Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Healing Diary: How to Panic

Ugh . . . I am writing this immediately after I finished writing the first blog post in this series, and I have to tell you, it was a harrowing ordeal. Not because of the doctor, the doctor was great, but the events leading up to it . . .
The Word of the Day is: 'APPOINTMENT'.

Appointment /ə'poyntmənt/ n. 1. An arrangement to meet a person or be at a place at a certain time. 2. The act of placing in a job or position. 3. The person who receives such a job or position. 4. The job or position to which such a person is appointed. 5. (pl.) A fixture or fitting. 6. Property Law Nomination to an interest in property under a deed or will.

Okay, two nights ago (at time of writing [i.e. the 22nd of June]), I realized that self-help and occasional calls to a support line weren't going to cut it. All my sources were advising me to see a G.P., and on the 20th of June, I booked an appointment online to see a doctor. I know this date is accurate because I have a text on my phone, sent to me on that date, asking to confirm my online appointment. I set that appointment for two days later, because I was terrified of the idea of having to suffer at home for too much longer, but I couldn't book it on the weekend. See, the opening hours were shorter on the weekends and my sleeping patterns were all over the shop, so I didn't think I could wake up early enough for even a midday appointment (it really was that bad).
Also, I already had a dentist's appointment booked that day. I didn't mention it in the last post, because it kinda slipped my mind (when I wrote that post, I'd just come from the dentist), but I figured, if I had a dentist appointment in the same place, I'd feel more confident leaving the house.
So, I booked online, and I could finally relax for a while . . . I was going to get help, it's a good feeling.

Now, fast forward, the time is 1:30pm, right after writing up the first blog post in this series. I go and eat some lunch, some leftover creamy tomato & tuna pasta; with some cheese on it, it's pretty tasty. Then, my phone alarm goes off, I have to leave in 5 minutes, I put my jacket on and grab my bag (with a book in it to read, while waiting in the waiting room), then I head out the door.
I time it perfectly. It's a gloomy day, but I feel good, because I'm doing what I set out to do. It's even a little sweaty in my leather jacket, but I don't give a fuck, because it's winter, and I'm allowed to wear my black leather jacket without looking like a spaz and I feel good.
I get to the door just as my 3-minute warning alarm goes off on my phone, which I set up so that, if I dawdled too much, it would be my "run, you're late" alarm. I delete the alarm, walk in and say to the receptionist:
  "I'm here for my 2:30 appointment."
She looks at her book, then looks at me.
  "I don't have one for you," she says. "Are you booked under 'John'?"
  "No . . ." I say, frowning. "No, it might be under 'Matt'."
  "One moment please," she says, as the phone rings. While she's on the phone, I grab my own phone to check if maybe they sent me a message or something to confirm the time, so I check my phone, and all I find is that text message, the one I mentioned in the earlier paragraph, to confirm my online appointment. The receptionist finishes on the phone and says. "Are you sure it was here? You might have booked for the dentist, and there's a G.P. at Sunnybank or Warrigal Square."
  "I've already had my dental appointment," I explain, feeling very sheepish. Then I show the phone to her and ask. "Do you do online appointments?"
  "No," she says.
  "Okay," I say. Immediately, I slip out of there and start heading along the road.

Where is it? It must be in Warrigal Square, I said to myself, but should I just head straight there? I don't know where it is, and that's a 40 minute walk from here, I'd be an hour late by the time I found it.
So, I made up my mind to go home, and drive to Warrigal Square. But, the lady said that there were a lot of doctors around the place, I didn't want to go to the wrong one again. I didn't want to leave the home, and get lost again.
With all this in mind, the plan was when I got home, I'd look up the website I'd used to book online, call them and make sure they hadn't cancelled my appointment, then I'd double-check the address, then I'd drive over there.

