When mental illness confronts coronavirus and climate change

It’s weird living in a world where everyone’s afraid to go outside and just wants to hole up indoors. Mostly because that’s how I feel half the time — global pandemic or no.

A born sloth with a vitamin-D deficiency and a permanent case of depression and anxiety, I was made for a 14-day quarantine, baby. No one can hibernate for the summer like I can.

The only problem: my rental unit literally lacks storage space for hoarding (or indeed, normal living). I have coffee, tea and a respectable wine rack, but nothing a person can actually survive off. There are a few fancy salsas in the cupboard, but nary a chip to eat them with (I accept I can’t blame this on the apartment; I may also be a haphazard shopper). …

Rating: 4.5/5 hard truths

Genre: memoir

Content warnings: sexual assault, mental illness, self-harm, suicidal ideation

I’ve been meaning to read Eggshell Skull for ages — but if you’re anything like me, there aren’t many days where you think, “lovely, some free time! — let’s kick back with a relaxing story of sexual assault”.

It’s an unfortunate fact that the stories I most connect with are often the hardest ones. It’s not because I have any skeletons in my own closet — something for which this memoir has only made me more thankful — but because these are the stories that feel most worthwhile. …

Rating: 4/5 restless dreams

Genre: fiction, mystery, science fiction

Content warnings: suicide, psychological unrest, a road accident

When my friend Shyamalika recently handed me a novel, saying she’d just finished it and thought I’d like it, the choice was obvious: of course I would (again) abandon my to-read pile, more than 20 books thick, in favour of this new offering.

The Dreamers is one of those books with a perfect cover (and because I’m more superficial than I’d like to admit, it’s one of the qualities that drew me in). …

Rating: 5/5 spicy meat rings

Genre: historical/contemporary non-fiction, memoir, humour, social commentary

Content warnings: mentions of sexual abuse, parental neglect, road violence, violence towards LGBTQI people and just about anyone else of any kind of minority

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The Land Before Avocado is a journey into the Australia of Richard Glover’s childhood, from roughly 1965 to 1975. The writer and radio host bravely steps back into the past with the mission of finding out: were things really better back then?

Many people in today’s Australia seem to think so. As Glover notes, older Australians are a lot more likely to believe the past was a better place, but even younger people have a pretty bleak outlook on the trajectory their world is heading in. …

A love letter to a childhood just out of reach

I take the turn-off from the freeway, steer away from the national park and alongside the golf course, towards the highway.

Before the F3 was built, the highway was pretty much the only route from Sydney up to Queensland. When the traffic banked up this time of year, as all the families headed north to the Central Coast and the beaches beyond, the Pacific Highway would become a steaming stand-still.

When Mum and Dad bought a patch of Kuring-gai land in 1983, it was at the end of a street off that main stretch. Beyond their block was bushland, scraggly and alive. As the house (one storey, four bedrooms, a patio, a hills hoist out the back) rose from the land, bulldozers came in to force the bush back and make room for more houses. Suburbia crawled further, and eventually the street extended dozens of houses beyond that of my parents, giving rise to a spider’s-web of side streets and cul-de-sacs. …

Rating: 3.5 kale smoothies out of 5

Genre: Fiction, mystery, drama

Content warnings: drugs, hallucinations, eating disorders, suicide

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Nine Perfect Strangers follows a group of — you guessed it — nine Australians who check into a bush health retreat, each seeking refuge and transformation from their own private dramas.

Little do they know that Tranquillum House holds its own drama, not least personified in its formidable leader, Masha Dmitrichenko. After suffering a near-death experience, Masha transforms herself from a schlumpy executive into a wellness freak at the helm of an exclusive health resort, known for its “unconventional” methods.

You’ll have to read the book to discover just how unconventional those methods are, and to crack the mystery that is Masha. She’s an enigmatic force of nature, who I imagine to be played by a steely yet charismatic Cate Blanchett putting on a thick Russian accent. …

“ He liked to bet big, wagering tens of thousands of dollars in a sitting. He owned homes in four states but preferred staying in casino hotels, sometimes for weeks at a time, as he worked the gambling machines.”

This is how The Washington Post introduced us to Stephen Paddock, the perpetrator of the deadliest single-shooter massacre in modern American history.

It didn’t go down well. Las Vegas shooter Paddock was afforded a degree of colourful characterisation — of humanity — that has been flatly denied to people with darker skin and less common names. …

This was the week that Macklemore made his unlikely debut into Australian politics, causing a furore over plans to perform his pro-LGBT song “Same Love” at tonight’s NRL Grand Final. Peter Dutton is disgusted; he wants us to stop politicising sport. Donald Trump wants much the same when he orders black American footballers not to “take a knee” during the pre-game anthem.

But for those whose lives are politicised, everything is political — whether they like it or not. It’s a lesson that LGBT Australians have had a crash-course in over the past few weeks.

And it’s a lesson I was reminded of when I attended Friday’s NSW Aboriginal Land Council 40th anniversary celebration. Marking four decades since the organised effort to reclaim Aboriginal land rights in NSW found its feet, time and again I heard the pioneers of the movement referred to as “warriors” and “fighters”. …


Alyssa Robinson

20-something writer and comms worker in the not-for-profit sector. Passionate about many things, knowledgeable about few.

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