Tag Archives: mental health

Anna Spargo-Ryan: #Robinpedia


Image found on Anna Spargo-Ryan’s official website

Anna Spargo-Ryan is an Australian novelist, journalist, digital strategist, content creator and social mediaist (it’s a word now, deal with it). She has written for The Guardian, Overland, Kill Your Darlings, The Saturday Paper and many more literary and journalistical (another totally realz word) organisations. Anna originally hails from Adelaide and now lives in Melbourne. When she isn’t writing Anna enjoys Balfour’s custard tarts, oak trees and going to the beach.

Even before leaving school, Anna’s literary gravitas was recognised. Her English teachers sent her to writing workshops and camps to develop her skills…. Unlike my senior high school English teacher who told me it seemed like I had no grasp of the English language and can go suck a dog’s fart. It turns out that Anna’s English teachers were right as The Monthly has now described her as ‘a writer to watch.

In January of 2016 Anna shot to international fame with a Facebook post that went viral. In it she took on journalist James Adonis who had indicated that people were faking mental illnesses and how employees should single them out in a now infamous piece for The Sydney Morning Herald.


After her powerful post James Adonis recanted.

Evidently 2016 was a busy year for Anna with the release of her debut novel, The Paper House, through Pan Macmillan. Later in the same year she received The Horne Prize for her essay The Suicide Gene. Both works were highly regarded by critics.

Image found via google image search, words put on via imgflip.com

Praise has followed Anna into 2017 with the release of her second novel, The Gulf, also published through Pan Macmillan. Anna’s writing has been touted as visceral and emotive. The Guardian has described her as ‘a sharp observer of human emotion.’

On top of these already impressive credentials Anna has also worked her digital strategist and content creation magic for giants such as Bauer Media, Telstra, Kmart, Deakin University and the AFL to name but a few. Her English teachers really were right about her, she’s ace and very talented.

Find Anna’s author website here.

Find Anna’s digital strategist website here.

Find Anna’s books here.

Find Anna on Facebook here.

Find Anna on Twitter here.

Learn more about Robinpedia here.

Learn more about me here.

Read about my views on being a dyslexic writer here.

Read about my thoughts on author branding here.

P.S. See Anna explore words and meaning in this thread begun by Emma Viskic: 

P.P.S. Read Emma’s Robinpedia here.
P.P.P.S. I need a hug and a more supportive childhood.


#RUOK 2017: I Challenge You To Do More


R U Ok Day is upon us soon. It’s a day that has people divided. Some say it’s fantastic and saves lives, others say it reminds them just how much people really don’t care about them because they only ask on R U OK Day as if it is some glib game. I’ve asked, I’ve done my bit, I’m a good person, give me cookies.

Love it or hate it, I challenge you to open yourself up and learn more about different mental illnesses this R U OK Day. Go to the library, or a bookstore, or online, and get a memoir that focuses on a mental illness. Really engage with lived experience, find out what real people went through, what they are still going through. And then when it comes to ask R U OK you might have something more specific and meaningful to say to a friend than a simple catchphrase.

Here are some recommendations:

Madness: a Memoir by Kate Richards

This is a memoir about living with depression and acute psychosis. In the memoir Dr Kate Richards also includes notes that she wrote during episodes which puts you directly into the mind at the time of turmoil. A compelling read.

Eyes too Dry by Alice Chipkin and Jessica Tavassoli

This is an innovative, dual person, graphic-novel memoir. It explores depression and suicideal ideation. It is essentially the conversation between someone in deep depression and their friend as they try to navigate through depression together. Very unique.

Bloodletting by Victoria Leatham

Cutting has recently been much covered in the media, but often sensationally and with little understanding gained. Victoria Leatham talks about her own experiences with self harm and how it is related to anorexia and bulimia. A truly eye opening read.

An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison

When it comes to bipolar few people have more experience than Kar Redfield Jamison. She both treats it as a psychiatrist and faces it personally. This book looks at bipolar from both the side of the doctor / patient equation.