See, here's the fun part where I get to talk about some of the symptoms of my anxiety, because they're relevant to this story. One of them is having difficulty concentrating, because I get distracted with worry, with regret about the past or fear of the future, I lose focus of the present moment. The reason why I'd gone to the wrong address in the first place was because I wasn't paying enough attention when I booked it, so I saw the street and didn't concentrate on the rest.
(As a side-note, another symptom of anxiety is difficulty when it comes to uncertainty. Notice how I set two alarms for one appointment? It's because I was worried that, even if I adhered to the first alarm, there was a chance that I wouldn't move fast enough to get there on time, hence including a second alarm "just in case". But, as you can see, I was so worried about micromanaging the future, I completely missed that I was going to the wrong place. There's a difference between "preparing for the future" and "worrying about the future", I engaged in the latter.)
The third symptom of anxiety that I want to talk about today, is worry, but one of the differences between everyday worry and worrying as a symptom of anxiety disorder is severity; one way to identify worry as a symptom is if it has a cascading effect. Like dominoes knocking one another over, one worry will lead to another and another, almost like your mind is constructing a little narrative in your head to convince you that you're well and truly fucked . . .

As I walked home, for the full 20-minutes, as that hauntingly grey sky loomed overheard, I worried that I would miss my appointment; and if I missed that appointment, I may not be able to reschedule today (and may even get some kind of late fee, do doctors do that?); and if I couldn't reschedule today, then when could I? Tomorrow, or the next day?; and if I have to schedule for tomorrow, it means I would have to go another day without treatment. If so I could have another panic attack tonight, which means that I might stay up late trying to calm down and miss any appointments tomorrow, so I can't reschedule tomorrow, I'd need to book a few days later, so that I have time to get my sleeping schedule right; but if I have to postpone my next appointment for three days or so, then that means I'll have another week without help & my parents come back on Thursday and want me to pick them up from the Gold Coast! If I can't get help before then, then I can't pick them up, I can't drive if I'm still suffering from anxiety like this, because I'll be wound up tighter than a jack-in-the-box in that car, on my own, for two hours or so on the road! So, I'd have to let them down, and sit at home, suffering, waiting for someone to take me to the doctor.
I was literally on the verge of tears as I got home, I was a mess.

I know, if you're reading this, it might sound silly, but, that's because it is. I know that it's silly, that's one of the reasons anxiety is so stressful, because even if the possibility of that worry isn't real, the concern I feel - and the tension in my chest because of that concern - is real. And for me, if I worry about something and then realize that my concerns are unwarranted, I then get upset that I was worrying about something so stupid.
This is why, as I said in my last post, I think that anxiety is worse than depression. Not only can it have a cascading effect, but it can also have a cycling effect, worrying about worrying like a spinning top whizzing around in your head. So you can start worrying about one thing, and if you're unlucky, you can get thought in a cycle, and the longer it cycles around, the more likely it is to set off a cascade, like a set of dominoes, like I mentioned before. So it's like spinning tops and dominoes all colliding together and toppling over until you make a total mess of your toyroom, which is to say, your head.

Anyway, I got home, and I found the number for the doctor. I said my name and that I had missed my appointment, and the receptionist recognized me instantly, since she'd been wondering where their 2:30 appointment was. Thankfully, and perhaps obviously, she said I could reschedule, no problem. I said I could drive, and I'd be there in five minutes, but I asked her to give me a ten-minute window, because my heart was still beating really fast in my chest, and I could hear the upset in my own voice as I tried to explain why I'd missed my appointment. She was perfectly fine with that, she said she'd see me soon, and I hung up.
I used what time I had to go to the toilet and I even found our Medicare card and then I got in the car.

I am a little nervous about driving. I will get into why in a later blog post [since I tried to explain it here, but ended up writing five paragraphs. It's a long, episodic story, which I'll save for a later blog post]. But needless to say, when I'm nervous, I become even more nervous about driving because I'm nervous that my nervousness will make me nervous . . . and that makes me even more nervous (round and round goes the spinning top).
So, I attempted to calm down, planned my route and set off. I'm actually thankful that I passed through an active school zone, because I practically cruised in third gear half of the way, and the carpark was empty, and I'm quite proud of the fact that I claimed a space, then pulled out and lined up perfectly. But then, I went into the doctor.
My heart was beating like a thumping bongo of an enthusiastic Kongo. So, I filled out my form, and as I sat in the waiting room, my book was untouched. Instead, I practiced my mindful meditation. It's something I learned from E-couch, basically, you close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing and the different parts of your body in that moment. I did a quick, six-breath session, and although it didn't relax me fully it calmed me down enough that I could focus on the task at hand. Then the doctor called me in.

