We may have just entered World Cup season but that isn’t why I’m writing this piece now. In fact this very line is only a late edit. As is this one, and the one following. Admittedly, though, entering a summer of sport did give me that extra motivation to finish it.
When I began writing, Ronnie O’Sullivan was in the midst of setting the 2014 World Snooker Championship on fire. He won his quarter and semi-final matches comfortably, setting up a final against Mark Selby; a final which he then lost upon going 10-5 in front. I’ll always remember this final because simultaneous to it, Liverpool were conceding three goals to draw with Crystal Palace in their last ditch efforts to convince people they were genuine title contenders.
The loss was somewhat of a blow for Ronnie, a man known as a genius in the world of snooker, but without doubt he typically provided fans with some of the tournament’s most memorable moments along the way. You may recall my reference to O’Sullivan a couple of weeks ago – Once Upon a Time in China, a former Tunesday choice of mine, is his personal entrance theme. That’s right, it wasn’t just some random movie theme I’d thrown in there for fun – although I nonetheless reserve the right to casually drop random movie themes in future.
Granted it would have taken you to go through a few links in your head to figure out what any of this has to do with emotional and mental health. But Ronnie O’Sullivan has spoken openly of his own battle with depression in the past, most recently in his autobiography ‘Running’.
O’Sullivan’s eccentricities are obvious to his fans. He is a character that has thrived on the public scene thanks to his excellence in and passion for his sport, but there is a side of him that has clearly hated this exposure at times.
One needn’t look far for some of the curious headlines he has made on the snooker circuit, including a controversial forfeit in the middle of his 2006 UK Championship match with Stephen Hendry. Some of this faulty temperament is attributed to a deadly perfectionism that has plagued most of his career, a quality that has helped make him an extremely watchable yet, at times, intensely frustrating character.
A loss like his World Championship one a few weeks ago, where he had to endure an amazing comeback from his skilled opponent, was something the old O’Sullivan would have struggled to deal with. But to observe the man on that night showed a more level-headed, calmer figure, even in the face of defeat towards the end.
This improved temperament in the latter stages of his career has been largely attributed to the help of sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters, who’s also been working with the Liverpool and (perhaps significantly) England football teams more recently. I think it’s worth considering the success of this sporting development for a moment; setting some context would be useful.
Reaction to O’Sullivan’s aforementioned forfeit was notable for its awkwardness. No-one knew what was going on inside his head at the time, and for the vast majority of viewers and fans, this was the scariest thing about it. Had we been aware, perhaps, that he had just suffered some great bereavement or was in some kind of physical pain, the situation, while still out of the ordinary, would have been more understandable. But he didn’t seem in any pain. He didn’t even seem unhappy. The only thing he seemed, in the end, was unprofessional. This was reflected in the hefty fine he was given by the snooker authorities in the aftermath of the event.
In part this was exemplary of a wider taboo within sporting environments toward mental health issues. It’s only fair that we widen the scope a little. Let’s look at cricket, although I scarcely need to remind any cricket fans out there of the Jonathan Trott ‘stress-related’ illness saga that has become a major issue not once, but twice in the past year.
Again, this story has been notable mainly for its curiosity. Trott seems to have been reluctant to reveal full details of whatever he has been suffering from, and one wonders whether he himself even knows, having simply labelled it as burnout at first, only to have a reoccurrence of the ‘illness’ upon his return to international cricket. Make of it what you will, but it struck me as a persistent lack of understanding (dare I say, lack of wanting to understand) towards mental health that, in sporting terms, is only beginning to be addressed across the board. Dr Steve Peters and his emerging profession is a sign of that development.
This follows major strides that have been made in football since 2011. I know some of you can’t stand how mainstream football has become – you can’t go anywhere for the next month without seeing frequent references to the World Cup, whether online or in real life – but this aspect of the sport, while in some cases being a double-edged sword, has helped raise significant awareness of mental health within it. Why do I highlight 2011 as an important year for this?
In November 2011, Gary Speed, manager of the Wales national football team, committed suicide just hours after appearing live on television looking physically healthy and showing no signs that anything was wrong underneath. It was an event that sent emotional shock waves throughout the footballing world. But out of it came many positive things as well. The Football Association began looking into initiatives to increase mental health awareness in football; former Premier League footballer Clarke Carlisle filmed a documentary (‘Football’s Suicide Secret’) last year that showed how far the sport has come since then.
While there are other areas I could venture into, I think it’s prudent that I stop here, leaving some room for your own thoughts and possible discussion on the matter. Stories that I haven’t touched on and may not be aware of at all would be useful to share. Then, at an undetermined point in the future, I’ll return to the issue for another assessment on its progress. To be honest, I think the future is bright, and if you were watching the Spain-Netherlands match tonight, you would also have to admit that it’s orange.
