Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Depression & Nightmares

15 22 Aug 2007. 1700 Hrs. Depression & Nightmares.

Right now I am experiencing one of those very scary moments we depressives have from time to time.

During the last Forty Eight Hours I have made two postings here, spent a wonderful “social” evening with my son, and, sorted out some potential Social Work Articles, overcome my fear of rejection, and submitted them to a magazine. I have also identified and printed some relevant wildlife photographs and, again overcome the rejection fear, and submitted these to a competition.

Why the scare? Because this activity is both a reminder of just how inactive I have been for weeks, and a possible indicator that I am about to zoom off in the opposite direction.
As usual there are also huge gaps in my memory of my “time away” so I am scanning what memory is there to try to discover whether I have done, or not done, anything during the period to cause upset or harm to others, or to myself. My discoveries so far are focused on too much money spent on CD’s and Cigarettes, not too bad because I can balance these by living on beans on toast for a while. (Pollyanna moment: This will also help my needed weight loss, and through that, my back pain).
It is because I am still on the Sad side of OK that I remain fearful. During the next twenty four hours I might slip back to that frightening place, or I might suddenly be filled with optimism and enthusiasm, both potentially fraught with danger so I have to hope the coin will land on the side marked OK.

I guessed change was on the way last night following a night of vivid dreams and nightmares, all completely different but all connected in some way. All containing people and places from my past, my present, and, who knows, my future?
On nights such as these I am woken, in either euphoria or fear, every couple of hours. These awakenings can be as terrifying as the dream itself but last night, (a possible indicator that I am on the up), I was able to hang on to reality and make a cup of tea and smoke a cigarette between each one to re-ground myself.

My nightmares are particularly vivid and very terrifying and if they become persistent over a few days are one of my few reliable indicators that I am going “down”. At these times the “nightmare” becomes a “day mare” on waking and I can continue to be haunted by the sights and sounds of the “mare” in a hallucinatory way right through to the point it picks up again as I eventually regain sleep the following night.
Scary enough at the best (or should that be worse) of times but particularly difficult during schooldays and my working life when I had to learn to concentrate very hard on the reality of the day and push aside the visions and sounds of the fantasy being played out in my head.

All depressive suffer some symptoms they do not tell the medics for years, (sometimes never) for fear this is the thing that will finally prove they are mad and lead to them being locked up. For that reason these “day mares” remained one of my “secrets” until very recently, brought into the open because with age I no longer care if people think I am mad, I no longer care myself if I am mad as that aspect of me is responsible for the best parts of me as well as the worse.
I wrote a poem about coming to terms with Mental Illness while I was attending the day hospital. It is based on my own experiences and on some of those of my colleagues. I wont post it here because it might be overlooked, I will post it next.

Luv Bri

"I am a Loony": Poem

Here is the poem I mentioned in my previous post “Depression and Dreams”. I hope it stands alone but If read in conjunction with that posting it needs no further introduction.

It is called: -

In Good Company.

I am a loony from the bin
Society puts its rejects in.
You’ve read about me in the Sun or Mail,
Where the headline without fail,
Will warn you that you might be stabbed,
Or even have your children grabbed,
By me, or others of my kind,
Whom you will inevitably find,
Asleep in doorways, scrounging money,
To spend on booze or dogs with runny
Eyes, that we appear to keep,
Rendering our poverty obsolete,
They’d rather us you did not see,
My other loony friends and me
Claiming the life we live we choose
Our smelly clothes, our worn out shoes
Our confused speech, our confused minds
Fuelled by drugs we somehow find
Regardless of our lack of dosh
We’d clearly rather “trip” than nosh.

Winston Churchill, Lady Di
Hans Christian Andersen, and Charles Ives
Spencer Tracy, Kurt Cobain
Michelangelo and Mark Twain,
John Lennon, Vincent Van Gogh
Gustav Holst, Rachmaninoff,
Tennessee Williams, Graham Greene,
All people you might not have seen
If judged on their illness alone
By the editor of some tabloid tome.

