“-Live in three-”
The lights illuminate the stage-
-as a balding man with CREW on his shirt signals to the crowd-
-and the Hostess flashes her I paid way too much for these teeth! smile.
“Heeeeeello, and welcome to We’ve! Got! History!” The audience chants along with her and erupts into applause, right on cue.
“I’m Jennifer Lowton, your ever curious host, and today on the show, well, have I certainly got something for you! A woman who definitely has history, the ever-glowing: Eleanor of Aquitaaaaaaine!”
The cameras turn as Eleanor strides out, long steps in time with the introductory music. Her cold, set face tramples the mixed Booooo!’s and Wooooo!’s, and she sits herself on a red, cushioned chair, adjusting her dress as she does so.
“Now,” our illustrious hostess continues once the crowd quietens. “Eleanor! Quite the history you’ve got here…”
Jennifer pretends to consult her notes that aren’t really notes at all. Just her shopping list that she was writing right before the cameras went live.
“Married… divorced… married again… a rebellion… a Crusade… you’re almost as bad as me!” she laughs to herself. The CREW shirt quickly commands the audience to laugh. She taps her ringless finger against the plush, red material of her chair.
“Yes, well… tell us about this first husband of yours. What’s his name? What does he do? What is the history?!”
Eleanor rearranges herself in her seat, puts her left leg over the right. “Louis. Louis the VII, I might add. The King of France, but he didn’t do a whole lot anything, really, if you know what I mean.”
Jennifer gives a knowing smile towards the audience. “In the bedroom area, you mean?”
“In the ruling area! The man, would you believe it, he did nothing to expand his territory, nothing to expand his rule; he didn’t even own half of France, and he was the King of France! The most useful thing he did was go on a Crusade, and even that failed!”
“A Crusaaaaade, you say? I’m ever so curious…” she glances at her notes, wishes they had something more useful than a list of PG Tips, avocado, and lemon juice. “Do tell us about this Crusade.”
“He dragged me on it, would you believe it? On his silly journey to save the Holy Lands. I would have been a better leader than that fool, not that I could do anything about it. I am just a woman.”
The men in the audience laugh, and their wives hit them on the leg.
“Oh! But I’ll tell you what was good; my uncle was there, in Outremer, Roger of Toulouse. Old Roger, now he’s from where I live! The good lands of Southern France, where we speak the good language of Occitan. Ohhhh, it was good to be able to speak to someone in my language.”
“But things didn’t go all to plan did they, El? Can I call you El?”
“Eleanor. And no. Louis saw Roger and I talking, and accused me of cheating on him!”
The audience gasp.
“I didn’t, of course.”
A few sceptical Mmmmm, suuuuuure’s come from the audience.
“He was just jealous because he couldn’t understand us, the utter fool. He never did bother to learn Occitan, despite a good chunk of his Kingdom speaking it!”
Jennifer’s hand was hovering near her mouth in fake shock. “What ever did you do?”
“Left him as soon as we got back to Paris!”
“Damn right, girl! We can applaud that, can’t we ladies?!”
More enthusiastic applaud is heard, directing by the balding CREW man.
“Now, this husband of yours, Louis. He had a few enemies didn’t he? A certain… King of England?”
Eleanor re-crossed her legs again and picked up her wine glass. The image proclaimed power, dignity, supremacy.
“Oh, yes. King Henry II of England. Henry held a lot of French lands, and Louis was not happy about it.”
Jennifer gave a smile. The kind of smile that, when directed at you, reveals a secret only you are aware of.
“Did you know Henry well?”
Eleanor sips her red wine, a colour that compliments the red rubies on her crown.
“I married him.”
“Did she just say-”
Jennifer pauses for the audience, and drinks up her own wine, just as she was drinking up all the views she’d be getting from this interview. Or maybe she wasn’t pausing for the audience. Maybe she was pausing to considering what plastic surgery she was going to get next with all the revenue from this episode.
“So, you married your now ex-husband’s worst rival?”
“That would be correct.”
“Oooooh, El, you slippery lady!” She looks backstage. “I think we need some more wine, here! Now, El-”
“-You and Louis couldn’t have sons, could you?” She continues speaking with a wave of her hand before Eleanor could jump in. “Which must be pretty vital for a King. Needing an heir, and all… So just how many sons did you have with your second husband, Henry?”
“Foooouuuuur! Louis must have been livid!”
“I assume livid is the word, yes.”
“But your sons didn’t quite like their father did they, El?”
“Henry always tried to keep power from them. Didn’t want them becoming stronger than he was. It was rather unfair, especially on my poor Richard.”
“So what did they do about this?”
Jennifer smiled her thanks at the CREW member who had brought in more drinks. She could say speeches with a smile, this one.
Eleanor accepts a second glass of wine with a curt nod.
“I told them to rebel against their father.”
Timed to perfection, Jennifer, mid-sip, chokes on her wine in shock.
“Let me get this straight. You told your own sons, Henry, Richard, Geoffrey, and John, to rebel against their own father, your husband?”
The crowd was in silent shock. The CREW member, totally enveloped in the History! of the situation completely forgot to get the audience to react.
