Thursday, January 27, 2011

Clinical

Several months ago, in this space, I had occasion to review the ramblings of an antipodean young lady who self-described herself as "crazy." Among her other sins, I took a bit of offense to this self label. It was inaccurate and signaled an underlying disregard for the identification of the correct descriptor. I berated her for choosing "crazy" because what she meant was "impulsive" and "impetuous." If I may quote myself, I told that young lady at the time "Real crazy and real insane is actually scary and dangerous. Not fun. Real crazy is hanging off the edge of the Golden Gate Bridge or hearing voices that aren’t there telling you to kill John Lennon."

Jacki, if you are still reading here, today's reviewee is somewhat close to the epitome of who I was talking about in that review. (Also, Jacki, if you are still reading here today, I encourage you to submit for a re-review. You have corrected your egregious sins. You would likely get a much improved review today.)

Pandora has been dealing with mental illness for years, and Confessions of a Serial Insomniac is where she records the trials and tribulations of what goes along with that.

She has a very full About Me section. Pages and pages and pages of orienting material. A glossary of terms and acronyms. A run down of who all the major players are and what her relationship to them is. Full background on what she has been able to identify as the inciting cause behind her initial breakdowns.

And let there be no question -- assuming that this is all honest and true (and there's no reason to doubt that's the case as far as I can tell), whatever mental illness she is experiencing is well earned and owned. Go through what she has and you'd likely be mentally ill as well.

Pandora generally writes clearly, yet very clinically. She conveys the facts of her mental illness very well, but only rarely seems to give real insight into what it feels like. It reads like a bit of a case study in a text book. And if the purpose of this is to serve as a record of a life or as a resource for others who are going through similar trials and tribulations, that may very well be appropriate. It wasn't what I was hoping for when I first saw the topic, and maybe that's just prurient selfishness on my part. Hard to say. But as one who's deepest experience with mental illness is a very occasional bout with Seasonal Affective Disorder and or mild depression, I wasn't able to latch onto this material the way I really wanted to.

The thing is, it seems to be something that she struggles with in her therapy sessions as well:


“OK,” Paul said, “but what did you feel?”
Not an easy question to answer.  I thought about how the way in which I’d described the incident here, but in the moment, that didn’t really seem to ‘get’ it.

So what can I say? That I'd like to see more catharsis? Feh. Easy for me to say from my comfortable house with my complete LACK of mental illness and trauma. Still, what I'm saying would probably make the individual entries a bit more compelling. The fact is, she doesn't glamorize or romanticize any of it -- she factualizes it. And perhaps that's a good thing to do. I'm not qualified to say anything about the illness part. But take a look at this, because this is more like what we're looking for here.

Okay, then. So what can she work on?

  1. The entries are too long. If I were hired as her editor, the first thing I would tell her is to cut everything to 1/3 of the currrent length.
  2. Lose the goddamned "Read More" links. Yeah, okay, they're probably there because the posts are so long, but I hate (hate, HATE, HATE!!!!) them. I probably didn't read as much of this as I should have partially because of that. (Partially because I have a deadline. Deal with it.)
  3. Too much crap in the sidebar. At least the sidebar isn't longer than the page content. But there's still a hell of a lot going on, and the stuff I was looking for (archives) was hard to find in that haystack.
  4. Reconsider the white text, black background. Although it doesn't bother me as much this time as usual because it kind of fits the subject matter, white text on a black background is hard on my eyes.
My final word of advise is going to come across as a bit condescending, maybe. I don't mean it to, but will understand why it is interpreted that way. I am trying to figure out why Pandora is writing this blog. What is the goal? Is it simply a diary of her mental illness? Is it to serve as a form of advocacy? And because that goal wasn't clear to me, it was very hard to assess whether she was successfully achieving her goal. Which is one of the key things I try to assess in these reviews. It seemed to me that she may be writing "just because" without a clear goal in mind. If that's the case, I might encourage her to find a goal for this and strive toward it. If it's NOT the case, and she has a goal, I might encourage her to identify that goal for the readers.

And that's that.

For what it's worth, I bet I know several people in real life who could have written this blog, except for the residing in Ireland part, and I like them all. So, in the end, I am willing to bet that if I were to know Pandora in real life, I'd probably consider her a friend.

Pandora's rating: One star.

22 comments:

  1. Mongolian Girl1/27/2011 4:57 PM

    I luuuuuuuuuuuurve Pandora's blog. When I clicked on what was being offered this week, her's was the one I could not stop reading. If I was actually keeping up with any blogs right now, her's would be in my top 5.

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  2. Miss Missives1/27/2011 6:27 PM

    I read through it and really liked it probably because I can identify with parts of it. But not the crazy parts, because I am not crazy.

    Shut up, yes you are.

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  3. This was a fucking good review. Nicely done.

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  4. The best review I have read on AAYSR so far.

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  5. Maybe as a fellow Irelander I'm biased, but after clicking the link in the preview post, I couldn't stop reading. I loved it. Great, balanced review here, but Pandora deserves more than one star IMHO.

