Tag Archive | anxiety

Life: The Masquerade Ball

Since August 3rd I have been on a Contiki group holiday travelling from Los Angeles to New York.  At the beginning of this article, I am in a hotel abutting the beach in Panama City Beach, Florida.  For most people, this state of events is ideal and has the potential for wonderful times and indescribable adventures.  Sadly, as you will all have picked up by now, I am not most people.  Neither my brain nor my heart will permit me to compute the idea of a month of such glee or merriment.  I simply cannot stress enough just how frustrating it is to me that I so desire to join in the fun and have a great time with the new friends Pippa has made (for reason I address myself in 3rd person here, see..) and yet, there never comes a time when control of the requisite organs to appreciate my situation rests in my hands.  My illnesses are constantly usurping my power and forcing me to conceal the true madness behind the mask (yes, I am a Phantom of the Opera fan!).

The Pippa I was before I became medicated and up-to-a-point subdued and diluted would have been standoffish and shy to a fault, but eventually she would have found her feet and met her lobster (Friends has been playing on the coach!).  Sadly, the Pippa who survived assault and constant mental, emotional and physical abuse with scant comfort to punctuate the suffering, attempts to fit in and finds her lobster but buckles under the strain of being so constantly watched and masked in front of strangers.  That is what has happened in the midpoint of this wonderful trip that has been eagerly anticipated for years.

Precisely halfway through my sojourn abroad my mood took a nosedive.  My sleeping hasn’t been too bad, which can sometimes lead to depression, yet just before a wild night in NOLA (New Orleans), most of which I do not recall, I felt as though I had no reason to live.  I had just seen the most beautiful natural sight I’m sure I’ll ever see: the sunset over the bayou in Louisiana from an airboat floating on calm waters.  I’ve included one of the pictures I captured of the moment that nearly brought me to tears but though it is a cliché thing to say, you really did have to be there sitting at the front of the boat with spray hitting you and showing you just how alive you are at that moment in time.  I felt free and alone in a crowd.  It was perfection.  There was no pressure, there was no suffering, there was no thinking or living.  There was just being.  I thought it God’s gift.  Sadly, as I have previously said, the greater the gift from God, the harsher and greater the payment owed to the Devil.  The Devil took his payment in full not three hours later (even Faustus had more time to settle his debts!) when I determined to drink my way down the notorious Bourbon Street in New Orleans.  It has been said that I was “drinking like I didn’t want to live” and I am forced to agree with my travelling companions.  I did not want to live.  Life will never be as perfect or easy to deal with as it was on that boat in the middle of the swamp seeing a spectacular sunset, and somewhere, subconsciously, my broken brain told my broken heart that both should go down after a high like that and then my entire system was in agreement that Bourbon Street would be a location where I tried to die happy rather than England where I have attempted to die miserable many times.

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Louisiana Sunset

I remember the entirety of Bourbon Street, including the bulimic attack I had during a helping of gumbo.  I even remember being cogent enough to request the Uber to take me and my two friends back to our hotel.  The last thing I remember is getting into bed at probably about 2am, but after that, I have no clue what befell me or my roommate, though I am told I was a very abrasive drunk.

Drinking like I didn't want to live...

Drinking like I didn’t want to live…

Since then, I don’t know if I am almost disappointed that I am not dead or if I am just reacting to the poor opinion of me that the other passengers now have, but my mood has refused to be improved.  Despite my proverbial inhalation of my SSRIs and antidepressants, my bulimic attacks have not slowed up or gone away and I cannot get into the spirit of the trip as well as I was before I grew tired of wearing the mask that showed the rest of the world the portrait of a sane person, while beneath there resides a broken, bat-shit crazy bitch.

When I am back home, I wear a mask to a certain extent with people I do not trust or have only just met, but when you are spending a month in the company of the same people and without resorting to Facebook and Instagram stalking – something I refuse to do with my time – you have no idea who they really are as much as they cannot tell who you are.  When it’s a fortnight or less, it’s not so bad because I can keep it together (more or less…) for that duration of time, but I’ve never had to maintain a constant mask for over four weeks and to paraphrase the great Tennessee Williams, I’ve never had to depend on the kindness of strangers for so long.  It’s exhausting and it made me think about how often I don the mask and thereafter how long I wear it in the company of others.

