Ubuntu

My mother knows that I am sick, but I hate that she can’t understand that whilst I am grateful for her love; it won’t stop the shaking of my hands.

  • Tom Weaver

One of the hardest things about dividing your time between blogging and writing manuscripts is that it often feels like one body of work must suffer so that that the other may thrive. When I blog, my desire to work on a larger manuscript wanes; and when I devote my time to creative fiction, it can be difficult to transition into the mindset required to produce entries for this site. At times it can be overwhelming to try and find an equilibrium between who I am as a blogger, as an author, and as a man. This complex balancing act is what has led to the recent lull in activity here at The Renegade Press.

I haven’t given up on blogging: I still have a notepad full of half thought out entries and epigraphs that will eventually become completed posts. But I have been focusing my attention elsewhere. In the past month, I completed the first draft of a love story; a piece unlike any other manuscript that I have ever produced. While the script needs a rewrite and a hell of a lot of editing, I can honestly say that I have never been so proud of something that I have created. I often write about concepts such as heartbreak, vulnerability, and anxiety on this site, so to be able to explore them in greater depth while producing what (I hope) will one day become a published novel has been a liberating experience.

In the excitement that followed completing the script that is named after an entry on this site, I hurriedly edited the opening two chapters so that I could share them with my mum. I sent her an email that was just under four thousand words in length, and waited with baited breath for her to tell me what she thought. While she told me that she loved it, I may never really know if she did. Mum has always supported me. I can’t ever imagine her suggesting that something I had written was shit. Yet despite her bias, being able to share something I am so proud of with someone who I love, and who has stood by me through the lowest moments of my life means more to me than I could ever express.

But that moment of intimacy sparked a thought. And that thought soon led to another, which then led to many more. Before too long I realised that although my life is no longer ruled by the anxiety and depression that I have often blogged about, I have never really taken the time to say thank you to the people who stood by me when I felt as though I was suffocating under the weight of my existence. I have always assumed that people would just instinctively know how much their support has meant to me, and that their kindness and compassion saved my life.

But I don’t want to assume anymore…

I want to say thank you to my mum. And to my dad. To my brothers and sister; to the woman with the little blue hearts that I loved and lost. To my friends, and to you, the reader. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your support, and for never giving up on me; even when I was so close to giving up on myself.

ameen-fahmy-213555

When I started blogging in 2012 I was sick. When I look back through the archives of this site I can feel the pain woven into my words. Yet even though I was hurting, it took me another four years, and to lose someone that I thought I would spend my life with to finally hit rock bottom. When I did, the anxiety and depression that I had been battling with for so many years won. I lost myself. I felt like a failure. And I wanted to die.

In the months that followed I spent hours locked in my room, crying my eyes out as I read the kind words of strangers who had stumbled across my blog and learned of my heartbreak. Although I never responded to most of the people who reached out to me, I read every word that they wrote. Had it not been for the love of my family and friends, or the compassion of strangers who shared their own experiences with me, I may never have rediscovered who I was, and learned what it feels like to be happy.

I’ve always said that I want to leave the world in a better state than it was when I was brought into it. Which is why just saying thank you doesn’t feel like enough.

I mean, shit; I wanted to die. I felt so low that the idea of taking my life played over inside my head on an endless loop for longer than I care to admit. I could have easily been another man who had their life cut short by mental illness, contributing to a statistic that is already heartbreakingly larger than it should ever be. But I was lucky. The love I felt from my friends and family, and from every single person reading this was enough to help me through the fear and loneliness that I felt.

Unfortunately, not everyone is as blessed as I am. Not everyone suffering from mental illness has that support; and some that do still struggle to find the strength to carry on. Despite the love and support of their peers, they can’t find a way to face one more day in the hope that their life can get better.

So, I want you to help them. Just as you helped me. I want you to tell your family and friends that you love them. I want you to tell your work colleagues, your neighbour, and the people around you when they do something amazing. And I want you to offer a smile, a wave, or even a hello to a perfect stranger who looks as though they may just need to see a friendly face. I want you to promise to never take someone for granted. Don’t ever let someone you care about question just how much you love them. Take every opportunity that you can to show them what they mean to you.

