life with a naked face and it’s never bothered me. However I won’t deny that it gives me a certain power, I think the term ‘war paint’ is very appropriate, it does give me a shield and makes me feel strong.

On the other hand I think that my make-up makes me feel more like myself, anyone who knows me knows my love of red lipstick, it’s one of my few trademarks and I don’t quite feel myself without it.

I believe strongly that if you don’t enjoy wearing make-up or it seems like a stress to you then you shouldn’t wear it. Screw whatever convention says, what you do with your face is incredibly personal. It doesn’t matter about your gender or age or situation, if you want to wear make-up, if you enjoy putting it on and it makes you feel good then wear it.

Just because I like make-up and a 1940s look doesn’t mean that I’m some pretty little girl who wants to be a housewife. The whole point of being an independent woman (dare I use the term ‘feminist’?) is that I have the freedom to make personal choices like that- and so do you!

’til next time.

Wren x

Sexual Bullying

I can’t believe I’ve never written about this before, it’s something that I feel very strongly about and yet I’ve never actually posted anything about it on here.

Sexual bullying is any bullying behaviour, whether physical or not that is based on someone’s sexuality or gender. It can be done behind their back, to their face or via technology. This can include groping, unwanted touching or being forced to perform sexual acts against your will.

In a survey of 273 young people aged 11-19 40 had experienced unwanted touching, 28 had been forced to do something sexual and 31 had watched it happen to someone else.

Most of this behaviour is performed by boys towards girls, but this is by no means a one way street.

I don’t think that sexual bullying is anything ‘new’, I just think that in the last few years we’ve started to recognise it. This is something that has been going on for years and years, it just hasn’t been talked about it before.

I was sexually bullied- well, there’s no point beating around the bush- they bullied me relentlessly for months, feeling me up underneath the desk, stroking me and using constant degrading sexual language around me. It all came to a head when they sent me a thong for ‘secret santa’ which left me humiliated in front of my classmates.

I was thirteen.

When I went to my head of year and my form tutor it was laughed off as ‘boys being boys’. After this I held myself together for another two weeks before reaching the point where I couldn’t take anymore and I attempted to take my own life.

I don’t think that people know how to deal with sexual bullying, it’s an odd mixture between bullying and sexual assault and seems to be most common amongst teenagers. These factors mean that most of the time no-one knows who or how it should all be dealt with. There are no clear guidelines or advice on how to tackle it, or even how to spot it.

I think that for a lot of people sexual bullying is something that they don’t want to think about. How would you feel if your son or daughter was accused of being sexually bullied? How would you feel if your child came home crying because someone- and not just anyone, not an adult, but another child- was touching them inappropriately?

We live in an increasingly more sexualised culture, and we seem to be proud of this- so why the hell aren’t we extending our openness around sex to being able to talk about and tackle sexual bullying?

I know that you don’t want to believe that this is happening, but it is, and it is ruining people’s lives.

Personally I think that ‘sexual bullying’ is a soft term, it’s a gentle approach being used so as not to scare parents and teachers- to my mind, if someone is touching you in a sexual manner or forcing you to perform sexual acts then that is assault.

This is disgusting and sickening. After what happened to me I then had to spend the next four years in the same building as those boys. Even during my last days at school I would run away from them if I saw them coming towards me.

As usual this kind of thing will only change if every single one of us educates ourselves and has the courage to stand up and point out this behaviour when we see it.

So go on, you’re the first of many.

’til next time,

Wren x