The Rise of the Human Fem-bot

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In the hit TV show, The Good Place, there is an important character named Janet who is an artificial being who has all the knowledge of the universe and can produce any item out of thin air, which she uses to help the people in the show. She is a reliable, non-threatening female, who is attractive but not distractingly so, and she is helpful and ever ready to assist her male boss, played by Ted Danson, at any time. She wears a natty skirt suit with vest, made even more fun with pussy bowed shirt. While it’s fun to see Janet on the television show, I am noticing more and more ‘Janet’s’ in everyday media.

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We have the Ford girl, who many people love to hate but she wears the Ford brand colour of a certain type of blue that is often used for banks and airlines, and she tells us about the specials and the runaway sales, and all the fabulous things Ford cars can do for you. When she changes her hairstyle, her online community of fans and haters throw opinions around with a passion saved only for the AFL during finals week.

The Ford girl has a particular speech pattern that people either find soothing or annoying, but whatever she is for you, she is getting cut through in advertising as she’s still doing the ads for Ford after several years.

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 Then we have Toyota who bought in their character, Jan, who is more comedic than she is soothing. She is like Janet from The Good Place but not as funny and can’t get you what you want when you want it but she does wear a pussy bow like her influence Janet, so that’s something.

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Then we have the Trivago girl, who tells you where to get the best hotel deal. She is confident she can help you find a place to rest your weary head, where you won’t get bed bugs or your passport stolen. She is popular and her constant fashion changes have won her several Pinterest boards dedicated to her satorial choices, which range from Marcel Marceau inspired stripes when telling where to stay in Paris, to some sort of superhero outfit when she telling us the prices to stay on Wonder Woman’s island Themyscira, or maybe she was smashing hotel room prices, I am still unsure.

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I recently read that many men are crueller and cruder to female AI voices, such as Siri or Alexa, than they are when the program set to a male voice and since female AI is mostly programmed by men for service, and this perpetuates the continual gender inequality in society.

When women are in the media as the ‘weather-girl’, the entertainment reporter, the hostess and the company concierge, we are letting ourselves be seen for so much less than we are and can be.

We have a responsibility to ensure there is gender balance in AI and in the media, otherwise we will never reach a post gender world. We need to see and hear voices and people from all over the world. Accents and colours and abilities that reflect more than the brunette, white female “Janet’s” of this world.

Siri only had a male voice option included in the last 12 months, which makes me wonder if it’s a connection to the #metoo movement. We are so conditioned to be in servitude, telling people the directions, the answers, the facts, the specials, all while be subservient that we forgot we have a voice beyond being the helper and host. We can stand up and demand more equality and more than we are getting from the world right now.

Don’t be a Janet. Be a Jessica Jones. The Marvel female superhero, who is flawed, brilliant, gifted, a bitch, who feels at a deep level, who is cynical and hopeful and above all, self aware. Something we should all strive to be.

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Why people don't talk about depression

The problem with telling the truth about your depression is the fallout afterwards.

Depressed people don’t tell the truth  because:

  • People with depression can’t get life insurance.

  • People with depression can lose their jobs either once the illness is discovered or when they have to take time off for the invisible illness that makes them bedridden for weeks on end.

  • They aren’t offered jobs or opportunities because they are deemed unreliable or unstable even if they haven’t shown any signs of either.

  • Friendships wane when you stop attending social events because people don’t understand when you say you can’t go because you’re anxious/stressed/depressed.

  • Relationships can fall apart when the vulnerability is exposed.

  • It’s near impossible to get a rental property if you reveal a mental illness.

  • It’s near impossible to get Centrelink benefits for depression. Same goes for Workcover or income protection.

  • Their opinions or solutions to a problem are dismissed because of their illness.

  • Their emotions are attributed to their illness and subsequently dismissed.

  • If they treat their illness with medication, it’s seen as ‘the easy way out’.

  • They are told they have no coping skills, despite the fact that many have faced extreme physical and psychological horrors and still manage to get up most days.

  • People tell men to ‘nut up’ and women to ‘stop being so emotional.’

  • People avoid them in social and professional situations.

  • People will gossip about them and their ‘craziness’.

  • People dismiss their revelation because ‘they don’t seem depressed.’

  • People make it about them and their experiences.

And yet the question is still being asked, why didn’t he/she tell anyone?

It’s pretty fucking simple.

Telling someone to tell the truth and then punishing them for their courage is a dog act.

Being punished for telling the truth is the act of a narcissist. I guess the world  is turning into one giant, narcissistic, reality star.

What to do when you're depressed

I was talking to a friend this week about depression and whether they should go on meds or not.

I am a firm believer in medication for diabetes, heart disease and depression. I once went off my meds and tried to use a psychologist for my growing anxiety. Instead of working through it, I got worse and worse, meanwhile, she kept asking me how I felt.

I felt like killing myself, I told her. And why do you think that is? She would ask.

So back on the meds for me and I haven’t looked back.

But when I was depressed, some of the bullshit advice I got was laughable and in hindsight, dangerous.