I didn't ask permission to reveal his name, so I'm going to call him Dr A.M., because that's anonymous enough for my purposes and because it sounds to me like the name of a kooky morning radio host. I told him what was going on with me, basically telling him what I said in my first blog post, with a few more specific details about the frequency and content of my anxieties and symptoms.
He listened to me explaining my symptoms and experiences and got me to fill out a form which basically confirmed my, and Dr A.M.'s, suspicions:
I am suffering from mild depression, as well as more serious anxiety and stress.
After talking to me about what I was comfortable with and what I could afford, Dr A.M. gave me a prescription for an anti-depressant, some sleeping tablets and said that he would set up a care plan whereby I could get up to ten sessions with a psychologist, to talk about what's going on as well as monitor my progress on the anti-depressant.

So, that's that. I have to admit, all things considered, I am a little sad that I'm on medication again, I didn't want to get back to this point, and now I'm very conflicted. I'm excited to be getting help, and I'm nervous about how my body will react to them. But at the same time, I'm not on medication yet [at time of writing], since I'm meant to take it in the morning (for the first few days), and the other medicine is to be taken only when necessary, to sleep.
And it makes me realize that, for the next few hours at least (or until tomorrow, if I have no trouble sleeping), I'm still technically the same way I was yesterday. So, I'm still just as vulnerable now as I was before. Of course, this is just my mind working against me, taunting me, probably trying to get the last few jabs in that it can before I start fighting back.
I know that things are moving up from here. And even though I have to ease my body into this new regime, and the doctor said it will probably be a week before the drug is working properly, in about two days I'll get a call about this care plan, and work on it from there.

In conclusion, the weirdest part about all of this is that (in a way) I'm actually kind of relieved that I had this little freakout before going to the doctor. One of the reasons so few people go to see the doctor about anxiety is because they think it's not serious. They may freak out, but either they know it's silly, or unrealistic or illogical; or, they are worrying about something worth worrying about, and think that panicking is a natural reaction, not worth "fixing", but that's not true.
So, although I hated it at the time, in retrospect I'm glad that I had a little tightness in my chest while I was there because it means that I'm not crazy. Well, I am crazy (I don't think that's derogatory, it's descriptive), but at least hypochondria isn't a symptom of my mental illness. Even while writing this, I feel perfectly fine, I'm writing, I'm glad to be writing again, so, it makes me feel a little confused that, without warning, I become a squonk, and feel dreadful.
If a tree falls in the forest, no matter how loud it is, that sound is meaningless unless they can hear it, and so I'm glad that someone else could see my anxiety and confirm "yes, that is a really big tree, we should do something about that".

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and I will keep you updated on my progress. But until next time I'll write about something other than my anxiety, I promise.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Healing Diary: Prologue

I haven't been feeling well, lately. I've written posts before about how I do have depression and I manage it, most of the time. But lately, I've noticed a new ailment which - and I can barely believe I'm saying it - I believe to be much more severe, and a much heavier burden to bear. The strange part is, from the outside looking in, it seemed so much easier. I've heard about people suffering from it before, but it didn't seem so bad, concerning but not life-changing. But now that I'm living with it, it's devastating. It's anxiety.
The Word of the Day is: 'BUTTERFLIES'

Butterflies /ˈbutəfluyz/ pl. n. Informal A queasy feeling or tremors in the stomach region, as from nervousness, anxiety, excitement, etc; flutters: I sure got butterflies thinking about it.

Yes, I know "butterflies" tends to downplay the seriousness of anxiety. But, just as my post on 'depression' was called black dog, I thought it was apropos that this one also related to some kind of animal synonym.
This also relates to my "My Little Pony" post. I've been feeling a little blue lately, and that's why my 199th post was about MLP:FiM, because that makes me happy, and it did cheer me up (as did post 200), and it also it occurs to me, the character "Fluttershy" from my My Little Pony (my favourite), she's an easily startled, anxious little pony, and her cutie mark is three butterflies . . . make of that what you will.
I am writing this with two hours before I'm going to the doctor, to get checked out, and I'm actually kind of glad for it. In fact, that's the only reason I can write this, is because I've been doing everything I can to get better.