As a society we often state that we need to have a conversation about suicide and depression. Yet we’re too scared to open our hearts to the possibility that we, or the people around us, are not OK. We feel as though opening a dialogue means that we must have a solution, an opinion, or an insightful response that will take away someone’s pain. But we don’t. There is no definitive solution to mental illness, and you’re not expected to provide one. All you need to do is listen; to allow someone who is fighting an illness inside of their head the opportunity to talk.  And more importantly; to be heard.

You may never know the impact that your kindness has on someone’s life. They may never offer their thanks, or find the courage to tell you how much you mean to them. But a random act of kindness; a smile offered to a passer-by, or the compassion to ask someone if they’re OK, could be the catalyst that helps them find the strength to control the shaking in their hands. By offering to listen, you could be the reason for someone to keep fighting, even when they feel like giving up.

If we keep offering our hands to those whose hands tremble, and we continue to listen when their minds are filled with fear, then you and I can leave the world in a better place than we found it. We can help fight suicide, anxiety, and depression. And we can make a difference. With nothing more than an open heart, we can change, or possibly even save the life of someone close to us who is struggling. I know that for a fact; because you have already saved my life.

I hope that together, we can help save many more. 

;

In 1484 Italian printer Aldus Manutius published the semicolon for the first time. Manutius used the punctuation mark as a means of separating opposing words to allow an abrupt or rapid change in direction of differing yet interrelated clauses. Nowadays the mark is commonly used when creating lists or linking ideas and clauses in literature. A semicolon is a slight pause. It’s not a definitive endpoint. It is merely an opportunity to digress from one thought into another.

So let’s digress. Let’s leave semicolons behind for a few moments and start talking about depression, anxiety, mental health and suicide. We’ll come back to punctuation mark eventually, but let’s build a little context first.

A friend of mine recently passed away. A victim of mental health, he ended his life at the age of twenty nine. His passing left behind two loving parents, two sisters, a brother, a partner, and a group of friends so close that to call them anything other than family would be an affront to the bonds we share. We have always been a rare breed; a band of brothers whose unity transcends age, geographic location, surnames, beliefs, and anything else. We grew up together as kids, and we always assumed that we would grow old together as men.

We’d heard about suicide. Many of us have been through depression or suffered through anxiety, but we never thought that one of our own would take their life. Until it happened. We lost a brother to an illness that can destroy from the inside without any of the discernable physical side effects we often rely upon to detect disease.

And we’re not alone. The unfortunate reality of the world we live in is that there is an increasing prevalence of suicide and depression within our society that continues to grow with each passing year. Some studies are predicting that by 2030 depression and mental illness will be responsible for more disability and death than cancer. Break that down even further and compare genders side by side and the statistics are even more alarming. While mental health is statistically 20-40% higher in women, men are four times more likely to end their life as a result of a depressive state of mind.

Why? Because men are stubborn. We’re arrogant. And we are quite literally killing ourselves as opposed to accepting and acknowledging that we are struggling. We live in a society that is supposed to by highly intuitive, intelligent and ultimately accepting and accommodating. Yet for some bizarre reason men across the globe still feel as though emotions and angst are matters to be suppressed rather than spoken about.

But we have to talk. As difficult as it may seem we need to create conversation on a global scale, and perhaps more importantly, we need to talk in our homes. We as men need to find a way to put to rest our archaic beliefs and macho-mentalities and start having open and honest dialogues with those closest to us. There’s no shame in admitting that you are not OK. There’s no indignity in asking for help. There is however, honor in being a voice of reason or an ear of support for someone in need.

In my lowest moments I have contemplated my own death. Questions about my own morality usually strike at the strangest of moments. I once found myself driving down a highway wondering what would happen if I were to crash. Would the world simply go black? Would I feel anything? Would it almost feel as though I had fallen asleep? Before I knew what I was doing I had shut my eyes for a few moments just to imagine the blackness of the end while I raced down the motorway. But I opened by eyes and the world was still in front of me; and my life continued. I didn’t want to die. I just wanted to know what it felt like so that I could tell myself that whatever I was living through was better than not living at all.

It took me a long time to overcome my demons, and even now I struggle to accept the person that I am. I often wish that I were more like everyone else; that I didn’t want to make a difference, and that I could move with the vast majority rather than dig my heels in and strive to be a voice of change. Yet even though I still have moments of loathing and self-doubt,  things eventually got better for me. They always do.