I have since made up my mind and decided that none may know me as long as I live, save my children and the only love of my life.  They are the only ones with whom I feel – or will feel – safe.  As such, I wear a mask to all others to protect myself from being further broken and rendered unable to show my face to those who have to see it, who deserve to see it, who must see it.

Anyway, I’ll leave you all with that thought as I sit watching my roommate get ready to go to a club in Miami Beach that according to a club promoter I am too ugly, too big and not sufficiently “Miami” enough (yes, I am using Miami as an adjective that’s how low my self-esteem is currently, that without the mask I’m still too warped physically for the world that the Grammar Nazi in me has checked out for the night!).

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P. Mistry-Norman

20-08-2015

Time to Change & Time to Talk Day

For those of you who do not know, Time to Talk Day was four days ago and I missed it!  However, as someone who keeps a blog on mental health and is extremely open about her own problems in that area, I feel I have given more than a year’s worth of five minutes talking about my depression, anxiety disorder and mythomania.  So, it gives me great pleasure – and I thank him very much for opting to give his five minutes to LaBellaBorgia Speaks – to introduce you to the writing of Jack again, who has written very well and to great effect here previously.

P. Mistry-Norman


You may remember me, I wrote here previously about my experiences with Borderline Personality Disorder (https://labellaborgia.wordpress.com/2014/11/08/living-with-borderline-personality-disorder/). For those, however, who do not, my name is Jack Jeffreys. I am twenty three. I live with Borderline Personality Disorder and Rapid Cycling Mood Disorder (Bipolar).

Today I want to talk about Time To Change, a charity aiming to reduce and eradicate mental health stigma. Today, 5th February, is Time To Talk Day. The idea is that you take five minutes to discuss mental health – so get a cup of tea because I’m taking my five minutes with you all now. However, I do not really want to talk about my mental health. I want to talk about the work Time To Change do, and why I think it is vital. Vital in the present, and vital in the future. In our generation and for generations to come.

time-to-talk-290x169

I work with Time To Change through the Advocacy Project based in St. Charles Square, Ladbroke Grove. I do not get to spend a huge amount of time with them because of work, but I give them as many days off as I can afford. We go to public areas, and set up cafes. People can never turn down free tea and cake, and in return we discuss mental health with them. This always starts very one sided, but by the end it completely flips and I am left listening to the random member of the public. This is because so many people have a lived experience of mental health.

One in four people in the UK suffer from mental health “issues”. You have to remember mental health is a sliding scale from suffering from stress, through anxiety and depression, up to addiction, personality, obsessive, psychiatric, neurotic, eating, or mood disorders. When you think of it like this one in four does not sound so extreme.

At Time To Change we aim to challenge people’s views on mental health, and bring them into the twenty first century. We discuss statistics: one in six people in work in the UK have a mental health condition, and roughly 11% of the population is on anti-depressants. We discuss people like Stephen Fry and Winston Churchill, who suffer/suffered with Bipolar; Jim Carrey, who suffers with depression; Heath Ledger, who suffered with drug abuse; and John Prescott, who suffered with Bulimia. We aim to make mental health something that everyone can relate to. We aim to make mental health less scary.

Once we get into a discussion with people, they often start asking questions about mental health. There are some very common mental health myths.

Myth: If you suffer from a mental health condition you can be violent and unpredictable.

Fact: Suffering from a mental health condition makes you no more violent than anyone else. Only 3-5% of violent attacks are attributed to mental health, and when you consider that 25% of people suffer with some form of mental health, the myth does not really add up. In fact, it actually works the other way. In the US, you are ten times more likely to be a victim of violent crime if you suffer from mental health.

Myth: If you suffer from mental health problem you can snap out of it if you try hard enough.

