Posted by Milk Bar Mag on 24/3/16.
Many of you would know Rosie Waterland as the author of The Anti-Cool Girl, a brilliant novel that was a national bestseller within Australia, having sold over 45,000 copies within its first five months in stores. It was also shortlisted for the Indie Book Awards, and Rosie is riding her wave of success out by releasing her second book in 2017. She is also bringing her stories out of their pages by performing her very own stand-up comedy show, which she calls My Life On The Couch (With Vodka), and it’s all going to happen at the Yarraville Club for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Milk Bar Magazine had a chat to Rosie all about her show and how her past experiences have shaped her into the person she is today.
Rosie has always been a performer; she originally went to drama school for three years before she went to university, but she’s never actually done her very own stand-up comedy show. ‘I’m comfortable doing it, but I’m nervous. It’s new territory, but I love telling stories, I love entertaining and I love being on stage,’ she says.
My Life On The Couch (With Vodka) is literally going to feature Rosie sitting on her couch onstage and pouring herself some drinks while she’s talking to her audience. Rosie’s show will include stories of her past experiences in living with both her parents who have suffered from a mental illness. ‘My dad had schizophrenia and my mum had bipolar, and you know they found it incredibly difficult to cope and they also had problems with addiction, so my sisters and I were in and out of the foster system,’ she says. She continues: ‘I think the main thing I found as I got older was that I was really angry with them for a long time for not being better parents and for putting us through what they put us through. But as I’ve gotten older and with sort of hindsight, I’ve developed a lot of empathy for them, particularly my mum who is still alive.’
Rosie discusses how she believes that her mother did the best she could by giving her and her sisters everything she could. However, Rosie herself has struggled with her own issues. ‘I’ve been in therapy for twelve years now and I still go every week; good quality mental health care is so important because it could have become an intergenerational thing. The problems that I inherited from my parents, I could have passed onto my kids. It’s been really important to my sisters and I that the trauma stops with us and you can’t do that unless you get good quality mental health care, which I’ve been lucky enough to have and if my parents had it, it would have been different for them.’
Back in the days, the mental health system was not as developed as it is today, and Rosie discusses how her dad was diagnosed with schizophrenia at eighteen years old, but never got treated for it because the importance of treating it back then wasn’t as emphasised as it is today, so he just kept living his life instead. Rosie’s mum also endured the same outcome, since nobody really understood what bipolar disorder truly was back then: ‘She kind of dealt with her bipolar by drinking and taking drugs and becoming an addict. I think possibly if she had been treated for her bipolar, she would never have developed her addiction problems and the same with my dad with schizophrenia. I firmly believe that both their addiction problems were them trying to self-medicate their mental illnesses, absolutely.’
At one point, Rosie’s parents were even on the run from bikie drug dealers. ‘My dad was meant to be drug dealing for a bunch of dodgy guys, and then him and my mum just took all the drugs instead, and then they owed a lot of money and we had to go hide in the country,’ she says. ‘It was just always something like that with my parents; they just were a bit of a mess you know, and that was sort of a typical kind of experience of our childhood. We were taken away; we were in the foster system on and off until I was a teenager, and my dad died when I was quite young and my mum still is an alcoholic to this day.’
Out of all the mental illnesses that exist in the world, Rosie believes that depression and anxiety are two of the most overlooked and wrongly judged mental conditions. ‘I’ve had problems with post-traumatic stress disorder, which people take quite seriously and it’s quite severe, and the same with my dad with schizophrenia and my mum with bipolar,’ she says. ‘People think: “oh that sounds serious, like that’s a real problem” and I think the thing with depression and anxiety is that people think “Well everyone gets a bit depressed, everyone gets a bit anxious” and it’s often an overlooked and really serious medical condition that can be the real issue today.’
Rosie was inspired to write about her past experiences because she always loved writing from when she was a very little kid. ‘I could remember just loving to write and I think also television became a huge escape for me as a kid, and so I became really inspired by TV and TV comedies,’ she says. ‘I used to record sitcoms like Rosanne and Seinfeld on VHS and then play them back and transcribe the scripts and I mean, comedy and TV was always a huge escape for me, I always really wanted to write that kind of stuff, and then you know as I got older, I had a story to tell. My sisters and I had a really tumultuous kind of childhood and I’m lucky enough to sort of have the skill to be able to write it down.’
If Rosie could describe herself in three words, she would use the words ‘Just Getting There’, since she says she’s ‘never quite making it, but always just getting there.’
A random fact about Rosie is that she was obsessed with Titanic when she was around eight or nine years old. She loved the story of it, but her favourite part of it was the ship. ‘I was such a loser, like my obsession got out of control; I had portholes decorating the walls of my room and I had like all these books and when the movie came out, I would watch the movie but I would fast forward through the Rose and Jack part just so that I could watch the ship part,’ she says. ‘So I’d be like “can they just shut up so that I can look at a close up of that steam engine room please?” Not a lot of people know that I had a bizarre obsession with a shipping disaster that killed 1,500 people.’
For those people who might think they’re anti-cool, Rosie has some words of inspiration: ‘Embrace it; I became a lot happier when I just like sort of realised “Rosie, you’re never going to be cool so just kind of accept it, you loser. Accept that you’re a loser and you’ll be a lot happier.” I think the losers are secretly the coolest people.’
My Life On The Couch (With Vodka)
The Yarraville Club, 135 Stephen Street, Yarraville
Friday March 25 – Saturday March 26