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  6. She might've earned more from another reviewer. Like, if Mongolian Girl had reviewed her, she apparently would have earned an IFLY. Such is the life of a reviewee -- you never know which fucking bastard you're going to get.

    No matter. I understand all the love. I just didn't feel that much myself.

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  7. Mongolian Girl1/28/2011 9:24 AM

    Are you calling me a fucking basterd, Scorpio?
    Thank you, ya fuckin' ass wrinkle!
    And no, actually I would have given her more stars stars, but not an IFLY (Flibbery - that stands for "I Fucking Love You"). I do luuuuurrrrrve her blog, but agree with much of what you said in your list of what she can improve.

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  8. Mongolian Girl1/28/2011 9:25 AM

    Um...bastArd.
    Is it sad that I am most disturbed by typos when they happen with a cuss word?
    I mean, who cares if I mess up regular words. But cuss words? Oh the shame!

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  9. Mongolian Girl1/28/2011 9:26 AM

    Oh, and Miss Missives, I want to touch your comment. I really, really do.

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  10. Oh, Mongo, we're all fucking bastards in our own unique ways.

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  11. Thanks (I think!) for the review. I've no idea who submitted the blog to this site, which I only discovered through my referral stats (I suppose a dissociated masochist in my system my have been responsible, that said, but it certainly wasn't 'me'), but I'm grateful for your time anyway.

    I could, as always, say a lot in response, but I think the most salient point I would make is that it is clearly stated in several posts/pages, including one to which you've linked, that the 'goal' of the blog is as a personal diary. I write it as a blog owing to the generation in which I live, and I enjoy interaction with readers - I particularly welcome any benefit that they get from it, as some oddly claim to do - but it is ultimately merely a chronicle of this period of my life. As noted, this is clearly stated.

    I'd also add that part of the point of it being so clinical is that I am so clinical, as you noted vis a vis the session you quoted. I actually tend to password-protect "emotional" posts because I loathe being thought of in that way, at least beyond a certain trusted nucleus.

    Anyhow, I'm not trying to defend or justify myself, because I'm perpetually taken aback by the fact that anyone reads the shite that I write! But I just thought that I ought to maybe try and shed some light on why Confessions is as it is.

    Thanks again for taking the time to review it, and I'll try to heed some of the advice where appropriate :)

    Best wishes

    Pan x

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  12. And that was, quite typically, a brevity fail ;) Sorry.

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  13. As a regular reader of Pandora from within the world of mental health I appreciate her 'straight' reporting - so what is wrong with the blog, is kind of what is wrong with her! Yes, a lack of goals, a missing emotional element and an obsessive need to document. That's all part of writing yourself out of mental distress. The big elephant trap is becoming ever more accomplished at writing about bad experiences with an ever increasing and identifying readership. Pan should (and I do mean should) write with only one question in mine - what can I say today that will make easier for my readers, my peers, to get-up tomorrow.

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  14. One of my other's, Angry Cunt Lip, does not like this blog at all; she thinks the entire shebang needs to be password protected ....

    Just a note, Angry Cunt Lip isn't typing this. I'm Amnesia Jones. Hello!

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  15. Pandora -- if you never requested a review, than I expect that getting an unsolicited review could be somewhat disconcerting. So I appreciate the manner in which you accepted your treatment here. My only goal was to find areas for improvement for you.

    Nick -- I'm unsure I understand what you are getting at. Are you saying the review missed the mark by missing the point of the blog? Or something else?

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  16. @Scorpio Woperchild - I know, and thank you. I appreciate the spirit in which you wrote this review :)

    @gap - I should be interested to know why Angry Cunt Lip holds this view? (And would point out that she is under no obligation to read it, of course!). Thanks!

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  17. I really, really enjoy this blog a lot. Pandora, I'm sorry that you did not submit it yourself - I always feel bad whenever that happens - but I like how removed and distant it comes across because it's unique enough.

    I'm probably going to keep on reading it.

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  18. @Shinerpunch - thanks very much for your kind comments. And there's no reason to feel bad - whoever submitted the blog here has done me a favour. For one thing, I welcome constructive criticism, as seen in this review. I'm going to heed some of the advice, definitely. Secondly, I've been reading the archives of AAYSR, and have found myself in a state of laugh-so-fucking-hard-you-spray-your-drink-all-over-the-laptop amusement. You've got yourselves a new reader ;)

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  19. Mongolian Girl1/31/2011 4:46 PM

    Is it just me? Or is Pandora the best ever reviewee we've ever had here? And she didn't even hit the "submit" button herself.
    I wish we could give IFLY's to reviewee's responses to being reviewed.

    And yes, Pandora, we are evil, funny, delicious, intelligent and over sexualized fantasticness incarnate. I'm so glad you're going to be part of that.

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  20. I really wanted to review this one, but I thought it would just be unfair to Pandora. Because I am not good at separating myself from the reviewee, like Scorps. I bring severe bias into my reviews.

    Excellent job, Scorps.

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Grow a pair.