I’ve been taking antidepressants once a day since April 2019. And yet it’s been one of the most turbulent years in my life. Existential crises seem to bubble up weekly from my disdain with university and academia, living in Brexit Britain – which grows ever more fitting to the animalistic anthropomorphization of our mascot being a grumbling, growling, racist, repugnant little Bulldog with a Scrappy-Doo complex – and being a paradox in that I’m a decent white man in a world ruined by the White Man. All culminating in the issue of my 29-year-long identity crisis as a weirdo working-class boy tussling (and often defeating) the mosaic man I’ve been able to piece together from myriad muses. Though, this isn’t an article of bemoaning, but of celebrating. Another seeming paradox against (instead of ‘because of’) the plutocracy, a Catch-44 if you will, is that it’s taken this soft apocalypse for me to mine a small fortune of mental wealth within the confines of societies and systems ridiculing the emergent conversation of deteriorating mental health. My name is Aaron Farrell and I’m:
- S. Stressed
But I’m OK because I’ve climbed out of the well, clambered out of the valley, smiled at the sunset after too long a dark.
Whilst watching Tarkovsky’s The Sacrifice, I knew I was better. Serious people talk about serious things with no inkling of humility. Discourse of grating world-weariness without any earthly delight in the trees they plant not being organic metaphors for mortality, but quite beautiful in their own right. Taking these hefty themes in, and yet not having them melt my mental mettle, I knew my mind’s health had improved. Perhaps a year ago, I’d have watched this long, dreary, brutal (and every so often, brilliant) film early in the morning and have become absorbed by the self-serious spirituality. This would have burdened me for the rest of the day or week. But of late, I’m more able to simply observe things without bearing their weight like the camel with a broken back. Which, as a nearly-30 cinephile, I’ve always struggled with. As a child, as a teen, as a man, I’ve ALWAYS likened myself to heroes and villains that I empathise with. Thinking I am them and they are me as if I believed in karmic values and resurrection. It’s quite a load to bear at times and one of the many reasons, with linking traits, that I’m awaiting testing for Autism.
Though, as I’m trekking out of the valley I’ve been traipsing through for years like the water temples in Zelda or the poisonous bogs and swamps of Dark Souls, the sunlight has hit me and I’m all the more appreciative of the warmth. Sometimes, I do peer at the sun and ponder its much-speculated death that’ll inevitably scorch our solar system to cinders but other times, rather than focus on its death (which reminds me of my death), I’m able to appreciate the moment or visit a sun-drenched memory. When I was travelling for sixteen months straight, me and my fiancée could have started a reality-TV show called ‘Bright Souls,’ wherein we pursue the sun’s rising and setting across Australia in our campervan, desirous of the infinite and inspired costume changes our star revels in. Whether a nuclear explosion melting the horizon or a violet orb rising from the crystalline waves, our souls would be replenished with humanity’s nurturing bright. But we didn’t do that as we’re not needy, soulless cunts who’d sell their privacy and autonomy for a skewered shot at being ‘famous.’
‘Reality’ TV, dude. Unless it’s Thrasher & Vice’s King of the Road, with real people of talent and spirit doing real shit, with real consequence and true camaraderie, then fuck that noise. Without preambling for two paragraphs, let me state an opinion. The increased and unhealthy consumption of Reality TV (the neurologically necrotic TOWIE’s, Chelsea’s, Shore’s, the exploitative social experiments like Big Brother ((you cunts shat on Orwell’s legacy!)) and Love Island, or the sheer mediocrity and meaningless of Gogglebox), and social media (I’m talking the self-obsessed, self-aggrandising, self**-taking shitheadedness of hours every fucking day) are killing your soul. MSN and Bebo (with a side of Limewire) was the pinnacle. All since are tuning forks for consumerism: they’re literally selling you the end of the world, the new world you ‘belong’ to, or you, yourselves. I came off Facebook and Twitter for realsies in 2016 after crying on Byron Bay beach at the combined news of Brexit and Trump being passed on through social media apps that I had fervently battled within to try and hinder the rolling boulder of right-wing populism. I realised the futility. Then, in 2017, I deleted Instagram as it is a pool with the contoured faces and jacked biceps of a billion Narcissus’. In spite of me talking of how tumultuous my mental health was during 2018-2020, I do believe if social media didn’t exist, I might have dealt with these issues earlier.
