#7 – Fire a gun.

‘What’s Gunny doing here Jeremy?”

My ears are still ringing. On Friday, the show I co-wrote, Delectably Dead, had its first trip outside of its home county. We headed to Guildford where we performed for eighty people at G Live. Despite how many times I shouted at it, my Sat Nav kept pronouncing it “live”, as in, to still be amongst the living or Liv Tyler.

The key difference with this show was that I was actually going to be “treading the boards”. In previous incarnations I had only ever been part of the ensemble as a zombie. Last night I got to play Nathan Dimble, a character I only realised during the show spends around two and a half hours onstage. Where’s the gun? Where’s the smoking gun?
It’s here, here in the story. It’s no secret that DD has loud noises. One of those loud noises is gunfire, from blank firing weapons, including the two I got to pop off to save the audience from the hoards of the undead that tried to get at my beautiful man-flesh. I have always wanted to fire a gun. There’s something carnal yet Hollywood about it. I think of Danny Butterman’s “ever fired your gun in the air and yelled, ‘Aaaaaaah?'”.

Guns tend to get a bad reputation. It’s probably because of their ability to end lives and all that. I don’t give a damn about my bad reputation. Last night was awesome.
They key thing with guns is safety. We have to keep them under lock and key, they’re assigned a marshal to safeguard them and are also covered in our public liability insurance. After being trained in handling and operating the weapons I got dressed up in my costume and was ready for the show.

I don’t want to say too much about the show itself because a lot of the magic is in the mystery. In fact I feel bad that you know there are guns in it. How else are we supposed to protect ourselves against the infected?
I had an amazing time with a brilliant team of cast and crew and the audience seemed to enjoy themselves.

I would also like to take this opportunity to express how fucking hard acting is. It is one of the most consuming and exhausting processes and I was playing a character somewhere between myself and Karen from Mean Girls so god knows how Helen Mirren or Danny Dyer feel after a day on set. I have so much respect for anyone who has the discipline and ambition for that, who strives for it. Especially if they’re one of our cast members. Thank you guys.

I’m not brave.

Firemen are brave.
Malala Yousafzai is brave.
Lightning McQueen is brave.
I probably shouldn’t compare them. Only one of them managed to purposely lose the Piston Cup championship and still put Radiator Springs back on the map.

Last week I published a blog post about my mental health. It was pretty personal. It dealt with some dark shit. It featured a picture which included my nipples.  That’s not brave to me.

The thing about mental health, and no, I don’t want to be someone who is solely known for speaking out about their psychological well-being, is that it is the same as physical health. It’s intrinsically linked. It’s all in the same body. In my case, it’s all me.

When someone has an accident, and breaks their leg, they aren’t brave. It’s just something that happens. They talk about it and people sign their cast and in time they get better and it’s something of an anecdote. They might feel twinges of pain in the same area. They may even break it again as there’s a pronounced weakness there, but there’s nothing brave in them telling others that they have broken their leg.

It’s okay to ask me about my injuries. I’m open to conversations about it. Others might not be so it’s always best to tread lightly and gauge the reaction.

That aside, I am so grateful to everyone who took the time to read my post last week. The comments and messages I got as a result were incredibly overwhelming. The more I can do to encourage others to talk about mental health then the better I am doing as a writer on the subject. The private messages I received from friends who I didn’t know were going through hard times were incredibly touching and I remain completely available to anyone who wants to talk anything through.

You are not alone in this and I am not going anywhere.

Thank you again for your displays of affection,. My little blog didn’t know what had hit it.

Sad face and silk sheets. 

This photo is a year old today. I only know that because a part of me knew I would get better and therefore kept note of the date. I don’t know if you can tell but this is me at a real low. The lowest I had felt in a very long time. I got so ill that I had to go and stay at my dad’s, in the spare room. I was 29 years old and I felt like I had ruined absolutely everything. The days were dark. I couldn’t see a way out. I wanted to die.

Most people won’t know about this. They know I suffer from depression and anxiety because I try to make it known but it is often hard for people to understand just how consuming, overwhelming and encompassing it can be. I am very much a victim of wearing the painted on smile. That’s why I talk about it. Talking makes it better. A problem shared is a problem solved and all that jazz.

It was only thanks to the incredible people in my life that I was able to get through those dark days. I had panic attacks at work. I spent my weekends and evenings in bed. I struggled to do anything but I knew I had to. I was a functioning depressive. I got through the days but I was not living, not by a long shot.
I didn’t feel comfortable in my own home. Nobody else felt comfortable with me being in my own home.

I was fortunate that my dad had a spare room. He knew that at some point, in his own words, “one of his boys would need it”. He still refers to it as Paul’s Room. When I had an operation in November, I ended up there again.

I packed the things I would need and I stayed at my dad’s while everyone did their absolute best to pull me through, when a lot of the time, I was loathed to try and do it myself. I owe those people my life.

So, what’s the point?
Why am I telling you this?
It’s because it is important.
Suicide is the number one killer of men between 25 – 40.
For far too long, we have been made to bottle up our feelings, to stiff-upper-lip our way through difficult situations and it’s toxic and it has to stop. That’s why I am sharing.
So what can you do?
You can do what the people around me did.
They asked what they could do.

A friend at work took me aside and told me that she didn’t personally understand what I was going through but that if I felt comfortable explaining it to her, then she was happy to listen, and maybe, it would help. That olive branch got me through another day.

A lot of the time, I didn’t have the answer. People were there for me when I needed them and even when I pushed them away, I knew it was at my request and that they would be ready and waiting when I was able to talk. It’s a hard thing to get your head around, for all concerned.
Just listen to people.

There are some things that help when you feel that low, even when you think they aren’t going to:
· Get outside
· Eat
· Drink plenty of water
· Watch old films
· Stare out to sea
· Tell people you love them
· Create something
· Destroy something
· Pet a dog
· Read “Reasons To Stay Alive” by Matt Haig

While on the subject, Reasons To Stay Alive became an incredible source of strength for me. So much so that when I felt better and one of my friends was feeling low, we met for lunch and I gave him my copy. For over an hour we talked about the misunderstandings that come from friends and family when your mental health is bad and what we could do to combat it. We have a project in the pipeline as a result.

There are so many people around you who are in a very similar head space, even if your twisted melon wants to make you feel like you are completely on your own.
Fuck it, talk to me if you can’t find anyone else. I’m all ears.

So, here we are. A year on from the sad face and the silk sheets. What’s happened since?
Well, I took a trip to Asia to forget about everything.
I shaved my head.
I came back and realised I was still me and I was going to have to deal with that.
I lost weight from depression.
I threw away or gave away a lot of possessions.
I got a few more tattoos.
I lost my dignity in a strip club in Krakow.
My anti-depressants flattened any sensation so I switched to others which made my hair fall out.
I gained weight from anti-depressants.
I tried being vegan.
I took up meditation.
I tried being gay.
I joined a gym.
I became an uncle.
I bought a freezer.
I remembered what it was to love myself.
I got my creativity back.
I’ve managed to get a lot of the flying monkeys off my back and day-to-day, I feel pretty good.

That’s why I am able to look at that picture, and know that I am well and truly on the other side of the lens.