I am a funny from the farm
I promise I wont do you harm
Some of us might, that is true
But statistically so might more of you
I’ve never robbed, I’ve never killed
Believe me, I am much too ill
Like many from the funny farm
It’s me, not you, who I might harm
And during times when I am well
You would not know, you could not tell
I’ve raised my children, stayed in work
Social responsibility I’ve not shirked
I work hard to avoid that bin
Society puts its rejects in
But this illness descends without warning
Fine at bedtime, nuts in the morning
If we frighten you, then you should see
Just how scared we are, my friends and me
And if at times we slur our speech
It’s drugs from the medics, not drugs from the streets.

Mary Shelley and John Keats
Virginia Woolf, Louis MacNiece
Ernest Hemmingway, Henrik Ibsen
Marilyn Monroe, Ralph Waldo Emerson,
Charlie Parker, Anton Bruckner,
Sylvia Plath and Edward Elgar
F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James,
All these and many other names,
Might not be known to you and me
If their madness alone the world did see.

I am a nut without a case
You’d never know it from my face
I’ve trained my countenance to hide
The torment that sometimes rages inside
If I seem ignorant when you ask
Please realise that the simplest task
Can seem immense at times like these
I’m standing, but I’m on my knees
It’s not your pity that I seek
Just understanding that this week
I might not be the man you know
I’ve lost me too, and now I’m so
Confused, bewildered, “off my head”
Contemplating being dead
The internal argument ensues
Could the loss of me be the making of you
While all that I ever achieved
Crumbles to nothing at times like these
And deep inside I’m forced to face
The truth. - I’m a nut without a case.

Charles Dickens, John Bunyan and George Fredrick Handel
Audrey Hepburn, Judy Garland and Gerard de Nerval,
Rossini, Tchaikovsky, Edgar Alan Poe,
Spike Milligan, Cole Porter and Victor Hugo
T.S Eliot, Brian Wilson, and Alfred Lord Tennyson
Charlie Mingus, Lord Byron and Emily Dickinson
Noel Coward, Samuel Johnson, and Monticelli
All shared the illness with people like me,
This world would be a less cultured place
If they’d hounded these humans out of the race.

I’m round the bend, I’m up the creek
Without a paddle in a boat that leaks.
A political pawn who lives with social rejection
Until the next general election
When headlines scream that folks like me
Are never safe, should not be free,
And if you weaken, are not sure
They’ll ask if you want us living next door
They’ll jumble several diagnosis
To arrive at a Jekyll and Hyde prognosis
To fuel the fear in folks like you
That you can never tell what we might do
You’ll have to search very hard to find
That Schizophrenia just means “confused mind”
That those with the fictional “split personality”
Are folks with depression, people like me
But the “split” in us is not “good” or “bad”
It is loss of control of what’s happy or sad
It means loss of our jobs, children, husbands and wives
It means loss of the love that we once had for life.

I am a loony from the bin
that society puts its rejects in.
Like many from the funny farm
It’s me, not you, who I might harm,
It’s not your pity that I seek,
Just understanding that this week
I might not be the man you know. . . . . . . but I’m in good company.

© Bri 2005 (with “names” from

Big Brother and I

I have never been a big fan of “Soap Opera’s” because I believe they can trivialise, and make entertainment of, issues that are the cause of great distress to some people.

I am though a great fan of good “reality television”, (I guess it’s the people watching; amateur psychologist inside me that led me into Social Work). I am particularly a fan of “Big Brother” and when I was lecturing, I was one of only two people in the staff room who were prepared to admit this.

I think this series has been the best for some time. Because the “hysterics” and the “bullies” were evicted relatively early we have had a chance to get to know in depth the more interesting contestants who are usually inhibited by the aforementioned types of personality and end up being unfairly evicted for being boring. (I certainly would not feel able to be true to myself in the company of some of the characters from the last three series including the first six weeks of this one).

I am though (in forums and to Channel 4) a fairly strong critic of some of the “Psychologists” who lend their professional title to the “On The Couch” spin off show. As professionals I have a problem with them sanctioning “punishments” such as the withdrawal of basic necessities, food and sleep, which they know are character altering punishments pushing people to limits they will never experience to the same extent in their own lives, therefore providing inaccurate examples of the contestants’ real behaviour.

