Big Brother’s Ben Zabel on finding happiness

Graceland Happiness Project

Former ‘Big Brother’ housemates Tim Dormer and Ben Zabel are the quintessential odd-couple. Dormer is loud and excitable, ready to take on the world, while his friend Zabel is quiet, introverted and often filled with insecurities.

When Dormer won Big Brother, he promised to take Zabel to see Elvis’ Graceland. When Zabel’s ongoing struggle with depression was made public after he accidently overdosed on prescription medication, what began as a holiday turned into a rescue mission to help him find a new lease of life. Naturally the duo took a camera crew with them and turned it into the film.

Zabel acknowledges that his friendship with Dormer is an odd combination.

“We are so odd, we are misfits!” Zabel proclaims, “I often joke with Tim that the last thing the world needs is another comedic duo.”

“We are a mis-match that have nothing in common what-so-ever, nothing at all.”

Zabel said when he first met Dormer in the Big Brother house he was terrified of him; “He’s like a cross between Russell Brand, Tim Minchin and someone who has just escaped from a prison. He’s so loud, and runs around all the time.”

While the energetic Dormer always sees the glass as being half full, Zabel is more likely to see the glass as being empty.

Zabel’s said he’s always had a great love for Elvis Presley, growing up with the singers songs playing on the family record player and watching his classic movies on television.

“I didn’t realise that other people were listening to Ace of Base and M-People” Zabel said.

While travelling to Graceland became a focus for improving his own happiness, Zabel said he didn’t think of Elvis as a happy person, but as a much more spiritual figure.

“I don’t think of many culturally significant characters and wonder if they were happy.” Zabel said, “I don’t think of Charlie Chaplin or Einstein or Nelson Mandela and wonder if they were happy. When I think of Elvis I think of spiritual, and I think of a ground breaker, and I think of a Mummy’s boy too – because everything was about his Mum, and I relate to that.

“I don’t attribute happiness to Elvis, but I know he brought it to other people.”

While Dormer thinks that a trip to Memphis might be the circuit breaker that Zabel needs to change his outlook, Zabel doesn’t personally recommend travel as a cure for depression or anxiety.

“I hate travel, I kept going ‘oh I hate this’ and ‘oh I hate that’, Tim asked ‘Weren’t you a flight attendant for ten years?’ but I hated that too, it was awful.”

Zabel said the duo flight to America was flight was particularly painful involving multiple lay overs, headsets that didn’t work and uncomfortable seats.

“I had sleeping tablet that I put in my glasses case to keep it safe, but it ended up getting crushed, so I was licking the powder out of my glasses case. Everything went wrong.”

It’s OK to be a homebody is Zabel’s view on life, “I could quite happily never leave my postcode,” he declares.

Find out if a trip to Graceland changes Zabel’s outlook on life, or the real change comes to his best mate Dormer.

‘Graceland Happiness Project’ airs on ABC2 on Thursday October 8th as part of the ABC’s ‘Mental As’ project.

 Graeme Watson

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