EastEnders: Is it wrong to portray somebody with mental illness talking to themselves?

This will probably go down like a lead balloon….and I will state right away that I am completely happy to be challenged on this – you might even change my mind…but here goes…

I know that there has been upset regarding the Lisa Fowler storyline in EastEnders. Her character returned to the Square and within days was seen talking to herself in what people believe is a stereotyped portrayal of mental illness. But there’s something that I, personally, think we are getting confused with regarding portrayals of mental health.

Whilst I don’t believe we should betray people as scary, frightening and irrational, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t portray mental illness in that way. It is, after all, pretty scary sometimes.

So I think with this EastEnders storyline, it all depends on what happens next. It all depends on the context. Do we get to see Lisa the person, or do we only get to see Lisa the ‘crazy person’? That’s when I might want to raise a complaint. But I’ll give it a little time yet.

I have to make something clear before I go on, I haven’t experienced psychotic symptoms myself, so I am quite prepared to put my hands up and say I’m wrong if challenged. However, I have witnessed psychotic symptoms first hand when they have blighted the lives of several of my friends when I was growing up.

If we become too consumed with stigma and confused about why we challenge it, we might shy away from showing the distress that mental illness can cause for the individual and perpetuate the idea that everyone’s ‘a bit OCD’ at times

If that was all I could remember of my friends that would be terrible. But it isn’t, of course. Because mental illness was just a part of their lives. I could tell you so many brilliant things about them but I wouldn’t want to risk naming them – because it’s not my place to do so. But if I make a point of thinking about the psychotic behaviours I saw, they were, in fact, frightening at times- more so for them than for me I must add. But nonetheless, it wasn’t a walk in the park. There were sometimes strange conversations and they did sometimes attract attention in public. Much like I have when I have suffered a panic attack that brought me to my knees or anxiety that had me convinced that I was hallucinating (a frantic hour that led me to pull a bag of hay out of the dustbin three times to check that I hadn’t imagined the mites I had removed from the chicken coop).

Talking to yourself isn’t confined to psychosis, either. I have paced the front room frantically repeating a phrase over and over mid panic, and only two weeks ago found myself doing something similar whilst driving the car on the A1 in an attempt to stop the ‘inevitable’ crash or black out I was convinced might be heading my way.

The reason I bring this up is because mental illness is often ugly. It doesn’t mean that the people who suffer are though – and that’s what we need to remember. My profile picture on Twitter does not show a terrified and anxious wallflower. But an occasional tweet might tell you that I am terrified at that moment in time.

If we become too consumed with stigma and confused about why we challenge it we might shy away from showing the distress that mental illness can cause for the individual and perpetuate the idea that everyone’s ‘a bit OCD’ at times. Or the idea that if somebody suffers brief palpitations before giving a presentation in front of an audience then they probably have an anxiety disorder. If we are scared of showing what mental illness has the potential to do to us we are giving Piers Morgan more ammunition to call us whiny, needy, twerps.

So I do think its important to show the distress – as long as it doesn’t cloud the personality. If Lisa leaves the Square immediately following her psychotic breakdown, or we see her attacking Louise (let’s remember, she hasn’t tried to hurt her, has she?) then I’ll be writing to points of view. But if the story pans out to allow us to see the empathy, the recovery and the love she has for her daughter, then I think it’s not such a bad thing after all.

What do you think?

Lucy x







Taking your fears into relationship therapy – a Horizon review

Last night’s Horizon – Why did I go mad? – was more refreshing than a Boxing Day Dip in the North Sea. You brace yourself for the cold, but you come out feeling warmed up and energised. The after effects of watching are still with me. Why? Because it allowed us to see value in, and make sense of, our fears and mental health symptoms. An approach that’s as rare as hen’s teeth (and, sadly, my hens eggs!).

I haven’t experienced auditory hallucinations (or hearing voices). Psychotic symptoms are something I can barely imagine. But the Horizon scene in the dark forest that allowed our minds to conjure up different versions of what was really there was incredibly powerful. Scary stuff.

But what if you can find peace with your fears and voices? Jacqui Dillon certainly did. It was as though Jacqui, and another inspiring contributor, Rachel Waddingham had been through relationship therapy with their voices. They’re certainly less frightening these days and, as Jacqui said, they actually remind her to pack her lunch.

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It REALLY couldn’t happen to a nicer….Political Strategist

Today’s instalment in Standard Issue Magazine discussing psychosis and stigma with Alastair Campbell.

The year 2016 is drawing to a close. And you could say it’s been one hell of a rollercoaster ride in terms of politics.

Well, I say rollercoaster: it’s actually been a one-way, never-ending log flume plunging us into the murky waters of toxic hate. Mind you, we all bought the bloody tickets, didn’t we (this year also marks the first time I ever questioned my belief in democracy).

So, you could say it’s been a remarkable year. Some might say it’s been a batshit crazy kind of year. In fact, there’s a boatload of tweets from people suggesting that two key players in the stranger-than-fiction events of 2016 must have serious mental health conditions:

“Is there any reason why Nigel Farage isn’t locked up in a mental institution?”

“@RealDonaldTrump…you may have some form of mental disease where you see the opposite of reality.”

“@RealDonaldTrump…maybe too late but I insist this man is seen for a mental evaluation.”

Now I have no idea about the mental health status of these two outspoken, loved-up buffoons, but come on Twitterers! Don’t use mental illness as an excuse to justify hatred, arrogance and serious PR failings.

Read the full article here

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A tribute to the village genius

My latest piece for Standard Issue magazine. A tribute to an old friend.

If you lived a quaint village life, you inevitably had to learn to drive. East Yorkshire villages didn’t have the same level of drama as Emmerdale. Well… unless you listened to the gossip from the Bay Horse pub.

But that was mainly limited to a bit of middle-class swinging as opposed to aeroplane crashes and lightning strikes.

So, seeking inner city excitement, most of us moved into various bedsits, flats and housing estates in Hull. Martin didn’t. He had the brains. While all we were aiming for, uni-wise was the ‘Eat Your Words’ club nights at Hull Students’ Union, Martin studied. He was the IT guru among us and, more often than not, the designated driver. He was dependable, loyal, quiet and studious.

Read the full article here