I’ve been there…
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.