An Alternative Reality

I’m back in the blogosphere, belated but bearing great news: I’ve been published in The Big Issue!

The Big Issue web banner

Given the magazine’s prominence and its emphasis on social issues (including mental health), I couldn’t imagine a better ‘home’ for my article.

It’s an unusual bit of non-fiction – a snapshot of the weeks I spent in a secure psychiatric ward in 2012. Specifically, An Alternative Reality is my ode to the kind-hearted, gutsy characters I met on the other side of those locked doors.

This article is dedicated to one man in particular: Dutch, the most unlikely friend I’ve ever had.

Big Issue article

You can find my article on page 11 of The Big Issue (No 503, 22 Jan – 4 Feb 2016). Get hold of your copy fast – before my mum buys them all!

Big Issue cover

The Original Dr. Karl

“…we must encourage each individual to see himself not as a mere spectator of cosmic events but as a prime mover; to regard himself not as a passive incident in the indefinite universe but as one important unit possessing the power to influence great decisions by making small ones.”

– Karl Menninger, 1963 (The Vital Balance: The Life Process in Mental Health and Illness, p. 399)

Dr. Karl Menninger (1893-1990) was one of the foremost practitioners and advocates of psychiatry in the USA. One of his accomplishments was explaining psychiatry to the general public, challenging the idea held by many that the mentally ill or emotionally disturbed were ‘lunatics’ to be confined to insane asylums.

Menninger felt that psychiatric treatment, in the proper circumstances, was helpful for virtually every emotionally disturbed individual. In founding the Menninger Clinic and Foundation in Topeka, he emphasised creating a humane environment for patients to reside in during treatment.

Dr. Francis Braceland, a fellow psychiatrist, wrote that Karl Menninger saw “patients not as bearers of bizarre diseases, but rather as human beings, somewhat isolated from their fellow men, harassed by faulty techniques of living and making awkward manoeuvres to keep themselves emotionally intact.”

Karl Menninger was clearly an extraordinary man and a pioneer in the field of humanist psychiatry.

You can read more about him and his life here.

Closed for Business

I’ve always enjoyed journalling and creative writing. Unfortunately, when I’m especially down I lose motivation to do anything much at all – including the things that usually bring me the most joy. Just one of many reasons why depression is heinous.

I decided to reflect on how depression made me feel using my own metaphor; one that’s a little fresher than ‘the black dog’. So I whipped out my journal, got scrawling and ended up with this baby: Closed for Business.

Depression, for me, is like a vacancy. An absence of thought and emotion, of concern, ambition and desire.

There’s a ‘Closed’ sign dangling in front of my eyes and no saying how long I’ll be gone.

I feel hollow, like a shopfront in disrepair. There’s grime all over the stoop and nothing but dust on the shelves. No reason for anyone to stop by.

It feels like the place will never be bustling again; that the ‘Closed’ sign will hang in the window forever.

The artwork that accompanied my article.

The artwork that accompanied my article.

The article fell more in the ‘mental health’ rather than ‘feminist’ space, so I conducted a good long Google search for media outlets that would find my musings a good fit. I landed on Psychology Tomorrow Magazine, which focuses on the intersection between art and psychology.

Psychology Tomorrow banner

I was stoked to hear that my piece would be included in the PTM blog. In terms of freelancing, it seemed I was very much open for business!

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