Friday, September 29

On the Stigma of Therapy

I’ve seen a huge increase in mental health awareness over the past couple of years which is unbelievably great. It seems that more people are clocking on that mental illness isn’t an imaginary scapegoat that people whip out every time they need an excuse for their mistakes/undesirable personality. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen anyone tackle the stigma of actually going and getting help i.e. seeing a professional. Therapists are ridiculed in TV and film, and the practice is treated like pseudoscience; but it really shouldn’t be that way and people should be encouraged to seek out therapy. Stigmatising therapy is dangerous, as it can put people off getting help when they need it the most. A lot of people are scared of counselling because of the connotations surrounding it, but just like a physical illness, ignoring it may just make things worse. I recall a time when someone told me they had a pretty serious mental disorder, and when I nicely told them they should get therapy, they took it as an insult and chose to stick with their self-diagnosis. Although some self-diagnosis is required for you to notice that there's a problem, it's advisable to see a professional and get a proper diagnosis. Even if you're studying psychology (like I was) you can still be incorrect about some things and it helps to just talk it out with a therapist. If it was up to me, everyone would have their own personal therapist that they could talk to about their day and their thoughts.

Not enough information is provided on what to do for those that are seeking help so I thought I’d be a little informative for once. If you're not at university, the first place to visit is your GP and in most cases, you'll be offered medication first to see if your mental health improves. Now there's a lot of stigma with drug therapy itself, particularly antidepressants. The important thing to consider before you write them off is that the majority of people get better just on drugs alone, however, you're under no obligation to take them. If drug therapy doesn't work, then you can be put on the waiting list for psychotherapy. Sadly, it's quite a long wait, averaging at around 6 weeks (which I believe is preposterous, but that's how under-funding works). If your university has a support service and you don't want medication, then you can skip to psychotherapy straight away. What you receive will vary on where you go and what you’re struggling with so all I can do is share my experience. The first thing that happened was I had a consultation session to determine if I genuinely needed help and what I needed help with. My tip here would be to write any potential symptoms down beforehand so you make sure you mention every one. For a number of people, this session will be all that’s necessary and there will be an emphasis and guidance on self-help literature. For more complex issues, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may be the way forward.

Thanks to my cartoonist pal Tom Morris - check out more of his work here


CBT can be used for a number of different mental health problems like depression, anxiety and OCD. The number of sessions you receive will vary, but the emphasis is on changing how you think. The therapy doesn’t just stop when your session is over, self-help and actually wanting to change is crucial. This is another stage where the stigma of therapy can be detrimental, it’s difficult to want to change when people don’t support the method you are using. This can lead people to other less effective methods. For example, you may be tempted to just talk to a friend about all of your problems and hypothetically, any good friend would listen. In my opinion though, this should be avoided for a number of reasons. First of all, it’s unwise to become reliant on a person that may not be there for you forever and it’s unfair to expect them to be there for you forever. Therapists are paid to be there, it’s their literal job. Secondly, an untrained person will probably not know what to say and in some cases, could make you worse. Therapists are taught to not judge and to listen. They are sworn to confidentiality and have a wide knowledge of mental illness. If you feel like you can’t tell your therapist everything then you can simply request for a different one; after all, they’re people too and it’s not anyone’s fault if you’re not compatible. Other alternatives to counselling are out there if you don't deem it to be for you. Writing therapy is a straightforward method with surprisingly effective results. Simply writing how you feel can help you process better and improve how you feel. There are a number of different methods to try and I found a couple of suggestions here. Alternatively, if you want someone to talk to then Reddit could be helpful. Subreddits like r/depression and r/anxiety can be used to express daily victories or struggles. From what I’ve seen, there seems to be a really supportive community on there. A word of warning, it is still Reddit and anyone can comment on anything you write so be cautious. If you’re severely struggling and having suicidal thoughts then a safer option would be to use a helpline and the numbers for some UK services can be found here. For mental illnesses where the safety of yourself and other people is in question, a psychiatric hospital may be considered and more information about that can be found here.

Telling someone you’re getting help for your mental health is ridiculously scary, as you hope they don’t think you’re insane. But if anything, it’s a huge achievement, as it takes so much courage to admit you have a problem and then do something about it. Please stop any negativity towards therapy and let’s get some more funding into it please. Thanks.

Wednesday, June 28

Astrology Vs. Psychology

Astronomy is the study of celestial bodies. It is a wonderful and fascinating subject that furthers our understanding of science, technology and life itself. Now, astrology is astronomy's arrogant little brother who thinks he's really smart and relevant whereas in reality he probably attends BNP rallies and votes for UKIP. Astrology is the “study” of how celestial bodies affect people on Earth. It's a pseudoscience that is disregarded by the entire scientific community, yet people still believe in it and horoscopes feature in a worryingly high number of publications. It’s pretentious to think that you are so important in the universe that the movements of the planets directly affect you, and it’s insulting that any hardship you’ve faced in life has had no effect on your personality, because it was already predetermined from your date of birth. Well, I'm an "intelligent" Virgo, making me perfectly qualified to call astrology out on this bullshit and explain why some believe in it.