Which brings us back our lesson in punctuation. A semicolon is not a definitive endpoint. It’s a slight pause: an opportunity to link and digress. Anxiety and depression can be tough, and at times a situation can feel hopeless. But there is always a light at the end of the tunnel of despair. There is always an opportunity to create a semicolon in your life and digress towards something new. Suicide is an endpoint. It is an act that cuts your story short and ruins the opportunity for your life to get better. But that funny little dot and dash that we often misuse in literature provides us with the opportunity to transition from a state of anxiety and depression to recovery.

Life is a beautiful gift, and one that should never be taken for granted. If you are down, or if you know someone who is struggling I implore you to reach out. Ask for help, or lend an ear to someone in need. It’s all right to not be OK. It’s not OK to bury our heads in the sand and pretend like anxiety and depression aren’t killing people. It’s time that society, and men in particular, find their voice and start talking about mental health. It’s time to move past our chauvinistic habits of suppressing and ignoring psychological torment and anguish. Find your semicolon, or become one for a stranger or someone you care about.

Life can always get better. You just have to give it a chance.

**Author’s note. Aaron Sorkin once said that ‘Good writers borrow from other writers. Great writers steal from the outright.’ The concept of the semicolon was stolen from a brilliant organisation called Project Semicolon. If you ever need a ray of hope, pay them a visit. If you ever need help or someone to talk to, there are countless organisations across the globe who can assist.**

Disengagement & Me

‘You are the cause of this sickness. And the cure for this disease.’

  • Jamie Hope.

I, like many creative minds suffer from anxiety. I have a yearning desire that wants to continuously grow and develop in an effort to push the limits of my own creativity.  It’s something that I’ve always lived with, and something that I imagine will be present for the rest of my life. I constantly feel as though I am falling short; that I need to work harder, become better, and ultimately achieve. When I kick the bucket I want the world to pause, just for a fraction of a second so that people can acknowledge what I have achieved before it spins on and I am ultimately forgotten.

For the most part this anxiety can be channeled into something positive. When I’m stressed I create, and when I create I come closer to my dream of fashioning a career as an author. But there are also a lot of negatives that come with suffering from anxiety. My anxiety makes me stubborn and unbelievably selfish at times. As I continue to grow and understand myself I’m starting to realize that this anxiety causes me to suffer from emotional disengagement.

It’s a worrying affliction. When I’m faced with emotional stresses my natural reaction is to become a robot devoid of any emotion and simply pretend as though I don’t care. The problem with this is the only time one ever faces emotional stresses or turmoil is when they are engaged in conflict with a loved one. When I act like I don’t care I inevitably end up hurting those I care about the most. I’ve had conversations with parents, friends, and lovers where my emotional disengagement kicks in and they are left feeling scorned as they fail to understand how someone who prides himself on his ability to communicate can become so cold.

When my parents split up I shut down. Just like most in my situation would. But by doing so my mother thought that I blamed her for the break up; my father did the same. The reality of the situation was that neither was true. I didn’t blame either of them for what happened, and I still don’t. I’ve always believed that love is supposed to be easy, and for Mum and Dad it wasn’t. They worked incredibly hard to keep it together for us kids, but ultimately their relationship failed. Neither was to blame, but my shutting down and refusing to talk about what happened scarred the relationships that I have with my parents. I love them both and I always will. But the disengagement I showed both of them when they needed the support of their children will always be a blot on the scorecard of our relationships.

Even now in my relationships I struggle with disengagement. Partners past and present have told me that I often seem disinterested or noncommittal in my levels of participation. It’s not that I don’t care; it’s just that I have this never-ending angst that eats away at me. When I’m with my partner I’m apprehensive about the fact that I’m not writing; when I’m writing or studying I’m acutely aware that I’m neglecting her. It’s this weird damned if I do, damned if I don’t feeling that eats away at me. The only thing that ever seems to ease the pressures I place upon myself is when I’m being creative.

When I’m writing I can be free. I can be angry, peaceful, ugly, beautiful, perfect and flawed. I can be me: anxious yet arrogant. Bold yet cautious. A walking contradiction. And for a few hours at a time I can forget that I suffer from emotional disengagement and become a goddamn literary wolf or a fully functioning human being again. I can create pieces about issues that matter to me, or tales of sexual and emotional lust to show that I care. When I write I’m whole and the anxiety vanishes. When I stop that the cracks in my façade begin to surface and the fractured soul underneath becomes visible once again. Literature is quite literally the cause of my sickness, just as it is the cure for the disease.

