‘If I pound this bike hard enough, I’ll have a nice sinewy Madonna body by the time I’m 50’, I think to myself, as my wobbly hypermobile joints work their way through the pain. I’ve gone through a total transformation this past year, and feel a bit like I’ve stepped out of a fat suit. And yet, I still feel like someone was having a laugh when they put my body together. I often joke that walking on my legs is like trying to walk on two bits of cooked spaghetti... Ah well... at least I have legs I guess.
If I exercise myself into the ground till I’m exhausted and my brain floods with endorphins, maybe this lingering feeling of worthlessness that’s been growing in me lately will go away. After managing to emerge from a ten year fog of depression that was preceded by being fed medication that damn near melted my brain, I watch helplessly as I start to spiral into anxiety again. I feel helpless and sad. I’ve been doing so well.
Things that hardly matter at all seem to suddenly matter greatly. You would think that by now I should’ve learned how to put things in perspective. My older brother died in the middle of the night in 1994. My dad died slowly in front of my eyes in 2001. Weirdly that seemed to destroy my ability to put things in perspective. Now if someone so much as looks at me with any hint of anger or disappointment in their eyes, I just crumple. Even when it’s nothing to do with me.
But I have this bike, and goddamn it, I will pedal till I fall off...
And I have my wife, who is an endlessly patient and kind angel. And I have a beautiful dog who is closer to being a surrogate child than I’d like to admit. My family and friends are wonderful in fact, and at my core I am a happy person. I am desperate to be happy. So when I feel that happiness slipping, it pains me.
I have music. I write songs, I make records. When I feel happy, I go and play shows. I’ve had something you could describe as success multiple times. I had my fifteen minutes of fame at the age of 18 in Hong Kong. I sang to bigger audiences than ever before supporting Joe Jackson. I've written and recorded with some of my musical heroes. I am tremendously lucky. But when I'm something less than happy, I withdraw. I disappear.
That's when well-meaning friends tell me to 'go and play shows!'... or 'go on The Voice so you can be discovered and become successful!’. I don’t even know what success means anymore if I’m honest. I’m fairly sure I don’t want to be Beyoncé (who is the most fabulous popstar on the planet, IMHO). I don’t have the legs anyway.
Now, at the ripe old age of 40, making a decent buck from making music would feel like success to me. I’m not sure that that’ll happen though - I can’t imagine a ‘Susie’ brand, or flogging perfume.
But I would like to be a musician and get a modest amount of recognition for it. That’s about it really. I have done it in the past, and I always get up, dust myself off and do it again. People ask me ‘where have you been? Your last record came out 6 years ago!’ Well here’s your answer - I get anxious, I get depressed. Sometimes life feels a bit like wading through glue.
And yet here I am again with new music. Doing my best to fight through my anxiety this time and give it my best shot. I'm trying to heed my own lyric - 'life is too short to be afraid' - I am painfully aware of this fact. I will probably try, try and try again until the day I die.
Why am I sharing this anyway? Because as society is beginning to talk more openly about mental illness, I wanted to add my voice to the discussion. I hope this post helps someone. I hope that it shows that these problems can be part of the fabric of a life that is still meaningful and 'successful' - whatever success is.
If you, or someone you know is affected by mental health issues, contact MIND for help & advice. They are amazing.