A Force To Be Reckoned With

At secondary school, I always knew I was a bit ‘different’. I always thought different to the other kids, I was bullied heavily and regard my school years simply as a time to forget and wipe from my mind.

In 2003 I left with 9 GCSEs. I honestly don’t know how I did it, but looking back I can see now that things were very up and down for me in my mind. I was always told I’d amount to nothing by teachers at school as I didn’t know what I really wanted to do with my life at that point. I never spoke to anyone about what was going on in my head, apart from my lovely parents.

Music was always a big passion and I would lock myself away in my room listening to a local pirate station most weekends, wondering how I could make music the same as what was playing on the radio. Music was all I really wanted to do, but it’s the type of industry/job that is very dog-eat-dog and there are not a lot of opportunities to earn much money at all.

I studied at the local college and decided I’d like to try my hand at admin/computer work, so I worked hard to get my qualifications and bump up my GCSE grades while I was at it.

After leaving college I found it so hard to get a job, but whatever I tried just didn’t seem to work. I felt that same worthless feeling I had when I was at school. The more time went on I seemed to hit a slump and just kept telling myself I’m probably useless and that’s why I couldn’t find work to progress in life.

I went very within myself and only would snap out of it occasionally when with friends, but even that was a struggle sometimes to pull the duvet over my head and get on with each day. My burning passion though was still music and I wanted to learn how to make dance music.

With that, I got bought a laptop and started making beats in my bedroom when I was around 17-19. This is the point where I felt like that was my only outlet, my thoughts and feelings were coming out in what I produced which was mostly very dark but it helped me. I didn’t want to go to the doctors for what was going on in my head. I never really talked about it, I kept it within because my thoughts have always been that I should 'man up' and that there are far worse people out there in the world suffering and that I should stop being so silly. I fought these feelings in my mind for a few years, before things finally got to a positive stage.

I managed to secure a job at my local college, thanks to my Connexions advisor, Tracy Holman who I’m still friends with to this day. She really spoke up for me and gave me the confidence to reach out and start achieving my goals in finding work and it really helped!

I was on an 'earn while you learn' apprenticeship. It only lasted for so long then I was back out of work, but again to fill the gap while looking for jobs, music was what was carrying me through the times when I thought life was going to fall apart again.

When a positive came along, a negative would follow, but while that negative time was around I fought back again, keeping my mind busy and using my anger and frustration in producing music which was a positive, because I would have taken my anger out in different ways which wouldn’t have been a good idea.

When I look back on that part of life in my teens and my early 20s I somehow coped and luckily didn’t slide down the route of depression (well not fully thank god but I felt I was close) there was also another factor that kept me going and that was a local music studio called Pie Factory Music where I learned more about producing, thus improving my technique.

Danny, doing what he does best!

Danny, doing what he does best!

In 2007 I got national airplay on BBC Radio 1 when I sent a track into Annie Nightingale, she played it on her show in the early hours of 14th May that year. I felt like I was worth something and that really helped me grow in confidence.

‘Sparki Dee – A Force To Be Reckoned With’ was on the track listing alongside the likes of LCD Soundsystem, Chemical Brothers etc and that really did lift me out of a low ebb once again. I have a lot of respect for Annie always looking out for the unsigned, she played me again in 2009 I was shocked but also it lifted my confidence. I had airplay also on BBC 6 Music and BBC Kent Introducing around 2008-2009, which was around a time when I was very up and down in my mind with jobs coming and going whilst also losing my grandad a few years previously which I don’t think I ever really got over. Once again music was there to save me, it was a coping mechanism and a way forward in life when things went pear-shaped for a while.

Many people would have got doctors advice in the low times but I felt that music was the real source of upliftment in some dark times when I thought life wasn’t great and I felt utterly worthless.

Fast forward to the last 7 to 8 years I have had many mixed feelings but learned to train my mind to be positive. After every disappointment whether it would be losing a job, love life or life in general, I always thought well there is music and what have I lost?

I started with nothing gone back to nothing, something will appear soon that will be better than the last thing. Jobs have been hard to come by living in south-east Kent by the seaside, but what jobs I have had I have always done to the best of my ability and kept my spirits up as best I could, even when those temporary jobs came and went. In between the gaps I have released my music on small labels getting recognition in the dance/rave scene, things looked and felt good.

There have been times where I have gotten with or spent time with the wrong people in music. Those who have made me start to doubt myself and my abilities. I did for a brief time stop DJ-ing because of negative people, but my friends are what got me 'back on the horse' and that is how I keep going with positivity around me.

Now we come to 2016 and I suffered my first panic / anxiety attack. After a really stressful time running a local campaign to save my local airport along with other things, it all got a bit too much.

I was out with some friends down the pub, was casually chatting away then I felt suddenly like the world was closing in and it was like I was in a tunnel with my vision closing off. I started to sweat, I glassed up and had to go outside as I couldn’t catch my breath at all. I felt awful and wondered what on earth was happening to me. My friends came out to see if I was ok and promptly got me into a taxi to go home as I was in such a state.

The next morning I described my symptoms to some people and they informed me that I had a panic / anxiety attack, so now I was learning this whole new thing that I didn’t understand at first but now cope with. It did start to become a problem when I was out at raves, I felt like I couldn’t cope in big crowds and would often have to remove myself from the situation and gather my energy and sort my head out. I felt like an idiot but people I was with often told me about their struggle with panic attacks and anxiety so I got to know what it is all about. I wasn’t going to let it beat me so I carried on through the attacks, did what I had to do and kept my music passion going no way was I going to give up going raving.

I have had quite a few attacks but luckily have learned how to cope with them with advice from fellow sufferers in a Facebook group. I now focus on something if I am at a rave, it could be anything from the DJ to the equipment they use, to the lasers and I just zone out. I don’t know how I do it, but I have somehow managed to so far get around this weird feeling I get.

I battle with it though and sometimes on the bus to and from work I can sometimes feel an attack coming on as I get sweaty and my vision seems to get very narrow and that feeling comes over me. I have managed again to keep that at bay with music, I listen to my MP3 player which blocks out any noise and seems to keep me on an even playing field in my mind.

I focus on what I am listening to and the journey doesn’t seem so bad especially if you feel like you are packed in like cattle at rush hour. I also ring people that is another way of coping, I often ring my mum or aunty after work or a friend and that helps me with the social anxiety feeling.

I guess I could go see a doctor and neck a load of pills and let it beat me but why? Especially when I have found many good ways of coping with my mental health. Music for me really is a boost, a way of life and is always there for me. When the music hits I feel no pain, all I feel is upliftment and positivity. When I am surrounded by like-minded people that makes it even better, some may laugh but it's like a friend or a girlfriend! Its always there when other people are not. I do urge anyone out there that focusing your mind on a passion you have can really help you to the point you cope and use it as a way to live life whilst also enjoying it.

I’m Dan and I live with anxiety and panic attacks. I hope it was a good read.

Danny epitomises the spirit of Men Tell and all credit to him for finding those self-help strategies that really help him. Music can be a huge tonic for those with mental health issues (including us!). What helps you through? Do you turn music up to 11 or do you have something else that hits the spot? Let us know in the comments below.

You can keep up-to-date with Danny on Twitter where he's @DannySkeedale. IF you're a music fan, you can also listen to some of Danny's work on SoundCloud or Mixcloud. He also produces under the name 'Sparki Dee', again on SoundCloud and Mixcloud.