The Good Greek Girl by Maria Katsonis

This is the memoir of the brilliant Maria Katsonis. Havard graduate, world renowned theatre producer, obedient daughter and sometimes rebel. It explores how this incredible woman found herself in a psych ward fighting for her life.

My Life as a Side Effect by Milissa Deitz

A memoir that helps demystify depression. It gives details from Milissa Deitz’s journey, including self harm, relationship breakdowns, medication and therapy.
The Green Bell by Paula Keogh

A memoir about Paula Keogh’s own experience with schizophrenia. It has been described as a coming of age story that takes a lifetime.

Tell Me I’m Here by Anne Deverson

This has become a classic text to read on gaining some understanding around schizophrenia. It is written by Anne Deverson and explores her relationship with her son and her efforts to get him appropriate treatment and the horrors they both endured. It does not hold back on catastrophic episodes.

Under Siege by Belinda Neil

Belinda Neil is a former police negotiator and homicide detective. Under Siege explores PTSD and its effect on not only work but also on her personal life. It is a very generous sharing of living with trauma.

Me and Her: a Memoir of Madness by Karen Tyrrell

This memoir appealed to me greatly because it looks at how a teacher was brought to the brink and how she managed to come back. As a former teacher who has witnessed and been on the receiving end of workplace bullying this really hit home for me. This book is very thought provoking into our own actions and what we dismiss and turn our backs on.

Woman of Substances by Jenny Valentish

The nature of substance abuse and addiction is explored in this compelling memoir/investigation by Jenny Valentish. From underage drinking to adult use of hard drugs, Jenny Valentish uses her own story and others to explore the nature of addiction, who is most susceptible, and what both treatment and mistreatment look like. Her skills as an investigative journalism are on display in this book as she draws information from experts and sufferers alike.

Well Done Those Men by Barry Heard

Australian Vietnam Veteran Barry Heard shares his life before and after the Vietnam War. It explores how young mean were sent off to war inadequately prepared psychologicaly. It also gives an earnest and gut-wrenching look at his post-war breakdown.

Crying into the Saucepan by Nikki Hayes

The incredible memoir of someone who had battled with mental illness for most of their life only to be repeatedly ignored or misdiagnosed. Nikki Hayes had received many diagnoses such as depression, postnatal depression and anorexia before being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. This memoir delved particularly close to my heart, because even though I don’t have BPD, I also had begged for help from various professional only to be fobbed off.

Small Acts of Disappearance by Fiona Wright

This is a collection of ten essays about Fiona Wright’s experience with an eating disorder. The essays cover different phases of her illness including life threatening anorexia nervosa. Heartbreak and humour are combined in this moving memoir from a well known and respected Australian poet.

Things That Helped by Jessica Friedmann

This is a collection of essays about Jessica Friedmann’s experience with postnatal depression after the birth of her first child. Jessica Friedmann has achieved honours in creative writing and it shows. The prose is beautiful to the point of poetic. Fans of Fiona Wright will LOVE this.

And of course there is always little old me.

Confessions of a Mad Mooer: Postnatal Depression Sucks by Robin Elizabeth

A direct, not holds barred, earnest telling of my time in a psychiatric hospital with postnatal depression four months after the birth of my second and third children, twins. It is conversational, injected with humour, and includes practical tips.

So, on this R U OK Day, the 14th of September, I challenge you to go further than repeating a preprepared question. I challenge you to use the day to truly engage. Grab a memoir, bunker down, and find out what lived experience is like without interrupting.
Add your favourite memoirs about mental illness in the comment section.

If you or someone you know has mental health concerns you can find good resources on the following sites:

Black Dog Institute http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/

Lifeline https://www.lifeline.org.au/

Beyond Blue https://www.beyondblue.org.au

Head Space https://headspace.org.au

Relationships Australia https://www.relationships.org.au

National LGBTI Health Alliance http://lgbtihealth.org.au

The Children of Parent’s With a Mental Illness http://www.copmi.net.au

Mental Health in Multicultural Australia http://www.mhima.org.au/portals/consumer-carers

Some postnatal depression specific sites are:

Gidget Foundation http://gidgetfoundation.com.au/

PANDA http://www.panda.org.au/

PIRI http://www.piri.org.au/

Confessions of a Mad Mooer: A Quick Update on Writing 


Those of you who also follow me on Twitter already know that I haven’t been feeling my best. I’m definitely not at my lowest but changing medications to try to get on top of my migraines and RLS has left me feeling subpar.
I know that I’m not that bad because when I get time to sit down and write it still comes readily. Even if I feel like total shit, the moment I open the Scrivener file my fingers start typing. When I am at my lowest I simply can’t access the things needed for writing. I’m just too empty. 
On Friday I was quite teary. My medication had been increased the day before but it takes a couple of weeks before the increase works. And I thought that I was too upset and jittery to write. I looked at the clock and I only had thirty minutes until I had to pick my daughter up from school. This made me more upset. I’d gone a whole day without writing AND I’d had time to do it. It wasn’t because of being too busy with the kids, I just hadn’t. I felt hopeless and like a failure.
And then it hit me, my POV character hits a point where she is utterly shattered and feels like she’s an utter failure. I could write that scene. I use Scrivener so I can write out of order and easily slip it into place. And so I did just that. I opened up my Scrivener file for my WIP and just typed and cried. I did this for 25 minutes. At the end I had 950 words. That’s fast for me. Normally for novel writing it’s around 500 words in that time.
So good news, I’m still no where near my worst and feel much lighter. And maybe that idea might help somebody else? Maybe you’ve been holding off writing because you feel utterly shit? Try writing a scene where the POV character feels the same. They’ll be feeling broken for a different reason than you, but hopefully you can still use the shared feeling to get to the heart of the scene.
Good luck and happy writing.

Read about my thoughts on being a dyslexic writer here.
Read about my thoughts on author branding here.
Buy my shit here.

If you or someone you know has postnatal depression you can find good resources on the following sites:

  1. Gidget Foundation http://gidgetfoundation.com.au/
  2. PANDA http://www.panda.org.au/
  3. PIRI http://www.piri.org.au/
  4. Black Dog Institute http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/
  5. Lifeline https://www.lifeline.org.au/ 

Confession of a Spec Fic Writer: Sometimes We’re Not Clever, We’re Just Plain A-Holes.


In October of 2012 I started this blog as a budding Spec Fic writer. I wrote Doctor Who Horoscopes, I shared Fantasy excerpts and short stories that I had written. However, in March 2014 I went into a psychiatric hospital with postnatal depression. My blog focus shifted but strangely enough I still often identify myself as a Spec Fic writer. For the next couple of years I have Spec Fic slated to come out. A Historical Fantasy this year and a Paranormal Crime next year. As such I am having more Spec Fic focused conversations with fellow writers. We all think we’re pretty clever. We all like playing with reality. We all enjoy coming up with clever tricks…. But sometimes we fail. Sometimes we unintentionally write things that are harmful and bigoted.

A recent conversation with a friend reminded me of a concept that an ex came up with when we were in our early 20s, about 15 years ago. It was a vampire film (yeah, I used to do short film, I’ve even got an award, I’m quite the Jack) and he was so excited about it because it combined his two great loves, medical science and vampires. He had a medical science degree. He had honours. He was doing his PhD. In short, he knew his stuff. And as he told me his plans I said, “Wow, that’s really fucking interesting.”

His premise was that vampires were a result of a blood mutation and that people with hemophilia were actually descendants from the original vampires. He had way more science behind it than that but that’s about the extent that this aging, arts-degree brain can remember. We hi5ed to good thinking and how solid the science was. We listened to Placebo’s Haemoglobin. We were sooooo cool. But then some thoughts started cropping up…

…. Hang on, are we saying that very real people who exist today are not entirely human? Are we saying that a group of real people are part parasite ready to suck the blood of others? Have we made out that they’re different and savage because of a medical condition? Have we seriously othered them? Oh shit, we had. But aren’t vampires cool? Doesn’t everyone want to be one? No. People who have been systematically excluded already probably don’t want to be further dehumanised.

You know what we ended up doing? We set the idea aside. We decided not to run with it because there were too many issues. Sure the science was interesting, the play of ideas was interesting, but actually putting that dehumanisation of a group of people out into the world was not interesting. It wouldn’t be fun or cool. It would be actively othering and already misunderstood group.