See, it all started not long after my 200th blog post. After that, my parents went on a cruise, and I had the house all to myself. It has been forever since my friends and I have partied together, had a few drinks together and enjoyed ourselves, so I decided to host a party. It was fantastic. It wasn't too raucous, and although there was heavy drinking, we spent most of the time sitting on couches, watching sport or bad movies, and just joking around, laughing at our dumb games and getting drunk. It was a lot of fun.
This was three days of drinking and friends, and on the last day, it was just me and my two great friends, Sean and Kieran. I was feeling a little unwell then, I assumed it was a hangover. Since I always hydrate myself well, I never get the headache, but I do sometimes feel my guts churn from too much drinking, and I was feeling that, I assumed that was all it was. They asked if I wanted them to leave, and I didn't, I just said I didn't want to party anymore, and wouldn't be drinking. They were fine with that, and it was Monday oncoming, so they packed up and left. And I basically went to bed and slept, since I was tired.

I woke up the next day, and I cleaned up the house a bit, but I still wasn't feeling well, and more than just a hangover would cause. I assumed it was the food we'd eaten, since we'd had pizza and chips and take-away food, mostly. So, I figured a better diet would perk me up; and since I usually get upset during winter, I thought some sunshine, some warmth and some healthy food would perk me right up. So, I did that, and during the day, I felt okay, if a little tense. But as night fell, I just kinda broke.I lost interest in everything, I felt stuck, I felt lonely, I felt a pressure in my chest. And I started getting these panic attacks, fear that I couldn't get a job, couldn't support myself, couldn't move out of my parents house - fear that my life was meaningless.

I talked to my Beloved about it, and she was a great help, but one person could only do so much and there are only so many hours in the day, especially when living in different hemispheres. I started avoiding . . . everything.
I was scared of the coldness, I was scared of the darkness, I was scared of the silence. And so, I spent my evenings watching YouTube videos, talking to my girlfriend and trying to wade out the darkness, but I couldn't sleep when it was dark, because that tension in my chest was also in the back of my neck, and it didn't go away until I could see sunlight, but then I slept through morning, woke up late afternoon and panicked as the sun went down that I was wasting my days.

It was a vicious cycle, and on the third night, I couldn't stand it. I felt so alone, so stuck, so hopeless . . . luckily for me, when the going gets tough, my solution is "the worse the problem, the more I'll do to repair it", this was my Godzilla Threshold, and so despite feeling like frozen elephant shit, I picked up the phone and called for help.
I can tell you the exact time, because my phone is an internet phone, and it records all ingoing and outgoing calls. On Wednesday the 17th of June, 11:28pm, I called 1300 22 4636. That's the number for BeyondBlue's 24hr support line; an Australian service where you can talk to a mental health professional and get advice on how to deal with any mental illness you happen to be suffering from.
I can't recommend it enough. It is not a counselling service or a crisis hotline, so if you want a counsellor, or you feel like hurting yourself, it's better to call LifeLine (on 13 11 14), I was at my lowest, but I know some people can get lower than that, so you might consider LifeLine first.
But either way, it was helpful, because I talked to the woman on the line, honestly, about what was going on, how I felt and what I thought the issue was. She helped me to calm down, kept me company for a good 26 minutes, and gave me a lot of information. I feel guilty that I don't remember her name, since she really helped me. She didn't cure me, but she gave me the steps to help myself. If you are feeling down and calling this line, it's amazingly informative, I just have one piece of advice, make sure you find a pen and paper.
It's not immediate, and you have time while the robo-receptionist puts you through to an operator (it takes about a minute), but the lady I spoke to gave me eight different resources I could use, and if you're calling because your mind is working against you, you definitely won't remember it all, so most definitely, pen and paper.

