Suicide is a difficult topic to talk about because there are so many feelings that go alongside it. For some it can be immoral, too upsetting, something "selfish" people do, too sensitive, too dark, maybe even something that people avoid talking about because it is too difficult to understand why someone would commit such an act...
I left a part of me on the stage that day - that part was made up of fear, shame and an unwillingness to accept me for me. It took a while, but I am now 100% owning my truth.
Bravery comes in many forms. We need to be brave enough to admit that some battle wounds are the invisible ones we carry every day, brave enough to seek help and no longer suffer in silence, brave enough to admit that more needs to be done in terms of NHS mental health funding, or brave enough to lead the way in research and technology for future therapies.
You don't need to be a poet to write poetry, and you don't need to write 'good' poetry to get a lot out of it. I've found that the very act of writing...
I totally understand why we hide, sharing the difficult stuff sounds terrifying and i'm the first to admit that being around me on a day like today when I am not hiding is no fun for anyone! But I think it's equally terrifying being isolated and feeling like you are the only one in the world feeling like this on a day like today.
Depression can be frightening. Often we can doubt whether it will ever get better. Being told that it can, is what we want to hear - even if we may find it hard to believe. Being told that we are the one, who has to take responsibility and do something about it, is not something we may want to hear.
My laughter journey from ill-health and a life on benefits after losing my job to running my own laughter business, has now evolved to running "Laughter Cleanse" - first in the world to combine a juice cleanse and raw food detox retreat with the healing benefits of laughter - it just makes so much sense!
We need this downtime for our psyche. We need to allow ourselves to feel pain, sadness, boredom, indolence. It's part of our emotional ecosystem, which is very good at balancing itself out if you allow it to. Technology is a barrier to this. Our soul is like the weather - you have rain, sun, wind, snow - all the elements. We are using technology to mask these feelings and it's affecting our mental health.
At home, at college, in relationships, in comedy etc I was the laid back funny guy that only very rarely let the mask slip. It wasn't until circumstances in my personal life hit a wall that finally the act had to come to an end and for the first time in my life, I snapped and told someone what was going on inside me on any given day.
All too often we see the process of achieving mental wellness as a serious and arduous task. But it doesn't have to be. As a matter of fact it shouldn't be! And having a great sense of humor will help you make sure that it isn't!
The vagueness of 'mental health' as a label means that, like 'madness' for the Victorians, it's in danger of becoming a shorthand for any human behaviour we struggle to understand. It's become standard for the media to mention 'a history of mental health problems' in the reporting of murder cases. We need different ways of discussing and reporting these things. But where do we start, when depression and its counterpart conditions are so slippery, so poorly understood, that we've barely even got a working definition that everyone agrees on?
I am incredibly proud and relieved to tell you that not only did I complete my personal mission of putting these demons to bed I actually managed to light the touch paper underneath every single one of them and watch as they want up in smoke and disappeared forever. You see, what I have come to realise in all its beautiful glory is that my illness and this geographical place are two separate entities that exist independently of each other. It is just a place. I am no longer ill.
The whole thing has become somewhat joyous. Shows have ended with group hugs, the entire audience dancing in the street and strangers exchanging phone numbers. These are my people. This is my medicine.
When I tell people I am a stand-up comedian they often say "but aren't you all depressive alcoholics?" I always tell them that's unfair - some of us are anxious cokeheads. Nonetheless, to counter these pernicious stereotypes I thought I'd offer some proof of the healing power of comedy. Here are three areas in which my job has improved my mental well being.
I regularly get told the classic "You'd never know it to look at you" and, "You seem like you've got it all together." Believe me I very much do not, the battle in my head is so tiresome. Often I'll smile at someone whilst thinking, "gosh I want to die so much" and I'm by in no means the one swimming in the choppiest water.
Depression can be infinitely confusing for all involved. You have to listen, difficult things need to be discussed, patterns need to be identified. It can't be ignored and it can't be shouted out of people. It's the most subjective of all diseases, and it comes at you out of your loved one's face.