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ISSUE 63, 2017

>> Stigma: Raising our Voices >> Breakdown to Brilliant >> An Unstoppable Force >> My Experience of OCD >> Wellbeing News >> Art, Science & more

MAGAZINE FOR WELLBEING


Equilibrium Patron Dr Liz Miller Mind Champion 2008

What Equilibrium means to me‌. WEB ALERTS If you know anyone who would like to be on our mailing list and get the magazine four times a year (no spam!) please email: equilibriumteam@hotmail. co.uk (www.haringey.gov.uk/ equilibrium). Equilibrium is devised, created, and produced entirely by team members with experience of the mental health system. Photo copyright remains with all individual artists and Equilibrium. All rights reserved. 2011

Graphic Design: Anthony J. Parke

I enjoyed writing a short article for the mental health magazine Equilibrium based on my personal experience of having a mental illness for the last 20 years. The office environment and people were all friendly and gave support on tap, especially when you got stuck for ideas or needed technical help using the computer. The other contributors present all shared a mental health history, so gelled well together and we were made to feel very welcome. Norman I found Equilibrium at a crucial point, where I found an open door to try a new healing form of writing and expression. Honest, happy, healthy. One thing I have to say, I go at my own pace and learn little lessons on computers, in art and writing, communicating, and ultimately a chance to get some self-confidence and self-esteem back after being belittled and degraded and abused. I found the open light of Equilibrium at the end of a dark tunnel of life. Equilibrium gives me a purpose. Thank you. Blessings. Richard The magazine means a lot to me for the reason is that it allows me to write about various aspects of mental health and wellbeing. This is one of the only places where you can talk about this sticky matter and issues surrounding wellbeing. Working here also allows me to meet like-minded people, who are passionate about talking about their experiences of their conditions. Seeing these issues being published spreads information on mental health, and other topics, even further. Devzilla Equilibrium has been a fantastic form of expression for me. I have the choice to write about what I want and I can put my ideas into practice. I have been with Equilibrium since 2007 and I never run out of ideas of things to write about. I have enjoying writing articles, and reviews about plays, books and galleries. The Equilibrium team has changed from time to time, but we still manage to produce four copies of the magazine a year. Angela

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EDITORIAL Hello and happy November! As always, we have an eclectic array of contributions, several of which tell very heart-warming and inspiring stories. From the life-affirming attributes of love to the portrayal of devotion in fine art, all of these wonderful pieces reach out to those that may need something to brighten up their day. Thank you to everyone that contributed and thank you to everyone who has taken an interest in how we feel and what we have to say. Namaste. Emily, Editor/Team Facilitator

DISCLAIMER Equilibrium is produced by service users. Reproduction in whole or in part is strictly forbidden without the prior permission of the Equilibrium team. Products, articles and services advertised in this publication do not necessarily carry the endorsement of Equilibrium or any of our partners. Equilibrium is published and circulated electronically four times a year to a database of subscribers; if you do not wish to receive Equilibrium or have received it by mistake, please email unsubscribe to equilibriumteam@hotmail.co.uk

THE TEAM Facilitator/Editor: Emily Sherris Editorial team: Dev, Angela, Nigel, Richard, Richard.

CONTACT US Equilibrium, Clarendon Recovery College, Clarendon Road, London, N8 ODJ. 02084894860, equilibriumteam@hotmail.co.uk. All contributions should be sent to our email address.

CONTRIBUTIONS Wanted: contributions to Equilibrium! Please email us with your news, views, poems, photos, plus articles. Anonymity guaranteed if required.

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Summer/ Issue 38


Wellbeing News The Heads Together Campaign

turn to and many of the Heads Together partners run confidential helplines and

Prince Harry and Prince William have

online services.’

recently spoken out about their own

To read more about this campaign and how you can get involved, please go to: Heads Together

struggles with mental health issues in the immediate aftermath of the death of their mother, Princess Diana. As a result, they have now begun a new campaign called Heads Together to help raise awareness about mental ill health, with a particular emphasis on being able to feel comfortable enough to speak up about these issues and get the help required. The Heads Together campaign is jointly coordinated by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, with the aim to end stigma around mental health in the UK. Heads Together says: ‘We all struggle with our mental health at times, and we can all need help - whether over the loss

Children’s Mental Health Project A new project has been developed in Wales to help both children suffering with mental health issues and the teachers that are responsible for them. Over two hundred schools will benefit from the involvement of in-house mental health

of a job, relationship breakdown, disap-

professionals from the child and adoles-

pointing exam results, depression or anxi-

cent mental health services (CAMHS).

ety. Friends and family can be a great first

These representatives will aim to equip

response, but sometimes they don’t know

teachers with the resources they may

how to help, or we feel alone. The good

require to support the psychological

news is that there is always someone to

needs of their students.

www.haringey.gov.uk/equilibrium

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Summer/ Issue 38


Raising our Voices Stigma and Bipolar Disorder Eleanor Segall

I

am very excited to be

unable to do activities previously enjoyed

writing my first article

or, in bad cases, suicidal and unable to

for Equilibrium. In this arti-

cope with life. When in a manic state, one

cle I will discuss stigma

may be in a heightened hyperactive state,

and life with bipolar.

talking fast/not making sense and unable

I have lived with

to sit still. A person may act in ways that

bipolar disorder for thirteen years, having

they would not usually behave in when in

been diagnosed at just sixteen years old.

a typical state. This can then spill over into

The illness runs in my family, but it was still a

psychosis, with delusions and a loss of touch

shock when I found myself unwell in hospital

with reality, which can eventually lead to

as a teenager. Bipolar disorder is a mood

hospitalisation in severe cases.

disorder, which means moods can oscillate

There is currently no cure for the disorder;

between depressive lows and manic highs

however, mood stabilising medications such

that can be treated with medication and

as lithium, prescribed by a psychiatrist, and

therapies. When depressed, one might find

courses of therapy can very much help. It is

oneself feeling extremely negative and

believed that bipolar may be caused by a

www.haringey.gov.uk/equilibrium

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chemical imbalance in the brain, but there

they are being drama queens, silenced,

is still so much we do not know. It is for this

as if their problems are trivial. There is noth-

reason that stigma toward the disorder and

ing trivial about serious mental illness or

other mental health conditions pervades

how the brain can trick you into feeling.

across the world.

