Tag Archives: mental illness

Anna Spargo-Ryan: #Robinpedia

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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.

https://facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=975538665841522&substory_index=0&id=385600741501987

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.

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Confessions of a Mad Mooer: A Quick Update on Writing 

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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/ 

A Thank You to Jane Rawson and All the Authors Who Allow Me to Escape

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Things have been getting on top of me of late. You probably noticed from my last post that I’m spiralling down into a depressive state again. I’m exhausted and there doesn’t seem to be a break for me in sight. There doesn’t seem to be a Robin sized shape in my life at all. Yesterday morning I could do little more than cry and vomit. I was trapped inside my own head and couldn’t see the light of day.
But then I had an external mood boost and it has made all of the difference in the world. Yesterday I received an early copy of From The Wreck by Jane Rawson to review. 

It is, quite simply, sublime. From the very first sentence the atmosphere is so thick that you could eat it with a spoon. I won’t comment any further on the book right now as that’s not the purpose of this blog entry, and I will definitely write a review closer to the release date in March. The reason I am writing this blog post is to affirm just how important good books are. Not just from an educational point of view. Not just from a place of social commentary. Not just to shine a light on horrendous issues. All those things are important but they can also provide a much needed escape.

As the great J. R. R. Tolkein said, ​”Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?” Unfortunately using literature for escapism is often derided as silly. It is as if some people think that you should be intensely feeling and consciously  changing your life at all moments of the reading journey. You must feel miserable and outraged. You can’t just grab a book and float away somewhere else, you must be very much here, on Earth, in your own tightly-fitting shoes, and in your own burning skin. Literature like that certainly has its place but so do stories that let us become so utterly immersed in their world that we can switch off our brain from our own troubles from time to time and go somewhere else. 
When you have a mental illness such as depression or anxiety, like I do, sometimes you just need to get out of the prison that is your own mind. Books provide a gaol-break. They are life saving, they are necessary, they are not simply trivial nonsense. So never be ashamed of reading to escape because it very well could save your life. And do keep an eye out in March for Jane Rawson’s From the Wreck. It is intensely gripping and has allowed me to escape from my head.

Confessions of a Mad Mooer: What Fresh Hell is This? #PNDAawarenessweek 

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Sigh. It’s PND Awareness Week so obviously articles and posts about this issue are on the increase. I’m posting on PND every day this week rather than sporadically as I usually do. It’s good to raise awareness.

However, there is an article that pisses me off more and more each time it come up on my newsfeed. I suspect it is thought to be so totes-mega-awesome that it has actually been paid to be promoted… I, on the other hand, feel it is a totes-mega-steamer.

The article says that there has been a study into how society feels about mothers with PND. Good news, apparently there is no longer a stigma. hi5s all around. Apparently women with PND perceive that there is a stigma and that’s what prevents them from getting help…

… Well isn’t that just an amazing coincidence. Somehow only women with PND are afflicted by this strange notion that there is still a stigma. I mean, you might even say that it’s downright bizarre and unlikely that only women with PND would think there was a stigma when really there isn’t one. It’s almost feeding into a stigma in itself, that women with PND are delusional with no grasp of reality. But hey, an article supposedly to help women with  PND wouldn’t do that, would it? So they must be right. It’s just an incredible ccoincidenc.

Hey, people who came up with those conclusions based on your extensive studies, ring up an insurance company right now and ask for life insurance and tell them you have PND. Go on, I’ll wait. Let me guess, you have an added clause for suicide because you have or have had PND? It is in effect for the rest of your life? Yeah, so weird that insurance companies consider you a suicide risk for the rest of your life given that there are no stigmas surrounding PND. Must be part of that same crazy phenomenon  that makes women with PND think there is a stigma.

The article states:

This week, PANDA is calling on the community to engage with this conversation and with the new parents themselves.

“Even though we have these changing attitudes surrounding mental health, they somehow don’t seem to have made it through to this crucial time where life is created,” Smith said.

“On one hand, the community is saying it is okay — that’s their belief. The next step is for the community to help mums to understand that.”

Yes, let mothers with PND know that you’re thinking about them. Let them know how you don’t think there is any stigma. Hmmmm, I wonder if that’s a bit like when cases of maternal infanticide are reported people come up to me an ask me how I’m going because they’ve just heard about an awful case, and it’s suspected that the mother had PND, and to call them before I do something like that. That’s totes supportive. Letting mums with PND know that you’re there to support them. No sense of stigma that women with PND are ticking time bombs ready to go off and kill there babies. It’s all in our heads, thanks kindly community members for reaching out. And yes, everyone I know who has PND has similar stories.

You know what this delusional gal, that is out of touch with the community, who has PND thinks?  I think people saying that they don’t judge women with PND is a bit like them saying they don’t judge gay people, or black people, or Islamic people. I think that  people claiming not to be a biggot might not be 100% honest with themselves. I also think it’s not at all helpful to promote an article, which could have been a brilliant article as it shares so many great stories, that implies women with PND are deluded and shame them further. It’s all in your head is a bullshit approach to women with PND and their experiences. Invalidating the group you’re trying to help is ridiculous. 

