I’ve never ‘done Edinburgh’- not the whole run with a proper show with posters and shit. I want a poster. Just once. I’ve been up to Edinburgh, of course, once in 2006 for the semi-finals of So You Think You’re Funny? And once in 2007, […]
Note: I think this is some kind of attempt at putting into words a thing I experience frequently during counselling, while doing self-analysis, or while meditating. Fuck knows, if I’m honest… Black sky; rain-slicked, slate-sheet cliffs. A damning, judgemental storm, more intense than recent, oppressive. […]
Courtesy of my good friend, comedian Jonnie Price, the set that got me through to the semi-finals of So You Think You’re Funny? 2006 at the Edinburgh Fringe. We didn’t catch it all, unfortunately, and the sound is rough but there you go.
I don’t sleep – and not sleeping is dangerous. If, for whatever reason, you are suffering from insomnia or have been struggling with sleep issues for a while then please get professional help as soon as you possibly can. I can’t remember the last decent […]
Trigger Warning: This is what I’ve started to call a ‘testimony post‘ where I share my experiences of life on the road, life with depression, anxiety and self-esteem and anger issues. Can be sometimes graphic and/or sweary/controversial. Will be tagged/hashtagged ‘#testimony’.
Eighteen seconds into episode one of the US sit-com “Maron”, the titular stand-up comedian, podcaster, writer and actor declares: “A few years ago, I was planning on killing myself in my garage and now I’m doing the best thing I’ve ever done in my life in that same garage.”
I know the feeling.
All my life, I’ve wanted to be a writer and comedian. Now, at fory-one years of age, after a breakdown, a divorce; having lost everything including my home, a string of excellent jobs, my self-respect and my confidence I am sat here, writing this, speaking to you, and planning the show that will hopefully drag me out of this pit and kickstart my career once and for all. Hopefully.
Here I am. Wes Packer: Writer and Comedian. (Ok, maybe Blogger and Comedian for now.) It’s taken far too long but I’ve finally come to accept the squirrels in my head and the demons in the dark. I’m not cut out for a nine-to-five, I never was. I was doing Eddie Murphy impressions when I was twelve, for fuck sake. (Picture it: a twelve year old fat white kid from the valleys doing stuff from Delirious and Raw for his mates in the school yard. Yeah…I looked that stupid.)
I’ve wasted the last twenty years of my life doing jobs I hated to pay a mortgage I didn’t want and could never quite get to the point where I could quit the day job and become a professional comic (and, if you’ll indulge me, I suspect that I could be good enough.)
I was doing both software development and stand-up for so long that I hurt myself and it’s taken me six fucking years, a few good friends, an excellent counsellor and GP and the love and support of my close family and the most incredible, loving, understanding, strong and supportive woman I’ve ever met to get to the point where I feel level enough to be able to sit and tell you all this shit. And I’ll be damned if I’m wasting this good fortune and the next twenty years of my life…
When you have a mental illness or go through a period of emotional difficulty for whatever reason, many people will talk to you like you’re a fucking six year old and they have all the answers. This is because they haven’t been there. We have.
You’ve been there, I’ve been there. Very recently in fact – and I’m terrified of going back there.
I’ve been sat on my back step, drunk as fuck, listening to Eminem at five in the morning with my wife sleeping soundly upstairs and the blade of a kitchen knife pressed against my wrist, impotently willing my hand to move, to cut, terrified of what would happen if it did.
I’ve stood atop an NCP, Southerndown Cliffs, and the balcony of a hotel in Montreal wondering what would happen, really, if I took just one more step.
I’ve driven down the M4 and felt the unfathomable desire to veer left into a concrete pillar.
I’ve been there, man. I’ve seen those demons too. You are not alone no matter how much it may feel like it.
I don’t know what else to say to you right now but I just wanted to share that. However dark it gets, however loud the voices, however many demons, you are not alone. There are other people who’ve been there and a lot of those people are our allies. Reach out. To anyone!
Friends, family, neighbours, colleagues; your GP, local mental health team, local hospital; call someone: Samaritans, SANEline, or Mind; find a local group on Facebook or Meetup.com; in the past, even writing a letter to myself as if I’m telling someone what’s going on has helped me.