The purpose behind this post is simple: it’s a thank you. A thank you to my family, partner and loved ones for understanding that I’m not an arsehole; I’m just not quite normal. A thank you my readers for sticking with me through moments of arrogance and emotional turmoil. Things got a little hairy for a while there but we’re growing together and I love the journey that we’ve taken. And to literature: you’ve broken me more times than I could ever begin to describe. I’ve cried in wardrobes, burned manuscripts, and set out to set the world ablaze. But I’ve also loved, learned, and undergone a metamorphosis from a bitter mind into a damn good writer.

I’ve got a lot to be thankful for in this life, and sometimes I forget to take the time to show those close to me just how much I care. If you’re reading this than you mean more to me than you could ever imagine.

I

‘Here I am with all my insecurities, all my imperfections, crying out to a world that just won’t listen’

-Adrian Fitipaldes

Someone recently told me that ‘I’ve changed.’ The comment was meant in jest; the individual in question was referencing the self-destructive Chris Nicholas of days gone by who was so bitterly angry that he’d cut off his nose to spite his face. Delivered by an old acquaintance with a cheeky smirk and a chink of beer glasses, they never could have imagined just how devastating their words would be. I’ve been feeling flat lately and the comment hit a lot closer to home than intended. In the days that followed I spent a great deal of time mulling over the idea in my head. I asked myself over and over if I have changed, and if so when this metamorphosis took place.

So have I?

You better believe I have. You only have to take a look at this site to see the shift.

In July 2012 I started this site as a means of confronting the mounting depression that had overtaken my existence. I was struggling with family illness, low self-esteem, being broke and away from those that I loved. So I wrote shamelessly; cutting open my chest and offering the small audience who read my first few posts a piece of my heart. From there I transitioned into an arrogant child who preached my narcissism and willingness to maim and self-destruct. I became wayward in what I was trying to achieve and my writing suffered greatly as a result. For the longest of times I was stuck in a cycle of frustration and self-deceit. Recently however, I’ve managed to get my shit together, produce some better quality work and actually start to make a name for myself in this industry.

I’ve come a long way from the teenager who struggled so much with his English studies that his parents forced him to undergo tutoring. And even further from the lost soul who cried out to the world for help on July 17th 2012. But no matter how far I reach, how much I achieve, or how wonderful my life is, I will forever have to live with my insecurities and imperfections; namely depression. For a long time I tried to deny this. I tried to tell myself that I had overcome the demons inside my mind and that I was cured. I mistook my arrogance and aggression as overcoming my illness rather than recognizing that it was just another phase of self-loathing. I foolishly thought that if I didn’t feel down anymore I was normal once again. But there is no such thing as normal.

The truth is that it’s alright to not be OK.

The shift in this site’s content, my success as an author, and my life in general came when I began to accept that I will never be normal. I will always have a flaw in the biological makeup of my brain that makes me feel insecure or down at times. But that flaw is chemistry, not character. No one should ever feel ashamed about suffering from depression or mental health. It takes so much bravery and strength to stand up and tell the world that you need help, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for anyone courageous enough to do so.

I’m not OK, I never will be. But it’s my insecurities and imperfections are what make my life so beautiful and worth living. It’s through embracing these weaknesses (and I say the word loosely) that I am able to write and thus reach out and connect with you the reader. No one is infallible, no one is perfect, and at some point in our lives we all feel low. I’ve just been fortunate enough to learn how to use this site to turn those negative thoughts into something greater than I.

The person who told me that I have changed did so because I told them that Midas had been put into print. Whenever I tell people about my proudest achievement to date they inevitably do the same thing. They congratulate me for the success, purse their lips and ask ‘do you mind if I ask how much money you’re making from it?

While I’d love to tell them that since the book was released in February I have become a millionaire it simply isn’t the case. I’ve sold a few copies (hopefully enough to please Meizius Publishing) but financial gain doesn’t mean a thing to me at this point in my writing career. Right now I just want to reach out and connect with readers so that once they put complete my novel, or finish reading my posts they are grateful for the experience we have shared together. While in my days of anger and frustration I used to brag about how much money I could make when I became published and tried to base my emotions on fiscal gain, the truth is that I’m not doing this to become a millionaire.