I usually love the stuff done by that organisation but I found how they reported on their findings misleading and invalidating. Hook your respondents up to lie detectors, follow them for a few weeks and see how they really talk, then get back to me on how the stigma is gone.

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

PANDA http://www.panda.org.au/

PIRI http://www.piri.org.au/

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

Lifeline https://www.lifeline.org.au/

Yes, I know that one of the organisations above is the one promoting the article that makes my blood boil, but they have excellent rresource and I hope someone clues them in to just how problematic their phrasing is and that they rethink it in future. I’m just disappointed in them, certainly not calling for a boycott.


Let’s Talk About That Baby

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock you will have heard about the newborn left in the drain for 6 days in Western Sydney at just 1 day old. You will have heard that the baby’s 30 year old mother dropped the baby approximately 2.5 metres down a drain, an almost certain death sentence. You will have been horrified and wanted to hug that baby. You will have wanted to tell that baby to fight and that he is worthy of love and life. You will have also heard the public outcry about the situation. You will have seen people calling for the mother to be locked up, beaten, dumped in a drain in searing temperatures herself. It’s a horrific situation,  people will obviously have an extreme reaction. It doesn’t surprise me, it doesn’t even disappointment me. All these strangers reacting strongly just proves how much they love children. The bit that does surprise me and disappoint me is that when women I know, who like me suffer from Postnatal Depression are calling the mother of this child all sorts of names, baying for her blood and saying how they can’t comprehend what she has done and that she deserves no understanding. Now I’ve personally never had any urges to harm my children, I sit within the postnatal depression range not postnatal psychosis BUT if we can’t have compassion, or at least a willingness to withhold judgement until all facts are out, for mothers who have done something so clearly out of the ordinary,  then… well… who the fuck will?

I never tried to OD with Postnatal Depression. Something that would deeply scar and traumatise a child for the rest of their lives, leaving them with a lifetime of issues requiring therapy,  but I withhold judgement from my friends who have attempted such things. I know what it’s like to feel like you’re such a toxic person that your children would be better off without you. So I offer these mothers compassion. Sure I could tell them they’re awful and that they don’t deserve kids and get up on my high horse and really go to town on them but I don’t. Why? Because I know what pain and confusion feels like. The same with mothers who leave their kids. I’m very much with my three babies. Mumma isn’t going anywhere save ill health (I can’t rule out being hospitalised with Pancreatitis again, unfortunately I just have a bad pancreas that confounds the medical world). But I understand the urge to run because you feel like you’re not doing anything right and your kids would be better off without you. Of course that’s not true, they’ll feel abandoned and unloved,  but we can see perception and reality aren’t always friends.

I hope you can see where I’m going with this. What if the mother didn’t abandon this child into a filthy hole in hellish temperatures which would certainly result in death because she was evil but because she thought it’d be better for the child to die than be with her. What if her self loathing wasn’t merely to depressive levels but psychotic levels? What if she did this out of sick depraved love not because she was “a dog” or a “selfish mole” or any other insult levelled at her? My heart doesn’t break any less for the baby. I don’t want to hug that baby and make everything better for him any less. It doesn’t make his circumstances any less horrific,  dropped into filth where he was unlikely to ever be found with no milk or hugs. The torment that sweet baby endured for 6 days when it so desperately needed love and nurturing sickens me. Not just a bit but to the point that I literally threw up. But I’m willing to see that the mother clearly needs help. That her mind is just as disgusting as that drain. That it needs to be cleaned out. That she isn’t necessarily some demon that needs to be hung. So I’m withholding judgement on the mother until the facts are clear and sending that baby love and strength. I urge fellow battlers of mental illness to do the same, because if we can’t show compassion for others, than who else can?

Furthermore, I think what some people fail to realise is that some women when in the depths of Postnatal Psychosis become so detached from reality that they just don’t even recognise their baby as a baby. Very rare but I have witnessed one such woman being shown her baby and repeatedly refusing the baby and asking the nurses what the hell they were talking about. Thankfully the baby was in a hospital and the nurses were there to protect it whilst this woman went through her break from reality but she could have so easily dumped her baby not even realising what she had done should medical staff have failed to pick up on the situation early enough.

Book Review: “Madness: A Memoir” by Kate Richards

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Madness: A Memoir  does exactly what it says on the tin. It gives an insight into the mad mind. It isn’t filtered through scientific or politically correct language like so many memoirs, it is an account on one woman’s self destructive journey through life. As a fellow mad bitch who knows what it’s like to live inside the nightmare of your own mind I highly recommend this memoir to anyone lurking in anxiety or depression or anyone loving someone similarly afflicted. It will give you insight into not only how the mentally ill feel but how they are treated by many professionals.
I am looking forward to reading Is There No Place For Me?

