depression

Fleabag: Funny Feminist Television

img_9053

If you’re into TV shows about confused, messed-up, funny, thoughtful, complicated and endearing white women in their early 30s then the show Fleabag might be for you.

The site Jezebel.com had a review of the BBC series Fleabag up a few weeks ago, so I downloaded the 1st season. There’s only 6 episodes and I burned through them right away. Then I watched them all a second time over because of how comforting and entertaining I find the series to be.

Image result for sophie waller bridge

Writer and star of FLEABAG Sophie Waller-Bridge

The series protagonist is Fleabag played by the outstandingly talented Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Waller-Bridge is 31 years old in real life and she is responsible for writing all 6 episodes of the first season. Fleabag, the televisions series, is the end result of a fringe play that Waller-Bridge originally performed in Edinburgh.

Anyways, while I now feel like my life is coming together (I’m 32) in terms of having a satisfying relationship with my boyfriend and a new job that I feel passionate about, most of my 20s (after I broke up with my first serious boyfriend in 2006) were spent binge-drinking alcohol and smoking tons of weed, and hooking up with random men who either weren’t interested in me, or if they were, then I immediately became repulsed by them. Once I quit drinking I continued to pursue womanizers who’d bounce from female to female and insult my physical appearance…and just generally contribute to why I felt like a piece of shit.

Image result for sophie waller bridge

Due to my own history, which was mostly spent as a single female looking for and rejecting any chance of finding love, I gravitate to stories about women who are going through similar experiences to what I went through for so long (editor’s note: That is not to say my relationship is perfect, and it started off in a highly dysfunctional manner, but I am much happier at this point then I was 2 years ago when I turned 30…I hate when people are in a relationship and present their lives as free of problems).

Anyways, Fleabag has an on-off boyfriend named Harry. During the 1st episode Harry and Fleabag are in bed. Harry wakes up to Fleabag masturbating to a video of President Obama she’s watching on her laptop, and he is offended and disgusted. The sensitive and giving Harry stuffs a few of his things into a bag and breaks up with Fleabag. Fleabag assures the viewer (she regularly speaks directly to the camera/viewer to give us the inside scoop…and while this approach is at first slightly disarming, it eventually made me feel like Fleabag and I were tight) that Harry will be back. Since Harry is fully into Fleabag, she tramples all over him and uses their short-term break-ups to fuck some real douchebags.

This show made me (and my friend and my boyfriend when I showed them some episodes) laugh a lot! I don’t want to spoil all the hilarious moments, but some of them centre around sending out mass vagina-shot texts to try to find a date, Fleabag discussing how heavy her period flow is when she randomly runs into a hook-up while shopping for tampons, and uncomfortable anal sex. I’m not expecting you to laugh here, since any of these situations could end up being written and portrayed in a way that is stupid and offensive, but in my opinion, these situations made me crack-up without brushing off the underlying emotional desperation Fleabag is experiencing to say and do the things she does.Image result for sophie waller bridgeFleabag operates her own tiny cafe, and she is heavily in debt. Once upon a time she ran it with her best friend Boo, but I can’t share anything more without giving away too many good plot details to ruin your viewing of the show (if you so choose to watch it). I think that Fleabag is a feminist show because Fleabag aims to be an independent, confident business woman who has a loving partner and a positive self-image, but the sad events that have occurred during the last few years of Fleabag’s life (some of which might be partially due to her own making) are causing her to harm herself, and lash out at everyone around her.

The show makes some very accurate feminist observations about how women are sexualized and treated as sexual objects, without ever pretending that women don’t often do the same thing to men. Fleabag favours the good looking guy over the man who will support her, and this is just one example of how Fleabag is a highly imperfect protagonist. Since all people are imperfect, I think this also makes her relatable. Feminism can take many forms, and while I don’t have much fun reading feminist theory, I do enjoy seeing a female try to figure out how to balance wanting to be desirable with respecting herself and chasing her ambitions.

