The previous entry was dated November 15, but before moving on to the 16th, I’m heading backward to October. It was then I made an appointment to see my GP. At last, I was asking for help with this depression/anxiety monster threatening to take over. It used to be short spells – then they started lasting several days. There was an incident in 2013 – felt like a switch had been flicked in my head. Swimming in a river in some European town. Can’t remember, doesn’t matter. I got out of the water and flick. No idea why. That night I couldn’t sleep and the following morning going into work I was the grouchiest man alive, ready to snap at anything.
Thinking about the future can be a trigger. So can the past. Boy, would I love to change some of my past. I fantasise sometimes about faking my own death and starting a new life. None of my new friends would ever know about the embarrassing, egotistical and ambitious stuff. Imagine doing that, but getting caught out. Pure scundered like. I blame the voices.
Have you seen the Simpsons episode where a leprechaun appears on Ralph’s shoulder and tells him to ‘Burn them all!’? Thankfully I don’t have that. What I do have is my own voice, reverberating in a chamber. In a stressful situation, my thoughts blare the words I’d love to say, but can’t.
Thankfully I don’t have Tourette’s. I’m not about to tell you I think your Ugg boots are an abhorrent slur against fashion. That kind of voice is small potatoes, easily supressed. The big stuff, like on days I hate my job or particular situations (cacophonous children’s party?) the voice still wants out. It says something like ‘Why the fuck am I here?’ over and over, echoing and overlapping. I imagine saying it out loud, and how someone might respond. Then the follow-up, a terribly clever and scathing retort. It’s mind-pong for the angry, a riot behind my eyes, voices trying to beat each other into submission. Thank fuck the voice doesn’t tell me to burn people alive. My voice is pretty much self-centred. But still – it’s an asshole.
So I want rid of it. I ask for a particular GP reportedly responsive to mental health issues. (A few aren’t so great.) Made an appointment. Had to wait over a week, but that’s okay. In the meantime…internet. Discovered St John’s Wort, a plant root extract. A ‘traditional remedy’ – science speak for hippie. Get it over the counter. The shit worked. Like magic, the anxiety melted away.
Appointment comes, tell the GP about the hippie pills, admit I know they’re ‘traditional remedy’ and don’t care. Even if they’re sugar pills, I get relief. She’s fine with that. She’s referring me to someone. Yes.
Working with Bloc Party
A few days later, sitting on a plane, about to take off for Los Angeles, I get a call from a counsellor. I think that’s what she is. Anyway, scramble for a pen, jot down the appointment Friday 13 and think ‘Woo hoo – the ball is rolling.’
Los Angeles. The pills from Superdrug run out and I switch to the Asda ones. They’re nowhere near as effective. Rehearsals with Bloc Party, standing in temporarily for their bass player, running though a song they’re playing on national TV, jetlag, a stressful corporate show, new equipment with gremlins, a bit of a shit gig…I wanted to scream I give up. But you don’t do that. You shut up and deal.
You don’t take sick days with this job.
Unless you’re dead, you’re coming in to work. On my 40th birthday I had a touch of the food poisoning. Barking puke into a hotel toilet. Doing the wee from the wrong exit. No sympathy. Get to work.
Back In 2013 a bit of lighting truss landed on me. Saved by the helmet, glasses flying. Blood spattering on the floor. Hospital, nurse, super-glue the wound, back at work 90 minutes later. An American crew member marvels at this. He says:
‘Holy shit dude, you can take a punch.’
Physically I’m an armoured car. Mentally I’m a wee little China doll.
Anyway, jump to 2015, flying home from LA, generally hating life. Stuck in a seat, sweating, sore, voices at full volume, unable to sleep. It’s like fireworks in a skull. Still, at least the ball is rolling somewhere. My appointment is coming up.
Friday 13. Daughter’s assembly in school – she’s playing Howard Carter, one of the guys who discovered Tutankhamen’s tomb. Just enough time to see that, and dash off to my appointment. I get to the surgery, see this counsellor or whatever she is.
She happens to be related to my wife. That’s a professional nope. So she’s referring me to someone else. Back to square one. Shit, I never even got off square one.
Now the trouble is my schedule. It’s Friday 13. On Sunday 15 I’m going on tour for five weeks with Ash. I’ll be home on December 21. December 26 I’m going to Australia with Bloc Party.
I don’t know when I’ll get a proper punt at dealing with this curse.
So I go home a bit bummed.
And then Bataclan…
I know you already know my plight of the depression-bees but I also made an appointment with my doc recently. Even saying my feelings out loud to a ‘health professional’ really helped. He took my blood ( like a vampire) to check if anything else could be causing my ennui, like low thyroid etc. They all came back normal so happy days. I also mentioned to him about St John’s Wort but I haven’t taken any.
Everything you mention in this blog rings so true for me and I think it’s just diddly that you’re writing such an honest blog.
Everyone I have spoken to recently over the past couple of months have all been going through the ringer recently which makes me feel that we’re not alone in our feelings. You are speaking for a lot of people and for that I salute you. For me it’s been an ongoing life-long battle so I really do get it. I just want you to know that you’re not alone.
Even making that appointment is a HUGE step in itself.
Thanks Pen, much appreciated.
You’re a top bloke Leif, and good to be around. Very candid thoughts that I hope you find therapeutic. I know exactly where you’re coming from and have been. We’re playing Paris tonight,in 24 minutes from now as i type, its been an odd day but it will be well worth it. all the best,Robert .