Words: Kieran Clark | Header Image: Josh Billington
Mental Health Awareness week is founded by The Mental Health Foundation, which has been around for 70 years now. The theme they’re focusing on for 2019 is ‘Body Image’, and the slogan #BeBodyKind.
I’m 24 years old, from a small town in Worcestershire called Evesham. I am the third out of four children, my mum is from Yorkshire, and my dad from Essex. I am a musician, and love all aspects of live music, to the point where my career path is live audio engineering, and events management. I’m extremely passionate on sports, and I’m a devout Tottenham Hotspur fan. I’ve always strived to give my best, and be generous with compassion, understanding, and leadership. I have never once thought I have achieved my best in any of these categories. This is due to my head. Through-out my life I’ve experienced extreme anger & temper issues which ties in with anxiety and panic attacks, often leading to a violent outbursts, 99.9% of the time on myself or inanimate objects. I also experience addiction issues, have not been able to handle or comprehend loss, and severe depression which has led to suicidal tendencies. This is my story of how music saved my life.
When I was 15 I broke my hand playing rugby, which meant no playing an instrument, and no sports for 6 weeks. In this time, I started singing (badly I may add), and just trying to plough through until I could get my cast off and get back into the swing of things. Looking back, I was totally unfazed for someone who had just had his two hobbies ripped away from him. When I was 16 years old, I had the complete opposite reaction. I ripped my ankle to bits, I ended up having a walking stick for a small amount of time, and couldn’t play any sports for months. This was the first time I really experienced depression, and music became the coping method. I would play guitar to distract myself from my friends playing at the weekend whilst I was stuck not being able to even walk properly. I started writing my own songs, and was listening to music as a form of escapism. It’s odd to think that one small injury in a football game in the small village of Badsey would lead to my whole life aspirations changing.
I finished High School with pretty decent GCSE’s, I had a 2 year strong girlfriend, a strong group of friends, and had a lot on my horizon. I went into the summer of 2011 with nothing but hope for the future, not knowing that before the end of the year I wouldn’t have anything. I started a new sixth form, and hated it. I put myself into a state of self-loathing that would eventually lead to me breaking up with my girlfriend of the time. I didn’t consider others feelings at all, it was all about me, and this showed in my break-up. My friendship group of 5 years had gone to different schools and colleges, and made new friends, I was alone but wasn’t reaching out. I eventually dropped out to start again. If it wasn’t for a teacher called Mr. Hendry putting his neck out for me, and understanding what was happening in my head better than I, and dragging me to the right path, I probably would’ve gone on a more destructive route.
“I became a shell of the boy I used to be, and fell in with the wrong crowd”
I started drinking in this time, and discovered smoking. I wish I had never discovered smoking. I became a shell of the boy I used to be, and fell in with the wrong crowd. I went from athletic to fat, and lost all confidence in myself. I ate nothing but crap food, and fell into my hole of destruction. I was given substances to try, and they would temporarily make me feel better, so what did I do? Took them more and more so that temporarily came more often. My music was angry, and I didn’t care much for people, until Reading Festival 2012. This is the point where I realised how integral music was to me and my mental state. This festival is memorable for many things to me, not only did I lose my virginity there, but also was there for Dave Grohl’s speech before ‘Times Like These’; I wanted to be a musician, and play at Reading Festival.
I went through sixth form not really attaching myself to friendship groups, because I was so scared that they would break up like before. I moved from group to group, and have since only retained a small number of friends. In that time I deteriorated, I was addicted to nightlife, and not in a healthy way. I was part of a band called ‘Pana Waves’, and I loved it, it allowed me to properly start moving forward, but my own music was still lost, it had no focus, no drive, and I just wanted to be an indie kid from 2006. I played a few gigs and recorded a couple of songs, but none were good, and it led to a show in Stratford-Upon-Avon, that was so bad I decided never to gig again solo.
Then came the dark night, when I decided that enough was enough, I couldn’t keep on top of my mental health, no matter what I took, what music I listened to, what friends I had, escapism had failed. I tried to take my own life, a decision that I am still haunted by today. I tried to drown, but was luckily caught in time by someone, who pumped the water out of me. It fucking hurt. Immediately, my mind set was different, I had resigned myself to leaving the Earth, probably going to hell. I was saved, and struggled to understand why. In fact it has taken 5 years for me to comprehend it all, even to properly admit it to people, a small decision like that led me to typing out my story on this computer.