There is nothing trivial about feeling so

So, what is stigma? Stigma can be

unwell you can’t get out of bed, wash, live.

defined by the Oxford Dictionary as a ‘mark

There is nothing trivial about experiencing

of disgrace associated with a circum-

suicidal tendencies and not having support,

stance, quality or person’. In terms of

because support networks are the one

mental illness, people fear what they have

thing that keep bipolar sufferers, and those

not experienced, do not know and do not

with other conditions, going. Without my

understand. It is the fear and ignorance

support network, I know I would find things

that then perpetuates myths about those

so much harder.

who struggle with their mental health. Due to the sometimes unpredictable

So, how do we tackle this stigma? In one word: talking. Telling people about our

nature of mental illness, in our case, bipolar

experiences. Sharing the world of people

disorder, fear and stigma are most defi-

who have mental health issues with wider

nitely generated. When people haven’t

society by explaining to non-sufferers what

been through the suicidal, heart-wrenching

it’s like to live with a mental health condi-

lows, and the sometimes equally terrible

tion. Talking about our symptoms but show-

highs, they will comment that the person is

ing how we can reach recovery or what

‘attention-seeking’ and just doing it to get a

recovery means to us. It is so important to

reaction from other people. We have seen

show wider society the world inhabited by

this recently when depressed celebrities, for

people with mental health conditions, as

example, singer Sinéad O’Connor (who has

everyone is different. It’s vital to explain the

bipolar), open up to the world about their

unexplainable.

demons. They get criticised, shot down, told

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I began speaking about my experi-

Summer/ Issue 38


ences online via my WordPress blog ‘Be Ur

more charities and even started writing for

Own Light’ (www.beurownlight.com) about

the Huffington Post Lifestyle blog and other

a year and a half ago. The blog began as

websites/magazines under my real name.

a diary, as I was navigating life with a diffi-

A month or two ago, I decided to write

cult anxiety disorder which made it difficult

all my mental health blogs under my real

for me to hold down a job long-term. I still

name. There is still so much work for us all

live with this anxiety and am learning how

to do to bring down the stigma, but it starts

to manage it. When I first began writing, I

from raising our voices. We deserve to be

did it secretly, only showing it to close family

heard, and we need to talk in order to make

members and writing under pseudonyms. I

mental health issues ‘normal’ in society and

was effectively testing the waters to see the

to fight for better treatment. One in four

reaction. I was frightened I would get nega-

people suffer, although I would argue the

tive feedback.

figure is more like one in two. Together, we

I began writing for charities such as Rethink Mental Illness, Time to Change and

can battle, speak out and, one day, beat the stigma.

Bipolar UK, under pseudonyms because I didn’t yet feel able to associate my name with the illness. I was scared, and I suppose I was experiencing some self-stigma. In thirteen years I had never written about my

Eleanor Segall is a mental health writer and advocate,

illness or mental health online, though I had

who has written for many charities and magazines. She

explained it to close friends. I remember

currently works for mental health and learning disabil-

the day when my first article for Rethink was

ity charity The Judith Trust. Her blog ‘Be Ur Own Light’

published –‘Being Jewish and Bipolar’- and

(www.beurownlight.com) is read globally and tackles

getting hundreds of likes, shares and posi-

her life with mental health issues and those of guest

tive comments. This built my confidence,

bloggers. Eleanor can be found on Twitter and Insta-

and, over the course of a year, I wrote for

gram @EleanorSegall.

www.haringey.gov.uk/equilibrium

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From Breakdown to Brilliant! My Story Marie O’Brien Owen was diagnosed with arthritis in his hips and had to undergo surgery for replacement. He was a self-employed plasterer and we had no savings. With him being off work for three months, it was a struggle trying to keep up the mortgage repayments and other loans. I was expecting our fourth child at the time. Owen’s health deteriorated. The house got repossessed, and we declared

H

ourselves bankrupt. All this added to my ave you ever realised how hard it is

anxiety and stress, and I couldn’t cope

to come back up once you’ve gone

anymore. The doctor asked me if I was

down, especially when you don’t under-

depressed. Depressed? I was shocked,

stand or recognise how far down you

completely in denial of my mental state.

have slid? Well, it happened to me. This

Looking back, I suffered from anxiety

is my story of how I went down and then

as a child and depression as an adult for

managed to get back up again…

many years. I just hadn’t realised.

Some ten years ago, my husband,

One morning, I woke up and couldn’t

Owen, and our three children decided to

breathe. I was taken to hospital. No one

relocate to Berkshire: our dream home.

could tell me what was wrong until a nurse

Unfortunately, things started going horri-

said, “I know what’s wrong with you. You’re

bly wrong, firstly with our finances, then with

having panic attacks.” It was a ‘light bulb’

family issues, my husband’s health and, to

moment!

top it all, my mental health.

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Filled with fear, I discharged myself, but

Summer/ Issue 38


the doctor had to be called out again. I

I had regular Pranic Healing sessions and

finally checked myself into The Cardinal

attended the weekly meditation groups

Clinic in Windsor. I remember thinking how

available within the Pranic Healing system.

hideous it was. I wanted to get better for

The meditation is called ‘Meditation on

my family. I spent the following two years

Twin Hearts’ and is very effective at flush-

with a psychiatrist and psychologist and

ing out stress and anxiety from the body.

was on antidepressants.