After that, I decided to try some self-help. I was still anxious, of course, and a bit resistant . . . oddly, just like how an animal survives by running from danger and seeking out food, mental illness seems to work the same. It festers by encouraging you to avoid help, and makes you do things that perpetuate it and allow it to grow (like make you sleep during the day, despite feeling anxious at night when it's cold and dark). So, I felt incredibly anxious about using any of this self-help stuff or calling a doctor, but I tried it out, starting with E-couch. E-couch is a website that offers information about self-help programs in an easy, step by step guide, that allows you to identify what's wrong and then offers ways to deal with it, and it is entirely free to register and use, and if you get distracted, or feel like you want to stop, you can go away and come back, and it saves your place for you.
I highly recommend this website, not just because it's so informative, but because it's honest, accurate and, well, it doesn't feel too clinical. The site is an initiative by the government and BeyondBlue to give the average, Australian citizen information about how to deal with their mental illnesses, from anxiety and depression to grief management and divorce/separation programs. And now, I say Australian, because this site has data about Australian mental illness statistics and it is funded by our government . . . but, my girlfriend suffers from anxiety and I wanted to share some of these tools with her, so I told her about it, and she registered to check it out for herself. So, it doesn't seem exclusive, and although I'd recommend you look for local programs, help is help so I'd recommend E-couch for anyone that wants to try to manage their mental illness alone.

But, as I said a few paragraphs ago, I'm going to the doctor soon. The reason is simple, both E-couch and the BeyondBlue support line made it clear, no amount of self-diagnosis, online support or personal remedies can equate to professional healthcare. Don't get me wrong! I'm not saying this stuff is useless, it's very useful. I feel better using these programs, and using that website's criteria, I actually managed my depression from "high risk" to "medium-low risk".
However, both this site and the lady on the phone told me that I should see a G.P. (i.e. general practitioner), as I seem to be suffering from severe, chronic anxiety, and I should get a diagnosis from a doctor, so that I can consider medication or counselling.

So, that's what I plan to do . . . and I figured I'd record what happens, and show it all here, including the path to getting better, hence the title "healing diary", I plan to document my recovery. See, while suffering from anxiety, I withdrew from everything, because it wasn't bringing me joy anymore, and that included writing - not because writing isn't fun, but because my mind wouldn't allow me to have fun, because it was busy being anxious. But because I wasn't writing, I got even more upset, it's a vicious cycle. So now, thanks to the help of E-couch, and the knowledge that I'll soon have a doctor working with me to handle my latest mental illness, I am perked up enough to write, but the only thing on my mind is the illness on my mind that's kept me from writing for so long.
So, I decided to go for full disclosure, and maybe help someone else to find help by documenting not only the process of getting better, but also a prologue as to how it started in the first place. I've been going through this for a week, but I've been a high risk patient for anxiety for a while, since not only do I rely on the company of others a lot, but I've suffered from depression in the past, and I have had some of the symptoms of anxiety even though I could manage them before. So although I've only suffered from anxiety for one week, it hit me like a point-blank cannonball, and I've been in bed, hidden away from the world, as though I were suffering from a physical disability, because that's what anxiety can do to you.
Anyway, it's a 30-minute walk to the G.P., and I have an hour, so I'm going to take 30 for lunch and then go see the G.P., when you next hear from me, I'll tell you how it all went, then we can talk about follow-up stuff.

. . .

Okay, I've just gone through that ordeal, but it was a lot more 'dramatic' than I expected, so my next blog post will explain what happened. Until then, I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and I suffer from anxiety; but hopefully, not for very much longer.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Speaking of Voices - 200!

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Tuesday, 2 June 2015

When Life Needs 20% More Awesome

I've been in a bit of a bad mood lately. It's too cold, and despite hard searching, I am still unemployed, that's why I've been posting less frequently. It's really disheartening, and I feel like I'm in a slump. But, I don't want to be in a bad mood, I want to be in a good mood. So, today, I'm going to talk about something that makes me happy.
The Word of the Day is: 'BRONY'.

Brony /brōnee/ Slang A (usually major) fan of the animated television series My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, typically an adult male. See also, pegasister.