What did we do? We came up with other ideas that didn’t dehumanise a group of marginalised people. Just because and idea seems interesting on the surface doesn’t mean it’s actually a good concept to film or write about. We’re creative people. We can think of more things. We can do better. We can come up with equally exciting concepts with out dehumanising marginalised people. I believe in us. We’re thinkers.

This was 16 years ago and I’m still having similar conversations. Let’s do better. I know we can do it. Don’t get me wrong, we’ll all fuck up at times, I definitely do, but at least put it on our radar.


The Great Con: women actually do ask for help.


I keep reading newspaper reports about how women keep depression and anxiety a secret and don’t seek help. I then speak to women who mouth the same thing that they didn’t ask for professional help BUT then they outline all the ways they did in fact ask for help, all the while saying they didn’t. The same goes for physical conditions. Women tell me how they told partners and doctors how they were tired, how they were gaining weight, how they didn’t have energy, how their memory was faltering and yet still finish off with saying they never spoke to anybody about their depression.

Now why would women detail to me a whole bunch of symptoms that are linked to depression that they have told their doctors about and then say that they didn’t tell anyone about it? Clearly they have told their doctor symptoms by their own admission so why do they then claim they didn’t speak about it? Because the great con is that women have been conditioned to think if they don’t get medical help it is because they didn’t ask properly. They’ve been convinced that they haven’t asked for help because they didn’t provide the doctor with a diagnosis and ask for help with that specific thing. Women are expected to do the the doctor’s job of diagnosis in order to get help. This is an ongoing issue in the medical profession as outlined in the study, The Girl Who Cried Pain: A Bias Against Women in the Treatment of Pain, women are routinely dismissed. They’re asking just fine, they shouldn’t have to diagnose themselves, that’s actually the doctor’s job, but there is an inherent bias against them.

It’s time to stop meekly standing by as we lose more and more women to suicide and watch more and more women lose mobility because of lack of treatment and continue to say, “Oh, it’s our fault, we mustn’t have asked correctly.” Men are given treatment and further testing when they give their symptoms, women are sent away. Women are forced to come back time and time again trying to get help. It’s the real reason why women see doctors more often than men do. They have to because they are forced to go back because they keep getting dismissed and the problem continues.

Women, you shouldn’t have to do the doctor’s job in order to get help. You shouldn’t have to be medically trained and able to diagnose pancreatitis, or stroke, or anxiety, or pelvic dislocation, that’s the doctor’s job. If you’ve mentioned your symptoms you have in fact asked for help. Let’s not be part of this system that undermines women. Let’s back ourselves and say we are worthy of treatment and we are perfectly capable of communicating symptoms. We actually do deserve treatment and this bias needs to stop. We’re not the problem, the unconscionable bias against us is.

Here are some further articles I think many of you will relate to. Happy reading.

She Thought She’d Pulled a Hip Muscle, But Six Doctors Couldn’t Diagnose Her Pain.

Diagnosis: Sexism

When Gender Stereotypes Become a Serious Hazzard to Women’s Health

Endometriosis and the Dangers of Period Pain Dismissal

I Screamed and Screamed and Screamed but Nobody Would Listen to Me.

Buy my shit here.

Rage against the machine… everywhere and anywhere?

P.S. If I had a penny for every female who told me that they were told by medical professionals that women just got tired, grumpy, fat, weak, and lose memory at x age, x ranging from 16-60, but persisted and after countless dismissals finally got a diagnosis and got treatment, I’d have a lot of pennies…. Sadly, I’d have way more pennies than I earn from writing. You don’t have to accept that women just fall apart. We don’t. No more so than men.

If you or someone you know has postnatal depression you can find good resources on the following sites:

  1. Gidget Foundation http://gidgetfoundation.com.au/
  2. PANDA http://www.panda.org.au/
  3. PIRI http://www.piri.org.au/
  4. Black Dog Institute http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/
  5. Lifeline https://www.lifeline.org.au/

Confessions of a Mad Mooer: I screamed and screamed and screamed but nobody would listen to me


I have been diagnosed with postnatal depression twice in my life, both times I begged for help very loudly and very clearly, and it fell on deaf ears.

