Trigger Warning: Broccoli

(The first anniversary of this blog reminded me I’ve been neglecting it a little. Forgive me. The end of the school year is approaching and the weather is much too nice to stay inside and write. Okay, okay. I’ll write outside more. Be patient with me.)

Trigger warning for discussion of suicide and anxiety attacks

Recently, I was triggered by something I saw in a seminar. This occurrence made me aware of the misunderstandings surrounding the words ‘trigger’ and ‘trigger warning.’ I’ll endeavor to shed some light on them for you today.  What happened was this:

For a module on affect studies we examined some examples of shame in popular culture. An obvious example was the 2011 film Shame directed by Steve McQueen, starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan. There was a scene towards the end of the movie that triggered an anxiety attack in me.

From here on out, this blog post contains spoilers for the film Shame Continue reading

Merry Christmas!

This is a very disorganized post listing all of my favorite Christmas-related pop culture. That means books, film, TV and music. All of these put me in the Christmas spirit Merry Christmas, y’all.

FAVORITE CHRISTMAS SONG OF ALL TIME: Fairytale Of New York by The Pogues & Kirsty MacColl

Kurt & Blaine singing Baby It’s Cold Outside on Glee

Klaine was amongst my very first OTP’s. When this song aired, they hadn’t gotten together yet, and I was so sure they would in the Christmas ep, but then I had to wait even longer… Oh, the torture of being a frenzied fangirl.

 

A Very Sorry Christmas by The New Mendicants

I like this song. And I wanted to share a Christmas song that was not (yet) incredibly well-known, so here we are.

 

Studio 60  season 1, episode O Holy Night

Blogpost(s) about the absolutely crazy amazingness of Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip are forthcoming. I must first finish my West Wing-binge, though, because I can’t handle more than one Sorkin-show at the time. Either way, Christmas is the time for romance and so it is for Jordan and Danny. Damn, I need to watch this again.  Continue reading

An Evening With Hanya Yanagihara

Last Wednesday, the 5th of October, I had the extraordinary pleasure of attending an evening with Hanya Yanagihara organized by the John Adams Institute. Some of you might remember that Yanagihara released her second novel, A Little Life, in 2015. Fewer of you know how much that novel means to me, but that’s what this blog post will explain.

I should probably have included A Little Life in my post on Books That Helped Me Through Depression, because it definitely did. The reason I didn’t is somewhat complicated. While it is true that A Little Life gives an uncompromising view of mental illness that our society needs more of. I have seen too many teenagers on Tumblr romanticizing mental illness.  But A Little Life is also a book that toes the line of melodrama and edges towards too much.

That’s not a bad thing, at least for me. Depression is too much. Depression is melodramatic. The problem with A Little Life is that some of its content is explicit enough to trigger people. Now, I really don’t think we should be putting trigger warnings on novels and neither does Yanagihara. I think we should be putting trigger warnings on pretty much everything else, but in a novel the reader agrees to let the writer pull them into their world. This can and should involve challenging the reader’s world view. If you’re easily triggered by the topic of self-harm, you should probably stay away from this book. That doesn’t mean the author has to.

 

But I’ve gotten ahead of myself. What, you ask, is this book about? Why is it so incredibly great that you can’t shut up about it, Julia? A Little Life starts out as the coming-of-age of four close college friends in New York attempting to make something of themselves. But all is not as it seems. Although the book initially has a rich ensemble of characters, focus gradually shifts towards Jude, who, it turns out, has had an incredibly traumatic childhood. His three closest friends try to help him battle his demons. We, as readers, try to uncover the mysteries of his past, even as we shudder to think what they might be. Continue reading

How I Recovered From Depression

It’s Mental Health Week over on Frenzied Fangirl. I’m raising money for suicide prevention because it is a cause very important to me. Please give if you can.

This piece was originally written for the amazing non-profit organization To Write Love On Her Arms, inspired by this blog post by Jamie Tworkowski: You Should Write. October 20th will be a new National Day On Writing, and you will hear more on the subject then. For now, let me fight stigma by writing openly about my experience of mental illness.

A lot has been written about the experience of depression. “Depression is the flaw in love,” says Andrew Solomon. Emily Dickinson describes depression by saying: “I felt a funeral in my brain.” David Foster Wallace wrote: “When the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors.” I myself have often said that depression is like carrying a dead soul inside a body that refuses to die. We know that depression is terrible, and that words, no matter how carefully selected, can never quite describe its horrors.

However, there is something else I want to talk to you about, today. This is something that, while vitally important to the conversation about mental health, doesn’t get half as much attention as the actual illness. I want to talk to you about recovery. Continue reading

Why You Should Shut Up About Suicide

It’s Mental Health Week over on Frenzied Fangirl. I’m raising money for suicide prevention because it is a cause very important to me. Please give if you can.

TRIGGER WARNING: In-depth discussion of suicide.

Recent studies show that there is an element of contagion to suicide. Those exposed to the suicide of people in their immediate surroundings are much more likely to take their own lives. Because of this, I feel strongly that the media should stop mentioning suicide as a cause of death.

Humans are pack animals. We take comfort in numbers and let ourselves be influenced by the actions of our idols. In modern times, our idols are often celebrities. Sometimes celebreties kill themselves, and unfortunately this brings about a ripple effect of copycat suicides.

