This is the most honest thing I’ll ever write.
Ever since I’ve been what you would call 'an adult', I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression. I can never remember feeling that way as a child, but maybe that’s just the nostalgia-tinged version of my childhood that I’ve got lodged in my head.
I know I was shielded from a lot of things when I was young. My parents split when I was 10 and I blamed my mam, mainly due to naivety and manipulation and that’s always something I’ll regret. Once I found out the truth of what had been going on behind the scenes, it changed everything. I think the knowledge of that manipulation has subconsciously forced me to question literally everything in my life since that point.
For most of my life I’ve had a constant niggling feeling that I’m not good enough. I lapse into worthlessness when literally nothing can trigger it. If I make a mistake or lose confidence in myself or lose control of a situation, I just collapse sometimes. It varies from extreme sadness to anger and suicidal thoughts. Sometimes I can just wake up that way.
I was always an odd child – it makes sense, I’m an odd adult – but I’ve since learnt that that’s a good thing. ‘Normal’ is a concept that doesn’t really exist and if it did, then it’s something that I’d despise anyway.
I really embodied my weirdness in primary school. I started trying to learn the harmonica after seeing The Blues Brothers. I’d just play it by myself in front of my class. I danced and sang ‘Everybody Needs Somebody To Love’ to my class in Year 3. Shades, trilby and everything – I just didn’t care what the other kids thought.
Even on the last day of primary school, right before I was about to be thrown into the world of secondary education, I performed ‘Greased Lightning’ in front of the whole school. Just to a rubbish backing track on a CD player again. I think I got respect for just having the guts to do stuff like that.
When I started secondary school I was still coming to terms with my parents splitting up. The older I got, the less of a father figure I had. My dad has suffered from depression for as long as I can remember. I know he has, but he’d never admit it, never admit that he needed help.
I struggled to speak up and be myself in secondary school. I was bullied almost immediately for acting how I was used to acting and I just felt lost. I was an 'alternative child' but soon found other alternative friends. We were all bullied, but we were bullied together. Something about that just makes so much difference.
I got in with a more popular crowd towards the end, but I always saw through my own disguise. I knew I wasn’t being me, but at that time I didn’t really know what ‘me’ was. I just craved acceptance. I looked up to others as if they were better than me. If they said something, I agreed with it. If I said something and was shut down I caved and felt anxious. I never stood up for myself. I started drinking and doing a lot of other things I thought were ‘cool’. They weren’t.
In college I came out more. I dressed in girl’s clothes, I experimented with weird music, I started understanding myself as a person – but that anxiety always stayed with me. I was still scared to speak. I used what I wore as a way to express my personality because I didn’t know how to express it any other way. I was constantly scared that what I said would be wrong; or I’d say what I thought people wanted to hear and not what I actually felt.
In university, my anxiety got even worse. I didn’t know how to make new friends. I didn’t turn up to a lot of lectures because I just felt lost in a room full of people I didn’t know. I knew that didn’t have to be the case, I just didn’t know how to make them people I did know. I didn’t know how to start a conversation. I was still scared that I’d say something that I liked or something that I was passionate about and someone would make fun of it.
Behind my quiet, unsociable exterior, I would constantly think of things I wanted to say but just couldn’t make myself say them. I’d go home and watch an old silent movie or listen to some abstract jazz or psychedelic experimental noise rock or whatever I was into at any given time. I opened my mind to so much in those 3 years; I just didn’t know how to talk about any of it. I just assumed I was alone. One of my biggest regrets is this period of my life. It was the time when I fully began to understand that my anxiety was an issue.
I left university and started ‘Mouses’ (the band I’m currently in). That first demo that we made was the first time I’d been able to coherently convey the things I felt in my whole life. I spoke about how angry I was that racism is excusable if you’re of a different generation – that’s something that’s always angered me. I spoke about my hatred of celebrity culture and how dangerous it is. I spoke about my issues with organised religion. I spoke about my hatred of homophobia. How love doesn’t have a gender.
…and I spoke about how I was scared about my dad. We don’t speak anymore; in some way I think I always knew it would come to this point, I just tried so hard to put it off, but I had to do it for my own mental health. I wanted to share everything with him. I wanted him to be such a big part of my life – but he couldn’t be. I’ll never truly know why but I had to make a decision to concentrate on my own life for once before I ended it. I’ll always forgive and there’s no one on this planet that I dislike, just a lot of people I don’t understand. I miss him being around and I think that’s just something I’ll always feel. I don’t mean to hurt people when I express that, I think it’s just natural to reminisce and sugar-coat memories.
In my 25 years, I’ve learnt a lot of things. The main one is to just always be you. It took a lot of time to finally admit to myself who I was, but when I got there, it honestly changed everything. I still relapse and feel down. I still have moments where I feel worthless. Sometimes I have no confidence in myself. Sometimes I just can’t go out and interact, it’s like I just lose the ability.
Nobody’s perfect, there’s no such thing, but those times are getting few and far between. As soon as you come to terms with who you are, it makes everything easier.
I still struggle to hold a conversation. but I just laugh it off. It’s ridiculous how often there’s a silence in a conversation I have. I used to drown in it and feel so awkward I just needed to crawl into a ball and disappear. Now it’s just another part of me. If anything I point it out most of the time and just apologise for my inability to not be awkward and weird. People get that and I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve had a conversation with someone about those thoughts now. As soon as you open up it’s surprising how many people have been waiting themselves for that moment to feel like it’s okay to open up about anxiety too.
I wear dresses. I have blue hair. I play guitar. I shout about the things that anger me. I stand up for what I believe in. I’m not good in crowds. I struggle to make friends. I struggle to hold a conversation. Sometimes I stumble in the middle of a sentence and don’t know what the fuck I’m doing. Sometimes I’m okay and sometimes I’m not okay. That’s just me.
If people think I’m weird then that’s fine. I’m happy and that’s all that matters. That’s all that should matter to anyone. Nothing anyone can or will say will make you feel as bad as the feeling of regret. Whatever you want to do in your life, make sure you do it and make sure you ‘be you’ when you do it.
Incredible stuff we're sure you'll agree. We absolutely applaud Steven for his honesty and openness and we're proud to call him a friend. Do you recognise anything in Steven's story? Was school a tough time for you? Did you get bullied just for being 'you'? How did you turn that into a positive thing? Let us know in the comments below.
Steven and his fantastic band Mouses are a huge talent and their shows are incredible. We're incredibly proud that they, not to mention The Broken Broadcast and Be Quiet. Shout Loud are playing a benefit gig for ourselves and No Borders Zine at the Georgian Theatre on Friday 22nd December 2017. We hope to see you there!
Steven is also part of the great team behind No Borders Zine, a free monthly zine covering topics such as mental health, discrimination, sexual abuse, the LGBTQ community, gender stereotyping and basically anything anybody needs to talk about!! The aim is to give people a platform to speak out about these issues and anything they feel passionate about. We want to remove all barriers and let people know that it's cool to talk! You can follow them on Twitter, where they're @noborderszine or their Facebook page.