Thursday, 20 November 2014

Two Interviews

I talk to people...sometimes via email.

Interview One: Me talking Doll Hospital feels and continuing to remain #unimpressed by the tortured genius trope over at And So She Thinks with the wonderful Francesca Baker

Many of our greatest artists are known to have suffered from mental health problems – do you think there is a distinct relationship between the two?
Oh man! This is a subject I think about a lot, and definitely something that I, and Doll Hospital as a publication, actively pushes against. To present mental health struggles as something creative and ‘unique’ is damaging and derailing, and prevents people struggling from getting the help they need.
As a writer and artist I thought that I shouldn’t get help for my chronic depression because it would prevent me from being a ‘good’ writer. That is absolutely ridiculous! Because when I’m suicidal, or having a panic attack, I’m not casually whipping up a manuscript on the side. Nope! It’s the total opposite. When my depression is bad I can’t work at all! It was only when I got help for this stuff that my work could actually thrive.
I think to truly foster honest and accurate conversations on mental health we need to actively challenge these sterotypes of tortured geniuses and tragic muses. We can do so much better than that, and we owe it to all the amazing artists we’ve lost to mental health struggles.

Interview Two: Talking bout why I started Doll Hospital and how it's okay to not have your shit together with Amie Taylor at Female Arts 

You mentioned in your talk at Wadham college the consistently arising idea that we need to be over an issue in order to be able to talk about it. This particularly stuck in my mind, please could you elaborate a little on this?
Of course! I think this idea is rooted in respectability politics. By that I mean policing who can talk, and in what way, based on their background. For instance, I’m, pretty sure most people would rather have some respected academic with lots of letters to their name create like a super detached PowerPoint presentation on ‘mental illness’ in an Oxbridge type institution than say, listen to say a young female celebrity like Amanda Bynes who is often mocked due to her mental health troubles, go off on twitter, y’kno?
People suffering with their mental health are regarded as unreliable, unstable, and even frightening; the thing that makes us ‘qualified’ to discuss this subject (as in we have to deal with this stuff everyday) is the very thing that makes people uncomfortable about letting us speak. How can we tell our experiences accurately when we are regarded as such unreliable narrators? I think this is foolishness, all individuals are, by their nature, unreliable, and allowing people, especially women, to discuss their first hand experiences openly, without feeling like they need to provide a ton of footnotes to show it’s true, is the most powerful thing we can do to challenge mental health stigma.
This question of respectability politics also feeds into reductive notions of what recovery is, as if it is this simple, neat thing free from relapses and messiness, which is definitely not my experience! Like one day I’m going to wake up and be cured and become like a motivational speaker? Yeah, that’s not gonna happen, let’s be honest about our struggles, admit that no one 100% has their shit together, and that’s okay.

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