RECOVERY

Sleep Over // Geraldine Pilgrim

Sleep, that final frontier. We can put man on the moon, split the atom and prove that water has memory, and yet we still do not really know why we sleep. What scientists do know is that without proper sleep our cognitive ability is impaired and the middle part of the frontal lobe in our brains is affected as a build-up of proteins occurs.

To believe the media hype we are in the midst of a sleep-loss epidemic, putting us at heightened risk of cancer, dementia, heart disease and weight gain. So as part of Normal? 2018, a sleep-over was held in the auditorium of the Quaterhouse. Not for scientific analysis, just purely to emphasise and highlight the importance of sleep to our mental wellbeing.

Geraldine Pilgrim designed the installation, which looked like a cross between a field hospital and a supersized hostel/hotel room. One of the sleepers disclosed that she dreamt that the pillows came from Premier Inn and the mattresses from Dunelm - strange that we dream of such mundane things! Fourteen sleepers and one male matron hankered down for cocoa or Horlicks, bedtime stories and a recording of the old and soporific version of the shipping news, followed by seven and a half hours of undisturbed rest in comfy beds with Egyptian cotton sheets and super soft pillows. For the insomniacs a room was kitted out with food, drinks and a video diary.

At 8am, piped birdsong filled the auditorium and bodies started to move and then rise from their cotton comfort. Why though, did those who normally wake to sunrise still manage to do so despite the darkened room? At breakfast, Tim Rittman, the in-house neurologist answered questions on sleep matters whilst a delicious breakfast was served. Everyone seemed curious to know if we had slept well but I was more interested to hear how our matron Gary felt, given he had endured the whole night in a darkened room. Coincidentally he spent the night reading about the Normandy Landings as he watched over us in our dystopian hangar style bedroom.

Matthew Walker’s book Why We Sleep tells me that prolonged sleep deprivation can be fatal. In our 24hr society individuals are torn between the necessity to work and battling against their circadian rhythms. What risk is this posing for tomorrow’s generations?

‘To sleep perchance to dream’

If only!

-       Sandra Elkins

 

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Why We Sleep - Matthew Walker

The Sleep School

How to Cope with Sleep Problems - Mind

Sleep Tips - BBC News

A New Theory Linking Sleep and Creativity - The Atlantic

Sometimes I Adult // Fridge Magnet

voice

into

loop

pedal

1

2

3

4

these

lines

for

Alice

who

counts

in

fours

Sometimes I Adult is a solo show in four acts - Symptoms, Diagnosis, Recovery, Relapse - that sees Alice Sainsbury honestly and wittily divulge, tackle and stare down her ‘old man’ companion OCD. To help tell of her experiences, she arms herself with a loop pedal and a baritone ukulele with which she plays and sings songs from pop culture with re-written lyrics. The songs range from Part of Your World from The Little Mermaid to Stand By Me by Ben E King - an irreverent and joyous mix with a dual role of helping to protect the vulnerability within the work. 

More than episodic cabaret, there is a sense of Alice giving in to all the frustrations, powerlessness and fuckery of an incessantly checking brain that conjures images of destruction and hurt if lightening-quick instructions are not followed. For example, if Alice doesn’t balance a casual moment of goodbye with her mother as she runs an errand by waving, jumping, clearing her throat and saying, 'I love you’ four times, her mother’s car will catch fire and her skin will melt off. 

The capacity of a mentally distressed brain to conjure gruesome images resonates between many mental health issues. The show details their violent and graphic nature in a way that exposes the impact that this condition has on the performer and on the audiences. Audiences who will inevitably lie on a spectrum of being able to connect Alice’s experiences with their own or someone they know. 

Underlying the work are a several dichotomies that arise in OCD recovery; simultaneously being overwhelmed by intrusive thoughts but determinedly ‘staring that fucker down in the face’. The unpredictable medication side effects alongside the disorientating relapses. The knowledge of never being able to live without OCD interweaved with the hope of one day getting over it. 

All this looping, all this living, conjures another contradiction. Alice possesses a resilience from learning to manage her condition but alongside this, in moments when mental distress can strip the mind, this same resilience can feel like fuck all. 

a

bitter

sweet

strength

- Alexandrina Hemsley

 

Links Relevant to this Diagnosis:

Sometimes I Adult - Fridge Magnet

OCD UK

Living With OCD - Samantha Pena (TEDxYouth)

OCD Information and Support - Mind

ELEPHANT OF MY HEART / Prospero Theatre

ELEPHANT OF MY HEART / Prospero Theatre

There’s a long and rich interplay between meditation and the arts, including music and artworks including the ancient Indian tradition of mandalas. But bringing meditation into conventional theatre is a little more unusual. ‘Elephant of my Heart’ is a stage adaptation of Jessica Clements’ book of the same name: Clements herself even performs in the show’s chorus. It’s a memoir of her time in hospital recovering from a brain haemorrhage as a nine year old child. She believes that the inner travels she went on, guided by an elephant, triggered her healing process.