“Go for a walk,” a family member would tell me. “Thanks but I haven’t been out of bed for three days, and can barely walk to the bathroom, so a walk if probably out of the question unless it’s off a cliff.” I know exercise is good but if you’re knee deep in the depression pit, you can’t do this. It’s exhausting to even think about.

“It could be worse.” Someone said. “Yes it could be but it’s pretty bad for me right now, so why don’t you fuck off?”

“I know a healer…” Do you? I know a man named God also, who lives in a huge cloud and shits rainbows and sings like Randy Newman.

So here is my list for what to do when you’re depressed:

1) Go to a doctor. Don’t wait. A GP. The emergency department. A psychiatrist. Do not be turned away. If you need an advocate, ask the toughest person you know to go with you and tell them what you need and let them fight for you.

2) If you decide to wait for the decision to see a doctor, give yourself a time limit for feeling better. If you still feel crap by then or even worse, go to the doctor.

3) If you do therapy, then tell the truth. This is your space and nothing will be said outside those walls. Tell the truth. Get some self-awareness and ask why the therapist thinks that is happening in your brain.

4) Avoid triggers. Don’t watch Silver Lining Playbook or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest while depressed. I watched the entire series of Gilmore Girls while waiting for my Zoloft to kick in. Lorelei and Rory have a special place in my heart forever more.

5) Try and eat something. Even a little something. Think nutrition, not calories. Your brain needs food. If you don’t eat it will start to eat itself. Not good at all.

6) Do what feels right. If you don’t want to go to something don’t. Don’t want to see a certain person or group, don’t. You do not have any obligation to do things to make others lives happier while you’re in the depths of the depths.

7) Meditation. Meditation has got me through some tough times. I tend to like guided meditations such as Sharon Salzburg. She is so lovely and gentle. Her meditation while drinking a cup of tea is gorgeous and so soothing. It’s emotional self-care at it’s best.

8) Try and work out if it’s situational or clinical depression. If it’s situational, then I would suggest that something in your life needs to change. Is it the job? The relationship? The money issues? Changing your life instead of ending it is the goal here.

9) If it’s clinical, then see a doctor. Don’t fuck around with it. Doctor. Stat. Now.

10) Write it down. All of it. You can delete it or burn it afterwards if you’re afraid but the mere act of writing it out means it’s out of you for that moment. Cut it out with your pen or keyboard.

11) Join an online group for support if you can’t leave the house yet. Reading can be helpful but ensure you’re not overthinking it too much. Discuss with your doctor if you’re unsure this is a good idea yet.

12) Tell someone you trust about how you are feeling, and if you don’t have someone, ask your doctor for support and who you can speak to. There are lots of people who can help you through this, services and carers.

13) Don’t trust your dark thoughts when you’re in the bad place. They aren’t helpful or kind and are full of shit.

14) Don’t spend too much time alone with your thoughts if you can help it. Watching mindless TV is good. Listening to nice music helps, as long as the lyrics aren’t too emotional.

And finally, trust that this is just a feeling that will pass. You will be happy again. You will be content again. You will care again. The apathy will pass and you will be part of life again. But changed and for the better. If you can come out of depression with real skills for helping others and sharing your journey back to wellness, then that’s amazing. But sometimes just knowing yourself that bit better, your triggers and what has bought you to your knees is enough to get you on your feet again.

You have my support always and I promise, you will get through this, just get help and don’t try and do it alone if you don’t have to.

Peace.

Kate

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Deep Thoughts About Deep Work

I have been thinking about giving up writing because I have no self-control. I was also thinking of getting checked for late on-set ADD. I had to force myself to finish my personal writing work. I would find distractions and excuses everywhere. I would clean the microwave, lose hours on social media, anything to run away from my writing. Time to bring out the big guns and get a self-help book.

I like self-help books, particularly the ones that are prescriptive and with formulas, you can apply to you every day. I didn't want to unpack why I was avoiding my writing, instead, I wanted to know how to stop the bullshit.The bullshit antidote came in the form of a book called Deep Work. It's by a huge dork called Cal Newport, who is a computer scientist and seems like a bit of a tool in his TEDx talk and I hate TEDx because they don't pay their speakers, but Cal's book isn't tool-ish, which is great news for everyone.

If you are struggling with committing to your work and living in the shallows of life, and need help, then this is the book for you. 

Here are my top takeaways from the book:

1) Social Media is a networking tool and nothing more. People who see it as something more in their life clearly need to get a life. Take a 30-day break and see which ones you miss and which ones you're missed on. This will tell you which ones matter in your life. BUT remember they are products, owned by companies, designed to sell to you and sell your information to other companies with products.

Also, I realised I'm a tool on social media.  So I unfriended myself with Facebook and keep it now only for my gorgeous and private writing group which I run and love. Twitter was taking up too much of my time, as I tried to be clever and pithy, endlessly scrolling, but really avoiding writing pithy and clever dialogue for my book characters. 

Keep social media for networking purposes only and don't log in unless you have to, and I mean really have to! I promise, you're not missing anything in the general feed. 