Fact: Suffering from a mental health conditions has very little to do with being a weak person, it often requires help, in some form, to get better. Different forms of therapy help different conditions, generally. Mindfulness is the real mental health buzz word/therapy at the moment. Many factors attribute to mental health problems, such as biological factors (genetics or injury) or life experience (trauma and abuse). Many people recover from mental health conditions, but you cannot put time on this. There is no rule for how long it takes to get better; it is not the same as a broken leg.

Myth: YOU cannot help someone with a mental health condition.

Fact: I know a lot of people with mental health conditions. The little things mean the most. Friends telling them they are there to help or helping them access mental health services. Treating them with respect, just like anyone else. Generally being a friend or family member, just how you were, before mental health became an issue. Refusing to allow someone to be defined by diagnosis – I am bipolar but I do not have to act that way. And making it a ‘normal’ thing.

Myth: All you need to do is take tablets.

Fact: This works for some people. But for lots of people this is not the whole answer. A combination of therapy and medication is important. In some cases medication is not even required. I believe anti-depressants are drastically over prescribed by the NHS. This is because of an ever reducing mental health budget.

Myth: Children do not experience mental health problems.

Fact: Half of all mental health disorders show first signs by the age of fourteen, and three quarters of mental health disorders begin before the age of twenty four.

There are many more than this, but these are the most common myths we hear.

The important thing about Time To Change is the attempt to normalize mental health. Mental health is not going to disappear. In the high stress world that many people live in, it will only become more prevalent. And without wanting to make this political, under the current government, treatment is becoming less available. Therefore it is vital we are in a position to help each other.

I guess I am urging you to avoid awkward conversations, and to be that person who talks openly about mental health. Go and do research. Find out the truth. Do not shy away from it. If you have a friend or a family member who suffers with any form of mental health, break down the invisible barriers that exist in society, and talk about it. Mental health is not something to be scared or threatened by.

To conclude, I make no apology for not talking about my mental health. If you know me, or have read what I written previously, you will know I am very open and will discuss anything you want to know about me. Today is not about my mental health. It is about building a foundation for our generation, and generations to come. A foundation that allows our friends and family to feel comfortable speaking out and seeking help. Start talking about mental health. Go and have another cup of tea. Go and talk about it over dinner. I’ve taken my five minutes today. Now go and take yours.

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

J. Jeffreys

09-02-2015

Words of Tender Loving Care (TLC)

Many people say stupid, dumb stuff to people who suffer from mental health issues and disorders.  I won’t – personally – dirty the homepage of this blog with them, so if you want to view the kind of thing I mean, check out this page: Worst Things to Say to Someone who’s Depressed.  What I want to focus on just a few days after 2015 has begun (Happy New Year, by-the-by…) is how much in 2014 and before that, people have helped me with their actions, but more importantly their words.  You will probably have heard the children’s rhyme: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me” but I am a firm believer that the opposite is true, succinctly, that physical violence and pain I can take but I can never forget and it takes me so long to forgive the words that come out of people’s mouths (including mine sometimes!).  A Bible passage that has always spoke volumes to me, ever since – in fact – I heard it paraphrased in the LuxVide TV movie, St. Paul, “It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man” (Matthew 15:11).  I realise that this is primarily concerned with imposing the rules on meat and foodstuffs on converts to Christianity and peoples who were not originally Jewish, but I found it so meaningful and applicable to someone, like myself, who does find that words sting more than whacks!

Anyway, the true reason for this mini-article/spiel is to thank all the people (not just the ones whose words are featured in the world cloud below) who have said kind, helpful and lovely things to me in the past year.  The most poignant and effective words that can swing me out of my depressive and anxious ruts are the ones that remind me of:

  1. the fact that I am/can be loved
  2. the bravery that I show by not killing myself every day
  3. the great number of people in the world – like me – who suffer from mental illness(es)
  4. the awareness that I have talents such as writing and compassion that are valued by others
  5. the kindness of people, people who don’t treat you like the broken soul you feel and the disaster you are

So, there you have it, in the spirit of the New Year and new pages being turned, this article is as positive as I can make it and I hope you will take a moment to peruse the passages written by family, friends and commentors in my oddly put together word cloud below.

