Tag Archive | psychological breakdown

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

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

Pippa, Penny Dreadful

I have encountered another gripping and wonderfully gothic television show called Penny Dreadful.  This blog post was not supposed to come before one about speech day at my alma mater but during episode five entitled “Closer Than Sisters”, which serves as an origins-flashback episode that comes vaguely mid-series.  I have no wish to spoil this series for anyone (as everyone should give it a go!) but I have a host of topics and feelings on a sheet of A4 beside me here that I would like to approach and unravel through the medium of this fantastic (in every meaning of the word), entrancing and erotic period drama.

The foremost item on my list is perhaps the most detached, but can also be construed as the most integral to the reason why Penny Dreadful has so entrammelled me: namely, the actress Eva Green.  I have long admired her work and the ethereal presence with which she imbues her films.  Ever since I saw Marlene Jobert’s daughter (yes, she is!) in Sir Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven in which she plays the Queen of Jerusalem, Sibylla, her talent has led me to actively seek out feature films and programmes in which she stars.  Thus have I watched CamelotThe Golden CompassCasino Royale and Dark Shadows.  In all these roles, she plays mysterious and complex women all of whom have a distinct magical quality, whether it be literal or figurative, and are unlike the loud and cliched lead females to which we have grown accustomed in western cinema. She is the leading lady who smiles rather than grins, floats rather than glides and is unconventionally beautiful rather than in-your-face attractive.  Can you tell I’m a little bit in love with her?

Her character in Penny Dreadful – Miss Vanessa Ives – moves through the crowds of Victorian, Jack the Ripper London analysing and observing the throng around her, not simply avoiding it or following it like a sheep.  This is something I am wont to do more often than not.  I choose to exist beyond the crowd and watch people interact rather than be an active party myself.  It gives me more enjoyment and more power and control over myself than people who merely wend their way through life, unable to notice but ever willing to ignore.  That is all I will give you concerning her background in the show…the rest is up to you to discover as you watch the series yourself!

In this episode featuring flashbacks and Vanessa Ives’ and Sir Malcolm’s (played by Timothy Dalton) origin stories, as a viewer I witnessed a young girl who grew into a young lady much like myself who had to battle with insanity and the loss of her friends, her family but most of all, her mental wellbeing in the early years of adulthood.  The core reason for her disintegration lies in her relationship with her best friend, Mina Murray, and how as the pair mature, it dawns on her that life and marriage will cart her bosom friend away and she will be left behind in the shadows to a life she cannot have and doesn’t desire.  Every cruel action, thought and emotion she has stems from the innate need not to be abandoned by a friend who is more like a sister to her.  I can understand that.  The moments when Vanessa questions herself and viewers observe her growing cruel and callous, are intensely familiar to me and just as I understand (from my parents and extended family) that I used to be a sweet child who grew and changed into a colder and manipulative adult, I felt myself get pulled into her narrative.

The codependency that exists between Vanessa and Mina is similar to the one that keeps me attached in heart and mind, if not body, to my two best friends who are – like Mina – slipping away and flourishing in their twenties, while I languish and struggle to make it from one day to the next without scarring my left wrist further.  They are my lifeblood, my everything and they are the brothers I wasn’t given by blood.  As they forge new friendships, get girlfriends and experience what life has to offer them, they need me less and less and forget that I need them more and more.  I remember in my last few years at school I used to constantly ask if they would forget me when they both went off to the same university, not because I wanted the affirmation that they would do no such thing but because the greatest fear I have, more than dying and being barren, is that they will fade from my life and I will fade from theirs like a memory of a person that once meant something but now is just a name at the bottom of an unappreciated Christmas card on the mantle once a year.  It is this fear that utterly grips my mind and heart that leads me to do the most cruel and inexplicably immoral things to ensure that no matter how low I sink or how high they reach, I will always be there and they will always have me.  Vanessa’s action was to seduce Mina’s fiance on the last night before their nuptials to stop them from going to India.  She gets her comeuppance in her madness and relegation to an asylum.  My misdeed was to cling too hard and too fast to my “brothers” and in so doing, I wrecked something that took decades in the forming and is now irreparable.  Vanessa mentions how she will never be able to forgive herself for her sins and I echo the sentiment.

Furthermore, there is that part of you that is desirous of having those upon whom you depend remain with you and forever yours, but the prevalent part of people like Vanessa and myself that causes us to harm those we love is jealousy.  There is something in us, in our very souls, that cannot abide the notion that someone – or something – else can divert you from us.  It’s selfish, I know, but when you have as little as we do, the parable of the poor man’s lamb seems oddly appropriate.

“You could know love, you could know a man’s touch, while I, the courageous one, know nothing of life” – Vanessa

Vanessa says this and in all its eloquence does manage to express that primordial feeling of envy and sorrow that I feel on a daily basis.  They are the words of one who does watch the world pass them by, is losing those they care for most, is being left behind.  They are the words of someone prepared to do anything to avoid feeling that ultimate sense of loss, despair and depression.  Vanessa does that and so do I in every action and in every thought.  I cheat and I manipulate and I know that no matter how much I try to improve and get better, depression and a desire to have my family about me will never let those anxieties and wrongdoings cease.