And crashing back into The Sacrifice, it helped solidify something that was a thicker growing gas until then. Not all pleasure needs pain. Not all glory needs sacrifice. I’m happy to report to friends and family that I’m doing good. I’m feeling like I’m living as a writer during this lockdown. I’m happier in my marrow, and even when I’m not, I don’t feel like I’m fighting my way out from the depth of a gargantuan grotesque’s digestive tract, but merely shadowed by a cloud that will ultimately pass or piss down and make the grass grow. And I’m reminded again of my travels; my bottomless self-sustenance.
In my first novel (still unpublished, unfortunately) The Lost and Found that I wrote in and around Byron Bay – A delightful place to write a book about the contemporary bohemian wanderers who’ve taken advantage of the shrinking world to feast with cultures disparate and close (there were way more kindred working-class travellers than I expected too, and the novel is for them), losing themselves to find themselves. ‘Damp clothes dry’ are the words I forgot I wrote. Depression and anxiety have had a leeching effect on my positivity but through this lockdown, during all this forced introspection and pursuits of passion projects (my first poetry collection is now out in the world and I’ve learned to draw things that resemble things other than the artist’s own brain tumour), whilst calendars and meetings and timetables have been mooted, I, and we, are able to rest in all ways that sentient creatures need to. And perceiving time slower (and slower again with a fat J), we’re able to drift in the current of existence as opposed to battling it with flails and bails.
Caption: A clip from one of the most profound, soul-shattering and enlightening episodes of TV in the 21st century – Midnight Gospel Episode 8.
— I’m aware that this piece is seemingly self-centred but because its theme is surrounding mental health/wealth, I don’t want to take liberties with other’s mentalities, but rather use my own experiences to hopefully convey just one individual within a community. This is what I attempt to do in all my writing. I also try to justify myself a lot, but I actually don’t think this paragraph is that. I just want people to read my honest experiences in hopes of them validating their own. And now to you.
Perhaps the growing commonality of young folks who are SAD, and the older folks criticising them, calling them ‘flowers’ and ‘pansies’ and ‘pussies,’ has a relationship? Generational expectations differ but so too does the culture and mode of the world. The olders who dismiss us for being on antidepressants, or showing our emotions during protests, etc., never had to deal with commas like we do. Our lists of to-do is berserk. Our social skins are stretched like tanned hides, or more fittingly to the authoritarian oligarchy we’re living through, the faces of the morose jerks from Gilliam’s Brazil. Generational dissonance. What worked for them clearly doesn’t work for us. We realise that their purpose was appointed. White picket fences and family, red-handed infidelity and alcoholism. Where we (I say ‘we’ often without identifying a specific group because the We is for whomever wants it, needs it, or, like me, hopes for it, whatever generation you or others identify as, We is the community of spirit and mind) naturally rebel against those things. We aren’t Great, Silent or Boomers. But we aren’t just the end of the alphabet either.
A gleaming example of not only the desensitised – but no less unsensitive – millennial artist with a bottomless creative soul (and testament to Violent Expression) is rapper and kween Cupcakkke. A friend introduced me to Cupcakke whilst baked and I laughed so hard at ‘Spider-Man Dick’ that I almost shat my pants. But there’s so much more to the rapper than hilariously vulgar and provocative lyrics. This video is so multitudinous in what conversations it launches, from artistic integrity to male-gazed femininity. And it was in 2017! Since then, Cupcakke has continued to enable conversations across generations. Cupcakke has also struggled with her own mental wellbeing, being taken into hospital in January 2019 surrounding suicidal tweets. She is seemingly doing better now, addressing her sexualised starting-up and continuing to showcase dexterity rarely seen in contemporary musicians.
I know people who struggled with their mental health before the soft apocalypse and have been feeling uninhibited since being able to distance themselves from work and worry. But also do I know those that were unaffected by the montage of modern living and are now struggling to spread themselves so thinly across so small a space (their homes and immediate communities). Ultimately, I think this is a positive. Once I’d gotten over the twatting of totalitarianism in Johnson (that fucking oaf isn’t Prime Ministerial in any derivation of the word – apart from perhaps ‘incompetent’) I began to envision what this policed state could give us should we ever be released from its talons. There’ll be divorces, and suicides, and all other forms of ‘bad’ we love to focus on. But can you imagine the person who doesn’t just come home to their family in increments, but is indefinitely spending time with loved ones to realise that all the work and worry wasn’t worth missing out on the moments like little Suki giving Hulk the Chihuahua X Bichon Frise an impressive haircut because she was worried that he was too warm in the rays of the aforementioned (and allegorical) sun. Coming home from work to hear that wouldn’t have been half as important as showing Suki how to hold the scissors correctly.