Blog Word cloudLaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P. Mistry-Norman

04-01-2015

The Madness, Misery & Mourning of Motherhood

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/charlotte-bevan-mum-found-dead-4758275

charlotte-bevan-mi_3126028c


In the light of this article and having written a lot about how I have to be a mother, not to mention a single mother with mental health issues, I would just like to put this out there as a memoriam to this poor young lady and her child.  All it would have taken was one human to remember that they were one to save her life.  To me, Charlotte Bevan’s tragic death is more of a national crisis than all of the poor souls in the world wars (and I’m not diminishing their sacrifice) put together, as the deaths from 1914-1918 and 1939-1945 had an entire nation to mourn them and remember their sacrifice for democracy, their country and their families, but Ms Bevan’s death will most likely fall into oblivion or recalled in part and pithily as a story that people who suffer from mental health issues recall when they have children.

She deserves better than that.  Her daughter deserves better than that.  Her family and friends deserve better than that.

I won’t forget and this I will remember.

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P. Mistry-Norman

08-12-2014

Let it Go

I am about to attempt something completely new and different (can you tell that’s the theme over the past week or so?).  I am going to attempt to communicate the way I feel about depression and social anxiety and coping with the aforementioned through music and a video blog.  So, this post is less wordy than my others but I hope you will play the video below and listen and see what it is I want to say but often am unable to.  Otherwise, stick around and the next post in my guest series will be up presently!

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P. Mistry-Norman

12-11-2014

Brothers & Sisters

I have been thinking a lot about incest over the past couple of days, particularly between siblings. This is probably due to the fanfiction I have finished recently that is based on the BBC series, Sherlock, and the relationship between the Holmes brothers.  For, in the last episode, His Last Vow, Mycroft Holmes says to his brother, “Your loss would break my heart”, and this sparked off an idea in my mind for a fanfiction where the reason behind Sherlock’s apparent asexuality and sociopathy is a suppressed traumatic childhood memory.  The discovery of this incident then leads Sherlock on to the realisation that he is the only person who can properly love his brother and vice versa. I realise that most people prefer – when they do contemplate homosexual pairings in this series – Johnlock and Mystrade, to use the appropriate portmanteaus (on a grammatical tangent, the plural of portmanteau, really should be portmanteaux!), or even the less common pairing of Sherlock and Moriarty, but in my fanfiction dabbles I have always preferred writing either the obvious couple or – if a plausible enough scenario occurs to me – a really obtuse and rarely imagined romantic pairing.

This is not my first odd pairing, which is why I have ended up reflecting on my opinions regarding incest.  Other story pairings I have used include Peter and Susan Pevensie from C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books and Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia (as portrayed by F. Arnaud and H. Grainger in The Borgias) and going on to pairings that I enjoy reading about, they include Vlad and Ingrid Dracula from the children’s show Young Dracula and Jaime and Cersei Lannister from the Song of Ice and Fire franchise.  Some are established in their own right but some are specifically fanmade so there is variety and that is just my background, but I just can’t pin down what makes incestuous relationships so intriguing and addictive to me.

I do just have to remind people at this point that I have no siblings or have never considered entering into such a relationship and never will, but just reading and watching them play out and how they seem to be – in most cases that I have seen on TV/in stories online – such sturdy and positive relationships, whereas I generally perceive non-incestuous relationships to be such hard work and so flawed that I find that now I don’t believe there is anything wrong with incestuous relationships on the most basic level as an agreement between two consenting adults of whatever gender. Of course, in reality problems do arise when a heterosexual, genetically close couple conceive and that, naturally, is an issue.  I do not pass over that lightly or ignore it in any way, which is why incest is a problem, but in a fictional and sometimes fantastical environment, this can easily be avoided and incest doesn’t seem to be a problem any more…with the exception of Joffrey Baratheon!

People talk about falling in love and being part of a star-crossed love affair that occurs so quickly and with such passion that acquaintances jump straight to lovers, bypassing the friend stage.  It is this aspect of some relationships that dooms them before they begin.  Lovers ought to be friends before they embark on their lovers’ journey; it makes for a happier and healthier voyage, if you ask me.  When siblings realise that maybe the person with whom they find themselves in love is their brother or sister, that strong foundation is already there.  Sure enough it is the foundation of family, but there is still something strong and intimate underlying their romantic relationship.

