Men Tell Their Stories

Get Yourself Together

The world is a fairly miserable place isn't it? We have to navigate our way through a string of relentless and arduous daily tasks, whilst being subjected to a torrent of boring beauracaucy that won’t allow us to simply live and to lead a simple life. It’s all a load of bollocks. I propose we just all sack off work this week, punch our boss in the face if they ask us to test out a new online survey technology thingy m’bob and run away to the Blackpool and go on the Big Dipper.  Fuck it. It’s a Monday and yet, just fuck it.

A couple of years a go I got diagnosed with depression. I thought something wasn’t right after I spent nearly 2 weeks in my bedroom, not eating and not communicating to anyone. There was something incredibly violent about that fortnight, but if I was to describe it to you, I’d just sound like a lazy sod. 

I thought I was letting myself down by being this way, for crying non-stop and for allowing thoughts of suicide to take control of me. I felt like this was my fault. It was my fault why I was a piece of shit, so it was understandable why I was mistreating myself.

A couple of years later, after I’d finished university, I found myself on the dole. A few people who I’d studied at uni talked about how the dole was essentially the 1970s version of the Arts Council. That it offered you space to be yourself and figure out how you want to work, where you want to be employe and how you be yourself.

After signing on and spending a couple of weeks filling out Universal Job Match, handing out CVs and pretty much working full-time as an unemployed adult, I had to go to a meeting to discuss whether to discuss if I was going to receive a 2-week sanction. That would have meant not receiving £112 of my benefits which would have made it harder to get to the Job Centre, use the library printer to print off my CV and travel to interviews.

The meeting was about why I was late to an advisory meeting. I was told how important it is to arrive on time "as it messes up the running of the day as there are lots of people to meet". Also, me being late could be seen as a reflection of my work ethic and that I "seriously need to improve" if I want to get a job. The reason I was late to my advisory meeting was because there was a car crash on the route to the Job Centre and my bus was stuck in the traffic it had caused. I told the person I was having this meeting with what had happened. They told me that I should have foreseen these circumstances and arranged an earlier travel. It’s rather difficult to see into the future and see if there will be any disturbances on my bus route. I was blamed for not having the foresight to predict a car crash. It was my fault I was late.

I’m sick to death of putting blame on myself or people putting blame on me for things I have no control over. I struggle to control my mental health and it’s a medically proven thing, yet when describing my mental health to some people they can’t help but see it as a fault I have. It’s a problem. One ex-partner once told me to watch the Zach Braff film Garden State to help me “get over it”. I was on medication at that time and that film is essentially a huge pill-shaming advert. I felt so guilty after watching it. The ex saw my mental health as a fault and put blame on me for being that way. I can’t think of anything more damaging.

My friends who have been on Job Seekers Allowance are getting blamed for not getting a job, even though in the city centre all the shops are closing down, being replaced by chain cafes and they don’t have experience making coffee, so they can't get work.

So I propose we just sack everything off. If anyone comes up to us and has a go at us for not having a job we’ll tell them that it’s not about us having no job. It’s about a larger problem that was triggered from the financial crisis in 2008. If someone has a pop at us for being a bit sad, we’ll tell them that it’s because people are making films about how taking antidepressants is a bad thing. I’ll be sat on Blackpool promenade with a chip butty if you want to join me.

Alternatively you can come to a show I’ve made about mental health. If these are frustrations you share then come share them with me. I’m doing a gig at Northern Stage in Newcastle, it’s on the 24th and 25th May. We can have a brew after the show, shoot the shit, share stories, share frustrations. It’ll be lovely.


You can get tickets for Josh's show right here --> https://www.northernstage.co.uk/whats-on/Get-yourself-together.

You can keep up-to-date with Josh via his Tumblr blog at joshdoesthings.tumblr.com or on Twitter, where he's @j_jcoates