Fleabag’s relationship with her older sister Claire (played by Sian Clifford) reminded me of my own relationship with my sister. It’s hard for us to open up about personal topics with one another, and sometimes it’s even awkward for us to hug, but Fleabag also captures the undeniable and unbreakable bond that exists between sisters since nobody knows you better than your own sister. Claire is married to a lecherous man named Martin (played perfectly by Brett Gelman), and Claire’s dedication to a man who treats her poorly, but who makes her laugh, is an issue between the sisters.Image result for sophie waller bridge fleabagFleabag and her sister Claire (played beautifully by Sian Clifford)

Fleabag and Claire’s father is in a relationship with a woman they despise, and the
“stepmom” character (though their father is not actually married to her) who is only referred to as “Godmother” (played by Olivia Colman) is the only character in the series who is presented as one-dimensional: she is threatened by Claire and Fleabag’s relationship with their father, and “Godmother” constantly makes passive aggressive jabs at Fleabag and Claire. The one-dimensional nature of “Godmother” allows the actress playing her to go wild and take her artsy-fartsy character all the way to the top.Image result for sophie waller bridge

Olivia Colman as “Godmother”

By the final episode of the series it all becomes apparent why Fleabag is so screwed-up and why she is struggling to like herself, let alone love herself. The show is dark, sick, twisted, and so very special. If you’re looking for something to watch this weekend that isn’t mindless entertainment, give Fleabag a try!

Socially Awkward and Sober

img_8601

It’s been close to 8 years since I’ve drank alcohol. I’m an alcoholic and as such I choose to abstain from alcohol because, for a variety of reasons, I was never able to “handle my alcohol” and often ended up making a fool of myself while in a blackout state.

I don’t want to drink again. I don’t like the taste of alcohol, so I don’t miss alcohol. I think I abused it in part because of how damn socially awkward I am, not because wine is delicious or anything like that.

As a kid I was really confident, outgoing, and never thought twice about what I was going to say or do. For most of elementary school I was popular, but as puberty hit my confidence plummeted. I had a strict mother, so flirting or dating boys was something I was taught not to do, and that affected my social status. By grade 7 how sexy a girl was started to become what the boys were interested in, and so since I didn’t look or act sexy my social stock was weak and I felt like a loser.

Anyways, by the time I hit high school I was full on uncool. I remain that way to this day. I didn’t have my first kiss until I was 18 years old. Due to my negative relationship with alcohol via how I saw it affect my father (he went to rehab multiple times during my childhood and struggled to stay sober) I took the perspective that I would never drink. Then one day when I was 19 my impulsive brain changed its mind and I decided I wanted to drink.

img_8482

I thought I’d throw this in because I love this pic of myself.

The first night I drank I got totally out of control, which lead to my house getting trashed during a party, and the cops getting called. My mother and sister hated me when they came home from Toronto the next morning to find their home in quite a different state than they’d left it the day before.

I could only remember bits and pieces of my first night drinking and that night was definitely an indication of how almost all of my future drinking experiences would unfold.

The thing is I have a lot inside of me that I’d like to let free. For example, by dancing like a ma-ni-ac. But since I was uncool and didn’t feel confident, I was incapable during my early 20s of letting myself go wild while sober (for the most part I’m still incapable of doing this in front of anyone who isn’t a close friend or my boyfriend). Also, since I viewed most other people as more attractive than myself, anytime I was in a party or social environment with any people who weren’t close friends I immediately started drinking copious amounts to try to help myself relax and feel more comfortable around the people I was intimidated by.

Then I’d act a fool and feel very ashamed the next day. Then I’d feel even more self-conscious and nervous the next time I entered a social environment, especially if the same people I’d been blackout drunk of in front of before were there, so the cycle would continue and the need to use alcohol as a social lubricant, or more appropriately social flood, carried on.

Eventually, I reached my breaking point and was able to admit to myself that I was an alcoholic and the only way to ensure that I didn’t get super drunk ever again was by stopping drinking entirely.

The plan worked because I haven’t had another drink of alcohol since I quit at age 24. I still continued to have an addiction to marijuana that only came to an end 2 years ago, so it’s not to say I  abstained from drugs after I quit drinking, but I didn’t have a substance to rely on that took away from my self-consciousness and stopped my incessant stressed-out internal dialogue like I did with alcohol.

I think I thought that the longer I was sober I would suddenly become relaxed and totally at ease when going to a party or meeting new people.

But that hasn’t been the case. I still feel minor levels of panic when entering a party or entering situations where I don’t know the people. It might not seem like that on the surface because my approach is to push on through and be openly friendly and enthusiastic, but I’m usually feeling a lot of fear at the same time.

One thing I was able to overcome 2 years ago was my fear of dancing in public. Now I’m able to go out to clubs sober with other people or alone and dance my heart out.

It’s the social situations with groups of people that still really freak me out.