In my only relationship, I decided to throw my lot in with one of my friends but we were never that close before we hooked up and there was no real knowledge of each other there and it led to awkwardness and discomfort and lo and behold: the relationship lasted barely a couple of months and – retrospectively – I feel was doomed before it began.  It would have been much easier and much more comforting to me had we possessed some level of brother-sister love before we got involved with each other.  Now, I am scared of everyone and everything that implies commitment on a romantic level and there are really only five people I know in the world other than my father, whom I trust enough to commit myself to (not romantically!).

Two of the delusions of the past decade that I have enjoyed and have eased my life and distress the most have been the female party in one of the incestuous partnerships I have listed above.  One, which I have already confessed to, is that of Lucrezia Borgia which is still ongoing in the background of Cordelia Chase and the other, is the summer I spent being Susan Pevensie.  In both of these, the sister is the younger figure and the older brothers – Cesare and Peter – are both sources of strength, protection and love, which I think is what I hold dear.  Also, there is the fact that a lover can leave, a husband can divorce you and a boyfriend can cheat, but eternally, a brother and sister are bound together. I can put this affinity with older male siblings down to the fact that I was never protected by the men around me, only hurt and left in the dark to be hurt by others.

Furthermore, the only male family role that is still pure and untouched by reality is that of a brother as I have never had a blood brother, though I do consider two of my best friends brothers in every sense of the word except blood, which has led to confused feelings for both of them at different points in my life…I won’t deny that. I know I cannot possibly expect people to concur with me unanimously concerning the rightness or wrongness of incest, but I do hope this small glimpse into my mind and the way it processes the concept of brotherly and sisterly romantic love and how it can bring comfort to those who need it most but can get it from very few places will make you think more about flippantly denouncing forbidden (and immoral) relationships out of hand because that is what society and – in some cases, science – has encouraged us to do without considering all the available information.

This instinctive behaviour was first brought to my attention during my English Literature A levels during the study of Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, a novel that is truly close to my heart, which I think everyone everywhere should read.  I don’t want to spoil things for anyone, but the ending was so vehemently disliked in my class by everyone except me that I truly believe that people say things and do things in a group environment without thinking but if even one person stops to reflect on personal and complicated issues such as incest for themselves because of this post, I will be the most happy, though hopefully, unlike the first bearer of that motto, my head will remain attached to my body for the foreseeable future.

Just for those of you who might be vaguely interested to read more, below, I have included the links to three of my stories concerning incest.  So I hope you do read them if you think you can do so with an open mind and do leave me a review and mention you followed the link here.

On Lucrezia and Cesare Borgia: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/9342924/1/La-Bella-Borgia (incomplete)

On Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10714930/1/Break-My-Heart (one-shot; complete)

On Susan and Peter Pevensie: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/8677241/1/Odi-et-Amo (on hiatus)

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P. Mistry-Norman

04-11-2014

Father Dracula

In the year of our lord 1442, the Turkish Sultan enslaved one thousand Transylvanian boys to fill the ranks of his army. These child slaves were beaten without mercy, trained to kill without conscience, to crave blood of all who defied them – the Turks. From among these boys, one grew into a warrior so fierce that entire armies would retreat in terror at the mention of his name, Vlad the Impaler, Son of the Dragon.  Sickened by his monstrous acts, Vlad came to bury his past with the dead and return to Transylvania to rule in peace. His subjects called him prince, I called him father, but the world would come to know him as Dracula.

The legend of Vlad Țepeș has been many things throughout the years: a horror story, a legend of atonement and sin, a vampire chronicle, a story of romance and loss.  However one aspect of the fact-based narrative that has rarely – if ever – been explored is the role of Vlad Dracula as a father.  As I sat today watching the new Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures release, Dracula Untold, I found myself utterly enchanted until the epilogue section which will henceforth be unmentioned, with the movie that saw Luke Evans play Vlad Dracula the Father.