I, personally, find it easy to explain copycat suicides. If you’re trying to decide whether to get vanilla or strawberry ice cream and you see the person queuing in front of you get strawberry, what do you choose? Probably strawberry, as well. There must have been some reason the person ahead of you chose it. Besides, they seem to be enjoying it well enough, so there you go.

Of course I understand that the press has a responsibility to inform the public. I also understand that it is becoming increasingly difficult to control information in the digital age. However, I think most people would agree with me that there is a gray area. Not reporting on a terrorist attack is bad journalism. Reporting on the exact way the attack was executed and what procedure was used to put together the explosives, is also bad journalism. We don’t want our newspaper to publish a how-to guide on explosives, because if “how to blow up an airport” was common knowledge it would most likely endanger a lot of people.

And here’s the thing: informing people about someone else’s suicide endangers them. Continue reading

Fur, Feathers And Fiction

In real life, I own two adorable guinea pigs named Bobby and Zebra, and our household is made all the more cosy by our cat, Daniel. I love animals. When an animal is harmed or, god forbid, killed in a piece of fiction I am enjoying, I am likely to cry. I often consult doesthedogdie.com, and watching Hachi was a tearful experience for me. In this blog post, I have compiled a list of some of my favorite animals in fiction.

 

Historically, animals have always served a special purpose in fiction. When your characters are animals rather than people, all kinds of satire and societal criticism suddenly becomes possible. Think of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Animals are also sometimes used to convey a life lesson, as they appeal to children as well as adults. Think of the works of Dutch writer Toon Tellegen, French de La Fontaine and Aesop in the world of the Ancient Greeks. Continue reading

“You’ve Got Time” OITNB Season 4

Tomorrow is the day we’ve all been waiting for. Tomorrow is when the gates of Litchfield Correctional Facility will open once again to grant us access. Tomorrow we will once more join the ranks of ladies dressed in orange, stabbing each other with plastic forks. Tomorrow, the forth season of Orange Is The New Black will come to Netflix.

So I thought this would be a good moment to tell you all how much I love this show, and why I think that is. I must warn you beforehand that there will be spoilers here up to the end of season three, so if you aren’t caught up yet you shouldn’t read any further.

First of all, let me introduce Orange Is The New Black to those of you who have been living under a rock for the past few years. We call it OITNB for short. It’s Netflix’s most watched original show, and it’s about the inmates of a women’s prison. The story is based on Piper Kerman’s real life experience of prison, which she wrote down in her book: Orange Is The New Black: My Year In A Women’s Prison.

The show is both tragic and hilarious. It is both witty and honest. It is, perhaps the greatest achievement on television to date when it comes to diversity and representation, and that’s what I want to talk to you about today.

uzo aduba let me be me.gif

 

OITNB has African American characters. It has Asian characters. It has Latino characters and caucasian characters. It has gay people and straight people. On the show, there is a transsexual character who is played by a transsexual actress. There are characters of all body types and costumes and make-up are minimal, so there are no attempts at disguising or glamorizing what real women look like in real life. The result is breathtakingly beautiful.

But that is not all. You can make your show’s cast as diverse as humanly possible, and I will applaud you for that, but that doesn’t necessarily make it engrossing television. And if there’s one thing OITNB is, it’s engrossing television.

For one thing, the narrative structure is astounding. Throughout the seasons, an intricate web of characters is woven and like the true ensemble cast, none seem to be more important than the others. Sure, the show starts out from Piper’s point of view, but by now it’s shifted so often that no one gives a damn about Piper anymore. Actually, I never cared for Piper much in the first place. She’s a brat.

Even Pennsatucky, who I disliked for the first half of the show, was recently given a storyline in season three that humanized her and, dare I say it, made me love her.

orange-is-the-new-black

The show draws attention to a lot of problems of modern day society, such as the ill treatment of prisoners in over-crowded American facilities, the stigma upon those with mental illness and America’s drug problem. It shows us that discrimination is still deeply ingrained into our lives and how harmful that is. It shows us the pervasiveness of rape culture and all the suffering it causes. It shows us how violence begets violence and how women can be incredibly strong when everything, everything, is against them.

Pennsatucky: “No offense but men being in charge hasn’t ever done me any good.”

In my weaker moments I turn to the inmates of Litchfield to see an example of what strength truly looks like. I will greatly enjoy doing so again tomorrow, and I invite you all to turn on your television sets and get trapped with me.

“I am, I am, I am” Books That Helped Me Through Depression

In the winter of 2014 and the year 2015, I experienced depression. There’s no nice way of putting it: I met the evil inside myself. I felt my soul die inside a body that refused to quit. I felt the world turn to ashes around me, the oxygen turn toxic in my lungs, and the people everywhere just kept on living. The closest I can come to describing the experience is that I am Squidward in the sequence of scenes below. No kidding. A depressed person is misery and despair made flesh, and they carry that burden with them whatever they do and wherever they go.

depression squidward.gif

Although I failed to see it at the time, there is always a spark of light in the darkness. There is the whole history of human experiences of suffering to assure you of that one, incomprehensible fact: You are not alone. As each person is unique, so is each depression, but there is a certain comfort to be found in the fact that someone out there is experiencing something similar to your sadness, even when that sadness seems unparalleled in the history of the world.

So how do we get in touch with these other unfortunate individuals? The answer, of course, is simple. We connect to other as we always have; through words, albeit written on paper, to thoughts made tangible on a page. Even as my mind was shattering into a million pieces, emotion and concentration both equally unreachable, I attempted to read as a drowning man attempts to swim. Continue reading