I’m doing this because I, Chris Nicholas am a depressive person who has the ability to see both great beauty and despair in the world around me. I’m doing this because I want to share my experiences and my love with readers. And I’m doing this because through writing I have learned that it’s perfectly normal to feel fractured, broken, down or low. I have learned that it’s alright to not be OK.

So after a great deal of thought I’ve decided that I have changed. But I’ve done so for the better. The boy I was three years ago when Renegade Press isn’t shit compared to the man I am today. I am Chris Nicholas; writer, man wolf and world eater. I’m not perfect and I never will be. But that’s what makes what I do so damn beautiful.

Breaking preconceptions

People often think that I’m gay.

I bet that’s not how you expected a post on this site to start. Or maybe you did, depending on whether or not you are someone who has misinterpreted my writings. Either way it’s an issue that I seem to face on a semi regular basis in my life. It used to really upset me when people came to this assumption. I’d screw up my face in disgust and start forcefully jamming my heterosexuality down their throat. I am a Goddamn straight man! How dare anyone believe otherwise! But nowadays I find myself impartial to the common misconception of who I am. I’ve had to correct people about my sexual preferences more times than I’d like to admit; watching as people fumble their way through awkward apologies as they try to explain how they came to such a conclusion. More often than not the reason behind their misconception of my preferences boils down to a statement like this:

‘You’re just different to most twenty six year old men that I know.’

Damn fucking straight I am. But just because I am different, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I am a homosexual. What it does mean is that I am a unique entity operating within a world that doesn’t always have the capacity to accept that which is different or unique. The differences that people seem to find confronting in me is my love for art, my vocabulary, my animated expressions, my willingness to accept myself as an emotional being, and my openness to a world of possibilities that extends beyond my own beliefs.

The fact that people find this confronting, different, or gay is a troubling prospect to this young writer. Even now as I pen this rather honest entry I can feel the judgement of my audience bearing down on me. Straight men don’t admit that they are thought to be homosexual. In fact many don’t admit to having feelings or an emotional state at all. If you were to take ten straight men, stick them in a room and ask them to talk about their emotions you’d find that at least nine, if not all ten, would venomously condemn the idea and label it as gay.

And therein that idea lays a very big problem. Men across the globe are so afraid of opening their soul to the world that any attempt to have them display emotion and be potentially labelled as weak causes them to openly slander the notion of expressing themselves. They think that to be a man they have to be free of the feminine concept of feelings. Bad idea. We as humans are emotional creatures whether we choose to admit it or not, and by bottling up those emotions we males are creating a whole world of mental health issues for ourselves. Don’t believe me? Statistics across the globe show year after year that men are three times as likely as to kill themselves than women. I repeat; men are three times as likely as women to commit suicide. And a large contributing factor to our willingness to end our lives is our inability to accept our emotions and communicate when we are struggling or feeling low.

We are so worried about being labelled as weak or gay that we are literally killing ourselves rather than seeking help. Does that not sound like a fucking ludicrous absurdity to anyone else?

So how do we fix such a startling problem in our society? Simple, it’s time that people start realising that real men are brave enough to talk about their issues and seek help. There is nothing weak about saying I’m not OK. But there is a weakness in denying ourselves the opportunity to heal. It took me a long time to figure this out, and in many ways I’m still learning how to be open and honest in relation to how I am feeling. I spent a long time believing that I had to be strong. I told myself that my emotions were weaknesses and I denied myself so many opportunities to be happy. I pushed myself to some truly horrible places and it wasn’t until I found writing that I managed to save myself from a grim fate. Through writing I found a way to express myself; to unlock that pressure valve inside my heart and release that pent up emotion that was pulling me down like a pair of concrete boots in an ocean of fear.

Even to this day I’m still learning that it is my emotional side that makes me who I am. When people fall in love they don’t do so based on aesthetics (although they do play a part in initial attraction) they do so based on emotion. Exterior beauty fades, but one’s emotive side is eternal. So if you’re not willing to accept yourself and the wondrous idiosyncrasies that make you who you are, how can you ever expect anyone else to love you? You can’t shut down that emotional side of your personality and expect to find happiness.

So let me get this straight. I’m not gay. But I am emotive, arrogant, aggressively creative, passionate, and about a million other things. I am different from the average twenty six year old man because I’m not afraid to be vulnerable; in fact I’m learning to thrive off of that vulnerability. In many respects I’m a narcissist. I have a terrible habit for revelling in that which makes me unique and constantly believing that I am the smartest person in the room. I am a heterosexual man, but I’m not insulted when someone insinuates that I am gay. Because what they really mean is that I am unlike what they consider to be normal. And in the strangest of ways I have learned to take that as a compliment.