Vladimir Dracula (Evans) with his son, Ingeras (Parkinson)

Vladimir Dracula (Evans) with his son, Ingeras (Parkinson)

I sat down to this film with my best friend as one of our traditional Matt-Pippa movie excursions and so I was by no means depressed or morose when the film commenced.  A happier and less depressed person would have grasped onto the historical or west vs. east themes of the film, which I did eventually, but for me, it was the sheer raw emotion displayed that caused my poor old ticker to palpitate in my breast.  With the initial voiceover by the Impaler’s son (see block quote), it felt crystal clear to me as a slightly deranged and basket case of a viewer that fatherhood and the father-son relationship was the crux (no pun intended!) and the heart of the movie.  It is – in short – what sets it apart and bears it aloft from the commonplace and slightly boring modern vampire films that have reformed the image we have in the 21st century of the vampire.

As a daughter of a delightful father, whom I adore to the ends of the earth, I am incredibly drawn to the father figure as painted onscreen, but as the daughter of a father who often did not raise arms and try to move heaven and earth to protect me, I was taken in heart and soul by the powerful and sacrificial father image that Dracula Untold created.  I have no desire to detract from your enjoyment of the film and all its wondrous surprises and positives by illuminating its plot too much so I’ll endeavour as best I can not to divulge too much as I write now.  That having been promised, the story about the drive of the royal prince who has to fight the Turkish threat and offer up his soul, his kingdom, his subjects and his reputation in order to safeguard his child is too enchanting for someone in my position not to elucidate.

Vlad the former Impaler who occupies the screen for the first section of the film reminds me of my father: at home in Castle Dracula during a ten year peace and happy with his queen and son having suffered extensively during his own formative years.  It is the Vlad who refuses the Turks what they demand as the cost of peace that made me smile and almost weep in my seat.  He defies the greater threat, a threat that has the potential to wipe out everything and everyone he holds dear, when the price of peace grows too dear.  It is his love for his family, his respect for his wife and his unconditional love for his son that drives him from this point forward despite his underlying yearning for peace.  The ultimate draw of the character is that his paternal and visceral need to protect his offspring outweighed and conquered his preference for peace in his land.  I can only say that I would be very different now if in the 21st century and without the magic and the devil and a pressing Turkish invasion, my father had valued my sanity, my unscarred body and what my future might be above serenity in Theydon Bois.

So, you see during this film instead of feeling for and finding myself in the shoes of the mother, unusually and refreshingly for me, I felt more kinship with young Ingeras.  This certainly put things in a different perspective than usual and instead of feeling the force of a natural maternal love, as I did in Brave, The Borgias and Angel (to name but a few!) I found myself in a role of vulnerability and the unconditional love of a child and feeling as a child does as my mind flew into the media and put down roots there.  That is not to say that the feelings of Mirena never took rest in my mind – they did – but it was ever linked to the child and a child’s link with his father.

The questions that floated around my mind during the film were: what will my children do without a father to protect them?  How can I possibly hope or think it’s possible for me to protect them by myself?  Will I be enough?  Is it selfish and heartless and unbelievably evil of me to knowingly bring a child – or children – into this world to face it without the love and pride and protection of a father?  Understand that if during a movie that is essentially about a vampire prince in Wallachia, I can be ruminating those questions, precisely how unstable and mental I am and why I need this blog to get some of the crazy out of my brain.  What is especially troubling still is that a piece of media can still get into my head and lay all its babies there and turn me into a blithering, blubbering, bawling shell of a person just because a vampire is a daddy!

So you see how the maternal-paternal-filial feelings have all come together in the aftermath of me watching this film to a head.  My children – I know and promise to every higher power and the cosmos – will have all the love I can give and will never have cause to doubt their mother’s love, but what plagues me now is that although I will give them the best godfathers, uncles and grandfather I can, I want them to know that if anything should happen to me, then a father on this earth will fight to its ends for them.  I say that knowing and being certain that I cannot ask nor expect their godfathers to do that for my children.  That frightens me more than anything; that something will take me away from my children and they’ll end up living the same life I do, not knowing if anyone really loves me or if the world is really against me or I just have that kind of luck.  Then, what I have sworn never to do and have often said to my mother, that I would die before I created another me, I will have failed dismally and utterly and it’ll be infinitely worse than failing myself or my parents or my friends because I’ll have created through my own means and by my own will, tortured children who will never be whole, all because I wanted a family of my own and then failed to protect them and ensure their secure future.  That is what Dracula Untold revolves around: the legacy of leaving a safe life for your children no matter the cost or what stands in your way.