Left: Vanessa Ives as a young woman; Right: Vanessa Ives in a mental institution

Left: Vanessa Ives as a young woman; Right: Vanessa Ives in a mental institution (Eva Green, Penny Dreadful 1×05)

“How I envied you…perhaps I even hated you” – Vanessa

The crux of the matter is that envy can turn to hatred which in turn leads us lost souls straight down the path to abject insanity.  It is the last aspect of the journey that is the most painful and therefore the hardest to leave behind and escape.  This arduous journey is shown in Ives’ face, for without the toil and passion inherent in mental and emotional upheaval how can the girl on the left be reduced to the shell of a woman on the right?  After episodes of seizures, catatonia and apparent possessions by demonic entities, she is committed to an asylum in London by her mother and father.  There she is subjected to hydrotherapy, lobotomy and straitjackets.  I will say this: I have trouble watching love scenes on television but up until recently, with this program and if I am completely honest, which I do endeavour to be on this blog, Ripper Street (in episode 2×02), I have experienced spasms and intense physical reactions to images of extreme treatments for mental health patients.  Even though patients are under ether for lobotomies during this period, I surprised myself by convulsing as the drill bored into Vanessa’s skull.  Those occurred sporadically during the sequence, however, when she was suffering through hydrotherapy (something that I believe was dreamed up by a person worse than Hitler and Jeffrey Dahmer combined!) the convulsions were consistent and constant.  I have nightmares where I dream that my friends and family have me committed like that to save themselves the bother of having to deal with me and my downright problematic existence.  As Sir Malcolm points out: cruel little girls can break families, which is something I seem to have a distinct aptitude for…and so, it is the easiest thing in the world for this cruel little girl to imagine being lobotomised and blasted with a seemingly unending powerful stream of water or held down in an ice water bath just to get her out of society and away from people whose souls she can destroy.  Although the rational part of me is perfectly aware that such backwards and savage methods are no longer applied in modern medicine, as I said before, that part is easily overwhelmed by any iota of mania and suddenly it seems entirely plausible in the dreamscape to be subjected to those horrors by apparent loved ones.

So, you have probably gleaned from that spiel that watching this particular episode of Penny Dreadful was a bit like cycling round the country on a Penny Farthing but it is actually immensely comforting for someone like me who struggles to leave the confines of her bedroom and who feels that any friends she has are slowly but surely leaving her behind to see such a similar character on a TV show.  Much like I hope this blog lets others know that basket cases exist somewhere who are either experiencing the same (or similar) things in life to other sufferers from mental health disorders, so does TV and film as a media allow everyone in general to understand that what may be going on in reality is not that big a stretch for someone’s imagination.  Then, what is imagined can swiftly become reality to someone and all of a sudden, you’re not alone sitting at your computer typing away in the hope that someone will hear you next time you’re weeping or that you’ll find someone who just won’t leave you alone.   It’s all about what you see and more poignantly, what you can envision for yourself.  I haven’t yet got to the end of season one of Penny Dreadful but I want to know just what awaits my compatriot, Miss Vanessa Ives, so I can see how my own story might play out.

Sorry if this seems a little haphazard in tone and structure, but to be frank, that does reflect the rollercoaster of feelings I am currently experiencing, so what the hell, call it a metaphor!

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P. Mistry-Norman

09-07-2014

The End of the Beginning

I’m going to do a couple of posts over the next few days centering around specific moments of psychological breakdowns since I have started attending the University of Exeter continuing until the present.  Have no fear of being exposed to every deep, dark and dirty moment from the past three years; I am simply planning to lay out my rock bottom moments, one for each year.  I believe they might be good indicators of how the disorders develop and how I dealt with their consequences with an increasing amount of assistance from various university services.

As Maria teaches in “The Sound of Music”, the beginning is ‘a very good place to start’, so let’s commence by returning to a night during the third term of my Fresher’s year when the world began to seriously spin out of control.

A manifestation – the very worst kind – of my social anxiety is hallucination.  It happens but rarely, however, I challenge you to remain calm when see what you think are real shadows coming out of the darkest places of your rather large studio flat to scare and get you.  On one of my many sleepless nights alone in Birks Grange Village, I started to see things and called Estate Patrol when I fled my flat and sought refuge in the cold night (or it might have been early morning by that point) air.

The amazing and compassionate estate patrol people put me back into my room and stayed at my side, first confiscating my kitchen knives, until another wellbeing services worker came to talk me down and sit with me until dawn.

During the time she sat with me, I managed to self-soothe…eventually and regain my self-control.  She even helped me get back outside as I had not left my flat for a week and that entails only eating Domino’s pizza (imagine how much I was spending) and not being able to face leaving to take my rubbish outside, so also image the state of the place, though to be honest, you may not wish to.

Where some people have brilliant experiences in student halls, I did not.  It was not through any out-of-character behaviour of the people I shared the corridor with, it was more that I did not make a good and sociable first impression and that my room was right at the end of the corridor and not at the door end, which would have been helpful!  It meant that I had to walk the length of the corridor to get out and the other occupants of the first floor preferred to stand or sit in the corridor and socialise.  The sitting was fine though it meant I would stay in my room, but the standing on either side, something I came to call ‘forming the gauntlet’ as I am a fan of C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower series, was petrifying for me.  It felt like I was being constricted and watched by them and I knew they were all friends as they got up to some loud and drunken games during the night most nights of the week, so it was pretty difficult to take for a quiet, isolated girl.

So, you can see just through what I experienced culminating in that night in my first year that not only is depression expensive and results in an incredibly unhealthy way of living but also that with help (and admitting to begin with that you require it!) the cycle of self-loathing, fear and denial can be broken.

Before I wrap this up for today, I would just like to praise the university’s Estate Patrol for rescuing me and knowing how to deal with me properly.  The lady who came to see me was part of the university’s emergency response team, but I don’t recall what division specifically, but whatever category they fall under, they do brilliant and crucial work in and around the campus.  She was the one who told me to get an appointment with the best doctor I’ve ever seen and continue to see at the Student Health Centre and even came with me to my first appointment, so I really do owe every positive step I’ve made since that horrific night to that woman, Estate Patrol and my doctor.

Thank you for reading!

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P. Mistry-Norman

31-01-2014