James

Community_5_James.png
 

My friend Emma reached out to me now she is about to open up to the public domain, I praise her for the bravery in putting a little bit of her heart out there to try and help others. Emma asked me to do the same, and, as scary as this is, I hope this can bring some peace to you also.

As human beings, we are blessed with such things like empathy, which enables us to be able to relate to a person’s troubles. We have the ability to place ourselves in another’s shoes, understand what a person may be experiencing and, where we can, to help. As beautiful as humans can be, we get lost at times, and life has the ability to sucker punch you from the blindside and knock you down to a place you’ve never seen before. From that point it’s all about recovery. No matter how long it takes, there’s only one direction when you are on the canvas and that is back to your feet.

Aged 22 I was sucker punched by the fist of life. I was living the dream as a musician in a band with my friends, we had a major record deal, songs on the radio, our faces on TV and our names in the paper. It was just good times. Parallel to this I had been in a relationship with my girlfriend, Hannah, for around a year. Hannah was five years older than me and a very talented musician in her own right, also chasing her dream in the music industry.

Like any relationship, it had its ups and downs, make-ups and break-ups, but no matter what, she was my rock: she gave guidance when needed, helped me understand things and opened my mind to what great love actually is. At the age of 27 Hannah was devastatingly diagnosed with cervical cancer. This was a life-changing moment for me too. Trying to juggle my personal and professional life grew tougher and my shoulders became heavy. I didn’t want my career to impact my relationship or vice versa but inevitably it did. I felt like two parts of my life were battling against each other and I was being torn in the middle.

Hannah was given the all-clear numerous times – the cliché term of a rollercoaster journey is the only one that would suffice here. After nearly four precious years together, Hannah sadly lost her battle in 2011 aged 29, I hit rock bottom.

There is a difference between grieving and depression. For me they co-existed like a tag team, one would pin me down while the other would hit me with a flying elbow off the top ropes – for the next six years.

 
Illustration: Matisse

Illustration: Matisse

 

In the early days I wouldn’t leave my bedroom. I smoked weed from the moment I woke up until I went back to sleep. It was my crutch. I was trying to desperately to numb the pain. My emotions were everywhere and weed helped me to suppress them. I left the band, as I just wasn’t in the right headspace to go back to the thing I loved doing the most.

I completely disconnected from music. People who were close to me became distant. Everything I knew was now the opposite, even me, I was completely different. It was like someone had pressed the ‘reset’ button on me. I don’t think people on the outside ever knew this. I never showed it to them. Whenever I was around people – which wasn’t often – I felt like I was putting on a show of who I was expected to be rather than who I now was. I didn’t even know who I was any more.

I’m finding it hard to put this into words but during this time I was growing in ways I didn’t even understand. Losing a partner had humbled me, it had softened me. I was kinder, more loving, more generous, more grateful for what I did have. It shifted my perception in life. I started to read up on things like self-care, love, energy, the mind and how we work as humans – possibly to understand my emotions and myself.

I started to realise that I am responsible for my own happiness and I started to take little steps into making this happen. So on one side I was growing, spiritually I was gaining a deep understanding for myself, for people, for truth and the way of the universe works, if you like. I slowly but surely started to open myself back up to the outside world and throughout these years I had a few relationships, all of which failed, but all taught me many lessons. I was cheated on and hurt, and each time I would default back to my grieving process, so for me it was just pain evoking unresolved pain.

During this personal growth period I found it difficult to be around certain people that were bitchy, fake and untrustworthy. My senses were heightened and people like this made me uncomfortable. In my relationships, I was constantly told I was too deep or an over-thinker – something I took as a negative.

All the negative things said to me I at one point believed. They nearly broke my spirit but I was stronger than that. I realised that people can only ever meet you as deeply as they have met themselves.

At anniversaries of Hannah’s passing or her birthday I would feel low. I was told I should be over the grieving stage, that I was living in the past, that I need to get over it. This led me to believe I was the problem, maybe there was something wrong with me. Maybe I should try anti-depressants, or needed counselling. It wasn’t normal to feel how I felt.

I allowed my relationships to shape me as a person. Anxiety started to rear its ugly head in my life and it was socially crippling for me at times: I dreaded every event, and any social arrangement was hell on earth. Anywhere like a restaurant, the cinema, a bar, a club, it was all too much for me, and I started to feel like an absolute weirdo, even when I was with my friends.

I had partners at the time telling me this was because I smoked weed. I was probably smoking on average two joints a week, so that’s like telling someone those two glasses of red wine they drink each week is causing them to feel low and suffer from anxiety. I knew it wasn’t the weed but there was a small chance it could have been a contributing factor, so I opted to completely quit smoking to see if anything changed. This was a tipping point: it was the first step of me taking action to combat something that was ruining my life.

Anxiety didn’t go away because I stopped smoking. Neither did my spells of depression, but I had to face them head on without my crutch, the thing I always relied on to numb any pain I felt. This is where true growth occurred for me.

The beauty about being in such a dark place is that growth is inevitable. You do not need light to grow: you are the light, so growth will happen by default, and you just need to trust yourself. You cannot find happiness externally in drink, drugs or relationships. You can’t put a plaster over a deep wound and just hope it heals. At some point the very thing you want to avoid will manifest in ways you are unaware of until you have no choice but to deal with it head on. You have to look at it and figure out the best way to start to heal that wound.

As I started to dig a little deeper within myself, certain people started to gravitate towards me like a magnet – people who gave me a greater understanding of what I was going through. I also became interested in energy and how it transfers between us as humans. For example, have you ever met someone that has the ability to make you feel better about yourself just by being around them? That is their energy. It rubs off on you, and they are vibrating on a good frequency.

 
Illustration: Quentin Monge

Illustration: Quentin Monge

 

I then came across Reiki, an ancient Japanese healing technique that deals with the energy systems of the body. I decided to train in Reiki and it was the best thing I ever did. It gave me understanding of how our body, mind and spirit are all integrated.

And then I started to practise yoga: this was life changing for me. It is the greatest tool in terms of helping me deal with my anxiety and depression. After every class I felt rejuvenated, on a natural high.

There were times I didn’t want to be here at all, times I was super-low. I let people walk all over me and make me feel even lower. I eventually dealt with and processed all of this by getting to know myself. Can I say I will ever be free of anxiety and depression? No. But I can say I can now put up a much better fight from here on out. I’m in a place now where I embrace my strengths. I’m proud of who I am. An ‘over-thinker’? I now realise I’m a creative person with and active creative mind.

My last words to anyone reading would be:

  • You were put on this earth to exist. Know and feel your worth in this world.
  • When you know your worth, you will not accept negativity in your life.
    You will get rid of things that no longer serve you.
  • Stop all self-negative talk. If you catch it, nip it in the bud and shift your thoughts elsewhere to try to see the good in a situation. Every failure or low spell is an opportunity to grow. Love yourself so you have the ability to love others even more.
  • Surround yourself with the right people.
  •  Love yourself.

Thanks for reading.

__

James