I bottled up this story, hid it away, and that was my next mistake. I didn’t tell my friends or my family, I just thought it would disappear. I was wrong. My story is in two parts, the beginning up to my suicide attempt, followed by hiding the truth and the birth of Luke Moss.
I turned to music, and one song in particular which I will always credit to changing my life, and saving me. ‘Sticks ’n’ Stones’ by Jamie T, was the first song I truly found spoke to me, and I can never skip it. It was beautiful to me in every way, and I will forever thank Jamie T for writing it, even though it had no relation to myself. It was one of my first tattoo’s, and I had it inked on my skin above a skull, letting me forever remember that that song was what took me away and above death. Romanticised I know. This was the first time music saved my life.
I was meant to start Falmouth University in September 2014, but I didn’t. I couldn’t have the strength away from home, so set about rebuilding my head, I worked in a village nearby in a bar/restaurant, and I met someone. She was great, and throughout my year out, we grew closer and eventually ended up together. I should’ve been honest from the start, and not bottled up my feelings, my past, and the truth. Instead, I gave the impression of someone who was mentally sad, but stable. I should never should’ve done that. Hiding the truth led me to become someone I wasn’t, someone who I’m always going to be ashamed of being. I was angry and depressed, my past was only one small step behind me. After two and a half years, we broke up and I put the blame completely on her, knowing that I was the route of the problem. I will always remember the good times, and learn from my evil times.
I was lost, so turned to a music project I had only ever worked on sparingly, which needed a name. I had gigged under the name ‘Luke Moss’ back home because of the terrible gigs I had done before. A name based on Luke Skywalker from Star Wars (my favourite film series), and Maurice Moss from IT Crowd (my favourite tv show at the time). Luke Moss became a way for me to start channelling feelings of loss somewhere therapeutic. It wasn’t enough though, and I became an alcoholic, what better way to forget your mental health than being blackout drunk. I often made comments about how impressive I was, going out and drinking every night, I talked about the ‘Golden Fortnight’, which came, went, and I still didn’t relent…
Many of you know that Falmouth’s music scene is a beautiful place full of amazing artists. Two in particular took me out of this dark place: Tinnedfruit & Jay Beale. Tinnedfruit released ‘Sorry Guys’ in the Summer of 2017, an LP that wrapped me up in a garage-rock blanket, and allowed me to finally find a release for the anger and anguish I’d felt for months. Tracks such as ‘The Laugher’, ‘Girlbrain’, and ‘Sad Boys’, gave me energy to go towards a guitar and not a bottle. But, Jay Beale stole the show, with ‘Retiro’. Not only is this the most beautiful song in the world, hands down, but also whenever I listened to it I felt unburdened by my past, and my head. I don’t know what happens in that song to make me feel this way, but the summer of 2017 was a new start for me, as if someone had hit reset on my head. Music saves lives in my case, if it wasn’t for ‘Retiro’, I could feel History repeating itself.
I took my time, got back on my feet, and wrote ‘Therapy Tapes’, a song that means a great deal to me. ‘Therapy Tapes’ was the story you’ve read so far, put into a four minute song. It was the first time I’ve been honest with my music, and finally I started to see my mental health fall into place. I wrote ‘Think I’ve Shut Up For Long Enough’, my first EP. I was 22 going on 23, and had only realised that something I had sat on for over a decade, was actually the secret to my head. I wasn’t cured, I never will be, but I had a healthy coping mechanism for the first time since I was 17. It let me realise; My head is my own, and the best thing I do is to never compare it to anyone else. This was the first survival technique I learnt.