“But Eleanor, where did you stand in all of this?”
“With my sons.”
“But where did any of you get the power to rebel?!”
“We went to Louis VII of France.”
The calls of, “Whore!” and, “Slut!” got mixed in with the applause from the members finding this situation shockingly hilarious.
“So, you rebelled against your husband, with your sons, against your ex-husband, who was your current husband’s biggest enemy? I can already see this trending on Twitter.”
“Trending on what?”
“Oh, I’d love to hear how this one turns out! Wouldn’t you, loving audience?”
“Who even is she?!”
“Well,” Eleanor takes off her crown. “It failed.”
“Noooooo!” gasped Jennifer, clutching her wine glass with the lipstick stain on it.
“What on earth happened next?”
“Henry imprisoned me, like a cattle, until the day of his death. And helped himself to my money to repay his debts, and fund a few monasteries while he was at it.”
“Until the day of his death… you mean… you outlived him?”
Some people in the audience Woop!
“Eleanor of Aquitaine: married twice, to two men who despised each other, partook in a Crusade, a rebellion, survived imprisonment, and outlasted both of her ex-husbands?! Well, my beauties, that’s Quite! A! History!”
Again, the audience joined in chanting the title. Well, those that had recovered from the whole ordeal.
“-that I don’t think will ever be surpassed on this show! Even more controversial than when Genghis Khan was on!”
Groans of agreement came from the audience.
“Tune in next time to We’ve! Got! History! and find out just why Vincent Van Gogh likes to eat paint so much! Ta ta, lovelies!”
The CREW member signals applause, and Jennifer, somewhat reluctantly, shakes Eleanor’s hand and smiles a goodbye at the camera. The lights turn off.
We, as a society, are fundamentally awful at talking about mental health. As soon as the topic comes up we avoid it like the plague—That’s harmful. That silence can be deadly, so it’s about time we break it and scream from the rooftops about mental health because it should not be ignored.
There is an enormous stigma surrounding mental health that needs to be challenged. Young people suffering from mental illness are dismissed because they’re “teenagers.” Women are dismissed because they’re “emotional.” Men are dismissed because it’s not “manly.” This stigma is damaging and needs to be erased— and this can be done by talking about mental health issues.
One quarter of the population of the UK will experience a mental illness at least one point in their lives. The stigma that surrounds mental health causes the subject to become taboo, which leads to people being too scared to speak out. Being trapped in your own mind is terrifying. Having someone to talk to is vital, otherwise it leads to a build-up of negative emotions that, one day, will just explode out of you.
Imagine a river in the rain. At first, the water level rises slowly; nothing too drastic, but different to the usual. The more it rains, the worse it gets. There’s a storm coming, and there is only so much rain the river can hold. It keeps raining and raining and raining and then— the river overflows.
That’s what it’s like to suffer silently through mental illness. Overtime, it floods uncontrollably out of you.
And to those saying: “It’s all in your head.” Well, yes. It’s a mental illness. It affects our brains and surprise surprise; our brains are in our heads. Does this make it any less serious? No. Should it be treated as seriously as physical health? Yes.
As author Matt Haig once said: “Mental health is physical health. Bodies and minds interact.”
Mental illness is not infectious. It’s not contagious. It shouldn’t be treated any differently to physical health. If I need a sick day because my brain simply cannot cope with life that day then I should be able to take a day off without any shame or guilt— just as I would be able to do if I was physically unwell. By talking about mental health, we can help to make people realise that it is, in fact, equally as important as physical health, and is just as serious an issue.
Anxiety and depression are both momentous in terms of how they affect people: 5.9 people in 100 suffer from anxiety and 3.3 in 100 suffer from depression, with a horrendous number of 20.16 in 100 people experiencing suicidal thoughts. These are the most commonly talked about and recognised mental illnesses, but there are, of course, other mental illnesses that are hardly ever talked about that need to be talked about and understood by more people.
Nearly as many people suffer from PTSD as they do anxiety, with studies showing that 4.4 in 100 people are at one point affected by it. So why do we only tend to focus on depression and anxiety? Just as many people suffer from OCD, bipolar disorder, anorexia, BED, and so many more mental illnesses that to focus primarily on only two issues is ignorant of us. Ignoring other mental illnesses causes people with those issues to feel alienated within society. By talking about a larger variety of mental health issues we can stop people from feeling isolated. We can help more people. We can improve lives.
I know, reading this, you may not suffer from a mental illness, but I can bet a friend, family member, or classmate does. So show them that they aren’t alone. I don’t mean walk up to them and yell about their struggles, but don’t alienate them for struggling. Attempt to understand what they’re going through and try to help them.
Sometimes, people just need someone to talk to.
Don’t get me wrong— it’s pretty unlikely you’re going to be able to fix their life, but it’s good to know someone is there who loves and supports you while you learn to fix it for yourself. Everyone needs someone to believe in you. Quite simply: it’s encouraging to know there is someone who cares and who listens.
I always thought there was strength in staying silent. But there’s not. Yes, it’s scary to put your thoughts out there, but it’s also so, so much stronger to speak up.
So be strong.
Keep the talk about mental health alive.