One Story Of Recovering From Mental Illness

Sarah shares her story of a year of recovering from depression, exploring the challenges and the stigma attached to it.

Written by Sarah Williams for World Mental Health Day 2019. Trigger warning: suicide.

On Mental Health Awareness Day last year, I somewhat ironically published an article about the horrors of depression, and the relief of overcoming it. I say ironic, because a few days after publishing it, I tried to kill myself.

I fucked it up, and then tried again about a month later. And then again, a third time, in December. 

At the time I remember being frustrated and embarrassed that I couldn’t even do that properly. Suicide is really fucking difficult. Also, the chairs they have in A&E treatment rooms are so uncomfortable it’s really not worth the hassle. 

That was a year ago. Three suicide attempts between October and December 2018. Looking back, my sole focus for the last 12 months has been on trying to get better. And you know what? I am better. Continue reading “One Story Of Recovering From Mental Illness”

“Thank You, I’m Sorry”: Impostor Syndrome In Music

“Great set, man!” The internal cacophony of anxiety and self-doubt is all too familiar to Lucias from Call Me Malcolm, as he describes in this amusing piece about impostor syndrome.

Written by Lucias Malcolm, of Call Me Malcolm fame. This is part of our #MentallySound series, exploring mental health in music. 

The following is a work of fiction that happened last week. Any similarity to person or persons is entirely likely.

The gig is over. Nothing broke, up to and including equipment and/or bones. The crowd seemed happy, or at least, no one threw anything. But who can really tell? The band rush to pack leads, instruments and sweaty t-shirts into whichever bag is closest. I crouch at the front of the stage fighting a particularly impudent stretch of gaffer tape as a figure approaches.

“Great set man!” he smiles.

Shit. I think to myself. Not now. But it’s too late. I can hear the gavel banging already…

~

Anxiety: “ORDER! ORDER! I call to order the Council of the Inner Monologue.

[Indecipherable murmurs from the countless other voices in Luke’s head]

Anxiety: “I have called this urgent meeting to discuss the most recent and egregious compliment from a stranger, to wit, ‘Great set man’…”

Depression: “Point of order! We are yet to discuss the matter of Something Stupid the Host Body Said When He Was 13.”

[More murmurs and disagreement]

Anxiety: “On the contrary, we went over this in great detail every week for the past 23 years.”

OCD: “Point of order! We can’t start the meeting until we’ve established absentees. Confidence isn’t here.”

Self Hate: “He never is.”  

[More murmurs]

Anxiety: “ORDER! ORDER! Absentee noted. Now, all in favour of replying to the stranger with an inaudible mumble, say ‘Aye’.”

~

I mumble something inaudible in response, offering a smile so lacking in conviction it’s hard to tell if I’m even conscious.

“Yeah man, I really love how much fun you guys have on stage.” He offers with a warm smile.

~

Self Hate: “Point of order! Raising the issue of the errant ‘really’ in the strangers follow up compliment.”  

Anxiety: “Noted and seconded. Too much stress on the word to seem genuine. All in favour of raising the threat level to ‘Suspicious’, say ‘Aye’”

[Cries of ‘Aye’]

Anxiety: “Motion carried. Trigger the Self-Deprecation Clause and instruct the host body to pour scorn on the compliment in principle.”

~

“We’re normally a bit tighter than that.” I stutter. Crisis averted. For a second there, he might’ve gotten away with thinking we were good.

“No seriously, you were so tight. The breakdown in that last song was insane!”

~

Anxiety: “Emergency point of order! Suspicion duly confirmed. Host body was erratic in execution of musical instrument during last song.”

Depression: “Motion to abort Council of the Inner Monologue, quit the band and move to Dieppe to make shoes.”

Anxiety: “I see no other sensible option.”

Self Hate: “Initiate the Cobbler Protocol!”

Anxiety: “Noted and seconded. All in favour say–”

OCD: “Emergency! Emergency! Host body placed the wires ABOVE the foot pedal in the bag. Unacceptable. Motion to–“

~

“I also wanted to say,” the man continues, unaware of the eight-way conversation the voices are currently conducting in my head, “Thank you for talking about mental health. I suffer myself and it means a lot that you bring it up.”

~

Anxiety: “I… well… this is most unexpected.”  

[Door opens]

Empathy: “Sorry I’m late. What did I miss?”

Depression: “We’re moving to France.”

Anxiety: “The host body was presented with an unexpected compliment. We’re trying to establish the root cause of such a breakdown in social protocol.”