Part of this is because I am definitely not a “chilled out” person. I’ve got A LOT of energy, which is both a gift and a curse. What sucks is when I’m around people either at a new job or at a party and someone tells me to “chill out”, “relax”, “don’t be nervous”, “don’t let them see your fear” (this last one was told to me by a work supervisor before I started to teach a new, high-level class and it immediately caused my stress level to spike because it indicates that I am showing my fear and somehow need to make it immediately disappear–not possible). Also, before I was okay with dancing sober it used to make me so uncomfortable when I wouldn’t be dancing and the dancing king or queen who seems to have no fear of dancing in public (but I also noticed the only people who ever tried to force me to dance when I wasn’t up to it were drinking themselves…coincidence? I think not.) would point me out and try to get me to dance.

Ahhhh…I would wonder, “Can’t you see I’m incredibly self conscious? Everyone isn’t a social butterfly like you…please leave me alone so I don’t feel even more weird than I already do”. I don’t think anyone had bad intentions in these situations–they’re enjoying themselves and probably just want me to enjoy myself in the same way they are–but it only lead for me to feel even more like a sober loser who is way too uptight and not easygoing like everyone else.

My body language is rigid, and I know that. I never know what to do with my hands. For example, I took a counselling course at UBC this summer. We had to videotape ourselves with a “client” (another classmate) and practice being a “counsellor” and critique how we moved and spoke and then receive feedback from the instructor about the same things. One of the first things my instructor focused in on during my first critique (thankfully I was able to greatly improve and “lean in” more by the last assignment) was how my body language was awkward and closed-off. I wasn’t surprised. I know that this is the way I appear to others and it was a minor consolation to have my instructor confirm this, because at least it shows my perception is not all in my head.

The point I’ve reached now though is I’m no longer entering situations like this and constantly repeating “relax” over and over to try to seem calm. I am hyper. I do have an excess of energy that doesn’t always flow out of me in a perfectly dispersed way. My body isn’t free-flowing and that’s OKAY.

I’m sober and I’m a socially awkward geek. I am who I am and I’m happy to have reached the point where I’m no longer trying to be something I’m not. Oh, and when it comes to the supposedly chilled-out people who have told me to slow my roll, are they really all that chill themselves if they’re telling someone else how they need to behave when I was just doing my own thing?

Peace!

Sonja Larsen: Her Memoir Red Star Tattoo Is A Life-Changing Read

This summer my friend Nessa passed along a copy of her friend Sonja Larsen‘s impeccable memoir Red Star Tattoo: My Life As A Girl Revolutionary and I was hooked from page one. Larsen’s past is full of lots of different topics that are both fascinating and painful, such as being part of a cult and experiencing sexual abuse. Sonja’s talent lies in being able to appropriately delve into her shocking and painful past experiences without making them too heavy or going to the opposite end of the spectrum and presenting them in a salacious or tabloid-like manner. The book is educational without taking itself too seriously. It’s fun to read too! These are just a few of the reasons as to why I highly recommend that you take the time to read it.

img_7952

I am grateful for Sonja’s decision to turn her life into a memoir, because it reminds me that I need to let go of my own shame and there is nothing in my past that should ever prevent me from moving towards a more enjoyable future.

Thank-you Sonja for sharing and for taking the time out of your day to let me interview you!

Sonja Larsen: “If I ever felt like a freak or an outsider…well if you’ve read my book you’ll know that I was definitely a freak and an outsider in lots of different ways, so often in my life. You know, my Dad was a pot dealer. My mother was a communist. You know, but I think part of my growing up was that I actually kind of was raised to believe, because my parents were a little bit hippies at first, that being an outsider was not such a bad thing, that if you were questioning the system that was good. But I think really what has got me through it is sometimes realizing that you’re not alone. That everyone is sort of making it up as they go along.”

UnREAL: Realistic Representation of Reality TV

I started watching UnREAL on Thursday. It is now Saturday, and I have just finished watching all 10 episodes of the 1st season of this outstanding scripted dramedy. UnREAL is about the behind-the-scenes action on a fictional reality TV show called “Enchanted”.

I am a huge fan of reality TV. As a teacher, it is my job to be sociable, patient, friendly, and emotionally available to students during the day, so I look forward to getting home from school, downloading a reality show, and being able to zone-out and observe different personality types and drama without having to react to them…or smile…or respond in any way. Therefore, I find these shows highly entertaining, and, yes, relaxing.

