Heavens to Betsy. Sure has been a while since I last wrote a blog, huh? Well strap on/in/around, because it’s time for more vague and directionless mumbling from your old pal Guy.
Before we start: Here’s a content warning. Not in the sense of “warning, I am content”, because, lol, imagine, but in the sense that I will be talking about suicide ideation, self harm, and possibly disordered eating/drinking. If this ain’t your bag, feel free to stop reading :)
Right. Excellent. Hello.
Four years ago (oh my god), I wrote a blog post called “Happy Birthday Nervous Breakdown“, where I talked about how things had improved for me, mental health wise. Well, gang, it’s time for the disappointing sequel: Lol, Guy Is Still A Wreck.
This is very much a stream of consciousness blog, in the hopes of getting it all out of my head, whilst also potentially helping anyone who is in a similar boat feel, at least, like they are not alone. So apologies if this is (like me) somewhat all over the place.
Since we last spoke, I got my dream job, lost my dream job, returned to my nightmare job, and went back on a whacking great dose of anti-depressants. I also wrote a show! My first ever solo show! I performed it several times, received a wonderful response, and, for the first time in years, felt proud of something that I’d done. That was nice.
I then, all hopped up on self-worth, decided to pitch for a second show the following year. Everything was going fairly well until, thanks to Weird Internal Machinations of my nightmare job, my mental health went entirely to pot. For reasons beyond my control, I was pulled about hither and yon, and generally fucked about with in a way almost clinically-designed to catapult me (further) into depression and anxiety. As a result of this, I cancelled my show. That sucked. I don’t see myself particularly good at much in life, but I rate myself as a fairly decent writer and performer (cue impostor syndrome/screaming self-esteem issues telling me not to be such a big-headed prick), and losing an opportunity to do something that I enjoy, and that could have been entertaining and helpful for others, really, really hurt.
FLASH FORWARD TO 2020 LIKE WOW.
It’s coming up to that time of year again, and boy howdy have those feelings returned with gusto. Seeing people post excitedly about their shows is a horrid reminder of where I was last year, and how much I miss performing.
This is where stuff gets weird.
The other week, I performed comedy for the first time in months. I loved it. It made me realise how much I enjoyed every single aspect. Turning up and checking the running order. Waiting backstage. Chatting to other acts. Delighting an audience. It was wonderful. I was elated! And by god I felt hollow afterwards.
Two days later, I saw a show. An exquisite piece of writing and performance that left me impressed, delighted, inspired, and desperate to hurt myself.
If you’re a particularly adept reader, you’ll clock that one of those isn’t like the other.
After leaving the theatre, I spent the entire evening mentally listing out all of the ways I could cause injury to myself, or worse, take my own life. This wasn’t an isolated thing. For the past few months I had been having these intrusive thoughts of suicide and self harm.
At first, I thought that this was shocking and new. I’d always prided myself on never causing physical injury as a coping mechanism (and, in my ugliest moments, sort of looked down on people who had. “I can cope, and I am miserable. Why can’t you?!” I am all too aware how vile that point of view is, and how utterly, utterly misguided, but hey. People grow.) and I was horrified that I was considering taking a blade to my skin.
Then, I had a horrible epiphany. It’s something that’s been lingering in the back of my mind for a while now, but it was suddenly thrown in obvious, stark relief.
Self harm isn’t just cutting, you fucking idiot Guy.
This is so utterly, screamingly obvious that I was staggered I’d never clocked it before. Even after speaking and writing extensively about how much of a lying bastard depression is, I’d somehow managed to overlook a lie I’d been telling myself for as long as I can remember.
I’ve been self-harming for years. There’s the obvious stuff, where I’d hit myself in the face in moments of extreme anger and loathing, and more subtle things. Sabotaging relationships because I didn’t think I deserved them. Drinking far, far too much to self-medicate and further the self-sabotage. Not eating breakfast or lunch most days while drinking coffee in excess amounts in the hope that the resultant bumgush would help me lose weight because of my disgust at my own body. Getting drunk and shaving with a cutthroat razor. Picking at my skin until I bled. Mentally torturing myself on a daily basis with a litany of mistakes and failures that can never be undone.
The realisation that some weird, deep-seated misogyny had led me to think that “self harm was for teenage girls”, and in turn led me to overlook the massive, obvious signs that I was engaging in self-destructive and self-harming behaviour pretty much every day, was a wild ride.
Not to bring this back to “toxic masculinity is bad, yo”, but dang it really is. I’m fairly sure that my relationship with food/my body is a horribly damaged one, but that idea that a guy can have an eating disorder never really seemed plausible until a few years ago. Similarly, there’s an inbuilt/ingrained sense that “Men Don’t Self Harm” which, of course, if fucking hot nonsense.
I then realised that the reflexive disgust and revulsion I felt after both shows was a part of this. It was some dark, cruel aspect of myself saying “You have wasted every chance you’ve had, Guy. Look at what you could have done. Look at where you could have been. A petty, jealous, vindictive part of my character that wants no-one to be happy, least of all myself.
So. What is to be done?
Firstly, I wanted to write this for two reasons.
- I wanted to get it all out of my head and onto a page, so I could actually look at it and understand the fucker.
- I wanted to talk openly about self harm, in the desperate hope that it triggers a similar realisation in someone who reads this. Being unkind to yourself takes many, many guises, and recognising that can be a good path to getting on top of it
And secondly, I’m actively trying to tell that horrid little voice to shut the fuck up. I’m starting a comedy night with a wonderful pal, where the proceeds go to charity. This is not an entirely selfless act, as it will mean I get back on stage and actually doing things that I am good at, while also hopefully trying to force a bit of good back into a world that has gone entirely to pot.
So yeah. Here we are. I’m in a really bad way. Worse than I have been for a while. But at the very least, I have made some important realisations that, hopefully, will start getting me out of this fucking mire.
Depression is, as always, a fucking mutant cocksucker. You’re not alone.