Mixed Media Canvas by

Sillier than Sally Designs

People seem to think that women with postnatal depression keep everything bottled inside and never ask for help. I did ask for help. I begged for it. Sure some people have never ever asked for help ever, but most actually do.

Firstly I asked my husband for help when my daughter was born. He said no. He reminded me that the nurse we did a birth course with said that the working partner had to be fit for work so it wasn’t appropriate to ask them for too much help. And she did say that, she really did I told my GP I wasn’t coping, that my daughter wouldn’t sleep so I couldn’t and I was exhausted. It took her two hours to feed, then she’d only sleep in my arms. The GP flat out told me I was lying and being a typical first time mum. She said if that was true I’d be dead. I said I was already throwing up and my legs were buckling under me. She just sighed and told me that as my daughter was 5 weeks premature that she needed extra care and to deal with it. I spoke to my community nurses, they again said I was just being a hysrical first time mum. To just cut her off feeding and to put her down. Putting her down resulted in her shrieking in pain, a piercing cry far different from I’m hungry or I want a cuddle, and then would explode in vomit. I told the nurses and the GP this. They just sighed and dismissed me.

Now that I’ve read The Girl Who Cried Pain I understand why. It’s because women are far more likely to be dismissed and left untreated by medical professionals. It’s why women have to see doctors more often, we get sent away without follow up treatment or testing. We have to go back. This study should be mandatory reading for all medical students.

When my daughter was 4 months old she needed her vaccinations, my regular GP was busy, the receptionist recommended another GP. I took the appointment. When I put my daughter down to be weighed and she immediately began shrieking and then gurgling with vomit the doctor diagnosed her with reflux. It wasn’t a subtle case. It was an obvious case that should have been picked up by any medical professional easily. But of course, the ones I’d encountered had their “hysterical mother” blinkers on. She also picked up that my daughter had hip dysplasia. It was so bad that a large part of her pelvis hadn’t formed. Within two weeks my daughter had been put in for surgery and placed in a spica cast. She was also given reflux medication. These are two things a parent CANNOT treat. These are two things that specialists need to diagnose and treat. The medical system failed my daughter because they didn’t listen to me because they felt that I was a silly first time mother. They made the start of my child’s life agony because of their unconscionable bias.

Of course after months of being ignored and left with no sleep I was in a bad way. I would cry, I would vomit, I would collapse. My body was broken but my soul was too. The medical staff hadn’t believed me and my husband trusted them over me because they had the medical degrees. He started to come around after the specialists came flocking and he realised the initial medical professionals had been very fucking wrong and he had been wrong to believe them and treat me accordingly. After my daughter was starting to settle my new GP, the only one I see now, said that now that the intensive treatment of my daughter was starting to dissipate it was time to focus on me.

I was given a mental health check, I failed spectacularly… or aced it? I was prescribed antidepressants and referred to a psychologist. I got the initial set amount and then the two extensions for more for extreme cases. That’s right, extreme. There was nothing subtle or small about it. And I continued to see that therapist afterwards until my money ran out. Things began to settle.

And then I had a miscarriage followed by reoccurring bouts of pancreatitis. It was not fun and involved far too much time in hospital for my liking.

Enter the twins. I got pregnant with twins immediately after a three week stay in hospital. Clearly my husbandis a very sexy man and I just can’t keep my hands off him. The pregnancy went really well up until 30 weeks. And then it continued to go badly until my boys were born via emergency c-section at 32 weeks. They were 8 weeks early. The spent 3 weeks in the NICU. When I went for checkups for the twins back at the hospital I said I was exhausted and having three kids under three years old was really hard. I also mentioned that the twins clearly had reflux like their big sister had and having to keep them both upright was hard, they were basically living in their car seats being rocked. The hospital paediatrician told me that all prem babies had some reflux issues but it couldn’t be that bad or they wouldn’t have been discharged. Again, I was called a liar. When I spoke to the hospital social worker she said, “That’s life in the fast lane.” I was again dismissed.