While I am a fan, I would also be an idiot if I were to deny the fact that the aspects of humanity that reality TV shows use to create drama are primarily negative. I believe that my life has been positively impacted by some of the stories I have seen shared on reality TV, but there are also many values that are promoted on most of these shows that are disgusting: judging women and men based on their physical appearance alone, taking advantage of people’s insecurities and/or mental health issues, and reinforcing racist, sexist, homophobic, and various other stereotypes about people.

UnREAL is the first scripted show that I have watched that honestly deals with the types of people who would choose to produce and work on reality TV shows. For example, the show’s protagonist, Rachel, is a producer. She is willing to use any information and any angle she can think of (and she can think of many since she is a highly intelligent and perceptive person) to get something exciting for the cameras.

One of the characters on “Enchanted” is Mary, who is a single mother, and she recently got out of an abusive relationship. For “good TV” Rachel finds Mary’s abusive ex-partner and brings him on the show to confront Mary and the “Bachelor” character, Adam, without Mary or Adam’s awareness that the ex was going to suddenly appear. A fight ensues, and Mary’s situation becomes incredible tragic (likely due to this and because of another factor that a different drama-hungry producer on the show stoops to an all-time low to create) as the series progresses.

This situation reminds me that drama is exciting, and it is a great distraction from my own life, but the lengths reality TV shows creators and producers will go to to provide me with “entertainment” can irreparably harm real people’s lives. Since I consume those shows, I am also contributing to the destruction of people’s lives.

Even though it would be easy to shrug it off and say these reality TV show characters/people/performers are asking for it by going on these shows instead of getting “normal” day jobs, UnREAL highlights how many of these shows are using desperate people, who may have pre-existing mental health problems, and exploiting them. I think that part of the stigma surrounding mental health is that people are blamed for their sickness, and the ridicule that is heaped on people who act “crazy” is somehow viewed as completely acceptable. I still see a variety of examples that lead me to believe that most of mainstream society still thinks that “insane” people are not sick people; instead, they’re bad people. When people who have “freak-outs” on these shows are discussed on social media, in real-life, and in the media the dialogue surrounding them must only make it that much harder for these people to move on from having a mental breakdown on national TV and build a life away from reality TV.

Most people want to claim that they are sensitive to people who are mentally ill, but based on what I have heard people say in real-life when talking about people who have been depressed, acted bizarrely, or erratically there usually seems to be a complete lack of compassion. On the one hand, people who exhibit a lack of self-control and bad behaviour should not be rewarded or given a pat on the back, but on the other hand, if a person is clearly not well or of a sound mind, does it really help to gossip about them and treat them like there’s something wrong with them?

During the summer, I biked to UBC to go to Wreck Beach. While I was locking up my bike at the tops of the stairs there was a man about 15 feet away who was screaming and shouting about “Pigs” (the police, I assume). I would characterize him as mentally-ill. He later walked around the beach area screaming at someone/something that was not there, and I am not a mental health professional, but he seemed delusional. There were a few young men across the street from the bike rack area who were taunting the man and making fun of him. When I see people, who would likely describe themselves as sane, do this sort of cruel thing it reminds me of how ignorant we all are about mental health and what it means to be mentally ill.

The biggest problem is not the man who was ranting and raving, instead it is the “sane” people who pick-on sick people, thereby increasing people’s paranoia and fear. Yet, my own choice to obsessively watch reality TV shows that do the same sort of thing, and much worse, to people who are already in a weak position in terms of their state-of-mind, makes me wonder if I am any different from those young guys who were yelling at the man who seemed mentally ill? I will keep on watching reality TV, but UnREAL provides a lot of food for thought about what I am actually taking part in when I watch these kinds of exploitative shows.

Up until now this article has been a downer, but UnREAL is not only dark and thought-provoking, it’s also hilarious. The characters are complex, lovable, imperfect, believable, and so brutally honest that a lot of the dialogue made me laugh. Shiri Appleby plays Rachel to superb perfection. Rachel does so many things wrong to other people, but we get to see that she is also seriously struggling with her mental health and her own personal life is just as negative as her work life. Rachel is always trying to figure out what she can use other people for, instead of focusing on what she can do to truly help them. I think that if people are being honest we all have the same thing in ourselves. Sometimes, I am more concerned with what I am getting out of an interaction than what I’m giving, but that is something I want to work on minimizing.

