I started this article on a bad day.
Jumped back on it on a better day.
And I got back on it now, because it didn’t feel genuine last time: you can’t write about hurt, while you aren’t. The memory of it isn’t enough.
Today I sat down at my desk and just knew it; it was the right time. Bad enough to speak with truth, but not to the point of not sounding coherent.
I have learned, throughout the course of my almost-25 years on this planet, that mental health is an issue for more people than you’d imagine. And it’s not as obvious as you’d make it, as visible as a scar on your cheek. Some of us (the more dangerously-aware ones) are extremely good at hiding it. Good at kicking it to the floor, covering it under the ground and standing on it. Good at denying it. Good at masking it. Bad at asking for help.
We find consolation in those poems, those songs and those movies that tell us darkness is just as necessary as light; they turn a defect into complexity, intricacy and intelligence, sometimes into talent. They open our mind to believe that our flaws cannot be ignored, but they can be utilised and our energy can be channelled through them, into a vortex of feelings that will create something great. Something that will be heard, change people, inspire people. Something that will affect humanity, or even just a fraction of it, and stay.
Yes, something that will stay, because we are all so afraid of being forgotten, aren’t we?
At the same time, I see far too many people secretly (and not) wishing that some irreversible drama had happened in their lives, because we are also taught that creativity stems from pain - and that’s a mistake.
I think creativity stems from the innumerable ways we deal with pain.
And all the innumerable, subtle, unnamable shades of emotion in between.
It stems from the struggle of swimming back up from the abyss towards the surface, to feel oxygen in your lungs again.
It also stems from the vibrations of euphoria radiating through the extremities of your body, when you feel pure bliss.
That’s the battle that’s worth talking about.
Like countless tiny drops of sweat on your skin, the core of you seeps through, in its primal instinct of survival.
Pain in itself is otherwise flat.
It’s never easy to expose your weaknesses this way. When you do, some pity it and others diminish it and only a few listen with an open heart. But this article is me, reaching out to as many of you were willing to read this far, holding as many of your hands as the ones that wish to be held.
You’re not alone.
And, for some of us, music is the answer.
I will never forget the frustration during my acting years, when teachers would cautiously tap into our backgrounds and vulnerabilities to trigger emotions. The lesson was clear: whatever makes you feel closer to what the character is feeling, as yourself, is the answer. And still, whenever I tapped into my memories (or what was left of them), I would go numb. I pushed, and pushed, and pushed so hard - but my brain loved me too much to make me go through it again. And so my mind would go around in circles, to the point of feeling dazed and forgetting what I was trying to do. My body would get exhausted and I would end up slumping heavily in the corner of the room, too fatigued to move but well ready to beat myself up on the inside.
I hadn’t cried in years.
And still, what was just a tiny detail at the time, a little hint, never failed to surprise me; it was enough to hit a certain note on a piano, maybe followed by a second one, that I would break down instantly. The funniest part? The fear of being overwhelmed never let me play a third one.
I remember playing Blanche from A Streetcar Named Desire and never being able to sing “It’s Only A Paper Moon” because whenever I would hit the higher notes I would feel like crying.
So how did that work? One side of me wanted to feel, but it had to happen on my own terms? I pressed and pushed and prodded, but when I felt the intensity of the avalanche I would shy away from it?
In a few words, music was my outlet. Now I embrace it, I use it, I’m learning to control it for the sake of songwriting.
Depression doesn't come with huge outbursts of tears every day. Bipolar disorder doesn’t mean you switch from Mr Jekyll to Mr Hyde in the blink of an eye.
Human beings feel forced to fight their own impulses. We try to survive in a society that won’t accept or sympathise, so we hide and feel ashamed. But at the end of the day, I promise you, whatever you feel deserves to be heard. Someone out there needs to hear it. So write that song, that movie script, dance to that tune, paint that canvas, talk to people.
You owe it to them and yourself. Your mind is not your prison, it’s your Realm.