Review also on good reads  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1098539373

You can find out more about Kate Richards here http://katerichardsaustralia.wordpress.com/

As always if you’re a lady and a bit crae crae you are welcome to join my group

https://facebook.com/groups/563402577109194

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Confessions of a Mad Mooer: Wabi-sabi and the Mona Lisa’s smile

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I’ll apologise in advance for this post getting a little bit arty farty but it has been inspired by an art therapy session.

Whilst in the nut house for mad cow’s disease (in a psychiatric hospital for Postnatal Depression) I have been partaking in a bit of art therapy. For those wondering what art therapy is it’s essentially a place where people who are good at art can draw/paint/art masterpieces that express their inner turmoil or longed for optimism and the rest of the basket cases have fun doodling or making jewellery like we were little kids again. So far I’ve made three bracelets for my daughter (not pictured – that’s me and my boys). It’s nice to have the distraction. Now that might not be the technical explanation of what art therapy is, I did try to research what it was (I posted on a friend’s Facebook therapy “what do you do in art therapy?” I’m thinking investigative journalism may not be my thing) but I’m sure this gives you the general gist.

Art therapy can be quite daunting the first time you do it. Thoughts race like, “but I don’t art!” “Oh shit!! What do I art!!!” “OMFG!!!! I’m flipping failing at finger painting!!!!!” For those that are artistically inclined the feelings are apparently even worse. Fears of creating imperfect work abound, anxiety over time constraints ensue and before you know it everyone is just doodling and not creating the Sistine Chapel. Whatever your art level is this foray into a new environment seems to bring out similar fears, my work won’t be perfect, I’m not perfect, I suck.

It’s interesting that we as mothers (I’m in the chicken coup for PND) hold ourselves to such ridiculously high standards that a simple art class can dredge up such a tidal wave of self doubt and loathing. We want to do our very best and our children’s future seem to be in peril with every decision that we make. And todays saturation of parenting experts and baby whisperers only make things worse. If you’re not looking in your baby’s eyes as they play you’re making them feel abandoned. Pretty hard if you’ve got twins and or another child/children. Pretty hard even with one baby if you need to go to the toilet, brush your teeth or heaven forbid take a shower. If your baby cries they are getting permanent brain damage. Again the whole toileting and showering becomes a guilt ridden nightmare. If you just feed your baby enough and make them feel secure they’ll be settled and sleep well. An absolute trip down guilt lane into crazy town that last one is. This notion that if you do it “right” your baby will be happy and content is a crock. A baby is their own person, with their own thoughts and their own needs. There will be times when their needs are way more complicated than feed, play, sleep. Even more complicated then adding a bath or wrapping or not wrapping or massaging or or or or, the list goes on. When these inevitable unsolvable fits of crying happen to a mother without postnatal depression they get stressed and anxious. They then move on after the incident is over. When this happens to us mums with postnatal depression we start to spiral out of control. Our baby is crying, we can’t stop the baby crying despite trying every trick in the book and writing a few new chapters, therefore we are failing our baby. Our babies are going to become destitute, social misfits. Even worse, they’re going to turn into the emotional cripples that we are. Our beautiful, perfect babies would be better off without us around to screw them up. These catastrophic notions start to overwhelm us. Before you know it we’re out to sea trying to use a pillow as a boat and a cap gun as an oar. Now I like cap guns and pillows as much as the next person but they’re not exactly the correct tools for getting by out at sea. Don’t get me wrong, they’re great. Please don’t send me hate email saying stop pillow shaming. I’m just saying there’s a time and a place. A pillow is a fail as an oar. Just like expecting to be so perfectly intune with your baby that they are always smiling or sleeping soundly is a fail in reality. This idealisation of clinical perfection prevents us from being in the moment. It stops us from appreciating our experience as beautiful despite the “flaws” because deep down we are so ashamed of ourselves for not living up to these expectations of perfection that we can barely breathe.

In art there is a concept/movement known as Wabi-sabi. In a nutshell Wabi-sabi is the singular beauty in something that may first look wrong or flawed. It is the ability to see that the defects don’t actually take away from the aesthetic but enhance it. If you think of a sunset it isn’t perfectly lined colours with a perfectly circular yellow son in the middle. It’s a miasma of colours with a blobular orange sun slowly oozing downwards. This bleeding of warmth and colours is far more beautiful then if it was perfectly ruled lines on a page. Even in great art the “flaws” are still there. The transient nature of the human condition was something that the great da Vinci strived to capture and did so most famously in his masterpiece which we call the Mona Lisa. He deliberately attempted to capture a smile that was dynamic and fleeting because that is what he himself saw when he walked the streets. He could see the beauty in this inbetween moment and evidently so can we because people are still lining up to see her smile change depending at what angle they stand at. We can appreciate the imperfections in art, we can compose sonnets about it in nature, yet we condemn it in ourselves.

So what should we do? Quite simply embrace the Wabi-sabi, be our own sunset and be our own Mona Lisa’s smile.

I don’t know how long I’ll be on this journey for but I’ll keep you posted in more Confessions of a Mad Mooer.