Rachel’s boss is Quinn. Quinn is played by Constance Zimmer, and she is everything you’d imagine a ruthless boss bitch would be. But, of course, Quinn also has a heart, and I felt compassion for her, even though I think her behaviour is appalling. Quinn has been having a long-term affair with the show’s executive producer/owner, Chet, played by Craig Bierko. Quinn is not as strong as she seems, and UnREAL illustrates through these characters’ personal lives that there is no on-and-off switch for using and manipulating people.

If you think it is okay to capitalize on people’s weaknesses for a reality show at any cost, then it is likely that you will do the same to people you are dating and friends with. And, they will do the same to you. Since I don’t want to give away any of the important plot points about the show, I will end my review here. If you love or hate reality TV, it doesn’t really matter, because I think this show appeals to both of those categories of people. UnREAL is a genius show in my opinion. Life is complicated, and UnREAL doesn’t shy away from looking at the darkest undercurrents of reality TV. I totally related to all of the main characters, though I’d like to believe I wouldn’t be willing to do what they do, though I’ve done some terrible things in my time. Just like Rachel, Quinn, and Chet, I’m not perfect. I am constantly trying to balance my own selfish desires with what I think will make the world a better place. UnREAL helped me feel better about myself while simultaneously encouraging me to think more deeply about the choices I make in life. Bravo to the show’s creators Marti Noxon and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro!

 

Victoria, Hiro, and Shlomo Think They’re Freaks and Outsiders…But It’s OK Because We All Are: I Agree!

IMG_3182

                  l to r: Victoria, Hiro, and Shlomo

I asked my usual 2 questions today, and the responses I got to the second one (If you’ve ever felt like a freak or an outsider, what has helped/is helping you through it?) was met with some invigorating responses.

Victoria said what’s helped her is, “The fact that everybody else is an outsider too. So we’re all from somewhere and that’s helped me.”

“We agree that it’s [Vancouver I’m assuming] a place for freaks, and that’s why we like it so much!”-Hiro

And to finish it all off Shlomo added, “Freak right out!” 

 

If you’ve ever felt like a freak or an outsider, what’s helped you through it? “I don’t know that I’m through it.”

I asked Josh the usual questions on Main Street in Vancouver today, and I was very entertained by his responses. I love it when people speak the truth, even if it involves them being vulnerable in order to do so. Josh definitely opened-up in a hilarious and honest way.

When I asked, “If you’ve ever felt like a freak or an outsider, what helped you through it?” His answer was, “Huh…I don’t know that I’m through it.

IMG_9920

I love that answer! I also often still feel like a freak or an outsider, and while that feeling is not permanent,  I don’t know if I’ll ever stop feeling awkward and weird some of the time.

Josh then went on to say, “I think that you can go in and out of stages of comfortability, you know, but I think that what gets me out of anything is just sort of the knowledge that I’m going to be OK. You know I like just sort of look at my past and figure out, have I got through shit before? And it’s like, yeah. Am I gong to get through this next shit? Yeah.

Being A Freak And An Outsider Can Be Freeing!

“Yes, I always feel like a freak, like an outsider. But again, at the same time it’s a very safe place to be, an outsider, actually, you have the freedom to be yourself and no one is going to come and tell you to stop being this.”-Patty 

Patty loves Vancouver...and she understands the sense of freedom that comes from refusing to fit in!

Patty loves Vancouver…and she understands the sense of freedom that comes from refusing to fit in!

Patty answers my usual questions:

1) What do you love about Vancouver?

2) If you have felt like a freak or an outsider, what helped you through it? 

Please See TRUE ADOLESCENTS and Read DRUNK MOM

Bedtime Stories!

Bedtime Stories!

So, if you watch the video below I’ll tell you about why I thoroughly enjoyed the film True Adolescents from 2009 starring Mark Duplass of The Mindy Project fame (he’s one of the holistic doctors…fun fact: the other doctor is played by Duplass’ real-life brother, Jay).

Also, I’ll give a bit more info about the writer/director Craig Johnson, who is best known for The Skeleton Twins a soon-to-be indie classic.

I’ll introduce the memoir I’m addicted to reading, Drunk Mom by Jowita Bydlowska. In the second YouTube video I talk more about why I am loving this book and why it helps me stay sober.

THE SKELETON TWINS: Calling All Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader Fans!

First Look at The Skeleton Twins Movie Poster

Film poster: source.

The video below is my review of “The Skeleton Twins”…I don’t give away any important details, but hopefully I encourage you to see it! It’s a definite pick-me-up.