Asking for help sucks ass. That’s why my comedy career is where it is (or isn’t): I hate asking other people for help – and a cursory glance at the comedy scene will reassure you that the old adage is terrifyingly true: “it ain’t what you know, it’s who you know.”
Showing weakness, exposing your belly, can be terrifying but you are not and never have to be alone in your darkness. The Samaritans have saved my life. No advice, no judgement, no ’empathising’. Nothing. Just listening to me drunkenly rambling my incoherence for ten minutes was enough. The Samaritans saved my life.
Get help. There’s no shame and even if there was, fuck ’em. This is your life we’re talking about. You are worthy. Get help. Like Bob Hoskins said: “It’s good to talk.”
Here’s how to contact The Samaritans:
Samaritans Helpline: 116 123 – you don’t even have to have credit on your phone. (Welsh Language Line: 0808 164 0123)
Feel free to comment and to share.
This is the post I’ve been putting off writing for six years. I’ve been writing it since Monday. I’ve written and re-written it so many times that my trash now has more drafts of this post than emails offering me Viagra. It won’t be what I want it to be but it’s almost the end of another Mental Health Awareness Week and my career is on its arse. If I don’t do this now, I never will.
I started back in 2005 at Poncho Comedy Club in Cardiff. In 2008 I walked off stage in Coventry and had a breakdown (me, not the car) on the M5. That was a fucking long drive home. I quit comedy and struggled on for a while in software development until, after a disastrous spell working for a large web agency, in 2012 I was diagnosed with Depression and Anxiety. Neither I nor those close to me were surprised – this shit goes way back – but it did allow me to finally get onto the Recovery Rollercoaster. I wasn’t expecting things to get more difficult…
I did the SSRI Dance for a while, got to know Nausea and Anxiety intimately, came off one type of SSRI cold turkey and almost completely lost my shit (do NOT do that). I lived on Lambert & Butler and Lucozade for quite a while.
Since my diagnosis, I’ve burnt through three councellors, two agents, a personal trainer (who’s patience, like his strength, is Herculean), fuck knows how many GPs, a marriage, a home, and several jobs. My CV looks like the CV of a man who has depression. I’ve come clean to employers and been sacked because of it and I’ve kept it hidden and been sacked because of it. I’ve let down good friends, over and over again, and I’ve promised work to people that was never delivered and for which I’m currently running around apologising. I’ve cancelled thousands and thousands of pounds worth of comedy work, been sanctioned by the DWP and fallen out with more friends than I care to remember. I’ve had the Manics’ A Design for Life on constant repeat in my brain for about two months. I don’t even like that fucking song!
I’ve quit comedy and started from scratch three times and after trying to do this shit for twelve years I still haven’t done an Edinburgh run. It’s been a hell of a ride but I’m still here.
I am still here.
I’m neither the first nor the only person to fight this fight, many people have it far worse than I, and I am still genuinely baffled as to why anyone would care what I think about anything but, apparently, some of you do.
So I’m a ‘blogger’ now, too. I always wanted to be a writer but, as there’s no real market for Welsh Stephen King wannabes, I haven’t had anything to write about – or so I thought. Turns out, there’s a bunch of jumble in this cracked nut of mine that I could do with taking to the charity shop and some stuff that I can put online.
Before I go, I must say this: I’m not about to jump off anything high, don’t panic. I am safe and I am loved. I have friends and family who give a fuck and I have a Pick ‘n’ Mix of meds that are currently holding an illegal rave inside my skull.
I’m doing this now because I’ve hit bottom and am on my way back up. I have a lot of explaining to do to a lot of people, and who knows? I’m hopeful that this will help someone, somehow, someday. It may even help me. I’m no expert but mental health services in this country are fucking abysmal. We’re all working too hard, for too long, and the world is becoming so polarised, so angry, and so cruel that we must stick together – we must. I’ve lost too many heroes, friends, even family members to suicide. I’ve had enough.
More to follow…
Not exactly ‘back by popular demand’ but a few people have asked about video recently. I’m starting again, from scratch, for reasons I’ll go into in the next post, so I’ve made it public again. If you haven’t seen it, enjoy. If you have, probably […]