I do not consider myself a "brony", because I don't really consider myself a "fanatic" when it comes to anything. But, yes, I watch and enjoy My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. This is not an April Fools Post, a parody or a joke and I am not being disingenuous, I genuinely enjoy this cartoon which was made for little girls and I'm not ashamed by it, I'm not particularly proud of this enjoyment either, rather I'm ambivalent about it. The only reason I never wrote a post about it before is just because it felt self-indulgent. I don't know how many of my readers like this show, but I want to change that.
So, today, let me tell you why I watch My Little Pony.

It started as nothing more than idle curiosity. I heard about all these twenty-something or older males that had watched and enjoyed it, seen videos of people geeking out about it and I was wondering what this phenomenon was.
To be perfectly honest, I thought that it was nothing more than a joke. Like a Rickroll, I thought people were encouraging others to watch the show, only to laugh if they actually did, like "Haha, I got you to watch a terrible show for young girls", and considering firstly that bronyism subculture seems to have become popular within the cesspool that is 4chan and secondly that shows targeted at little girls includes the likes of Winx Club, Tinkerbell and of course the original Generation 1 My Little Pony, the prospect of this being some horrible joke became just that much more likely.
But I decided that I was going to watch it, because I was genuinely curious. Either this was a terrible show, and I could use that information to write an exposé about the stupid joke on this blog, or it would be a good show, and I could learn something about writing for a female audience. Obviously, that exposé didn't happen because the show didn't suck . . .
I didn't go in expecting to hate the show, or like the show. I was just trying to absorb the experience, but nonetheless I entered this with a critical eye, and I watched the two-parter pilot episode "Friendship is Magic". I was absolutely blown away by how good it was. With everything that happened, I was trying to find something wrong, and I really couldn't. The animation was great, the characters were well-established, the dialogue was natural, the magic-system was consistent and the story was good and actually kind of epic.
Ever since, I've been watching and enjoying the show, genuinely interested in the characters and their story arch.

So, do you want to know what makes My Little Pony so great? Well, as much as I wish I could just say "it's awesome" twenty times, the truth is a little harder to grasp, since it's so basic. For example, let's look at "Friendship is Magic Part 1":
The story introduces us to the world of Equestria, and the history of its rule, with foreshadowing as to the upcoming conflict and its resolution. But after that, the episode lets conflict take a backseat, and instead shows us what's at stake and why we should care about anything at all, the first half of this pilot focuses on the characters. It introduces us to Twilight Sparkle, a bookish unicorn who has no friends; as well as her assistant Spike, a baby dragon that serves as her secretary. She then heads to Ponyville where she meets Applejack, a strong, rural apple-farmer; Rainbow Dash, a fast, adventurous pegasus; Rarity, a glamorous, unicorn fashionista; Fluttershy, a timid pegasus with love for animals great and small & Pinkie Pie, a goofy party-pony with a silly sense of humour.
Then a dark and cruel pony comes to Ponyville, disturbing the Summer Sun ceremony to enshroud all of Equestria in eternal night.

I won't reveal the whole plot, it's worth seeing for yourself [it's available on Netflix!], but each main character is so distinct, with her flaws and strengths all made obvious, it means that from the get-go we understand the stage as well as the players, and "Friendship is Magic Part 2" is entirely about the adventure and the resolution of this conflict.
Simply said, this does what a story is supposed to do: It gives us something to care about, then puts that in peril.

My Little Pony isn't good because it does something new, it's just doing something old properly - telling a coherent, intelligent story. My Little Pony introduces us to the characters, who have strengths, flaws and motivations within a well-established world that has an established history, society and a magic system which is surprisingly consistent. Simply put, it establishes characters, allows us to invest in them, then puts them up against a conflict, or in even simpler terms, it is a good story. There's not many other ways to say it, this is just how you structure good narrative.
But then, if the show is just "done properly", then what makes it so popular? Why are so many guys attracted to it? Why is it so popular that it's now approaching its fourth season after two movies?
Well, part of it is because we haven't really seen something like this before . . .