Who the hell wants to be normal anyway?

Sticks & Stones

When I write I pour my heart and soul onto a page in an effort to create something magical, as well as to gain a better understanding of myself as a human being living within a universe of infinite potential. I’m not the kind of guy who sits down every day with a specified word count I want to achieve, producing dribble before sifting back through pages upon pages to find the diamonds in the rough. I’m the kind of writer who can go days or weeks without creating a thing, but when that jolt of inspiration strikes, I become lost in my own world as the words and phrases race through my head. I write what I want to write: about what inspires me, what saddens or angers me, and what challenges me on an emotional or intellectual level.

I don’t care if my work is confronting to some or ill received by others. I am a microcosm in my own right, and I will produce what is right for me. I pay no attention to the judgement of others. I’m not some kind of fucking superstar or centrefold who’s here to bend over backwards to appease every damn person I meet. Sure, I create manuscripts that I hope to sell, but when I take to this blog I do so to express myself freely without feeling the need to produce a marketable product or censor myself. So when judgement is laid and some arsehole standing in a glass house decides to start throwing judgement like a proverbial stone it takes every ounce of my strength not to rip out their fucking tongue.

-Hold on a moment. Let’s back it up just a little. Cause I’m about to fucking erupt. Breathe in. Hold. And breathe out…

…I’m a goddamn fucking wolf and if you try and piss me off I’m going to maim you. I will hunt you down and I will tear out your throat and bathe in your blood. I don’t care about the opinion of someone who thinks that they know who I am because they’ve read a few posts or because we are supposedly friends. What I write about, or who I choose to be as a man is at my discretion. If you’re going to start throwing stones and laying judgement, then you better make damn sure that you are infallible, because I won’t just smash your windows, I’ll burn your house down and dance upon the ashes.

“But Chris, you’re so self-destructive…”

Shut up. Just shut up. I’m sick of hearing it. It’s not I that I’m looking to destroy. It’s this pathetic world where you are so self-entitled that you dare lay judgement on another human being for expressing themselves. We live in a society rife with arseholes who feel that they have the God given right to critic and ridicule their fellow peers. The loudest voices belong to the overconfident, the ignorant, and the fucking mouth breathers. While the kind, the emotionally beautiful, and the innocent are down trodden and forgotten in a society overrun with arrogance. How dare you or anyone else pass judgement against another human being for trying to live their life and trying to make the best of what they have?

Seriously, who the fuck do you think you are? You judge someone because of the colour of their skin, the choices they make, the dreams they chase, or simply because they don’t conform with how you choose to exist. It’s pathetic and it’s sad. You need to grow the fuck up your saucer eyed piece of shit…

I’ll admit that I’ve never been the healthiest of men when it comes to mental wellbeing. At times I’ve pushed myself to breaking point and beyond. I’ve fallen apart and had my face stamped into the dusty earth by my own demons more times than I’d dare to count. I’ve starved myself, over eaten, cried in wardrobes over manuscripts and even set them alight. But I found myself in my writing; track back two posts and I wrote a goddamn love note to this craft. I was lost, and I found myself through literature and creativity. So to have my mental health or my character questioned because I have found the courage to express myself is sad and it’s heartbreaking. For that judgement to be passed by people that I once considered to be friends feels like a knife in the back.

I often say that I don’t care for the opinions of others. I’ve stated as such countless times over the course of this blog, and those who know me will be aware of my lack of interest in the sentiments of all but a select few. I could care less if someone wants to judge who I am and what I do. I’m not one to lose sleep over readers lost or friendships that have withered and died. Instead I grow angry that we live in a society so flawed, yet so willing to look down its nose at its peers. How can you honestly sit there and critic my life when yours is such a train wreck?

Any man or woman who vilifies someone for their beliefs is a bigot. Anyone who degrades another because of their inclinations is a dogmatist. And any person who ridicules somebody because of their dreams, their catalysts, or compulsions is a piece of shit.