That’s why, I guess, I invest so much heart and mind in these sci-fi & fantasy shows, books, and films that have these awesome father figures that possess magical powers or vast armies or some superhuman (or all of the above!).  Angel is the vampire with a soul father to Connor, John Crichton is father to baby D’Argo with the knowledge a whole galaxy wants in his brain, Noah Bennet adopts Claire and exercises his influence to protect her and that’s just fathers in Angel, Farscape and Heroes for you to consider.  Vladimir Dracula as played by Evans, like Angel, other than being a vampire, alternates between being good and bad, light and darkness and right and wrong, illustrated ever so clearly in his final showdown with Mehmed II (played – vexingly, I might add – by Dominic Cooper) where the adage, “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter,” (Harry’s Game, G. Seymour, 1975) has never been so apt.  This is not least due in part to the fact that they symbolise a clash between east and west and Christianity and Islam, which I found a bit on the head due to the threat from ISIS currently experienced by the world, but nevertheless, it presented me with an interesting conundrum.  Although Vlad is undeniably set up as the protagonist and Mehmed as the “cardboard” (Matt’s word) villain, in the final fight where perhaps conventionally. we would usually side with the man who didn’t sell his soul and his eternity to the devil, oddly, we find ourselves rooting for Vlad as he fights for his son’s future and to keep the promise he made to his wife.  Much like Buffy the Vampire Slayer is ironic as it is now the pretty (meh) blonde girl chasing the monsters with a knife, the inversion of a supernatural heroic villain fighting a foreign threat who is – in this film, if not in history – represented as a bit of an arsehole for his family made me ask the question: can – and should – a father simply be good?  Mine certainly was and is, but I don’t know if I would have the mental and physical and psychosomatic problems I do now if my father had had a bit of evil or darkness in him enough to wage a bit of a war for me against the arseholes (myself included!) that turned my life into the circus it is today.  I know that Mirena is portrayed in the gothic setting of Dracula Untold as the stereotypical mother and damsel in distress and therefore, she is not characterised or shown, at least, to have any flaws or darkness within her – it’s all in her husband!  So, the question of whether a mother can be innately good and sin-free never really entered my mind during the feature film, for Mirena does appear to be the perfect, almost fairytale if in an Angela Carter setting, mother.  Vlad, however, in order to be a good father to his son (and, indirectly a good husband to his wife) is required to turn a bit evil, if initially temporarily and with the potential for redemption, so I just wonder if when a mother has a pristine soul, a father has to be bad, or if a father just has to have that hint of darkness in order to be the strong, virile protector he has to be.  Needless to say, it’s something I’ll be thinking about for a while and I doubt I’ll ever reach a cast iron decision on my opinion on the matter, but I will say this: the darkness within my mother has never in my life been a darkness used to protect me and the light within my father has not protected me from her darkness either so as a future single parent, I aim to be a light shade of grey and thus tone down the darkness from how strong its pigment is at the moment.  That is all I can do for my children: not be my mother and not be my father, but have the darkness of my mother and use it the way a father like Dracula did in the film for their good and to have my father’s light and accept it as the good in my soul the way the mother in Mirena does to counteract the strong and masculine darkness in Vlad.

I hope this article hasn’t bored you to death as I skirted around the plot of Dracula Untold and that I haven’t dissuaded any of you from seeing it, if you haven’t already!  I will conclude by saying that we all have monsters residing within us but it is whether we allow them to have the active or passive role in our lives that defines us as people and as children and as parents.  The right kind of darkness can be a force of light and the wrong kind of light can be detrimental.  Don’t judge someone’s darkness because it is not an obvious asset to them – it may be the only thing keeping them alive because that’s certainly what the darkness in my soul is to me.

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P.Mistry-Norman

15-10-2014