And then I ended up in hospital with pancreatitis again. Doctors don’t know why, that’s the reality for 20% of cases. So I was in hospital pumping milk but not allowed to eat or drink. I kept needing shots of glucose. At no point was I offered any assistance on how I was to cope with this situation. I was discharged, still weak and sick, and expected to immediately go back into full time care of my three children, the oldest was two. Given that the medical professionals weren’t willing to say I was sick and needed help why would my husband and others believe I was? So I suffered on. And I truly mean suffered. Until my boys and I ended up in hospital again.

The boys had bronchiolitis. My daughter had a cold and had passed it on to the kids. We’d been told to have our daughter taken care of by family members so that she wasn’t in the house with the boys as they were too little. Unfortunately we couldn’t get someone who would look after her for the duration of her cold and she was returned to us sick complete with an lecture. The boys got sick. The boys couldn’t breath so off we went.

I was ready to die. Nobody would listen to me again and I knew that people rush to help widowed men. It was time to die. I had decided that once my husband visited the boys in hospital I would pretend I was going to the bathroom but in reality walk into traffic. And then the paediatrician who had treated my daughter for reflux walked passed talking to another doctor. I had one last hope. I called out and said hello. He looked over at me, immediately excused himself from the other doctor and came over. I looked like hell and he wasn’t going to walk passed like everyone else. Hevsat me down and asked me how I was. I told him, just like I had told everyone else, but he believed me. He didn’t dismiss me. He called the NICU social worker. She was a different one from the one I saw when my boys were in a NICU. She apologised and saidI should have been picked up earlier. I had several risk factors

  1. Premature birth
  2. The under threes were outnumbering us
  3. Previous history
  4. I had been hospitalised with illness

I should have been helped long before this moment. I should have been referred at the very latest when I was hospitalised with pancreatitis. She was so sorry. They could have referred me to get 50 hours babysitting a week because I was an ill primary carer. BUT I was passed that now so she was going to refer me to the hospital psychiatric team. They referred me to a psychiatric hospital with a Mother and Baby unit. Once the boys were well enough to be discharged from the regular hospital we went straight there. And the rest you know because it’s in my book.

I was one of the many women who did not suffer in silence. I suffered out loud very much BEGGING for help and was ignored. I am not alonein this. Perpetuating the stereotype that women who aren’t helped simply didn’t ask for it, or didn’t ask for it correctly, is dangerous and victim blaming. We need to demand more of our medical professionals. We need to demand a systematic change in the treatment of women. And yeah, I get it #notallmedicalprofessionals but enough of them. Enough of them to make it a subconscious bias that pervades the field. I again urge you to read The Girls Who Cried Pain. Let’s not keep women screaming in the wilderness. Let’s demand change. We are 50% of the population and deserve equal respect and equal treatment.
If you or someone you know has postnatal depression, don’t hesitate to cook them fully prepared meals (not partially, FULLY), and do their washing. You can also find great resources at The Gidget Foundation.
So, how did hearing my story in my own words compare to hearing it from journalists from Kidspot and Femail?

Suicide is the number one cause of death amongst women postnatally, not medical complications. Don’t you think it’s time we started to listen to women when they ask for help?

Find my book on booktopia or everywhere.

If you or someone you know has postnatal depression you can find good resources on the following sites:

  1. Gidget Foundation http://gidgetfoundation.com.au/
  2. PANDA http://www.panda.org.au/
  3. PIRI http://www.piri.org.au/
  4. Black Dog Institute http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/
  5. Lifeline https://www.lifeline.org.au/

Confessions of a Mad Mooer: I’m in Kidspot 


Image courtesy of super babe Josie Neeves Photography.

Tania Connolly recently conducted an interview with me about my experience with postnatal depression and having three under three. Hope you enjoy it.

It is always interesting for me reading about my own experience but from another person’s perspective. How did you find reading my story, that you’re used to hearing about from me, through Tania Connolly’s lense? How does it compare to my first ever interview with one Lauren Ingram?


Grab my book from Booktopia or everywhere really. 🙂