During the sessions I was also taught a

Slowly, life started to become normal

breathing technique to manage stress

again. Owen set up a new business, and

relief. I now continue to practise medita-

we moved into a rented home. However,

tion and the breathing technique on a

I continued to suffer blinding headaches

regular basis, as I find it clears my mind of

and was in bed most weekends. The

any unwanted emotions and allows me to

specialist treatment was not working.

be much more productive.

Another tragedy followed. My father tried to commit suicide – his business was

I am so pleased that I decided to try it. I

in danger financially. I found him uncon-

was so desperate and, at the same time,

scious in the back of his car, surrounded

very sceptical and nervous about the

by letters he’d written to the family. I had

outcome, as I had never tried any form of

a panic attack at the scene. After this

complementary therapy. I certainly didn’t

episode I decided I couldn’t carry on like

think that I would ever be fully relieved

this. I could not let my children suffer; all of

of my mental health issues. I was looking

this was having an impact on their lives.

for some form of relief, however slight. It

I started researching complementary therapies and discovered Pranic Healing. I booked my first Pranic Healing treat-

would have been a bonus, as my panic attacks, anxiety, depression and constant daily headaches

ment with Mark Willis. At the end of my first

were, at the

session, I was so relaxed and delighted

time, overtak-

with the outcome that I rebooked for the

ing the ability to

following week. This relaxation continued

function. When

for the next few days, and I knew that

my husband was

this was something I wanted to continue.

off work, I found

Over the coming months, I made sure that

myself in bed

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“.... it clears my mind of any unwanted emotions and allows me to be much more productive.”

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Summer/ Issue 38


every week from Friday till Sunday night

embarked on an amazing new life for

so that I could rest and recover for the

myself and my family! This gave me confi-

coming week. This was no life for me or my

dence, peace, contentment and happi-

family.

ness that I had never experienced.

Pranic Healing works on the ‘energy

It was at this point that I realised I had

body’, where a chemical reaction takes

suffered from anxiety as a child. However, I

place. This enhances the body’s natural

was finally free, excited and happy to think

healing process, allowing it to take place

about what the future held. I felt better

on physical, emotional and psychological

than I could ever remember feeling. I am

levels. This was the beginning of my ascent;

now committed and totally passionate

I had found a way to get back up again!

about helping other people who suffer with

The headaches started to disappear, and,

mental health issues.

within six months, the anxiety I had suffered

During one of the sessions, Mark told me

for most of my life had gone. Thanks to

that I should learn Pranic Healing for myself

Pranic Healing, I now live a pain-free life

so that I could help others in the same

and no longer take medication.

way as I was being helped. I am now a

During the six months of regular Pranic

Pranic Healing therapist myself and with

Healing sessions, I was amazed to find

continued guidance and nurturing from my

that each session was another step

instructor, Les Flitcroft, I now have a thriv-

towards gaining a better life. I couldn’t

ing Pranic Healing practice in Ascot. I also

believe how much better I was feeling.

facilitate group meditations for children

Since my first Pranic Healing session with

and adults. More recently, I have been

Mark, I have never experienced another

working with teenagers at a local college

panic attack! After six weeks my head-

to help them with their stress levels!

aches had completely gone. I had been under specialists in London and taking

Being able to help people and make a

both prescribed and over-the-counter

difference makes me so happy. It was my

medication for them. To my delight, I was

vision to assist people with mental health

completely free of my mental health

issues and now I can.

symptoms within six months and able to

Learn Pranic Healing yourself and see how

come off all prescribed medication for

you can help yourself and also help others.

anxiety, depression and headaches. I had

Website: www.ukpranichealing.co.uk

www.haringey.gov.uk/equilibrium

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Summer/ Issue 38


My Experience of OCD Polly Granger

I

seem to remember it starting with

horticultural ‘poison’ grew stronger and,

a plant in my mum’s kitchen. If the

before long, I started to worry about

memory is credible, I was eight years

contact with plants outside of my

old, and my nan had decided to water

home. If I brushed past a bush, or if my

the dry plant that my mum always

tennis ball got lodged beneath a shrub,

forgot to tend. I think I helped part

I would have had difficulty touching

the leaves so she could reach the

the surface that had been exposed.

flaky earth. When she had emptied

I certainly would not have been able

the watering can, she led me over to

to eat anything without cleaning my

the kitchen sink. “You need to wash

hands fastidiously.

your hands after touching plants,”

This obsession developed incremen-

she explained. When I asked why, she

tally, turning into a fear of contact with

replied, “Because they’re poisonous.”

sullied areas. These surfaces were not

My nan is not a cruel person, and

always contaminated by plant life; I

she clearly did not think that this utter-

began eschewing a variety of unclean

ance would trigger a preoccupation

objects. If I had no choice but to touch

with what may happen if I ignored

these items, I would either have to

her. For a little while, I thought that this

wash my hands immediately or avoid

sage comment only really applied to

contact with other things until I was

the plant in our kitchen, but the anxi-

able to. It got to a point where I was

ety engendered by the thought of this

even cleaning the tap and the top of

cont.

www.haringey.gov.uk/equilibrium

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the soap dispenser. However, these were not the worst

think he probably thought I was a bit of a know-it-all. I was referred to the child and

issues I had to deal with. My fear of dirty

adolescent mental health services for CBT

objects was punctuated by other more

but did not engage very well. My therapist

traumatic obsessions. Some of the anxi-

was sweet, vacuous and oblivious to how

eties I experienced during those years

entrenched these obsessions were. From

were prompted by uncontrollable anger.

what I can remember, I only went to four

Following what felt like an unacceptable

sessions. I was fourteen years old.

altercation with my mother at the age

During the twelve years that followed,

of nine years old, a melange of remorse

I fell prey to an inventory of different

and fury began to trigger sinister thoughts

trials, most of which could be attributed

about how much I wanted her to die,

to OCD. My thoughts would vacillate

none of which were controllable or true. I

from one sphere of turmoil to another,

felt so guilty that I became obsessed with

and I often felt that it would never let me

my moral compass. I am not sure how old

stop worrying about certain thoughts, a

I was when the shame started to diminish,

number of which elicited implacable feel-

but it took a long time for me to accept

ings of paranoia and guilt. The intensity

that these intrusions were not the conse-

of these worries did abate for a few years

quence of a savage mind.

