Living around those with depression.
Many people become very curious, and sometimes even a little sad, when they learn more about my childhood. But even though I admit that I had a diﬃcult upbringing, most people wouldn’t be able to guess from my positive outlook on life.
I put this quality down to pure stubbornness. A stubbornness which came about through a promise which I made to myself at the age of ten:
“NEVER GET DEPRESSED”
I wrote these words into my school sketchbook and have made it my life’s mission to avoid ever being overwhelmed by the dark skies of the terrible curse of depression, as so many other poor souls have.
My father left our family (for a new one) when I was only three months old. It was my mother who had to raise us, in what was (and still is) quite a rough neighbourhood, at the very edge of Greater London, bordering with Essex. She was hugely aﬀected by depression and anxiety, due to her own childhood traumas and the conditions she now found herself in. She was far from home, alone and responsible for two children.
I can clearly remember there being a huge amount of racism and bigotry, respectively, towards Irish and West Indian families in our community. My mother (a single Irish woman) had plenty to endure for her part. From the local skinheads, hurling insults such as “Terrorist” and “IRA” (amongst other things), to the neighbours above, who collected dog faeces in a bucket and dumped them on our doorstep.
The fact that my sister and I both have ginger hair also provoked certain comments and attitudes from people. People who were ignorant, sometimes idiotic, and always cowardly.
I never experienced any physical abuse at home, but I do remember my sister and I becoming very polite and obedient, mostly out of fear for our mother’s mental stability. After her countless suicide attempts, we became used to it; that was just how life was. It was often the case that we would be collected from school by a social worker and taken to hospital to visit our mother, who would lay there in bed with a look in her eyes, that to this day still haunts me.
I mention this formative memory in one of my songs — ‘Home’:
“She laid there for days with that far away gaze,
I’ve never been so frightened.”
I remember one time we visited while she was having her stomach pumped. My sister and I didn’t know what to say, so we remained quiet, as usual.
From there, we would be shifted to a foster family or foster home, or sometimes we would stay with friends and relatives for a few days (or weeks), until our Mum was stable enough to take us back again. We always did return home though…somehow. And for that, I am now truly thankful.
There were times when I just wanted it over, however, and one time I even asked a foster parent if we could just call her ‘Mum’ now and be done with it.
The doctors knew that our mother needed us and that she was, in fact, stronger with us in her lives. We struggled on together, as a family.
It was not long before my mum found somebody else and she married again when I was ten. They are still together now. But despite the extra support and companionship that her husband gives her, her illness has never gone away. She has made several more suicide attempts and constantly faces a huge amount of anxiety and depression. It hurts me every time she gets ill and recedes back into herself again.
It also hurts to hear her say that she is ‘better now’ and has ‘decided to come oﬀ the anti-depressants’. I have seen the cycle so many times and know it will only be a short time before she suﬀers a terrible comedown, spiralling back into the same old pattern of self-loathing and anxiety.
Making the promise to myself to “NEVER GET DEPRESSED” and becoming stubborn about it, oﬀered me the opportunity to ﬁght. It is a ﬁght that has kept me sane and I am blessed to be winning it. But for those of you who sometimes become overwhelmed and who are regularly faced with despair, anxiety and depression — I hope wholeheartedly that you can draw courage and strength from somewhere.
For me, it has always been music and art. I hope you can ﬁnd something which can be used to spark your own ﬁght, to ﬁnd your own voice and to once again, stand tall, becoming free from the slavery of depression.
The strength to fight may come and go, but as that black cloud passes over you, remember to never doubt yourself. Remember your talents, abilities and your right to stand tall and have a voice.
Whether you yourself suﬀer with depression, or whether you are close to someone who does (and feel affected by it), you do have a voice. Use it to ﬁnd your ﬁght!
Finding my ﬁght has given me the hope that it is never too late to better yourself, your situation and your life. It is never too late to forgive your past.
The future is brighter and it’s yours, so ﬁght for it!