Free your mind, let go of your hate and learn that this world is an extraordinarily beautiful place. Learn to love yourself, let go of your judgemental bullshit and find happiness in yourself. I’m trying to do exactly that every time I take to this page, every time I work on my manuscripts, and with every breath that I take. I’m the kind of man who will do anything for anyone. But if you cross me, if you judge me or try to destroy who I want to be, then I am a goddamn wolf who is going to rip you apart limb from limb and bury your remains my backyard.

Renacer

frost-flower-
‘There is no flower like love; no misfortune like hate.’
-James ‘Buddy’ Neilsen.

I’ve really been struggling with this blog lately. After a phenomenal run a few months ago that saw me producing a continuous stream of updates, I’ve fallen back into that creative lull that sees me producing sporadic entries that aren’t necessarily my best efforts. But all hope is not lost. While I’ve been creatively stagnant on this platform, I have still been writing a lot. My novels are coming along beautifully, and I’m learning more and more about myself and my craft every time I take to my computer.

But when it comes to this page, I’ve lost my voice. My confidence has deserted me, and I’ve been left sitting alone in a wasteland of half formed ideas and unjust hate for everyone and everything. There’s blood on my hands and hate in my mind. I just don’t understand why.

Sometimes blogging feels like a dying art form. Sometimes it feels like people don’t care about real talent or grit anymore. We live in a disposable world where people want instantaneous satisfaction and don’t have the patience required to consume literature. Society would rather watch a seven second vine video and glorify the inappropriate antics of a halfwit than consume the rich and highly rewarding posts of bloggers across the globe. Some of the most incredible pieces of writing I have ever witnessed have been on blogs that receive a dismal amount of hits, while many of the most creatively void videos and photographs on social media become worldwide sensations. We live in a world where we worship instant success and fame. If someone has to strive to achieve their dreams through grit and determination, we automatically assume they just don’t have what it takes to be great.

I guess that you could say lately I’ve been feeling defeated. What’s the point of trying to produce something beautiful if people are more interested in the obscene? What’s the point of trying to redefine a world as an artist, when it is more interested in the idea of creating instantaneous celebrities with an expiry date of seven seconds?

I write for myself. I always have. And I write because it’s an incredibly cathartic process that allows me to open my heart and mind to a world that I often feel disconnected from. As paradoxical as it sounds, I isolate myself and sit at my computer lost in my own head, so that I can connect with the macrocosm surrounding me. I believe that literature and words have the power to change the world, and although I write to overcome my own insecurities, a small portion of my soul yearns to be a part of that intellectual movement.

Yesterday one of my favourite lyricists made a bold decision to open up to the world about the man he is verses the façade he has portrayed to the world for over a decade. Buddy Neilsen (the man whose name has appeared on many epigraphs on this site) revealed to the world that his sexuality cannot be clearly defined by the two poles of straight, or gay. He opened his soul and said that he has spent the best part of his life struggling to understand his sexual orientation, and as a result has struggled with depression and alcohol abuse. The revelation left me stunned. I have been a fan of his band Senses Fail for a decade. Ever since their first album Let It Enfold You (a masterful work that draws heavy influence from poetry and literature. Even the title comes from a Bukowski poem) I have felt inspired by the lyrics that Neilsen has growled, screamed and crooned.

To find that a man as talented as Neilsen could be so plagued by demons left me feeling oddly inspired. While I don’t wish to celebrate the years of emotional havoc that Neilsen endured before he found inner peace, I believe that there is something quite beautiful in knowing that someone so successful, albeit in a chaotic and somewhat destructive sense of the word, could be so human. In a world where we often place celebrities on pedestals and almost justify and encourage their destructive behaviour, it is a wonderful thing to see a man come to terms with who he truly is. To stand up and take responsibility for the self-destruction he bought upon himself and finally allow himself a chance to be at peace.

Senses Fail’s latest offering Renacer (see what I did there) takes on an even more eloquent feel now that Neilsen has accepted his own nature and felt comfortable to reveal that to the world. The title, Renacer is a Spanish word meaning to be born again, and as Neilsen growls his way through soulful lyrics denouncing himself for his own shortcomings and yearnings for inner harmony, one can feel the passion for life, for acceptance, and for his art interlaced through the often brutal screams. He really is a man, just like me, plagued by his own demons who writes and sings as a way of creating cohesion between his tortured soul and the universe.

