Learning from The Body Coach

Yesterday The Body Coach (Joe Wicks) posted a touching video to his followers on Instagram following the blow of yet another national lockdown announced in Boris Johnson’s public address.

Drawing upon his own anxieties during this very weird time, Wicks reiterated that despite keeping himself occupied with work throughout the duration of the pandemic, the reality of the COVID-19 situation is really affecting him, particularly recently. Wicks is known for his fitness regimes and cookbooks, and has served as a strong advocate for keeping fit, for both physical and mental health benefits, throughout the pandemic. He founded a weekly, fancy-dress virtual PE class during the first lockdown, which was imperative for the sanity of many people, not just the core demographic of children exiled into studying from home. He’s provided consistent online content, spreading his positive/proactive take on muddling through the pandemic, and has been a crucial uplifting and inspiring figure for the general public when times have been dismal.

The nicest thing about this video was his complete transparency as a public figure, his very ‘human’ response to the trials of a troubling time. It helps to break the facade of ‘the grass is greener’ and shows that even those who appear to be doing well can be struggling.

Wicks’ main points of discussion were conversational, the kind you’d have with a stranger in a pub or a neighbour on your street. He talked about his role as a father and husband, as well as the inherent need to appear strong in order to support his family. He also became quite emotional as he reflected upon his current privileges, a consequence of years and years grafting away at his career, and the contrast between his current status and his childhood roots, which briefly consisted of living in a council house with his family who struggled financially. Wicks noted that the main cause of his upset, among all the disarray at the moment, was his concern for those living alone, unemployed and/or attempting to support families whilst financially strained and under the pressure of social restrictions.

He’s definitely not the only ‘celebrity’ drawing attention to the inequities of socioeconomic backgrounds in the UK. Recently, we’ve all heard of the fantastic work Marcus Rashford has done, but also figures like Ellie Goulding have used their positions to raise awareness for charitable causes that help to support an end to homelessness. It says a lot when our celebrities and TV personalities are capable of more compassion and action for those who are struggling in the UK than those who are in actual political power, with the capacity to introduce legislations and major changes that could really help on a larger scale.

But we don’t need to get into that.

This post is just your daily reminder to normalise talking about mental health, especially at a time of crisis like a global pandemic. Joe Wicks is an absolute hero for being real candid about his experiences with this whole situation, and I think his strong emotional response to the struggle of others right now is a testament to his strength as a powerful yet vulnerable man.

One positive of 2021, so far, is that amazing people like him are using their platform to start meaningful conversations like this. I believed him when he said we’re going to get through this and now I’m ready to smash my day: let’s abolish the shame culture around talking mental health. It ain’t helping anybody!

DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: Evelyn

TW:

I would err on the side of caution as a viewer. The contents of this film could be very upsetting for some due to the themes of suicide, mental health, mental illness and bereavement. I understand that these are powerful themes that we try to face in the process of recovery but, especially during this precarious time of living in isolation and avoiding social contact, it might be worth putting this title on the shelf for better days.

“Don’t go, please stay”.

These are the words lifted from a vivid dream in which a brother pleads with the apparition of his deceased brother. He describes that awful feeling of knowing that things aren’t quite right, that his brother isn’t really real, that he must be dreaming because his brother is dead, but he still pleads nonetheless.

Grief is a challenging feat for most people and filmmaker Orlando von Einsiedel is no exception.

Einsiedel is no stranger to danger. His colourful resume is comprised of filming up-close-and-personal in war-zones and refugee camps. As a fly on the wall in high-risk, adrenaline-pumped environments, he has witnessed horrors beyond comprehension. Despite this, Einsiedel claims that none of these things have affected him quite as much as one particular subject: the unexpected suicide of his younger brother Evelyn.

Einsiedel has been unable to say his brother’s name for ten years. His sister, brother and their single mother have collectively struggled to cope with the repercussions of bereavement and have learned to completely avoid the topic of Evelyn’s suicide. With tears in his eyes, Einsiedel stares down the barrel of the camera from the other side, for the first time, and exposes the raw, brutal and long-awaited confrontation that his family face with acknowledged Evelyn’s death.

Sharing is preternaturally difficult for the family, yet they venture out on a journey to heal, retracing the hiking paths they once walked with Evelyn when he was a young boy. Recounting their fondest and most difficult memories of him along the way, they talk mental health, mental illness, vulnerability and the reality of living with the absence of a loved one. They drudge up recurring, vivid nightmares and the feelings of guilt and shame, which have haunted them in the years since Evelyn’s passing. Bearing the brunt of responsibility as a sibling or a mother, they reflect upon the signs of deterioration that Evelyn displayed and reflect on their roles in his battle with schizophrenia and depression.

This documentary is an ode to Evelyn’s life but more importantly, it’s an exploration of the impact his life and subsequent death had upon those who loved him. This film has managed to authentically encapsulate the roller coaster ride that is grief in a way I’m not sure I’ve encountered before. With nowhere to hide, the family are shown bursting spontaneously into tears in one shot and laughing hysterically in another, as they muse on the idiosyncrasies of Evelyn’s life. That’s what it’s like. A complete mess of emotions.

To hear somebody else express perfectly the frustrations and angst that I’ve felt over the last few years, since my uncle died, has been strangely healing. I initially thought that the nature of this documentary would leave me hysterically bawling from beginning to end but, in actuality, it really powerfully demonstrated that experiences of grief, though felt in a very insular manner, are intrinsically similar. It made me feel less alone in my experience and also more motivated to keep the conversation going, regarding mental illness.

For anybody who has experienced an unexpected loss, this documentary is a live-wire and touches a lot of nerves. It’s also a reaffirming scope into how deeply trauma can embed itself and the impact it can have, long after the event in question. Einsiedel captures the fragility of the lives left behind following a suicide and really brings relevant issues to the forefront. I applaud him for finding it within himself to embark on this journey, and even more spectacularly, to also invite others to experience it alongside him.