This isn’t me saying none of us should work. Many of us love working if we’re fortunate enough to have tasted our purpose – I don’t make a meal let alone a living on writing, but it is still something I can’t live without as I am sincerely in love with it – and am pursuing it with passion. But like America’s-Only-Hope-In-Political-Form-And-Eventual-President Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said, “We’re not going back to working 70 hours a week just to put food on the table?”
Being a hyper (self) aware artist, and saying those words in fact, is one of the steps toward me realising that self-reference doesn’t have to be pompous prideful publicity but can simply showcase your point with evidence. With just calling myself an ‘artist,’ and striving toward healthily being able to say phrases like ‘I’m one of my favourite writers,’ ‘I’m Tarantino Cool,’ and ‘it doesn’t matter what people think of me,’ and it not causing my cringe reflex to snap several vertebrae, is one of the reasons I’m writing these articles, have pursued my belief in Violent Expression, am attempting to have conversations beneficial to our collective experience.
Here is a poem from my collection that is addressing these very points I’m trying to make. It is a lot less experimental than many of the others, but I wrote it in a way that invites the old school into the new because Violent Expression is about discourse and not destruction, conversation and not condescension. Without further ado, Mind The Generation Gap.
We are anxious because of the judgement that’s been beamed upon us like the orange light of Sauron’s spasmodic eye. We are depressed because those looking down never really looked up unless it was a space race or a firework display. We are melancholy because they were masochistic. We’re stressed because we have to try and rehabilitate a planet they raped and ravaged.
I’m not saying the younger generation is better than any older generation, fuck we’re all neurotic about being the pariahs of the plutocracy above us, but there is often little empathy or understanding passed down. Novels like Fight Club exemplify the dissonance I speak of, but novels like A Single Man show how difficult it can be for an older to approach a younger, in any context. I’ve learned that judgement (from being a lifelong judgemental prick) is as heavy for the judge as it is for the judged. So, if we do fix this world, smash the system, edit the misspellings of those that came before and pass on pragmatic knowledge to the younger rather than our pissy pride in having to deal with hand-me-down hubris, then surely the ‘We’ of our eventual children might not be so inclined to write articles lamenting the detestable nature of a world bleached by the Great White Narc.
Each generation becomes more liberal and less secular, even in minimal ways because of the small victory of globalisation. Whereas I’d actually get into fights with people calling my brown childhood friend a ‘Paki’- don’t worry we were a pretty tough tag-team, think D-Von and Bubba Ray Dudley… ‘THREEE DEEE’ – I thankfully haven’t heard that word in a long time even though I still live amidst rather socially secular communities in this asshole island of Britain. Because the integration of diversity, try as the White might to propagandise their problems on The Other, The Immigrant, etc, etc, etc, is happening, no amount of Brexit shenanigans can reverse a school classroom with as many Josh’s as Jamal’s, Rachel’s as Rochelle’s, Samantha’s as Suki’s.
However you want to approach such a profound concept as mental health, especially in 2020, during its decade-long surge in becoming accepted, normalised and integrated within health services and even workplaces – dude, fucking imagine how it must have felt to have a mental illness at any other time in history, to risk shock therapy or lobotomy for feeling like you can’t control your impulses, or facing exile from your family for merely voicing your feelings of being locked in a mental pit you can’t, in spite of your greatest efforts, climb out of. One isn’t flying over the cuckoo’s nest anymore, the nest has simply grown to become all-encompassing. For myself, lifelong teachings in Kung-Fu, within the concept of Yin and Yang, Taoism and the omnipresent Flow all promoting self-love, self-worth, self-discipline and ultimately, self-awareness in the places physical, mental, emotional and spiritual; connections to my artistic heroes and the ideas they leave behind that still inspire, no matter where in the Flow they fit; pursuit of my passions such as writing, skateboarding, travelling, art, and connection with the healing salve of the soul – the natural world; feeling and communicating love – offering my earnest emotions to my friends and family, and receiving the reciprocated love back.
