Gig Fail… I pulled the gig. All-together too much shit went too wrong yesterday for me to feel like I could drive to Exter and back for a gig. I’m ok, I’m at home and I’m safe but a gig last night would have been […]
This week has been difficult. As I’ve already mentioned, I’ve spent the last few weeks coming off one set of meds and onto another – with the new meds failing to counter the withdrawal from the old. So I’ve been dealing with withdrawal AND side effects. I’ve been on my arse, if I’m honest. The depression has been gradually lifting for a few days and the anxiety is doing the same, now that last night’s gig is over, but the physical exhaustion is a killer. I’m not sure if it’s withdrawal or side-effects or depression or anxiety burnout or a combination of a four but some mornings I physically cannot move for a few minutes after I’ve woken up and my body feels like it’s made of lead. Sometimes I feel the anxiety has drained me, sapped my strength, and other times it fees more neuro-chemical-ish. Whatever it is, it’s a pain in the ring and something I’ve been dealing with as best I can for a while now.
Getting to the gig was difficult. Last Friday, after a stressful week and no meds, I was exhausted, unable to get off the bed, and ready to quit comedy. I didn’t, and I’m glad. I have fought hard this week. I’ve worked my arse off all day every day and I’ve been feeling like hammered shit throughout but I want to be a stand-up comic and so I’ll do what I have to. I’m glad I fought, because I won.
It depends on your definition of ‘won’, obviously, but the biggest battle I had to fight last night was getting on stage. I’ve not been that nervous since my first gig at A Shot in The Dark on City Road all those years ago. I stopped my last-minute cramming at around five and had a shower. I dressed, made some tea and toast, and broke down crying. I cried for a while. I needed to.
A fucking good cry, some fresh air, and a wash later and I was ready to face the gig. I was still nervous, naturally, but the tears and wracking sobs had loosened a lot of tension that I’d been carrying so I felt more ready for it. It’s surprising how important the physical game is. Tightness, tension, and pain can all make me just uncomfortable enough to throw me off my game, I go onstage in the wrong kind of mood and it takes me a time to get into the groove of things. Like last night, I went on a little later than expected. No worries, this kind of thing usually happens, but I let myself drop back out of gear a little bit. I thought of a couple of introductory jokes while Paul was introducing me and weaved them into the intro, in my head, which I inevitably forgot on taking to the stage. The intro was as ropey as fuck.
I got into my stride after a while, realising that I was doing stand-up comedy at The Duke and not standing trial for something dicey, and I think we got there in the end. I’ll call it a home draw and I’ll take that at this early stage in the season.
For various depression and family-related reasons, I hadn’t been able to spend as much time working on the show as I’d have liked and so had to rely on a couple of old ‘bits’ to bolster the ideas that I’d not had time to flesh out yet. I think I spent longer on this than on the actual tale but when I eventually got to it, it worked a treat.
The whole thing was shonkey, in my opinion, as I expected. I’m happy, though. The big bits and main ideas worked so I now have a good framework on which I can build the show. That’s what I wanted, really: an indication that I’m not wasting my time.
If I can take anything from this at all, learn any lessons, it’s that preparation is key: if I want to be a professional then I have to think and act and work and prepare like one from now on. It’s a physically hard game, too. You wouldn’t realise how exhausted it can be unless you’ve done it, and I was never the kid they called “speedy” in school. Add to that the energy-sapping anxiety and physical weakness caused by the meds and you can imagine the state I’m in this morning. I wasn’t built for heat or hard work so I need to get myself physically fitter if I’m going to survive and thrive as a comedian.
We had a lovey packed house and Leroy Brito did the business in support, all held together by Paul James’ warm, soft, capable hands so, once again: thanks, Neath. I’ll be back next year to preview the final show before taking it to the Edinburgh Fringe and I won’t forget Paul’s promise 😉
It’s Friday morning, a beautiful day in these scarred, old valleys. I’m listening to some Art Blakey and contemplating a walk down the town for a bacon roll and a brew.
I’ve been working hard, you know!
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.