I didn’t know who Caroline Flack was until she died. I never watched Love Island – it’s not really my jam. But her high profile suicide has been in my mind a great deal since I read about it the other day.
So many of my friends experience mental health issues. I sometimes joke that it “goes with the territory”. It kind of does. As performers, or presenters or artists in general our job is both to find ways to express humanity with the sticky bits and yet also to pretend to be superhuman and aspirational. The balance is tender and it’s easily tipped either towards the belief you’re just the sticky bits, or that you’re just the superhuman…
“It’s amazing how many people you know,” says Lenka. And I suppose I do know a lot of people, but often quite briefly. We have an experience together, make something hopefully beautiful, and then move on. There’s not much that’s consistent in our lives.
Usually we remember each other, sometimes we don’t. My head gets flooded with faces and sometimes fails when there’s a hair change or it was too brief a time shared, or somesuch. I used to say “Nice to meet you,” but got “We’ve met” back so much I’ve learnt to go with “Nice to see you,” because I sharply remember those “we’ve met” moments, logged in my memory as a kind of failure.
But of all those people, remembered and forgotten, a huge number of them struggle with depression, anxiety, OCD, and so forth even with some friends enjoying the wonders of schizophrenia and so on.
I’ve seen very dear friends in very dark places saying and trying all sorts of things, and I’ve sat next to them. I’ve been in very dark places myself and pretended to ignore the person I was holding on to.
A few of them are gone now. Largely they were artists of some kind. No matter what face people wear, usually it’s a mask.
I’ve been trying to align friends with jobs recently, always aware that if someone doesn’t show up either in body or in mind it reflects on me. I’m pretty quick and instinctive with people and what the mask means and what’s behind it.
I think the people I’ve found will all thrive in the roles I’ve found for them. But there’s always things left to chance… “The bubble, reputation…”
I used to think about it a huge amount, writing this blog. “What if I show too much? What if I damage myself?” It’s always connected to this fucking obsession: my capacity to work.
Because I decided to try to be honest. And because writing every day means sometimes I just have to let the words tumble out in any old order…
Now I just write it. Yes It’s done damage to some friendships. It’s possibly damaged some job possibilities that I’d never know about but who cares? Thank God that the desperate need not to upset anyone has somehow vanished with age. This blog has cemented some friendships from unexpected quarters where people have found fellow feeling, and it has connected me to like minded artists and thinkers and makers. That’ll do.
For the moment it feels like it’s still a thing I have to do. But occasionally I worry.
I’m still careful if I mention people by name. If I was drunk I occasionally wake up and check the rant at 4am when my morning pee strikes.
Reputation is indeed a bubble. It can swell up to be huge. But the bigger it grows the bigger it might burst. And reputation is everything in this industry. Where can you go when the bubble bursts? If all your time, all your thoughts, all your past has sharpened you to become the artist you are despite all the adversity and competition. And then you see it all smashed because of a moment of rage? Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
As a young man I once swung a hard metal soda stream canister at my brother’s face with all my strength and he only just dodged it. It could have killed him. I don’t even remember what the fight was about now. It was just a thing that was to hand and I was enraged. I often think “what if that canister had connected?” because I remember the red mist as I swung it.
I’m sad for another beautiful broken soul lost. Please look after each other and yourselves. Please be kind. We are all so flawed and so delightful. And it’s never broken forever however we might feel.