I am all too aware that my blog posts have been written with no real introduction to the causes of my mental health issues. Writing it down with my mouth shut seems easier than opening it and speaking out loud, so here goes nothing…
I have already spoken about the origin of my anxiety, how I have lived with it and let it govern most areas of my life for the last 15 years. I, along with my therapist and doctors, have tried many times to pinpoint that which may have allowed this into my life since childhood. At one point, after being asked about my earliest memorable habits, I was described as having ‘dismissive avoidant’ attachment tendencies – which basically boils down to suppressing any kinds of emotions and not allowing myself to get embroiled in them in any way shape or form. I have always been independent and headstrong, but due to my constant pushing and ‘arms-length’ strategies, I do feel I have missed out on certain areas of love in my life, all through my own doing. I had a great upbringing, both my parents worked every hour under the sun to provide for me and my siblings and they are still together to this day – I haven’t come from a broken home or was subjected to anything horrific in my childhood. There has, however, been a history of mental health issues in my family.
My dad wasn’t really around a lot when I was growing up – he was always away working, spending two nights at home a week if we were lucky. I was mainly raised by my mother, aunty and grandmother. Then my dad’s work caught up with him. He went through a nervous breakdown when I was 13 years old. My dad’s a geezer’s geezer. He never showed any sign of weakness, cried or chinks in the armour, he was very strong. During this period in my life, I saw him break down to nothing. I idolized my dad and to see him reduced to a quivering wreck truly made me realise the mortality of a human being and how social situations can break down a person – that is perhaps one reason. The second is that, due to my dad’s mental breakdown, my mother went through exactly the same thing six months after – no doubt seeing my father go through it brought hers on. When my mum broke, my dad still wasn’t fully recovered. At this point, I only had a paper round paying me £30 a week. My dad was receiving sick pay but that was it – I was the only one working and I had to look after my little sister as well, make sure she was alright and do the little things as neither of my parents were capable at this time. Of course we had help from family members, but I had to grow up quickly. I didn’t feel any weight on my shoulders or pressure, but subliminally I was becoming the superglue of my family when I was barely a teenager. Perhaps the second reason.
My family feuds are a funny one. I have an older half brother who doesn’t get along with my father, my dad doesn’t get along with most of his side of the family, and my mum doesn’t get along with her father (Still with me?). I am not a confrontational person and these disputes hurt me more than I mentioned at the time, I suppose because I was adopting the head of the household role in my mind. But I’ve always felt like the glue. At times it was like I was the social telescope to members of my family who didn’t communicate and I lived in a perpetual state of ‘I don’t want to say anything I shouldn’t’ and would question why I was asked certain things regularly. I love all of my family and I don’t wish for anyone to get hurt, I have always have the feeling that life is too short for any of this shit and in my own mind, I would be the glue that would bring everyone back together. I realise now that was never, and should never have been my responsibility, but I wanted that to happen so badly. Side note – it still hasn’t happened 13 years on.
My mum is a very strong woman. She’s also half Italian so God help anyone who chooses to piss her off. As already mentioned, she has been a fantastic figurehead and role model for me. But she has had a tough life. She was a single mum bringing up my older brother when she was 19, living on a rough council estate in East London. Times were different then, and the fact she had a mixed race son didn’t exactly make her flavour of the month. I know how much they struggled, taking pieces from my brother and my mum herself. Because of this, she has had to live her life through a series of what ifs, worst case scenarios and planning years in advance. Her breakdown only exacerbated this. I have butted heads with my mum far less than other members of my family (My sister for example), and I understand she only does these things out of love and care, but the constant regimented procedure of life and planning ahead is something that I have struggled to deal with. I consider myself something of a free spirit. I don’t live the same way either of my parents do/ have ever done, yet my mum in particular has always wanted me to find out what I’ve wanted to do with the rest of my life since I left school. Get a career, good pension, good benefits, healthcare and prepare myself for retirement before I’ve started really living. Any decision I made was always answered with: ‘What are you going to do if this or that happens? And if this doesn’t happen where are you going to go? What will you fall back on?’ These questions alone are not a bad thing, but to be bombarded with them for 10 years does take it’s toll. I have always questioned whether what I am doing is the right thing, and have never allowed myself to relax or feel comfortable. I hold no animosity towards my mum for this, this is a way she has had to live to survive, and it works for her and she’s done fucking amazing…But it doesn’t work for me.
As I’ve mentioned previously, music has been a massive part of my life -, largely thanks to my older brother, who always played guitar around me growing up. He has also spent his life travelling the world and earning through music – a lifestyle that has always appealed to me. At 15 I started taking my own music real serious. I made my own record label, recorded, wrote and produced my own albums and started producing grime music for rappers I knew. I sent out hundreds of mailshots a day. When I was 18 I signed my own record deal and went on three nationwide tours, including supporting some big names at the time. Unfortunately, these guys I were dealing with turned out to be sharks in suits and, to cut a long story short, I ended up selling all my possessions and having to steal food to eat on a couple of occasions in a grotty flat in South London. I returned to Norfolk more determined than ever, and achieved two top 20 EPs in the iTunes singer-songwriter charts, including supporting Rag N Bone Man, Craig David and Pendulum to name a few. I done alright. But at the same time, trying to chip away in this industry is a draining process. If I do something, I do it 100% or not at all, and to tirelessly work for 10 years trying to make your dream a reality and it doesn’t come off is soul destroying. I would always second guess my next song or album (is this good enough?), are there going to be enough people at this show? Are these scouts going to like me? Who is this person I’m talking to, are they important? It’s not good for a person.
Then the big one:
I have been a victim of sexual assault. Not rape, though these are really the only details I want to go into. What is particularly relevant, I feel, is that the act was committed by someone whom both myself and my family had put their complete trust in. Prior to that, I had always thought of myself as a decent judge of character, though this proved me wrong – I wouldn’t have foreseen it in a million years. This is what I suppose has made my trust issues that much more difficult to overcome. No matter how close somebody gets to you, no matter to comfortable you feel with them, there is some part of them that can still hurt you. I had kept this event a secret to everyone for a number of years, and even now only five people are aware. I was scared, angry, ashamed, guilty and deflated in a million different ways, all at the same time; and some naive part of me thought that by not acknowledging it could be like it never took place.
Throughout all of my assessments, people have described me using the word ‘strong’. One guy, Henry, from the Adult Community Mental Health Organisation said ‘you are an incredibly strong person, to deal with what you have been through’. Strength didn’t mean much to me at that point in my life, I had none left inside me and I my attempt to kill myself had failed. But he was right. My brother told me ‘You’re a stronger man than I am’. I have only recently started to see my silver lining with this: if you are going through/ have been through similar situations or similar outcomes, and you’re still here – you are doing something right. You have made it through to the other side. There are many mean spirited people that walk among us, some will do anything to try and break you – but we haven’t let them win. We are still here. The other side you have broken through to is yours for the taking, so go and take it.