As a humanist I have a problem with those Professionals, and Channel 4, sanctioning actions outlawed by the United Nations Declaration Of Human Rights. The claim that contestants know what they are signing up to does not carry weight with me. Contestants on these shows have demonstrated a degree of desperation to become celebrities by entering the show in the first place, and in my opinion, no professional “carer” should be a party to taking advantage of this desperation and using it as an excuse to treat them in what (the U.N. would say) is an inhumane manner.

I was amazed a couple of weeks ago when one of these experts, (a psychiatrist I think), raised the name of my hero Erving Goffman:


and his (Goffman’s) concept of “Total Institution”. He quoted Goffman’s work to illustrate the way the contestants are adopting what Goffman would term an “Inmate Mentality”. Having done so I would have expected an ethical professional to also point out that Goffman also identified a “Staff World”. In this “Staff World” those trusted with the welfare of the inmates, lose sight of the humanity of their “inmates” and drive them to unacceptable levels of stress in the interest of experimentation, or, perhaps even worse, in the interest of entertainment. To explain this further I need to digress.

Did you see the Reality TV programme about three years ago in which people were split into Prison Officers and Prisoners. The programme was based on a “real” psychological experiment carried out during the 1970’s at the Department of Psychology, Stanford University, California, USA, under the director of Professor Phillip Zimbardo. The experiment went completely wrong, the students chosen to be Prison Officers became so absorbed in the power they had over fellow students chosen to be prisoners that they began to exercise their power over their colleagues in cruel and dangerous ways.

Equally alarming were the ways in which the “prisoners” submitted to the abusive treatment of the guards, giving in to the “role” imposed upon them even though they could have complained and walked away at any time they wanted to.

Following the premature ending of the experiment after the intervention of a third party Phillip Zimbardo admitted his surprise that he had become so involved in the research implications of the observed behaviour that he was desensitised to the affects of the abuses of power and the cruel treatment of the “prisoners”. It was in fact a professional colleague invited by Phil Zimbardo to observe what he (Zimbardo) still perceived purely as a marvellous experiment, who pointed out the inhumane ways in which the prisoners were being treated. Immediately Zimbardo was confronted with the fact that he and his team had become “task” as opposed to “people orientated” he called as halt to the experiment.

What has this to do with the Big Brother TV programme? Read on.

My concern is not only that the Big Brother Psychiatrist drew attention to the “Total Institution” aspects of the BB House without acknowledging this “Staff World”. I am further concerned that the Psychiatrist in question, along with other psychologists involved in the programme, appear to have been drawn into the excitement of being involved in the broader experimental nature of the programme. I think this occurs to such an extent that they no longer see the “real people” inside the one-dimensional characters the programme makers create through showing only certain characteristics of individual housemates.

There are times when the psychologists speak of the housemates in caring tones but the inferences they draw from housemate behaviour demonstrate, (usually through things that are not said), that they have no idea of the overall personality of the housemate. Their observations are absolutely out of step with the observations of viewers, posted on internet message boards, who observe the behaviour of the housemates as often as possible during any twenty-four hour period.

In the context of this article it is alarming how often the testers come up with a character trait that supports the trait of a housemate that is currently being emphasised by programme editors, and spoken of in detail by presenters of “spin off” programmes. Perhaps the most alarming thing is that the behaviour traits, (and subsequent “labels”) presenters attach to contestants based on these distortions of the truth, are often first identified and voiced by the most aggressive or spiteful characters in the house for negative reasons.

I wonder if these professionals ever take account of the possible long term affects for housemate Y about whom they say: “So here is the evidence that housemate X is correct to label housemate Y as dishonest”. Even worse, they forget that within their professional circle powerful terms such as “manipulative” or “paranoid” or “devious” are applied to clients with no judgemental intent. These terms might be the verbal currency of the professional but to the layperson some of these terms carry very negative connotations.