but were revived shortly after I finished my

Although there were other more horrific

degree. The power of these obsessions

concerns dervishing through my head at

was both frightening and destructive.

the time, it was my obsession with plants

I was offered a course of high intensity

that gave me the impetus to visit my

CBT, and I knew that it had got to a point

doctor. My mother and I both conceded

where I needed to deal with the thing

that these propensities were undeniable

that had made me hate myself. This thera-

symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disor-

pist knew that it was going to take some

der. I thought that this self-diagnosis gave

time before anything pivotal occurred.

me licence to tell my GP what I had been

She spent six sessions acclimatising to the

suffering from, and, although he agreed, I

nuances of my thoughts in an attempt to

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Summer/ Issue 38


An honest and visceral art review Richard (a.k.a. mohecan nohecan raphecant touché punt lsd cara2che dtf d2f kudos puck trigga finga)

work out how the obsessions were making me feel. She didn’t ask me to do any homework until the seventh session. It was far more useful than the last intervention. Since coming to the end of my CBT sessions, I have seen two extremely different counsellors in an attempt to determine the heart of the condition. It is unlikely that I will ever have the strength to stop overthinking, and I will probably never quell the impulse to criticise myself.

Upon first seeing this piece of work,

On the other hand, I have decided not

the intrinsic pulled me automatically

to let it impede me. If I am in a position

to the abstract and impressionism,

where I have to leave my flat without the

all colliding, and yet the overdriv-

munificence and patience of my partner,

ing use of layers upon themselves,

I will spend the required twenty minutes

where you have the fluid motion

ensuring the gas is off and the keys have

cascading, crashing into and away

been taken out of the front door. If I have

from its central theme of constant

decided to pen a contribution for the

process with water. It’s ALIVE and yet

magazine Equilibrium, I will take a year to

the calmness of an overwhelming

make sure I have not duplicated the intel-

background, just visual to the eye,

lectual property of another person that

shows intricate, beautiful attention

has also written about OCD. Like other

to nature’s horizontal life. The left

obsessive-compulsives, I will do what I can

top has so much and yet so little.

to adapt to these essential and crucial

Superfluous, just pure expression from

circumstances.

the reflective, soulful eternity outside time. Here is a motion captured in showing shadowed stillness and adaptability, colourful and bright. Its heart is resonating and capturing the true art and artist. This is so honest. I love it. Welcome to the truth without rules of adherence.

www.haringey.gov.uk/equilibrium

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Beating the Blues Barbara Smith

A

s a music lover, I have often turned to music to help make sense of my emotions. Maybe

I’m not alone in that. How often do we find ourselves deliberately playing sad songs when we feel down or loud, upbeat rock/pop songs when we feel happy or elated? We may use music when we just want to change our mood. At home, I’ve always kept an old bongo or small hand drum lying around, occasionally tapping or banging along to whatever I may be listening to and finding some pleasure in it as it transports me elsewhere temporarily, sending me into a mildly meditative state where I feel calm and relaxed. Sometimes I am surprised at how much time has elapsed just tapping out a repetitive rhythm, and the smell of food being cremated or the realisation I am late sends me crashing back to reality! So when I came across a local drumming group offering sessions, I decided to go along and try it out. The sound of tribal drumming always touched something deep within me – it felt primal, earthy and very grounding. I can’t keep still when I hear its pounding rhythms, and I find myself moving to the beat whether I’m aware of it or not. It seems to stir up emotions that I can’t always put a name to, but it has always lifted my spirits. I’ve

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watched others’ reactions too, in crowds,

and on a high, and as we said goodbye,

and it seems no one can keep still. The driving

I was already looking forward to the next

rhythms seem so fundamental to us, like it’s

session. Coincidentally, in the days that

hard-wired into our very DNA.

followed, I found myself coming across arti-

I turned up to the group one Tuesday

cles, academic and otherwise, extolling the

night, feeling nervous and excited and

health benefits of drumming, both physically

hoping no one was expecting too much from

and mentally. It can help with anxiety and

me. There was around six of us or so. I chose

depression, increase cognitive function and

a djembe drum and was relieved when we

IQ, lower blood pressure, improve mood and

started with a simple pattern, repeated over

decrease fatigue.

and over, to get warmed up and put us all at

There appears to have been a lot of

ease. After a short time, as I looked around

research done on this subject, which is easily

the group, I noticed something strange

accessed online if you search ‘health benefits

happening: everyone was smiling, and they

of drumming’, so you can make your own

had a relaxed and slightly detached look

mind up. For me, it feels like I have found

about them as we all fell into the rhythm. As

something really beneficial, therapeutic and

the pace started to pick up, I felt excited but

enjoyable. It gets me out of the house and

extremely focused on what I was doing, to

allows me to meet new people, and it has

the exclusion of all else. I felt present, in the

given me a new interest I hope to maintain

moment, and very connected to the other

for a long time to come.

drummers in the driving patterns we were creating. By the end of the session, my hands were

There is no pressure, as everyone works at the level they are comfortable with. The best thing, however, the thing that never changes

throbbing and vibrating, and I felt calm and

from week to week, is the wide beaming

relaxed and almost euphoric. It had been

smiles of the drummers as they, for a short

similar to having a good physical workout

time at least, beat away their worries, and

but more fun. Everyone left smiling, happy

experience the sheer joy of being alive.