Empathy: “Maybe it was genuine? It probably took everything the guy had to come out to the show tonight. Maybe, it took even more for them to walk up to a stranger and start a conversation.”

Self Hate: “He’s right. Motion to discuss this awkward moment in detail at 3am every morning for the next week.”

OCD: “I’ve already made a note.”

Anxiety: “Agreed. Now, I suggest we enshrine in law the Imposter Syndrome Initiative. To wit, from now on, all compliments are met with a genuine ‘thank you’. All in favour?”   

~

Before I can respond, he leaves. I mull over whether I’ll ever feel comfortable in conversations with strangers, moreover ones offering compliments. Either way, I know it’s already on the agenda for a lengthy 3am brooding.

Moments later, I’m packed up and standing by the merch table, offering my best ‘come hither and part with your money’ eyes to people glancing at t-shirts. It works, because a figure approaches.

“I thought you guys were great today,” she offers.

~

Anxiety: “This is it folks, this is everything we’ve trained for. Triggering the Imposter Syndrome Initiative…”

~

“Thank you!” I insist.

~

Anxiety: ““ORDER! ORDER! I call to order the Council of the Inner Monologue. Host body accepted compliment with entirely too much enthusiasm. May be taken as sarcastic. Abort! Abort!”

~

“I’m sorry.” Shit. Baby steps, Luke. Baby steps.

Written by Lucias Malcolm of Call Me Malcolm.  They’re excellent, they’re great live, they talk a lot about mental health, and you should definitely go compliment them after their set. 

If you enjoyed this, read Lucias’ other articles about music and anxiety: There Is A Bear On Stage and Everything Is Probably Fine.

 

 

 

Everything Is Probably Fine

Pre-Gig Anxiety: made worse by day jobs, traffic, hunger, other people or flaming Volkswagens. Lucias Malcolm gives us an amusing account of a problem every band will be all too familiar with.

Article by Lucias Malcolm, vocalist/guitarist in Call Me Malcolm. This is part of our #MentallySound series, exploring mental health in music. 

It’s 12:17 and a car is on fire.

Chris, our drummer, and I are on route to pick up our bassist Travs from the deepest, darkest wilds of west London. We are currently at a standstill on the A-something-or-other and the (thankfully) empty car next to us is on fire. Firefighters look on with the helplessly professional nonchalance of people that are sure, “Yes, that is definitely a fire.”

We’re due on stage in Stafford at 7:30, with a requested arrival time of an hour before. When a promoter asks you to arrive at 6:30, you can extrapolate from that the options available to you:

  1. You need to arrive at 6:30
  2. 6:00 if you want to be in any danger of being invited back.
  3. 7:29 if you think you should actually be higher up the bill.

I am haunted by a teeny, tiny, soul crushing anxiety every waking minute, so I’ve plotted our arrival for 5pm. And even then, my anxiety thinks we’re cutting it fine. An atypical 3-way argument ensues whereby Chris insists everything will be fine, my anxiety scoffs, and I sit in the middle trying not to annoy either of them.

But it’s 12:17 and a car is on fire. Continue reading “Everything Is Probably Fine”

There Is A Bear On Stage

Lucias from Call Me Malcolm discusses the constant pressure of anxiety and panic that haunts him on stage.

Written by Lucias Malcolm, vocalist/guitarist in Call Me Malcolm. This is part of our #MentallySound series, exploring mental health in music. 

We have a gig in less than an hour and there is a bear on stage.

I’ve been a musician for just shy of twenty years and an outwardly functioning human being for almost double that; functioning in the sense that in that time I’ve somewhat miraculously kept myself fed, watered and free from major scarring. I even tie my own shoe laces (though I do wonder if there’s a statute of limitation on this – I’ve been wearing the same Etnies for as long as I can remember and I’ve not re-tied the laces since day one). The point is, outwardly, as far as society is concerned, I function.

Inwardly it’s a different story. At current count there are thirty seven different warning lights flashing, smoke is billowing from several important looking dials and the rabbit that usually steers the ship lost the manual in 1996. The point is, I get anxious.

As I said, there is a very real, to me at least, bear on stage. Continue reading “There Is A Bear On Stage”

Why I’m Not Coming To Your Gig Tonight

Social anxiety in live music can be a challenge. Support your scene, but not at the expense of your own mental health.

This article written by Sarah Williams is part of our #MentallySound series, discussing mental health in music. Trigger warning: anxiety.

Today, my anxiety has anxiety. I am experiencing my own personal apocalypse.