My major concern here has been the lack of acknowledgement of the existence of the “Staff World” dynamics between Medical Professionals, Presenters, and Programme Makers throughout the current (and previous) series of Big Brother in the UK. I could draw on many examples from the current series to illustrate the things I have said above, I think two, concerning the same young woman, will suffice.

This young woman suffered depression last year following the painful decision to abort a foetus and the subsequent break down of the relationship that had led to the pregnancy. The programme makers and their psychologists were aware of these factors (and those relating to her very stressful childhood) when they deemed her able to cope with the stresses incurred by housemates on the programme. A vivacious young woman initially, she gradually became visibly depressed as the series progressed. This was partly through forming a relationship with a man in the house in which the “experts” assessed she was being manipulated by the man to his own ends: and partly through being scapegoated and bullied by this seasons “villain”, who the experts chose to describe as being “assertive and honest”.

(This denial and minimising of bullying behaviour by all members of the production staff is not new, it happens every year, passed of as “Good Telly” by the presenters whose “Staff World” mentality appears to obscure the impact of such behaviour on those who are targeted and endure it.) A quick journey around the message boards provides insight to the outrage felt by observers whose opinions are not affected by the need to provide “Good Telly”).

As the weeks progressed the young woman began to react quite hysterically, sometimes within view the housemates group, sometimes in the supposedly supportive and protective privacy of the “diary room”. The bully and her clique began to label the woman “copy cat”, claiming she was falsely duplicating the behaviour of a popular contestant from the previous series. The presenters, as they have done consistently across all series, began to respond and repeat the persecuting group’s opinion’s, giving acceptance and showing approval of the persecutory behaviour.

In fact, the non-experts such as me, who inhabit the notice boards, could see at once a major difference between the behaviour of last year’s housemate and this years. Last years housemate would exaggerate her reactions to things she found unfavourable in a manner, which often left her laughing at herself. Our young woman this year was clearly in genuine distress, and making genuine requests for help, through her hysteria. One presenter who had found the behaviour of last year’s contestant entertaining and funny began to laugh at and joke about the distress of this year’s contestant. I was relieved when, for once, one of the psychologists told the presenter that we were observing genuine distress being expressed in a manner that was concerning. The reaction of the presenter was to continue laughing even while the psychologist was explaining this to her. She apologised saying, “I know it’s real but I can’t help finding it funny”. Despite having been told she was witnessing genuine distress the presenter repeated these actions and words many times during subsequent shows right up to the the point the contestant could take no more and walked off the show.

Absolute “Staff World” behaviour, and out of character. I believe (based on aspects of her personality shown on other programmes, and other editions of this one) that Davina McCall, the presenter, is a very caring lover of humanity. Her continuing belief it was ok to laugh, and to continue laughing even when told (basically), this is not funny, is excused in that Staff World in the interest of “good telly”. To please the other occupants of that “world” she put aside her own sensitivities and continued with the behaviour that is rewarded within the Staff World. For these reasons I can forgive Davina McCall but not the psychologist who I believe had an ethical obligation (particularly regarding the supposedly confidential Diary Room content), to say, this is real, these emotions should not be used for entertainment. Why didn’t he or any of his professional colleagues say these things? Because they also inhabit that staff world where the interests of the staff world, “Good Telly”, and possibly their own advancement within the medium, take precedent over the needs of vulnerable “inmates”.

Three weeks after the above incidents our vulnerable inmate had experienced the elation of thinking her main adversary had been evicted and having that happiness snatched away 30 minutes later when her adversary was readmitted. (I guess this was done in the cause of entertainment but just whose entertainment is unclear because the adversarial behaviour had led to almost universal condemnation and both media and private complaints to Channel 4).

The following week she became hysterical once again when asked to carry out a group task wearing what she perceived to be a “Pregnant Woman’s” dress. The half of the housemates with whom she had shared her history, with the exception of her adversary, all understood her predicament, the other half, including the man she usually turned to for support, berated her.