I have heard good things about Powerpuff Girls, and although I've not seen it, it looks rather funny. But beyond that, there's no real "good" shows for girls. And I don't know why. Back in the day, the ponies, fashion, pretty colours and "girl stuff" is all girls could get out of these girl shows. I don't really know why, presumably because of male domination in the industry, but they just didn't know how to make girl's shows. My leading theory is that when you went to an animation production team and mentioned "girls", they all collapsed on the floor, flailing and frothing at the mouth. So rather than think about what a girl is, they just pulled words like "rainbows", "ponies" & "love" out of a hat and tried to turn it into a show.
But I don't understand why it was difficult for them, it's not hard to write a show for girls, you do the same thing you would to make a good show for boys (character, conflict, motivations & flaws), just about stuff little girls might like; because that's what a girl is, before puberty, a girl is just a child that tends to wear dresses. This is why I never understood the idea that maybe these "bronies" were just gay or perverted for liking girly stuff; stereotyping aside it just doesn't make sense. Young boys didn't become fans of Pokémon because they liked animal abuse, or Yu-Gi-Oh! because they liked children's card games, so why would anyone become a fan of My Little Pony just for the ponies and bright colours? I don't know if I speak for everyone, but I liked shows which had good story, not just cool concepts, that's why I liked Yu-Gi-Oh!, but hated Dragonball, fighting and superhero powers just aren't enough.

But My Little Pony does that, it has a good story, not just because they have a good structure, but because the stories actually have a point. I don't believe in shows designed to just "distract you" like Teletubbies or Adventure Time, like some kind of cheap babysitter [I genuinely think if Adventure Time as Teletubbies for Twenty-somethings]. If you're making a show for kids, you need to engage their minds and get them to think. And My Little Pony does that with its message.
So, what's the show about? Exactly what it says on the tin: "Friendship is Magic". After watching a few shows, I started to think critically about My Little Pony, and I discovered that the purpose of this show is to teach girls about honesty, kindness, generosity, loyalty & fun; but also, it's about forgiveness, patience, trust and . . . well, every episode covers something different, but it's about methods of maintaining and troubleshooting friendship during times of crisis or conflict, it's about the value of friendship.
In my experience with girls, especially those of schooling age, their relationships can be quite volatile and transient, with friends and enemies coming and going and making for a very convoluted social web. While this is not true of all women, it's true of enough that it's an appropriate stereotype, so I think it's cool that this show focuses on identifying interpersonal conflicts, puts them in a fantastical setting, then explores ways to resolve them; it's basically teaching girls to be nicer to their friends and one another; and even if you're not a catty social pariah/queen bee, it's still about teaching everyone to be a nicer person. If I ever have a daughter I would insist on introducing her to the show, because the lessons to be learned are important for young kids learning about how to make and keep friends. But it's not pandering or patronizing, it shows these issues with a sense of humour, as well as a sense of perspective, such that it doesn't feel like an educational show, even though it is.

And finally, I think that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is so liked by its male audience because, well, it's so different to what guys are used to watching. The main characters of this show are six girls; the rulers of the land are two sisters; many of the villains are women & the recurring side-characters, the Cutie Mark Crusaders, are a trio of female, school-aged fillies. This means that we're seeing stories that we wouldn't necessarily have seen before, or which - if we had seen before - were made poorly, with more focus on character design than characterization, and more effort put into the style than the story.
And the show is designed for families, just like Disney and Pixar before it, Hasbro's show makes a show that can be enjoyed by more ages, with some jokes and references more esoteric, which grown audiences will find easier to decipher, and even the parts of the show that are just for the kids aren't mediocre, it never talks down to the audience, even though the audience is mainly young girls.
So, bronies aren't stupid, or intelligent, or brave or any of that crap for liking the show. So, I like it because it's well-made, funny and has a purpose. Sure, it's a lot more precious and adorable than what I'm used to watching, but it's still just as funny, intelligent and/or awesome as the shows we watched as kids . . . it just happens to be about magical, colourful ponies.

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and this has actually cheered me up a little bit. If you like the show, drop me a line, and if I find enough readers that actually like this show as much as I do, I might even right future posts about it . . . maybe even fanfiction, but no promises.
Until next time, I hope everypony is ready for a milestone, because next post we'll be trotting into post #200!