This last is perhaps most integral. If it wasn’t for my fiancée, I don’t know where I’d be, who I’d be, if I’d be. But ultimately, I have her immortal love and she has mine. Our bond is of best friends, soul mates, lovers and beautifully entwined weirdos. We communicate everything and have such fun in learning from each other and our separate experiences that feed into our coexistent experience, where all things mean more when shared. I may sound like the fifth Beatle lost in the Fourth State, but without love, what’s the fucking point? That isn’t to say you can’t be happy alone, merely that even lone wolfs can find comfort and worth in the right pack. It can take decades to find the love that heals more than it hurts, but it’s there for all of us. The world has never been smaller and people never more connected (the true benefit of social media), and that means the language of love can become our global lingua franca.
I can attest that if you look for enemies in this world, you’ll find them. But so to does that apply to friends. Though I’ve called out Reality TV above, I’ve still played with the idea of putting videos of myself and my fiancée Becky (guess what colour she is with a name like that?) getting baked in the Study on YouTube, believing that our connection, our love, and most of all, our laughter, could be positive for others to see. As open as I am with words, I am very caring of privacy and so the idea is still simply floating. Though I don’t believe in Luck as a concept, I know I’m blessed, fortunate or favoured by beautiful chaos for finding the love I have and actually realising how special that is. That is what heals me, time and again. But for those who don’t have that person, and are struggling with loneliness right now, I’m genuinely here for you – if you share, appreciate or even disagree with my sentiments, get in touch through my website and start a discourse – as are many others.
This crisis has given the good a chance to reveal themselves amidst the mad. Community can be found, whether through hotlines, YouTube comment sections, Reddit threads, skateparks (this for me has been mammoth in terms of feeling like I belong to a social people – even if you don’t skate, head down a park or local spot, still keeping your 2m’s with ease if you want, and maybe just speak to whoever is ripping.) Walk across a beach renowned for chatty dog walkers. Reach out to old friends or even estranged family in hopes of repairing old bridges or proposing reconciliation. Read books, watch films, play games, listen to music and find your people – it is this concept that shaped me into such an enamoured lover of the arts: the feeling of ‘Oh fuckkkkk, this person gets me/ is me/ feels me/ knows me.’ Then create in all those ways and appreciate whatever it is you’ve made for the effort alone. Take breaks from the News and your echo chambers. Find the peace in being alone through meditation, introspection and challenging your negativity with the notion of ‘Would I treat others as poorly as I treat myself?’, and ultimately, do for you as you do for others. ‘You can’t please everyone all the time. So sometimes, you’ve just gotta please yourself.’ My Mam told me this as an angsty kid and I’ve not forgotten it as an angsty man.
This world is giving all of us so much to worry about, from stupid, stupid, stupid cunts ruining countries (see the previous VE article), to new face-masked dystopia as realities, and of course, the heinous murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. All are still on-going and the justified rage for the latter is burning and I only hope from the ashes of the flames of the riots and protests, a more aware and responsible America rises to see the colourful spectrum of the world that isn’t now, and never has been, as simple as White and Black. The world turns and we continue to spin in lunacy, but with our minds expressive and our mouths violent, we can communicate our love and our disdain, and resew the seeds of the chasmic middle-ground by doing for ourselves and utilising our myriad skills to then inspire others. We are the world we watch and the world we want. We are SAD but that doesn’t mean we can’t be happy. We are yesterday, today and tomorrow. We are the crew behind the cast of caricatures of this tragedy, and we have the ability to redesign the set, lighting, sound and script for our own divine comedy.
Here’s a very brief list of resources that have helped me. Please feel free to share any that have helped you in the comments:
– An article surrounding representation, community and being a modern kween through the rainbow lens of Broad City – which is now available on Amazon Prime which means everyone in the world should be watching this masterpiece of modern-day millennials. https://www.thecut.com/2019/03/what-broad-city-meant-to-millennial-jewish-women.html
– Calm is a meditation app that I’ve paid for over the past two years and has a wealth of talks, meditations, music and ambience (Rain on Leaves is my sleep trigger) and has free trials to see if you like it.
– The Essentials of Spirituality by Felix Adler started me on my more spiritually aware path about seven years ago. I haven’t read it since but plan to as I remember it emboldened me in many ways at a time of severe depression.