Down but not out: A few words on mental health

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You may have noticed things have been a bit quiet on here for a while. Or not. Whatever, it’s fine. It’s been over six months since I last posted anything (it appears Marsicans’ (then) new single Friends finished me off).

I’ve been writing about music on this lil’ old website for the past six years and my passion for live music and ace bands – big or small – has been prevalent since I first launched Bang The Drum.

I had big dreams of eventually producing a magazine at one stage (hence the URL), but my flight of fancy seemed to be dashed by a thing called ‘real life’. Mortgages, bills, stuff – I couldn’t find the resources to actually pay to have a mag printed. So it has stayed online in a little corner of the internet with me banging on about all the wonderful music in and around Yorkshire – and beyond.

So it’s incredibly sad that I found myself falling out of love with music recently. I drifted away from the one thing that has always been there, that has always had a special place in my heart since I was a small child, listening in awe at the records my parents would play – the Beach Boys, Bread, the Beatles, Buddy Holly and other bands beginning with ‘B’. Probably.

My lack of interest in going out to see bands do their thing, that made me excited, proud and pretty jealous hadn’t really hit me as very out of character for ages, and then when I’d realised the lack of ticket stubs cluttering up my drawer, I been away from the scene for too long. I struggled to find a way back again.

I had to make a real effort to be present at the Centre Stage heats back in April – I was there in body, but not really in spirit. I’ve been involved in the competition for the last six years and have LOVED every minute of it.

And the number of bands I’d gone out to see in these last six months or so I could count on one hand. I’d normally be going to at least one gig a week (back in 2012 I’d counted around 58 shows, not including festivals), so why was it so hard for me to enjoy the thing I’ve always loved?

I think I’ve been living with depression for a good few years now. In fact, I know I have. I had a bad time of it around 12 years ago, and slowly but surely picked myself up again thanks to amazing family and friends – and everything was coming up Milhouse.

Recently, though, I’ve had severe bouts of serious low self-esteem, anxiety and general unhappiness. Personal stuff I won’t go into here got the better of me and I hit a bit of a low at the start of this year and failed to deal with things properly, hurting those I loved in the process.

I’ve always been an advocate of people opening up about mental health issues, of not suffering in silence, and I’ve admired those taking to the internet to address their depression or anxiety. But I haven’t been able to really find my voice in the same way.

So I basically hid, dealing with things in my own way – which was to avoid facing up to how I was feeling, sweeping those intrusive thoughts under the rug to deal with another day. I didn’t.

My thoughts, creativity and inspiration got foggy, leaving me quite lost and struggling to find a way forward. Like the amazing letter written by Stephen Fry in response to a desperate girl who needed some kind of reassurance that everything wasn’t totally shit, I’m using a meteorological metaphor, and I hoped that the fog would eventually lift and let the sunshine stream through.

Thanks to therapy, a wonderful (and incredibly busy) GP, support from family and friends (again) and a better understanding of my feelings and focus, I’m on the mend. Not quite basking in sun-drenched happiness, but the fog IS lifting and I can see a way forward. Without a ghost pirate in sight.

Onwards and upwards, they say (whoever ‘they’ are), and I’m getting back on track and enjoying my music once again. I’ve revisited many of my favourite albums from when I was younger (there’s a wave of 90s hardcore punk nostalgia doing the rounds recently), finding comfort in familiar riffs and shout-along choruses etched in my mind for decades.

Currently, I’m also quietly adoring LELO’s debut EP Different Types Of Love (although I couldn’t quite make it to his first gig at Oporto the other night) and Toothless. I’ve discovered Declan McKenna, Get Inuit and Superfood and lost myself in LANY’s debut album. And The 1975 and Jimmy Eat World are still taking up most of my headspace, obviously…

I’ve had a great time watching Arcade Fire play in a tiny venue in Scunthorpe of all places, said goodbye to the Maccabees over in Manchester and look forward to a second half of 2017 packed with amazing music.

Because music is amazing. It reaches out and comforts you, shakes you with excitement, holds your hand when you’re down and holds your beer when you want to dance. And it’s back in my life once again – and for that I am thankful.

If you’re finding life a little tough at the minute and you’re struggling with your mental health, please get the support you need. You can reach out in confidence to Leeds Mind, CALM, Samaritans.

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