There are a few reasons why astrology should be completely dismissed. Firstly, the Earth wobbles on its axis every 25,800 years in an event called precession. This means that the dates used for the original astrological charts are now incorrect as the stars aren’t in the same place in the sky compared to when astrology was conceived. For example, I'm born on the 9th September, so two millennia ago I would've been a Virgo. However, now the constellation that is behind the sun on my birthday is Leo. Astrologers don’t take this into account, opting to use the original Babylonian dates. People are reading incorrect horoscopes and personality descriptions, yet still relate to it… a tad fishy, don’t you think? Secondly, astrologers cherry-pick the astronomical data they use in their predictions and disagree with each other about what should be included. Western astrologers updated their charts with new planet discoveries, whereas Eastern astrologers only use the five original planets that were visible in ancient times. Horoscopes differ in every single publication, there’s no objective aspect to it at all. A 13th constellation (Ophiuchus) was even ignored by the Babylonians; 12 star signs with their respective opposites are a lot more convenient to write for. Lastly and most importantly, no controlled study has provided evidence for any astrological predictions. There is no statistical or factual basis for a belief in astrology and we wouldn’t tolerate this in any scientific field.


Psychology can be used to explain how we are fooled into taking astrology seriously. Humans are prone to several cognitive biases, one of the biggest being confirmation bias. This is when we focus on information that supports our hypotheses and ignore evidence that doesn’t. Horoscopes tend to be quite lengthy and include a lot of topics (love, friendship, financial etc.); if we relate to even one of these, we will exclaim “Wow, so true!” and then ignore all the things that didn’t happen. The use of ‘Barnum statements’ facilitates this logical fallacy. These are statements that are so vague that anyone can relate to them. For example, I read that Virgos apparently can seem cold at first but are really friendly when you get to know them… isn’t that the same for most people? We tend not to read the horoscopes for other star signs, but if we did, we probably would find something to relate to in some, if not all of them. Astrology can also be used as a safety mechanism for people attributed with an external locus of control. This is when someone believes that their life is mostly controlled by external forces like luck or fate, allowing failures to be scapegoated on anything other than yourself. Nobody likes you? Eugh, it’s so difficult being an insensitive Sagittarius, it definitely doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that you attend BNP rallies. Albeit this is a slight exaggeration, but mindsets like this exist and some choose to judge others’ personalities solely on their star signs.

Dating websites use star signs as a compatibility measure but it’s ridiculously ignorant to dispose of your Capricorn suitors, just because you’re an Aries. Maybe we should try and understand personalities better, instead of cowering away from them and relying on ancient methods to live our lives and initiate/avoid interactions. This is why I believe that people should be aware of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The MBTI is a questionnaire which categorises you into one of 16 personality types based on four different measures which are: Mind, Energy, Nature and Tactics. Each of these aspects have a scale with two opposing values. The Mind trait explains how we interact with people and environments. You can be Introverted, i.e. preferring solidarity, or Extraverted, preferring social situations. Energy refers to our perceptions of the world and how we process information. INtuitive people are open-minded and curious whereas ObServant people focus on experience and facts. The Nature aspect is about our ability to cope and make decisions. Thinking and Feeling are the two categories one can fit in, with the former being an emphasis on logic over emotion and the latter being highly involved with empathy. The final aspect, Tactics, is about how we tackle work. Judging individuals like to plan in advance and love clarity, whereas Prospecting individuals are spontaneous and adaptable. Once you complete the test, you get a four-letter acronym and a few pages of information on what it means. It even addresses a lot of the parts of your life that astrology just guesses at, including your relationships and friendships.

Personality is a really difficult thing to measure and understand, so you shouldn’t use the MBTI solely to comprehend yourself. An important fact to consider is that personalities can be constantly changing. For example, some days I feel less spontaneous than usual and so would become more “judging” than “prospecting”, according to the theory. This is problematic as only those with extreme traits may get a stable personality type. Additionally, it is immensely difficult to avoid being biased when answering the questions and objectively knowing yourself is quite tricky. Regardless, at least it uses a scientific rationale for its findings and doesn’t just use a date of birth. It may not give you a day to day instructions on how to live your life, but it will give you a guideline for your journey of self-discovery. You can take the test here.