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Dealing with Depression, Anxiety or Stress - Sing! Liv Johannesson

S

everal scientific studies from around the

ployment. As everyone who has been unem-

world indicate that singing, especially

ployed knows, it can isolate you both physically

singing in a choir, has a positive impact on our

and emotionally, but the regular choir practice

health. Music has been seen to improve such

gave me a social context removed from my

varied conditions as MS, dementia, IBS and

professional struggles.

how we cope with pain. Music affects the brain in different ways: it

In addition, choir singing strengthens the part of our immune system that first meets

helps to develop and improve the synapses

alien viruses and bacteria. Singing increases

in our brain, and it increases certain signal

the antibodies in our saliva that help us take

substances and hormones that we need to

care of these attacks on our immune system.

feel good. Music we enjoy releases dopamine, which

Other studies show that both listening to music and singing have healing powers.

is a hormone that stimulates our bodies’

In Finland a study showed that patients of

reward system. Choir singing, in particular,

strokes recovered more quickly if allowed to

increases the amount of oxytocin in the body,

listen to their favourite music. Their cognitive

which makes us more sociable and open to

abilities and emotional states improved.

forming social connections. I decided to join

Music lowers the stress hormones in the body,

a gospel choir during a long spell of unem-

which in turn seems to affect inflammations. It

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Summer/ Issue 38


is becoming a power tool to combat mental

Since singing improves our immune

health problems, stress-related symptoms

system, it has a positive and calming effect

and inflammations. Not only does music we

on our stomachs. Singing trains the lungs

enjoy make us happy, but it can also redi-

and the heart, and the muscles used for

rect our thoughts. Personally, I often turn on

singing gently massage our intestines, which

favourite songs to bring sense to a chaotic

is probably why, when leaving a session of

world. If I can, I sing along, too, and it does

choir practice, one can feel very relaxed,

help to give myself some breathing space.

almost as if coming from a massage

Music we recognise goes straight in,

appointment. My experience is that music

affecting our emotions and delaying our

is a strange combination of training muscles

reasoning. This can have a positive influence

that you need for singing, a fun time and a

on recovering from depression. It redirects

spiritual experience.

our thoughts, lowering our pain. By the time

People who sing in choirs feel happier

reasoning kicks in, our thought patterns are

and are more relaxed. They have more

already focused on more positive things.

energy. Attending regular choir practice

As you can read in my poem Ein Deutches

also creates the positive anticipation of

Requirem, it is possible to lose yourself in

having something to look forward to each

creating music, lifting your mind to a higher

week. Singing in a choir while I was unem-

level of experience.

ployed created a time away from my

Another part of our physiology that is deeply connected with singing is our breathing. To help the voice carry through

worries that I cherished and drew energy from each week. Personally, I feel that stress does so much

the music, you have to breathe correctly.

damage to our bodies. It can be hard to

Our breathing in turn affects our heart

even imagine that things could improve

frequency. Again, a powerful tool in

when you are stuck in a stressed or burnt-out

combating stress and anxiety-related condi-

state. It can also be hard to push yourself

tions. I used to take singing lessons while in

to work on the issues that have brought you

college. We would always start with breath-

to this state. If singing has no other effect,

ing exercises, making sounds that would

it can at least lower your stress levels and

release tensions in our vocal muscles. These

improve your immune system, thus enabling

exercises could easily be transferred to

other positive remedies to take place.

releasing tension when stressed or anxious.

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EQUILIBRIUM 21


Dealing with Stress and Mental Health Dev Chatterjea

and behaviour. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviours.” These are, however, a small number of conditions, and each one can affect you differently. According to the World Health Organisation, “Around one in four people worldwide will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. There are around 450 million people currently suffering from such conditions.” These conditions can have tremendous

I

f you have a mental health condition

psychological and physiological effects on

that causes stress, it would be easier for

a person. In some cases, it can completely

you to know more about your condition

change your behaviour towards the

and how it affects you. It is said that there

outside world and the people around you.

are around two hundred different types

It can cause stress. You might worry about

of mental health conditions, each vary-

what the outcome will be or whether you

ing in severity. According to the staff at

will be able to finish that task on time.

the Mayo Clinic, “Mental illness refers to a

Sometimes there are negative thoughts,

wide range of mental health conditions —

e.g. “Is this good enough?” “Should I be

disorders that affect your mood, thinking

doing this?” “Why is this happening to

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Summer/ Issue 38


me?” The most common stress factors

person may need to be re-assessed by a

include work, money matters, relationships,

trained psychologist. The point is it may get

housing, among other things.

way out of control.

However, there is a big difference when

There are several ways of dealing with

stress affects your mental health. To put

stress. The first step is to find out what the

it simply, it puts extra pressure on the self.

cause of the stress is, then identify the

The reason for this is that you are dealing

key stress points and tackle them. Find a

with your mental health condition as well

positive or alternative way of thinking by

as your stress levels (double trouble). There

changing your thought patterns. It may

is also the possibility of stress having an

sound difficult, but it is one of the better

adverse effect on this condition. Depend-

ways of dealing with stress. The good thing

ing on the condition, a person will tend to

about it is that you may find another way of

think increasingly negative thoughts and

dealing with the source of the stress. If it is

will start to imagine the worst situation and what its outcomes will be. Sometimes, in extreme situations, it may cause the person to have an outburst of emotion towards another. This could be because the person has become delusional; in short, the person has thought so much that it has started to get out of hand. Bear in mind that this is in

still causing trouble, you may want to speak to someone. In some cases, however, stress can be positive. Research has shown that a “moderate” level of stress makes us perform better than usual. It also makes us more alert. It can help us perform better in various situations such as job interviews or public speaking.

extreme circumstances. In some cases, the

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A POEM OF THE BARRICADES REFUSES TO DIE Thomas Ország-Land Translated from the Hungarian of Thomas Land and edited by Watson Kirkconnell. THOMAS ORSZÁGLAND is an award-winning poet and foreign correspondent who writes from Jerusalem, London and his native Budapest. His last book was Survivors: Hungarian Jewish Poets of the Holocaust (Smokestack Books, 2014), and his last e-chapbook, Reading for Rush Hour: A Pamphlet in Praise of Passion (Snakeskin, England, 2016).