Here I can forgive the other inmates any shortcomings because they were all involved with their own stress in respect of their inmate duties. However, I once again found myself thinking, “Where are her protectors from the Staff World? The people she trusted with the most intimate secrets of her sad short life so they could take care of her whenever that was necessary”. These “power people” knew she had the abortion a few months ago. Even if the needs of the task led the task setters to forgot this history, she reminded them of it the second she said, “I can’t wear a pregnant woman’s dress”. Once again the culture of the Staff group overrode the needs of a vulnerable “inmate”. This, to such an extent, that the episode was shown for entertainment on both the main show and the spin offs. The producers, nor psychologists, provided balance by mentioning the history.

I started off here saying I am perplexed by the involvement of the Psychiatric and Psychological professions in the Big Brother TV show. I have explained my view that the “Staff World” culture of the programme leads them to act unethically, allowing the needs of “Entertainment” to take precedent over the human “rights” of people placed in a vulnerable position. I have expressed my opinion that these professionals have an ethical obligation to speak out and tell Big Brother when they see abuse of individuals taking place, that they have an obligation to remember that what is “Interesting Behaviour” to them, is possibly detrimental to the person on the receiving end of that behaviour. I also believe they have an obligation to point out that the negative behaviour of some individuals should be stopped in the long term interest of the individual, not encouraged in the name of entertainment.

Finally, in respect of the young woman whose experiences I drew upon to make the examples above, if she should ever read this I hope it is clear that I am full of admiration for the way she handled a very traumatic experience, and I am going to finish this piece with her words.

If I were a psychologist with a brief to advise on the welfare of people on a television programme, I think I might view it as throwing self on sword time if someone I had already known was especially vulnerable before she started out on the programme, walked out of the programme a few weeks later saying “I would have gone mad if I had stayed in there one more day”. Within the staff world of course they will all be saying “her choices, her responsibility”.

Luv Brian

Monday, 20 August 2007

Me and The Rubettes

I’ve not been too well but even so I was amazed when I visited here earlier today to discover it is over a month since I last posted. I have not written anything elsewhere either, a sure sign that as usual I’ve been even less well than I thought I was.

While I was away a lovely woman called Cathy from "Cathy's Ressurection Corner" followed up my request to visit and make suggestions that might improve this blog. She mentions extra spacing between paragraphs so I will be a day or two sorting that out before I get back to posting here properly. In the meantime I’d like to share with you this review I wrote to put on the Amazon as I returned to “the world” at the weekend.

The Very Best Of “The Rubettes”.
Spectrum Records: Compilation 1998: Cat No. 554 331-2.

What a gem this is. As a “record collector”, I keep an eye out for these compilations so I can replace vinyl lost, mislaid, or guiltily left behind, during my youth. To this end I have just catalogued and listened to four “best of’s” from the 60’s and 70’s. The others all fitted the usual pattern, the two or three hits from “back then” shinning through some fairly murky other tracks which serve to prove why those particular bands or artists ran out of steam, and then: THIS!!!!!

Now I must confess I was never a “fan” of the Rubettes and never owned any of their stuff, (The early Seventies were the years of marriage and new children for me so record buying had to stop. My “nights out” comprised working behind the bar of my local (the now defunct Beehive in Wallingford) where Mike, the Landlords son and I would drink away our wages once the punters had left.): the Rubettes were however, one of the few bands who caused me to put some of my beer money into the jukebox so I could hear clearly what the punters had been paying to listen to.

The tracks that impressed strongly enough for me to seek the band out thirty five years on are all on here, “Sugar Baby Love”, “I Can Do It”, and “Juke Box Jive” are all juke box classics, so imprinted from those Beehive nights that I have often found myself singing them during the intervening years. I decided they belonged in my collection about a year ago but doubted (very unfairly it seems) the wisdom of forking out for a whole cd for the sake of three tracks when the collection needs so many others. Consequently I have scoured many “Seventies Hits” type cd’s and ended up with three original takes of Sugar Baby but only re-recorded versions of the others. (Only is not supposed to be a put down here, the re-incarnations of this band are brilliant but when you know the original so well the “ambience” is not the same and the instrumentation cannot possibly be identical).