I began to move forward, and realised that Falmouth and it’s music scene had saved my life, just because of the musicians around me. My friendship group was solid, I had Luke Moss, I had Milo Gore, as well as Red Van Records to keep my head occupied and happy, but there was still something left. I had to leave my past behind, too much baggage needed unloading. Music was my escape so I wrote, ‘The Depression Diaries’, an art piece written to join my worlds together, performed with two bands, and by myself. Inspired by my mental unload with my lecturer and friend, Rick Rogers, the strongest man I know. I touched on my life since I was 17, and put in every influence that has occurred to me, and it took the weight off of my shoulders. I had some heavy discussions with some close friends after ‘Depression Diaries’, people un-bottling themselves, and being able to be there for them was such a close moment for me. I’ll never forget that night, it was emotional, there were a lot of tears, but I finally saw the power of music for people’s mental state. I didn’t have direction though, University was at its end, but I finally felt like I had a purpose in life.
Queue Idles. Five men, and their new Album, ‘Joy As An Act Of Resistance’, showed me how to write music from the heart, that was to the point, hard, but gentle. ‘Colossus’ and ‘Samaritans’ really stood out for me, but ‘June’ is the song that has inspired me the most from that album. Never had I thought being able to take your hardest times, and not wrap it up in metaphors. I had always thought the poetic way forward, for people to read into meanings was the way forward, but ‘JAAAOR’ taught me otherwise. My mental health in a year and a half had taken a complete U-turn, from trickling back to self destructive tendencies, to releasing music was my salvation. Sam Fender then came in and blew me away with ‘Dead Boys’, a beautiful song about the rising suicide rate of young men, especially in the area he’s from in the North-East.
Thus, the ‘Fuzzy Head Tapes’ were born. A five part EP, documenting my life, and the rises and falls of myself. I look at my own depression, as well as my attempted suicide. I look at toxic masculinity, and how in my own life I’ve seen myself become someone I regret being, that stupid mysterious and damaged poet, that is nothing more than just an arsehole because they use their own problems as a false excuse to why they treat people horribly. I can never give back what I was, but I can try my hardest to ensure that others learn from my mistakes, and are surrounded by the teachings of #HeForShe and #MeToo. I go on to touch on how people can change your life, and help your mind grow and heal. The final offering will be, “It’s Okay Not To Be Okay”.
Music, it surrounds us, whether it’s people making it, or nature itself. No matter how many things are trying to destroy it, it carries on. It’s a testament to how resilient it is. Maybe the strength of music is the strength I gain whenever I use it for my head. We as people are drawn to different types of music, and the messages taken by each individual is for their own purpose. We are shaped to be unique, so each song we listen to will be unique to one another. I use the songs around me to cope with my head, and use Luke Moss to tell my story. It’s all about survival.
I am surrounded by some of the best people I know, trying to make a difference in the world. Even though I’m tucked in the south-west, away from the ‘busy’ world, it’s nice.
Mental Health Awareness week isn’t just about understanding your own issues, but also others. Working together to talk, and not bottle up like I did. Being aware of others problems and maybe being able to offer help is key to love in this modern world, full of uncertainty and destruction. You don’t have to talk everyday though, you can have a day to yourself to reflect, and also understand that others may also feel this way. The greatest inspirations we have are the people and stories around us, that’s why I’m drawn to music. I will forever try and be strong for others, but I’m not hiding anything anymore, I share the same amount of when I’m happy to when I’m sad.
I like that this years Mental Health Awareness week is about Body Positivity, because my body now shows a story of survival. I’m covered in hair all over my body, and have a beer gut where any trace of a six-pack is hidden under a ten-pack of lager. Even though I’m not what would be labelled as attractive to the majority of people, I have no qualms in taking off my top, and letting people see the story of me. All of my tattoo’s have a musical meaning towards them, from the songs that inspire me, to images that hold a song meaning to me. Even to my latest one, “Body Confident”, which I didn’t even realise was this years theme.
I’m going to leave this article with a song, written by The Streets called ‘On The Edge Of A Cliff’. My friend Theo showed me this song, and listening to it can tell how music can save lives, and the beauty of life.
“For billions of years since the outset of time, Every single one of your ancestors has survived, Every single person on your mum and dad’s side, Successfully looked after and passed on to you life, What are the chances of that, like? It comes to me once in a while, And everywhere I tell folk it gets the best smile.”
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article please call the following numbers, help is out there & you are loved!
Samaritans – 116 123
Mind – 0300 123 3393