O

ne heady afternoon during the

poem has refused to die for more than half

Hungarian Revolution of October-

a century.

November 1956, I attended an editorial

Dudás and 228 others were hanged by

conference of The Independent (A Magyar

the communists after the revolution, some

Függetlenség),the flagship daily of the

of them even younger than me at the time.

doomed anti-Soviet insurrection. I was an

Many more were sentenced to death and

eighteen year old high school dropout

eventually reprieved, a form of torture.

employed on the paper as a cub reporter.

Tens of thousands were imprisoned. I left

József Dudás, our hugely charismatic editor-

the country with a westward flood of some

in-chief, assigned the serious tasks of the

210,000 patriots, most of them young and

day to the senior correspondents. Then he

educated.

turned to me: “...and what can you contribute to the edition?” I offered to write a poem. “Make it

Europe did not experience such a mass movement of refugees again until the present march of destitute Middle

good,” he accepted, “and be sure not to

East migrants across this prosperous conti-

miss your deadline.” My piece was ready

nent. Only some forty thousand of us have

on time, of course. It could have turned

returned. The loss has been enormous for a

out a tad less sentimental. The composi-

small country deeply troubled by its relent-

tion comprised three quatrains fuelled by

lessly declining population levels.

some clever cross-rhyming and employed

I switched to English as soon as I could. I

the odd repetition of lines to save time

have spent the rest of my life as a freelance

and trouble. It described a girl on the barri-

writer. I did my best during the early years

cades, shot while distributing bread to the

to have nothing to do with my homeland –

warriors. Unlike its fictitious heroine, the

except for translating the Hungarian poetry

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Summer/ Issue 38


of my betters into English in the hope of learn-

about an old lady. I do not think that my voice

ing how to write English poetry.

has changed, but I have.

The dead heroine of the poem also took on

“Ha,” observed a dear friend, a great English

life in English through the translation of Western

poet, “all you now have to do is... write it again,

writers who read my effort in the columns of

in English.” Quite, and that’s the easy part.

The Independent – although some of them, I

Here is the poem of the barricades:

am afraid, turned the girl into a boy. The most successful translation (below) was done by the late Watson Kirkconnell, the great-grandfather of Hungarian literary translation into English,

INSTEAD OF A TOMBSTONE

who was president of Acadia University in Canada, where I read philosophy on a schol-

He shyly closed the lids of darkened eyes,

arship after the revolution.

A small red flower blossomed on his breast.

In post-communist Hungary, the poem is still being recited from time to time at public cele-

A smile still lingered on his mouth’s surprise, As if at home he slept and loved his rest...

brations commemorating the revolution. It has been included in a mass-circulation anthology

The little hero in the filth is laid,

intended mostly for school children.

(Around him fall his bread-loaves in the mud).

At last, the poem has seduced me. I recently edited its original Hungarian text (as

Just as but now he paced the barricade – In vain let fall his bomb and shed his blood...

indeed it should have been done by someone on The Independent before publication

He shyly closed the lids of darkened eyes,

all those years ago) when it occurred to me

A small red flower blossomed on his breast.

that, today, perhaps I can do better. So I have

Beside his corpse, a steaming gutter lies,

just written another Hungarian poem, this time

The world sings victory but signs a jest.

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EQUILIBRIUM EQUILIBRIUM 25


Alcoholism: Nature vs Nurture Astharte De Los Santos

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Summer/ Issue 38


O

ne of life’s biggest debates is the

alcohol abuse can have on a family. Alco-

nature vs nurture argument, which is

holism not only affects the individual who is

considered when questioning why we do the

dependent on alcohol, it also affects their

things we do. We love to explore the reason-

spouse, children and loved ones.

ing behind our decisions, goals and aspira-

Alcoholics have a tendency to isolate

tions. These can be pretty close to those of

themselves. Their loved ones usually cover

our parents but can also be influenced by the

their tracks, at times enabling their alcohol

type of lives we have led and the people/

consumption. They become protective of

cultures we have been around. Nature only

the person abusing alcohol, to the point

contributes to the physical aspect of who we

where they also become part of the prob-

are, but through nurture we gain perspective

lem. Spouses start to have problems in their

of who we want to be.

marriage, friends become enemies and chil-

Nurture is how we use our environment as

dren sometimes rebel due to the instability

a tool. We learn every day from our surround-

that having an alcoholic parent brings into

ings, meet new people and explore new

their lives.

places to become better individuals. So how

While gathering some information, I came

do we determine if someone’s behavior is

across a case study about a single mother

influenced more by their genetic makeup

from London named Cathy Rivers and her

(nature) or by where they grew up (nurture)?

three children. She was married to a very angry man who would abuse her as her chil-

The Wrath of Alcoholism Studies show that alcoholism is a condition

dren watched. She began drinking heavily to get through

that continues to be on the rise. Alcohol

all the physical pain. Her abusive husband

Concern have reported that 595,000 drinkers

also drank excessively. When the kids started

are dependent on alcohol, with only 100,000

being neglected, children’s services were

being treated for alcoholism in the UK. There

alerted. They were taken away from their

have been studies that show adolescents

parents, separated and put into foster homes.

that drink before reaching adulthood do not

This caused much hardship in their lives.

develop their brain function properly. They

Having been exposed to this trauma at such

are also more vulnerable to becoming alco-

an early age, two of the children, now adults,

holics in the future.

also went on to abuse alcohol. The middle

It is a big factor that contributes to the problems and separation of families all over the UK. This goes to show you the impact

www.haringey.gov.uk/equilibrium

child became a doctor. So, what does this tell us? Well, that there are people who have experienced early

EQUILIBRIUM EQUILIBRIUM 27


alcohol exposure and have made the

that make us more vulnerable to certain

decision not to consume. They have

diseases or ailments.

chosen to live a healthier lifestyle and have made better decisions in order to better

So who are we to blame?