Monday, April 17

Review: Abzû

Abzû is essentially a diving simulator with an endless number of fish, and a huge aquarium to house everything in. I use the term ‘aquarium’ as Abzû creates the immense illusion of total underwater freedom, but it yanks at your flippers with disappointing invisible walls if you stray too far from the linear path. The ocean is a beautiful and mysterious place so it’s upsetting when all of the exploratory parts of the game are sectioned into little cubes of water; as if you were swimming around a really, really good looking Windows screensaver. Despite the above criticisms, Abzû is overflowing with gobsmacking moments and it can proudly be considered as the spiritual successor to Journey. Though the big question is: does it top Journey?


Thursday, February 2

To Christina

I found out you died this week.

You've been gone for about three months and I didn't even have a clue. Having no mutual friends or social media connections made our friendship pretty peculiar, but it also meant that I would be blissfully ignorant about your last days. If only I had known what you were going through. My head is filled with so many regrets and hypothetical scenarios where I could've helped you. It's so overwhelming. I feel so guilty. It never occurred to me that you would do such a thing.

You were so mysterious, enhancing my innate curiosity. Although we had similar problems, I could never truly understand your mental state. You would never let me delve too deep into your mind, it made you feel vulnerable. You knew I was there to talk to, but you didn't want to talk. I wish you would've let me comfort you. I know you lived a hard life. I just wish you would've talked to me before you would do it. I feel so angry. It never occurred to me that you would do such a thing.

You were so intelligent, I felt ridiculously out of my depth when you would talk. We didn't converse frequently but I thoroughly enjoyed our sporadic 3am chats. And it was such an honour that you would read my work. You made me feel a lot better during a very difficult time period. It's a shame that I couldn't do the same for you. I feel so upset. It never occurred to me that you would do such a thing.

I hope you're at peace now. I hope you're in a place with endless numbers of cats and an infinite supply of bread (maybe the cats are even specifically trained to bring you bread).

You were a wonderful and unique friend.

No-one can hurt you anymore.

Rest in peace, Christina.

Your favourite flowers, painfully fitting

Sunday, October 9

Cats & People

Luna - 

the Mischievous One

As an avid fan of the feline species, I've never understood how anyone can dislike cats. From the fat and lazy house cats found in funny YouTube videos to the majestic and ferocious big cats of Africa and Asia... seriously, how can anyone dislike cats??? Instead of repeatedly screaming the former question though, I'm going to try and convince you why disliking cats is totally irrational. Huge extrapolation here, but I would even go as far to say that disliking any non-human animal is plain wrong. Furthermore, I'll discuss why this type of backwards thinking can effect how we treat our own species.

When inquiring about the reason for why one would dislike a cat, I received a variety of responses. They scratch, their fur gets everywhere and they are easily startled. Essentially, it's either a physical feature or a behaviour specifically associated to them. There are evidently going to be inter-cat exceptions, with some being so sassy that they will interact with anything that crosses their path, but these are atypical. The crucial point is that: animals can't change their nature overnight. The formation of an animal's nature has usually taken hundreds of years to form as a result of evolution and has been passed along via genetics or learned from observation. A cat that has been heavily mistreated during his or her nine lives, may not be the most friendliest of creatures, and that's sadly to be expected. Animals literally have no obligation to appease us by changing their nature. We are not gods that they have to worship. This point may not register if you've never had shy pets, so it's time to get anecdotal.

Pandora - 

the Sophisticated One

When I first picked up my two cats from the shelter, I was so ecstatic that the three of us were gonna get home and bond over yarns of wool and catnip; but this did not happen. For the first few days, Luna and Pandora spent most of their time living behind the sofa, in spite of all the cool toys lying in the centre of the room. Disappointment ensued as an impatient and immature Saman couldn't comprehend why my cats wouldn't return the love I so generously bestowed upon them. It was cute because I could hear them playing with the toys at night, but during the day, they would vanish completely, without a trace. They may attempt to seduce you with a pseudo-friendship whenever they're hungry, but don't get fooled, it takes time for the average cat to befriend you. It's up to them when they want to socialise with you, but it's beautiful when it happens. Cats give you a sense of modesty and destroy any feeling of superiority you may feel as a human. The first time you can touch one without them scratching or biting your arm off is truly magical. It becomes easier to comprehend if you parallel how you treat animals with how you treat a date. If you try to touch them without forming a bond first, it gets awkward for everyone involved. Petting someone's head on a first date is likely to end disastrously and you can't blame them if they get aggressive. A small minority may enjoy it though, so take the risk if you like, I'm not your damn dating coach. Please don't take this dating analogy too far though, as bestiality is extremely wrong.