I am entirely aware that the visions of catastrophe in my head are irrational, imagined and impossible (or at least implausible), but they’re there nonetheless. A cacophony of intrusive thoughts, false assumptions and self-criticism rattle round my hollow skull, a jarring, overwhelming rush.

Counting to ten isn’t helping. Telling myself I’m being illogical isn’t helping. Distracting myself isn’t helping. Self-care sounds like a waste of time, when I’ve got so much work to do. I need to just sit, ride this wave out and hope it doesn’t ruin my evening.

I’m going to a gig. I love gigs. I love live music more than anything else.

I desperately do not want to go.

I’m lying facedown on my bed, trying to muster the courage to put a jacket on and locate my house keys. Everything is impossible.

Continue reading “Why I’m Not Coming To Your Gig Tonight”

The Monster’s Teeth Aren’t As Big As You Imagine

LITFO’s Jimmy Carroll explains how getting onstaged helped him overcome social anxiety and shyness.

Guest post written by Jimmy Carroll, bassist in Laughing In The Face Of. This is part of our #MentallySound series, discussing mental health in music. 

I was a painfully shy child.  Other kids who had never met before seemed to be able to integrate with each other in a way I would never understand, only observe.

It wasn’t without trying or effort, I just couldn’t seem to summon up the courage to simply say ‘hello’.

In my mind at the time the prospect of rejection or even worse, all out mockery was too terrifying a prospect to entertain.

This isn’t to say I was friendless or a total loner as a kid but I would never make the first move in an interaction of any kind.

Fast forward to my early teens and this social anxiety was supplemented by a broader type.  All the ‘what if’s and over-analyzing every single aspect of the most trivial things led me to my first panic attack (which at the time I was convinced was a full blown heart attack) and left me fucked up for about a week in the aftermath.

I think a big part of it was unfounded paranoia.  Are they looking at me? Why are they looking at me? Are they talking about me?  Why are they talking about me? Continue reading “The Monster’s Teeth Aren’t As Big As You Imagine”

Post-Gig Reflections from a Promoter Who’s Prone to Panic Attacks

A brutally honest account of the anxiety and stress that comes with putting on a punk gig.

Article by Sarah Williams. Photos from Friday’s gig courtesy of Sam Dawes at This Is Noise. Part of our #MentallySound series, discussing mental health in music.

Four people have turned up for the gig so far, they’re standing awkwardly in the corner nursing pints and whispering about where everyone else is. The guy taking money on the door is twiddling his thumbs. I need to sell fifty tickets to cover the cost of putting on the show, so I guess I’ll be living on ramen this month.

The sound engineer is frantically trying to fix the PA, which started rattling and cutting out during the sound check. Two guitarists are scowling at the set up – there’s not enough room on stage and the sound is terrible. We’re running an hour behind and none of the bands have played yet; I’m going to cut the set times and maybe cut the opening act entirely. The headliner band is here apart from the singer, who couldn’t get out of work on time – apparently he’s stuck on a train somewhere. There’s a good chance he won’t make it to the gig at all.

“What the hell were you thinking, Sarah?” the venue manager asks angrily. “There’s no point in us keeping the venue open for four people. This is a waste of time – we’re going to cancel the show if you don’t sort this out.”

My parents are here too: “I can’t believe this is what you’re doing with your life! What a waste of time. Couldn’t you have been a doctor or a lawyer? You are a walking disappointment.”

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Worst case scenario. Fortunately, the real gig was a success. No disasters whatsoever. Nonetheless, that was the nightmare I woke up from the morning after I booked the band and the venue. I am riddled with anxiety at the best of times, so putting an event together has reminded me why I don’t do it regularly.

I recently moved to a completely different part of the country and, as a result, had to bury myself in a deluge of job applications, interviews and utility bills. The last thing I need on top of all that is to be driving 200 miles, promoting a show and trying to squeeze in all the other shows I want to attend. Still, there is a part of me that enjoys being overwhelmed, and there’s nothing I enjoy more than live music.

As such, I thought it’d be a great idea to put on a show at The Smokehouse in Ipswich, a few weeks after moving to Manchester. Darko, Actionmen, PMX and Pessimist are playing as part of my birthday celebration and as a send-off from the venue, where I’ve been working for the past few months. On Thursday I’m going to catch PMX and Actionmen in Manchester, my gig takes place on the Friday, and on Saturday I’m catching PUP and The Menzingers in London. In theory, it should be fun.

Continue reading “Post-Gig Reflections from a Promoter Who’s Prone to Panic Attacks”