their lives. You can ascribe alcoholism to genetic

If nature is only 50% responsible for the

predisposition, which implies that alco-

development of alcoholism, where does

holism can be passed down, or you can

that leave the other 50%?

attribute it to being raised around, or by,

I think that the other half is left up to the

an alcoholic. Nature vs nurture is basically

choices we make in our life. Some individu-

a perspective.

als who are dependent on alcohol say that

Cathy River’s children all had a choice. They were all raised around an alcoholic who physically and emotionally abused

the first taste of alcohol is bad, that it is an acquired taste. Those affected continue to drink to the

their mother. So why did the middle child

point of inebriation, all the while building

become an exception?

up a tolerance for more and more alcohol. It’s important to understand the biological

Is Alcoholism Caused by our Nature? Nature refers to genetic, hormonal and neurochemical traits that have been passed down through our genes. In other words, there are certain things that have been part of us since conception, which we cannot help but accept. Height, early

aspects of alcoholism, but it’s not always passed down. We must train our minds to be strong, train our habits and refrain from things that may cause instability in our lives. Through rehabilitation and healing, you can create a fulfilling life. Enjoy the present, as it is a gift.

hair loss, even funny or beautiful facial features. At times even talents or mental

What is Nurture?

capabilities may be passed down. So it’s

The society we live in and the environment

no surprise that people have argued that

we grow up in constitutes nurture. It is the

alcoholism can also be passed down. It is a

influence that the outside world has on

known fact that there are genes we carry

the development of our character. In most

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Summer/ Issue 38


cases, where and how we grow up deter-

played Harry Potter, is the perfect example

mines where we are going, but can your

of the “young child star” who battled with

environment make you drink excessively?

alcoholism at a very early age. He even-

Studies show that the cost of advertising increased by 620% between the years 1995-1997. We are constantly being

tually managed to become sober and healthy. It has been proven that alcoholism is

bombarded by advertisements that

partially caused by genetics. The rest is

promote alcohol through our television

influenced by nurture: the people you asso-

screens and on billboards. Even certain

ciate with, the lifestyle you lead and the

songs encourage the use of alcohol. Habit-

choices you make can all lead you into

ual drinking and inebriation seem normal,

“habitual drinking”. Usually, there is a thin

even cool.

line between habitual drinking and alco-

So how much of an impact can your surroundings have on you? Actually, your

holism. Very thin. If you or anyone you know is struggling

environment can have a lot of influence on

with alcoholism, please get help. Your

the life path you choose. In some cases, it

family and friends might be concerned

might even oppress you. It’s sad, but your

about how much you are drinking. The

demographic can even determine where you might end up in life. For example, people that grow up in poor neighborhoods are completely stereotyped. It is even expected that a young

depths of alcoholism only get deeper after every drink. You can do this. Fight for what matters to you. Financial stress, the loss of a loved one,

boy who grows up in a bad neighborhood

the fear of what tomorrow may bring or the

will engage in illicit activities, go to jail or

fear of happiness can all result in depend-

die from gun violence.

ency. Whatever your issues may be, alco-

Yes, sometimes they can, but there are so many examples of outstanding and extraordinary stories involving people who were dirt poor that managed to be successful in their field. Daniel Radcliffe, the beloved actor who

www.haringey.gov.uk/equilibrium

hol is not the answer. Anything we do in excess may cause us to lose track of who we really are and how far we have come. So keep fighting for a better life, one that is free from alcoholism. A life that allows you

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An Unstoppable

Force Ash E Rah

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Summer/ Issue 38


N

ever did so well in physics. I am not that

It is an immovable object, taking our own

kind of scientist.

souls hostage.

But I have been crazy, so, naturally, I know the answers to pretty much everything. I know what the densest matter in the universe is. I know what happens when an unstoppable force hits an immovable object. I know a force sharper than the sun.

It has taken almost my entire life away from me. Not even my psychosis could undo it. As I changed and my worldview shifted, so did the despair. First, I thought I would never find peace within my mind. Then, I was convinced that I would never find love. As the crazy inside me

But for everything I know and everything I’ve

grew, I started thinking about the world and

come to believe, I also know what it’s like to

then the universe, and thank God because

be completely unheard.

it really was time I stopped obsessing over

Such is the world for insanity. We are not kind to people who experi-

myself. But the world is facing environmental,

ence psychosis. Whether we sweep them

religious, social and economic collapse. I’d

away or lock them inside, illnesses like mine

just swapped my own personal lack of future

lead to a hundred dark places, and almost

for one denied to us all. So sure, I could give

no light.

myself a pat on the back for pulling my

But in these dark places we learn, my

head out my ass, but I was faced with the

friends, because minds like mine have been

same despair squatting right inside my ribs.

beyond what is possible. They feed off truths we’re afraid to say. We learn from experience that despair is

Going completely loopy (which is exactly what I mean - when my thoughts became loops) made it even worse, because I was

the heaviest substance in the universe. We

facing an entire universe now and a God

feel it weigh dense against our hearts, and

who had become so fractured and divided

we watch it take light from people’s eyes.

that, even if this was the end of the world,

It absorbs the life from everything it touches

They couldn’t do anything about it.

and binds us so strongly we have nowhere

I mean, would you believe someone

to go.

wandering around telling you this was the

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EQUILIBRIUM EQUILIBRIUM 31


apocalypse? Perhaps you would, you

defended me against judgement from

unimaginable legend, but I have been

others, accepted me for who I was and

doing exactly that for years, and no one

wrapped their arms around the despair in

has believed me so far. Not even the

my chest.

university faculty I accused of being the

As my psychosis reached its peak, I

Four Riders of my very own Apocalypse.

created a whole language with one

In my experience, God has even less

of them, full of references and whole

credibility than I do.

thoughts. He sat with me every day as an

Ha! I know.

apocalypse unfolded in my mind, kept up

But there is a force stronger than rage

with my crazy and made even sickness

and hate; it picks up desolation and cuts right through pain. Where it meets the

fun. The other waited until I was sleeping to

immovable object of despair, it collides,

massage the PTSD muscle spasms that tore

over and over, until the weight can be

through my body. He tucked me into bed

lifted.

and slept outside the door so he could be

It’s love. Honestly.

sure I was safe. One gave me a direct link to his mind.