Yeah, I’m totally an Eminem fan, and will happily debate the point with anyone who denies his creative storytelling genius over the past fifteen years. This is how I see Eminem, and the effect he has had not just on the rap industry, but on the whole contemporary music scene.
The pessimistic sense of humour and unmistakable insight into human psychology – clear attributes of his writing – are typical of one who works through the ranks with gritted teeth, rides to the top on the euphoric crest of a wave, and is never going to be content with just that.
His recently released single ‘The Monster’, with regular collaborator Rihanna (their fourth overall), is a fine self-reflective example of these traits. In recent years Eminem has found within an extra element to his skill set; the ability to comment critically on himself. The man has had his faults, and boy does he know it. I don’t doubt that he would make a fine reviewer, if he ever felt so inclined. Although perhaps this song is less about those faults and more about what causes them in people.
It has to be said, though, that neither Eminem nor Rihanna can take full credit for this tune. A fair chunk must go to little-known singer Bebe Rexha, who wrote the hook for the song when she was going through a depressed phase. Safe to say, upon listening to The Monster, this feeling was one not lost in translation.
“The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality.”
This week I wish to introduce you to Andrew Solomon. A writer on politics, culture and psychology, he is perhaps best known for his 2001 book The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression. He has lectured widely on depression and his own experiences of it, a fine example of which I’ve found for you below. If this isn’t enough to inspire some thoughts in you this Thursday, you probably clicked on the wrong link and ended up here by accident. Hey, stick around anyway.
Somehow telling you to enjoy this one wouldn’t feel entirely appropriate, so instead I’ll just ask you... to make sure you’re sitting comfortably.
"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
The end of February has already come and gone! We are already 2/12 or 1/6 (or 66/365 if you're feeling exact) of the way through 2014! If you've been keeping up with the blog you'll know that last month we placed a special focus on mindfulness, so naturally one would expect a kind of "wrap-up" post. Nah, that's much too predictable for us! There are a few reasons why that isn't the case, the main one being that we don't want mindfulness and meditation to be something you take on for a month as a challenge, but a practice you can incorporate into your every day life. There is also the fact that I thought it would be fun to do a Feb Faves post and bring some joy to start your weekend.
This cover of "Say Something" by Pentatonix.
We featured this group in a December Tunesday post, and they're still incredible vocalists. This cover also came out just in time to make in into the Feb Faves post. The song ...
As someone who has a special fondness for [cheesy/bad/horrible] chat-up lines...
OrangeMouth now has both a Pinterest and an Instagram! We're really visual, can you tell? You'll want to give us follow.
Our event co-ordinator Maxine is back from Japan! Woop woop!
"For every minute you are angry you lose 60 seconds of happiness."
#livepositive Nuff said.
We at OrangeMouth are firm believers in the benefits of a good belly laugh.
...And now that we've got all of that out of the way, let's move swiftly on to what we're actually doing in March. Or, to be more precise, the period known as 'Lent' (which admittedly goes into a little bit of April as well).
This time of year, like the first day of January, represents a time when people like to make bold or proud declarations of things they are going to be giving up for a few weeks. Sometimes you wonder who exactly they're giving them up for, whether it be themselves, children in Africa, or just to show their mates that they can. Regardless, at the end of the 40 days, you'll find them jumping back on whatever wagon they had struggled to drag themselves off of in the first place (provided they hadn't given up mid-way through). It ultimately makes you wonder whether, possibly, it all may have been a little bit of a waste of time.
Here at OrangeMouth, we are not fond of unnecessary struggle. We don't like the feeling of wasted time at the end of each month. So for lent, we thought we'd give you a different sort of challenge; that is, rather than challenge you to give something up, we're challenging you to give something back. Whether it be to those you love, appreciate, admire, or your community, or even the whole world. We don't let realism halt our ambition. Rather than challenging you to deny yourself, we're asking that you inspire others with a different (and arguably more rewarding) kind of self-discipline. In turn you may find yourself feeling better off at the end of this coming 40 days.
We are, of course, already there. This leads me to present you with today's 'inspire' challenge. And as it is night-time here (in the UK) - a Friday night to be precise - we'd like to encourage you to look after that person (it may very well be plural, but pick one for now) you know who spends nights like this... well, getting drunk, to put it simply. Try to prevent them doing anything they may regret in the morning. Make sure they get home safe. Give them some water before sleeping. Tonight, and for the next 38 days at least, be a kind friend.
Until next time!
Graeme and M-J