Growing up in a tiny coastal village in the North of Sweden, forests taken straight out of the fairytale illustrations by John Bauer and the Bay of Bothnia were my playground; it was the perfect back-drop for make belief and my favourite ”game”, which was to wander around aimlessly and make up stories in my head. In fact, stories—in the shape of books, films, plays or made up on the spot by my dad at bedtime—shaped my whole childhood, so it was hardly surprising that I decided to become a storyteller.
Now I live in South London, working freelance as a writer, video editor and actor, alongside my own creative projects as a writer, filmmaker and artist. And when I’m not busy working, I like to pester my partner with existential questions, preferably at three o’clock in the morning when my whirlwind of a mind won’t let me sleep, tend to my tomato plants, drink copious amounts of black coffee (although I have cut down considerably, in an attempt to reduce anxiety and increase sleep), watch a lot of weird films and skulk around the neighbourhood in search of other people’s cats to pet.
I am also a sporadic yogi, a ‘difficult’ feminist and, as you must know by now, a passionate mental health advocate diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder and anxiety.
I would like to use this platform to share my story and, hopefully, inspire others who, like me, are struggling to ride out the storms in their heads, and create an online supportive community.
“It comes down to the fact that you supply the blue, and they supply the other colors and mix them with your blue, and maybe there’s some blue left in the painting and maybe there isn’t. Maybe there wasn’t supposed to be any there in the first place. So have some fun and make a good blue and walk away.”Viggo mortensen
Mental Health Playlist:
Books that enlightens, inspires or just stirs shit up: The edible woman (Margaret Atwood), The Bloody Chamber (Angela Carter), Bröderna Lejonhjärta (Astrid Lindgren), To the lighthouse (Virginia Woolf), Ibland är man lessen, ibland är man glad (Martina Montelius), Moab is my washpot (Stephen Fry), Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë), The order of Time (Carlo Rovelli), Her body & other parties (Carmen Maria Machado), The little prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry), On art and life (John Ruskin), Ice (Anna Kavan) and Angela Carter’s Book of Wayward Girls & Wicked Women.
Films that do the same (Abridged Version from list of 300+): Zootropolis, Pensionat Oscar (Like it never was before), The secret life of words, Amores perros (Love Dogs), Requiem for a dream, Ma vie en rose (My life in pink), Pusher 2, Frozen, Den brysomme mannen (The bothersome man), De grønne slagtere (The green butchers), I Daniel Blake, The Darjeeling Limited, We need to talk about Kevin, In Bruges, The indian runner, Romeo + Juliet, Resan till Melonia (The journey to Melonia) and You and me and everyone we know.
Films specifically about bipolar or other mental illnesses worth checking out: Touched with fire, It’s kind of a funny story, Silverlinings Playbook, Joker, Infinitely Polar Bear, Girl Interrupted, The soloist, Black Swan, The skeleton twins, The hours, The machinist, Lars and the real girl, Persona and What’s eating Gilbert Grape?
Voices (not rock or metal) that will break and mend your heart all at once & light a fire under your arse when you feel like giving up: Nina Simone, Shirley Bassey, Marlene Dietrich, Maria Callas, Janis Joplin, Edith Piaf, Aretha Franklin (half my “stay” playlist has power ballads by her on it!), Etta James, Ola Salo (whether solo, in Jesus Christ Superstar or as lead singer for The Ark), Rickard Söderberg, Simon & Garfunkel and Judy Garland (seriously, “I don’t care” makes an awesome soundtrack when that mean voice in your head is telling you everyone is judging you!)
Contemporary people to look to for inspiration: Sasha Velour (If you can go and see her live show “Smoke & Mirrors”, trust me, it will change your life), Hannah Gadsby (Check out her Netflix special “Nanette”), Stephen Fry (if you haven’t already, watch his two BBC documentaries about bipolar disorder!) and Greta Thunberg (for non-mental health related perspective & hope)
“Bipolar disorder is a mood system that functions like the weather. It’s independent of the things that happen in your life. I have problems, but they don’t have me!”carrie fisher
Self Care / (Healthy) Coping Strategy Checklist:
- Remembering the four essentials: Eating (healthy & regularly), drinking water, sleeping & exercising.
- Do a mind & body scan: notice any aches or pains, tensions or physical symptoms of anxiety, be aware of your body and acknowledge any symptoms, emotions, thoughts or harmful urges without judging (or indulging, if you have self harm or self-sabotage urges – just experience them, breathe and remind yourself that anything uncomfortable happening in your mind or body right now is going to pass; might be a good idea to have some emergency tricks up your sleeve if the self harm urges get too powerful, such as wear a rubber band around your wrist that you can flick or use sharpies to draw on your skin)
- Device and practise a relaxation routine that works for you (this can be meditation, yoga, mindfulness or just simple breathing exercises)
- Find a creative outlet that resonates with you & make time for it on a regular basis
- Build a support network of both health care professionals to contact if you need help or find yourself in a crisis and people who understand what you’re dealing with because they’re dealing with something similar themselves, or who don’t quite understand but tries to because they love you and will do their best to support you when you need it whether they understand or not (both online and in real life) and, where possible, eliminate people from your life who actively makes you feel worse.
- Reduce stress as much as possible
- Go for a walk – preferably in nature, whether it’s a forest or a park or a patch of garden – trust me, demons hate fresh air and the gentle exercise does wonders too! If you feel up to it, a run works even better!
- Never underestimate the power of a shower!
- Have fun devicing a more specific toolbox with ideas & strategies that you know works for you – be creative with it! (It might also be a good idea to make a crisis plan for yourself, with contact numbers to trusted loved ones or crisis numbers to call, just in case! Check the Resources page for inspiration and information!)
“In the same way that one has to accept the weather, so one has to accept how one feels about life sometimes. “Today’s a crap day,” is a perfectly realistic approach. It’s all about finding a kind of mental umbrella. “Hey-ho, it’s raining inside: it isn’t my fault and there’s nothing I can do about it, but sit it out. But the sun may well come out tomorrow and when it does, I shall take full advantage.”Stephen fry