This #MentalHealthAwarenessDay, there are some things I feel I owe my friends and fans: an apology, an explanation, and a little spark of light.
I’m going to be pretty brutally honest during this lengthy post… and I want to make it clear I’m not looking for attention or pity. Just understanding. So thanks for bearing with me.
For the last nine years, I’ve only been operating as a musician, artist, and person at about 30% capacity. For the longest time, since my diagnosis at twenty, I thought it was because of my autism, and perhaps even my chronic depression.
I hit twenty-four and things started to go downhill fast. I no longer received joy or excitement for the things I cared about, and my anxiety was rapidly increasing to a point where I couldn’t follow through with any task or project I started – as I’m sure a lot of you have noticed or been on the receiving end of (merch, cosplay groups, and long drawn-out waits for singles to be released to name just a few).
The depression and anxiety continued to worsen until I was at my breaking point. I attempted suicide on my way home from an anime convention in 2016, by trying to throw myself out of the car on the highway. I nearly joined the 27 Club alongside Jimi, Janis, Kurt, Amy, Anton, and more. Daily (no exaggeration), I thank whatever power that may or may not exist that Kit was in the car next to me, and that she was able to both wrestle me down into my seat and take the next exit at the same time.
This was the absolute zenith of my downward spiral: this was when my immediate road team and I both realized how low I had sunk, and how desperate the situation had become.
In less than a year, despite constant monitoring from my team and my incredibly dedicated therapist, I’d gone from being plagued by suicidal thoughts I never thought I would act upon, to actually attempting something violently real. Something I always said I would never, ever do.
It was a huge wake-up call.
Time continued to pass. I avoided all responsibility and became more afraid of my music and my obligations, despite trying to make shit work out. I couldn’t understand how I was in a position where I was being offered so many opportunities that we had worked for… but I was just squirming away from everything I wanted so badly. I had a great band, I had a great team, and I was finally progressing. But something was still massively wrong.
This August, I had an appointment with a mood disorders clinic in the city for an evaluation. And I left the psychiatrist’s office with a confirmed diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder.
For those of you who don’t know what BPD is (because it sounds pretty terrifying), there’s a link to a fairly good description of it here. For those who intensely hate clicking, here’s a general round-up of some of the symptoms:
- Frantic, often debilitating efforts to avoid abandonment (usually imagined).
- Inappropriate and volatile anger and huge problems controlling temper.
- Intense mood swings, often from elation to rage to depression.
- Chronic feelings of emptiness and dissociation.
- Unstable, sporadic relationships with friends and family.
- Distorted sense of self (including self-image and worth).
- Impulsive behaviors and extremely reckless thinking.
- Recurring suicidal and self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviors.
- Chronic paranoia and frequent anxiety attacks.
For those of you who might know me beyond the merch booth and stage, this is probably not coming as all that much of a surprise to you. The self-sabotaging with everything I try to do for my music and art, the erratic mood swings, the way I disappear for months on end without talking to someone and then suddenly pop back into their lives… the diagnosis was both a blow and a relief. There was something seriously, seriously wrong with me – but I was aware of it now. There was a reason this was happening to me. There was a cause.
And that meant there was something I could do.
The thing about BPD is that while it is a very serious psychiatric disorder, it is highly treatable if the patient wants to get better. Through Dialectic Behavior Therapy (DBT, the concept of mindfulness and awareness of your mood and what causes your feelings and emotional reactions to things), a recovery, or at least massive lessening of symptoms, is entirely possible.
… yeah. Here I stand, after nine years of sabotaging every incredible life-changing opportunity I’ve ever been offered, from merch partnerships to music launches to art or cosplay projects. And I’ve become very aware that if I don’t stand up and make a change now, I’m going to be stuck in a rut for the rest of my life. As long or short as that happens to be.
So, what does all this mean?
The long and fuzzy of it is that I’m doing a lot of self-care and strict self-monitoring. Both for my own sake, and the sake of my music and my fans. You lot are my family – and at least in my mind, I’ve let you down countless times, and I don’t need to be told otherwise. I need to focus on what I’m going to do to change, and to make it up to you – to remind you why you’ve stuck by my side all of these years, and to give back to you everything you’ve given me that’s kept me going.
I’m done with making my problem everybody else’s problem. I’m done with being the guy who flees, forsakes, and fucks up. I’m done crying myself to sleep and waking up with migraines thinking of all the opportunities I’ve been too scared to properly pursue.
It’s going to be a long uphill battle, and I’m not going to be perfect first time… but if you’ll accept it, and if you’ll have me and tolerate me, I want to spend the rest of my life and career kicking so much ass and doing whatever I can to be the artist and fighter you believe in me to be.
Hayley Williams of Paramore once said, “If you ever think about giving up, remember why you held on for so long.”
There are several good reasons I always try to keep at the back of my mind and bring to the forefront when needed. In the wake of the tragic loss of Chester Bennington, one of the musicians who taught me as a teenager to never lose hope or take the possibility of it away from myself, I cant help but think about the other human beings who have come to me and told me that I’ve helped them – either me, or my music – and how it made me feel to know that I’d helped someone else cope with the exact same struggles I myself was going through. It keeps me going… to know that I’m able to help. In some way, even just the tiniest bit, or as part of a much larger picture.
I want to change. I want to deliver. I want to push myself to achieve the shit that I set out to, that I commit to, and that I know I can do. I owe it to you… to all of you. And to myself.
Because I don’t want this mental illness to run my life, I want to run my life.
I’m sorry for my bluntness and my honestly… it’s something I’ve needed to get off my chest for a while now. I sat today and wondered how to convey it, what to say… and I knew if I didn’t own up to the way I’ve been acting now, today, on Mental Health Awareness Day, I would probably just procrastinate and wriggle away from it like I do most things.
So I want to take a stand now and do my best to change who I am… to be a better person, be more active, do more, and be less afraid.
Thank you for sticking with me. And to anyone else out there who is struggling with a mental illness alongside me, I hope we can be strong and make it through this together.
In fact… I know we can.