Anyway, while I have been cataloguing these “re-incarnations” the tunes have been haunting me to such a degree that I finally decided that buying an “originals” cd would be worth it regardless of the quality of the unheard tracks. At least I could check out if I remembered those other tracks authentically or whether I was just being a music snob. Boy am I glad I did this.

I remember that at the time of its release we had “Sugar Baby Love parts 1 and 2”, my three previous copies are all of part 2. I had hoped to find the slightly more up tempo part 1 on here and although that is not the case I think I now know the reason why so I can stop searching. From the notes, I learn (as is so often the case with “oldies”), of early personnel changes while the track was in the pipeline so I assume there might be contractual issues with the unmentioned Part 1. Apart from that original slight disappointment, everything else about this cd was pure joy.

Firstly: recognising that apart from the three tracks I had set out to “collect”, I have some recollection of each of the first nine tracks. The other six were also part of the soundtrack of my early twenties: car radio: Top of the Pops, etc: but if you were aware of the size of my song library you might be as impressed as I am that these hardly listened to tracks have stuck in my mind. Absolute quality both lyrically and musically, as for the rest, well, I am gobsmacked.

This cd opens with six simply brilliant examples of what “Glam Rock”, as a music Genre, rather than a costume drama, was all about. Although these tracks have all enthused me to revisit the band, “Juke Box Jive” in particular wonderfully illustrates the complete sound of the era, driving guitars and versatile pounding drumming (the Glitter Band used two drummers to get the same effect) supporting brilliantly harmonised powerful singing, all coming together and screaming “I bet you can’t keep your feet still”. No, I cannot, even when it stops.

But hold, I have yet to share the real “discoveries” I made here.
Wayne Bickerton and Tony Waddington wrote all the tracks named above. These two master songwriters of the Glam Rock Genre, were up there with Roy Wood: “Angel Fingers” and “See My Baby Jive”: the songs Chapman and Chinn wrote for mud: and Shephard and Rossal’s songs for The Glitter Band once their “Leader” had departed.

The real song writing jewels on here however belong to two members of the band, namely Alan Williams and John Richardson. Arthur Davis, writer of the “sleeve notes”, seems to imply that it was the desire of the band to leave Bickerton and Waddington that led to a decline in their popularity, this clearly was not the case. “You’re The Reason Why”: “Under One Roof”: and “Baby I Know”: (all written by Alan Williams and John Richardson) were all hits during 1976 and 1977: meanwhile rock genius Roy Wood failed to chart with an “original” after 1973 along with “Sweet”: Mud and Glitter Band faded from 1975

“Baby I know” is one of those lost gems of my past, a tune I have hummed for thirty years wherever music is discussed, begging in desperation, “one of you must know it”. I sort of remembered the title, but as soon as the music began, I felt that thrill of recognition and anticipation. This, (along with the aforementioned tracks) is a classic of the early seventies, prematurely consigned to the dustbin marked “obsolete”. The bullies of punk, and it’s supporters, (perhaps I should say bandwagon jumpers), among radio, TV, and the music press, telling us we didn’t need melodies or meaningful lyrics any longer: and that we were somehow deficient if we did: as they censored what we listened to. It was this media led change in public taste that saw the premature end of this band (and others) in the U.K (though not on the continent), and not the change of writers implied through the notes.

“Under one roof” provides beautiful, poetical insights to the experiences of those courageous enough to be openly Gay in the Seventies. As I was reminded of its qualities, and those of “You’re the reason why”, while, for the first time properly hearing “Kid Runaway”, I was aware that if they were released now these would be recognised as masterpieces of “Country Cross Over”, on a par with the three minute storytelling of Willie Nelson, Jim Webb, Don McLean and Ralph McTell. “Baby I know” also fits this category.

I could enthuse over all of the other tracks on here but if you still need convincing how vocally accomplished this band were shut your eyes and listen to “I’m just dreaming”. I defy you not to hear the surf breaking in the background as Beach Boy style harmonies, complete with subtle Mike Love style bass tones, wash over you. I have always remembered the Rubettes as a good band: I was wrong, they were a great band: buy this, and knock a few punk compilations onto the floor as you do so.