I lived in a world where I was certain

The other gave me a piece of his soul. Call

that I was dying, and I kind of welcomed

it sickness all you like, but we were growing

it. I looked around and saw it dying and

God, and God knew we needed it.

couldn’t decide whether that was a bad

Needed to.

thing. I watched the very power of God

My psychosis is, from start to finish, a

smashed to pieces and left to die on the

love story. Those two men gave me a self

streets of division and hate. Toe-to-toe with

I didn’t recognise, hope for a world that I

the abyss, I saw the end of everything we

couldn’t imagine and belief in the power

have ever been.

of being together.

But right then, as if on cue, love walked

They were the Gods of my Apocalypse,

into my life in the shape of two young

but, more importantly, they were two

men and one spare bedroom. They sat for

people who were an unstoppable force

hours and debated with me. They cooked

meeting my immovable object.

wholesome and delicious food. They

EQUILIBRIUM EQUILIBRIUM 32

They were love.

Summer/ Issue 38


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EQUILIBRIUM EQUILIBRIUM 33


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Summer/ Issue 38


Deus Ex

MACHINA Equilibrium met up with London-based artist Anthony J. Parke to discuss his new series of paintings generated from a fascination for classical art and a desire to explore some old ghosts.

How would you describe your work?

within art history, with the sole intention of

Drawing inspiration from the history of fine

yielding a more personal, psychologically

art and specific iconic paintings within it,

satisfying outcome.

as well as referring back to key autobiographical events, I appropriate certain

What inspires your work?

characters portrayed in paintings from

The inspiration for rewriting certain events

the classical and neo-classical periods. In

comes from a device from ancient Greek

each instance, the situation and characters

tragedian plays. ‘Deus ex Machina’ (DeM),

explored appear to have succumbed, or are

translated, means ‘God from the Machine’.

soon to succumb, to a tragedy of some sort.

This device was designed to ensure irresolvable events ended with a more favourable

What do you hope to achieve?

outcome for certain individuals. This was

My aim is essentially to generate alter-

achieved on the play’s stage by lowering

native outcomes in these paintings, to

a ‘God’ from a machine (crane) onto the

remodel historical events, stories and myths

stage. I utilise the concept of this device

cont.

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EQUILIBRIUM EQUILIBRIUM 35


Deus ex Machina I, 2017

Deus ex Machina II, 2017

Oil & Acrylic on Panel

Oil & Acrylic on Panel

After Blondel’s The Fall of Icarus

After Honthorst’s St Sebastian

by creating my own Deus ex Machina in my paint-

they are invariably male, and they appear to be

ings. Her role is to create an alternative outcome

caught up in a tragic event of some description.

for the character within the paintings; she does this

Importantly, too, unlike Medea, I perceive an

through action and symbolism.

innocence and beauty in them. Their suffering is

A good example of DeM in practice is Euripi-

alleviated, mostly through symbolic means, with

des’ play Medea. Medea leaves her homeland

the appearance of a DeM represented in female

and follows Jason out of love. In time, Jason

form. I appropriate figures from paintings such as,

scorns Medea, and she is overlooked as he

William Bouguereau’s The Flagellation of Christ,

marries another in favour of her. In her bitterness,

Merry-Joseph Blondel’s The Fall of Icarus, Gerrit

Medea kills their children. Distraught, Jason seeks

van Honthorst’s Saint Sebastian, Gericault’s The

revenge for the horror inflicted on their offspring.

Raft of Medusa, etc. All of these paintings hold a

Almost certain death awaits Medea for her crime.

fascination for me due to the personalities who

However, before Jason can reap his revenge, the

inhabit them. These figures are specifically chosen

sun god arrives and carries Medea into the skies.

because, for me, they resonate with the suffering

There, she looks down on a broken Jason.

of my own brother, ‘K’. K came into this world, seemingly innocent

How do you employ this device?

and beautiful, as did many of the characters in

The selected figures I use have certain attributes:

the paintings I use. Yet, later in life, he began to

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Summer/ Issue 38


Deus ex Machina III, 2017

Deus ex Machina IV, 2017.

Oil & Acrylic on Panel

Oil & Acrylic on Panel

After Bouguereau’s The Flagellation of Christ

After Gericault’s The Raft of Medusa

suffer, lost in a sea of psychological turbulence.

What are the underlying messages in your work?

K’s illness sent him spiralling into a world of visions

The figurative symbolism of the female Deus in

and voices. No doctor or medical establishment

my paintings is designed to evoke the possibility

could extract him from his suffering. He needed

of change. Her role is to ensure a tragedy need

something greater. But nothing ever came - not

not remain a tragedy. On a less esoteric note,

even a divine intervention. As a family we, too,

these paintings are about the human capacity

were embroiled in the horror and the suffering. As

to continue in the face of adversity, that when

a younger brother, I wanted more than anything

the world appears to be falling apart, there exists

for someone, or something, to extract us from the

a glimmer of hope, a possibility of change. In

tragedian play we were caught in.

this scenario, it is feasible that one can escape

Each of the personalities represented in my

the seemingly inescapable. These are paintings

paintings are all representations of K and his suffer-

which testify to the human capacity to overcome

ing - in a multitude of guises. The motivation is an

insurmountable odds, for a ‘Deus’ can appear in

altogether irrational one: in alleviating the turmoil

everyday circumstances, in a multitude of guises,

of the characters in these paintings, I attempt to

ready to change one’s world.

alleviate the suffering of K’s life, both past, present and future.

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Equilibrium Magazine for Wellbeing/ Issue 63  

Hello and happy November! As always, we have an eclectic array of contributions, several of which tell very heart-warming and inspiring stor...

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