2) Put more thought into your leisure time. God, how often did I sit and scroll looking at shit on my phone? Don't answer that, because it will hurt me like a punch to my colon. Finding ways to get the most out of your leisure time is personal. Some people might like to garden, or do craft. I like to read, and if I want to be a craftsperson in my writing, I need to read more. In a week, I have read three books, because I'm not scrolling in a vacuum of echoed, irrelevant content, wishing I was doing something better with my time.

3) Respect your time. This isn't just about social media, it is about using your time properly. This week I have written a huge tender, taken on a new paid job, edited a 50k manuscript, and written a treatment for TV show, because I showed up and respected the time I had allocated to work. And I did work in this time, without any distraction. No phone calls, texts, messages, no internet besides for research reasons if needed, and I set myself up for success. Coffee made, water bottle on the desk, some snacks, and a quiet space. It is kind of embarrassing how easy it was and how long it's taken me to commit to this style of work but my output is the evidence that it works.

4) The work you do at night is shit. I would often work at night, and it was usually always shit. Tired thoughts, distracted ideas, messy structure. No wonder I wasn't inspired to keep working. By deciding to not work at night means I am giving myself permission to read or I am allowing myself to take a break and watch Killing Eve and become obsessed with Villanelle. I am refilling my well.

5) The less information I am exposed to, the more I am learning and mastering my craft. The other day I was getting petrol, and I could hear someone was talking about the weather. I looked up and there was a TV, attached to the pump. I knew it was cold. I was outside getting petrol. Why do I have to be informed about everything all the time? Turn it all down. The radio, the news, the internet, social media. You have so many wonderful thoughts and idea everyday, but how can you hear them over the din of information clamouring for your attention.

I do think that social media has damaged my attention span but this week has also shown me that I am able to repair it if I set my rituals and routines up to do the deep work. I actually found myself wanting to go back to my work for the first time in two years. It was exciting and that felt like a freaking miracle!

I recommend this book if you want a solution to your concentration issues but like anything, it only works if you work it.

Good luck!

 

 

 

 

Talk About A Bad Day At Work

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I was reading that resilience comes from talking to people about your troubles. Sharing the moments that scare or confuse you. That the act of talking it through is in itself a decision to be resilient.

This year I experienced an extreme act of professional bullying. It wasn’t just aimed at me, it was aimed at everyone in the business, slowing ebbing away any semblance of independence and confidence. Micromanaging bullshit and game playing that eventually ended up in me leaving in a manner that meant I spent the evening on the phone to Lifeline, pondering my pain and self-worth. Should I stay or go?

In an act of desperation, I wrote about it on Facebook, asking a few close friends if I was what he said I was in our last meeting. A deeply personal accusation that bordered on cruelty.

I’m not usually that person who puts up the sad sack post on FB but I needed help. I was drowning. It played over and over in my head. I couldn’t stop crying. I was sick to my stomach. My children cried watching me cry. My husband was furious and helpless. I didn’t want anyone to feel that way because of what happened to me. So I asked. Am I what he said I was? I had been misunderstood and I was punished for it. I was punished for being myself. For the way I wrote, and the way I expressed my enthusiasm.

The love and support I got was amazing. The care and kindness. People called me to tell me I matter. People met me for coffee and talked about their own experience with this tyrant. I got job offers. I gained an amazing new client from it, and I felt so deeply loved, that I cry as I read this. I asked and I received.

I talked to my psychiatrist about it and she said that our support networks are our lifeline. Sometimes it’s okay to be vulnerable and say, ‘This happened and I’m in a bad place.’ Because those people will remind you that they got through similar and worse, they will have advice, and the act of talking it through helps your brain make sense of it, and you can begin to practise options for recovery and coping.

I am not someone who shies away from emotion. I am okay with the ugly cry. I am okay with the rawness in life. I can talk about death and suicide, and mental illness and grief. The dark waters don’t scare me anymore. But being frightened by someone else does. I was frightened. I was traumatised. I was in shock.

I asked my doctor when other people would find out what sort of a person they are, and she said, when they open their eyes enough to see the bigger picture. Emotional intelligence isn’t something everyone has. Sometimes they avoid the behaviours because they are getting something out of it. The greater good doesn’t always play out in the world.

We live in a society where excuses are made when people’s bad behaviour is overlooked because they might give us something. Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, Michael Jackson, Louis C.K, Bill Cosby, Donald Trump. We can forgive anything if we are getting something out of it. But can you ethically and morally separate the art and artist or the boss and the bully, especially when their behaviour traumatises people?

You cannot excuse them just because you enjoy their work or they make you money. The long game means that many will eventually end us losing. History tells us so. One law suit. One review. One person says something and soon the others come. The truth, just like the moon, cannot be hidden long.

But the lesson isn’t about that. That will sort itself out.

My lesson is that it’s important to share when you’re struggling. Talking helps you makes sense and decide. That great friend's and loved ones are your safety net, and that you will be the same for them or have been. It’s called love. So work hard and be nice to people. It’s easy if you try.

* Graphic Design -Anthony Burrill