Even in extreme cases, you don't have the right to judge an animal on its' nature. If your parents get mauled in a freak crocodile incident, then you can't hold the crocodile accountable. Declaring war on all of the reptiles on Earth would be very silly. The idiom 'a leopard never changes its' spots' is used in a negative manner to describe someone that doesn't change, though if you take it literally, it can be used to support my claim. Judging a living creature on something it has next to no control over is plain irrational. Thus, if you dislike something because of how it naturally behaves, you're a bit of a moron. And, if you dislike something because of the way it looks, you're even more so a moron. I personally find spiders terrifying and complain about it on a regular basis. Despite this, I can't deny how valuable they are as a species and as a consequence, I can't dislike them. I'm not saying unconditionally love every creature on the planet, it's okay to have favourites. This is more of a plea for humans to get their heads out of their arses and to eradicate prejudice towards living creatures. I would ideally want to live in a world where people exclaim "Wow, that angler fish looks so cool!" as opposed to "Ew, that angler fish looks disgusting!" We should really be in awe that we get to experience such a huge variety of life, especially considering no other generation will have had the opportunity to connect to the internet and learn about every organism that has been discovered.

Thursday, October 6

Arachnids & Gaming

Fear is an odd thing. Especially a fear of something silly and tiny like a spider. I am one of these silly people with this silly fear of spiders. I’m not sure if I was arachnophobic before playing video games or if it developed after my many years of gaming but I don’t think the excessive and unwelcome appearance of the creepy buggers in games has helped. The thing about spiders in video games is that they are rarely as tiny as their non-digital counterparts in the real world. Video game spiders are usually about 60 feet tall, with the ability to shoot smaller minion spiders out of what I assume is their arse (spider anatomy is not my strong suit). They are ALWAYS angry and they ALWAYS charge straight at you, shrieking viciously with their razor-sharp fangs and their eight horrible hairy legs. You can imagine my paranoia when I’m playing a game and suddenly I see cobwebs everywhere. If I’m aware that a game has oversized spiders in it then I become hesitant in buying it and no games developer wants to lose that sweet moola.

I didn’t experience true arachnophobia until I played Limbo. The antagonist, simply referred to as ‘The Spider’, is incomparable to anything else I’ve ever faced in the digital realm. A still image of The Spider isn’t scary at all. But when you play Limbo, you will realise why it’s so petrifying. The monochromatic tones, the film grain filter and the acousmatic music. The ambience in Limbo is so peaceful, as you explore this spooky forest. It makes you develop a false sense of security as you think to yourself that no game with a little child as a protagonist can be scary or gruesome. That is until you reach an odd-looking tree. A tree that somehow lunges one of its’ branches at you and penetrates your stomach. It’s not a tree. It’s how you’re first introduced to The Spider. It’s in that moment where I screamed a few words that are too profane to write down; whilst simultaneously appreciating the use of silhouettes as no other art style could’ve pulled this feat off. I hoped that it would stay in the tree. It didn’t. He disappears for a while, but unfortunately you walk straight into his lair. The web slows you down as he creeps up on you. This would actually be my worst nightmare in real life and it made me feel so sorry for the insects you see on nature documentaries that get immobilised in spiders’ webs. The Spider foolishly spares you and cocoons you to munch on at a later time. You free yourself and have to hop away still cocooned, Spider in chase. Eventually, after a few close calls, The Spider gets crushed by a boulder and all that remains of him is his body and one leg. He lunges at you for the final time and you catch his leg and pull it out of his body. Victory.

Even after I had killed the Limbo spider, I spent the majority of the rest of the game thinking that his family would want revenge and come for me.

I assure you, it's a lot worse when you see it move

Thursday, September 8

Metronomy, Two Door Cinema Club, Tribes & Azealia Banks (NME Tour) - 11/02/2012

Azealia Banks:
We have to address the elephant in the room first of all. Azealia didn't really fit in with the other three artists in 2012's NME Tour. Some may like her music but alas I am not one of those people... I fear that her obsessions with the N word and genitalia are just ways to try and mindlessly be controversial. Her one hit wonder '212' is the only thing that made the audience produce any sort of positive reaction and I have to admit that it's infuriatingly catchy. She is like the Katie Hopkins of music though and I think everyone would prefer it if she refrained from rubbing her private parts on stage.

Tribes:
Tribes came on after Azealia had finished touching herself. They're a pretty solid support band and I was sad when they broke up, considering that they're actually the band I've seen live the most (a whole three times!). That being said, I wouldn't class them as anything special. In my opinion, they just failed to produce a consistent and distinct sound. Their lyrics are 'meh' but surprisingly singable. They're mostly known for their song 'We Were Children' which provided a decent end to their part of the gig. My personal favourite songs are 'Sappho' and 'Whenever', but as you can tell from their music videos, they take themselves way too seriously. A few happier or more upbeat songs would've made the experience more enjoyable but a nice warm up nonetheless.

Setlist:
Whenever
Sappho
Corner of an English Field
When My Day Comes
Coming of Age
Himalaya
We Were Children