But I digress. The point of all this is that through Buddy’s revelation, through his battles with sexuality, depression, and alcohol abuse, he has inspired me to create art of my own. And yesterday, through his willingness to stand before his legion of fans and denounce his own demons and accept his strengths he has once again inspired me to write. While I will never know the frustration of battling with sexuality, I do know the toll of fighting that most heinous of battles with mental illness and depression. It’s the kind of battle you never truly win, you’ll never wake up and realise that you no longer have an affliction for self-loathing and hate. Instead you take every day for what it is. You accept the beauty of the moments afforded to you, and you learn to push through when your mind feels like a tomb.

Art is an incredible thing. Whether you paint, sing, write, draw, build, destroy, or whatever else. Art is the glue that binds together the fabric of our souls and allows us as a society to collectively push the envelope of what we believe is possible. Through writing, singing and performing Buddy Neilsen managed to develop an understanding of who he really is, and the result of his creative process is some of the most lyrically rich music produced within the hardcore music scene. But the truth behind his new found inner peace was that he never once sought to create music for fame or success. He sought to better understand himself and grow as a human being. His honesty, imperfections and strengths shines through in his works and the fans and the fame are merely a by-product of his dedication and devotion.

So while at times it can feel like blogging is a dying art form in this era of social media and disposable content, I need to take a step back from my violent hatred of talentless consumption and realise that those mediums will never last. There will always be Facebook, Vines, Twitter, and whatever else, but their content will be consumed and disregarded by a legion of users who show indifference to their creator. But writing, and music, and art will last forever. The words that I write today will stand the test of time and be remembered forever by the people that they truly touch. When a writer becomes more concerned with competing for likes, shares, and mass consumption they risk losing sight of what really matters; and that is the catalysts and compulsions behind what they do. I write to fight off the demons of my mind, and to connect with a world that often leaves me broken and confused.

It’s not about likes; it’s not about competing with alternate mediums or artists. It’s about me and my story. It’s about creating something that I am proud of. Something that I believe in. Money, fame, and all that stuff are just potential by-products. I’ll write to the day my heart stops whether I make a million dollars or whether I make none. And when I find myself beat down and sitting in that barren wasteland of broken thoughts and ill-fated projects I’ll remember that no matter how creatively fragile I may feel, my writing is what defines me. As Buddy Neilsen says ‘it doesn’t matter if you fall down. Get the fuck back up.’

The Depths: Are you OK?

‘I’ve got friends by my side. I’ve got hope in my eyes. And dreams to aspire to. And the whole wide world to watch below.’
-Joel Birch

This Thursday the 11th of September is a very special day. I know that there are the obvious reasons as to why September 11th is forever marked as a day of remembrance, celebration of life and triumph over adversity. I can still remember standing in front of the television dressed in my school uniform watching as the modern world was forever altered. But it’s an event much smaller, yet no less important that marks September 11th as a day I believe should all mark in our calendars.

This Thursday, the 11th of September is the fifth annual R U OK day. A day where we are asked to create open dialogue with our friends and family, and ask the question we often neglect to ask in our overly erratic and face paced lives: Are you OK?

Founded in 2009 by Gavin Larkin, R U OK? Strives to inspire us to create meaningful dialogue to assist those of us struggling with mental illness.

As someone who has stumbled more times than he cares to count, the day is something that I whole-heartedly endorse. And I implore every single one of you to take a moment and sit down with a family member or friend and create a moment of intimacy and support that may just save a life. Sometimes a kind word or a moment of compassion means more to someone than you could ever possibly imagine.

Oftentimes on this blog I make light of the fact that I’ve pushed myself beyond breaking point with my own mental wellbeing. I reference my sometimes deliberate downward spirals into despair as a means of creating art and establishing a unique voice as I strive to be a singularity. But the truth is that some of my lesser moments have been no laughing matter. I’ve been sick. I’ve been low. And I’ve been totally alone, picking at my own mental scabs so as to leave my bones exposed. And while I do play on my own fractured mind with tongue in cheek, I cannot stress enough just how much I relied on the support of the people I love, yet tend to push away to save me from myself in my desperate times.

Even now I appear to be calm, happy, and at peace with myself. But the truth is there is a fire burning inside of me that will always threaten to consume my soul and leave me empty and alone once more. Am I OK? Perhaps on the surface I am. But the truth is this: I torture myself through my writing. I currently have two manuscripts under construction, a blog that I bombard with wildly erratic tales of elation and tragedy, and a completed novel under consideration for professional representation. I create acquaintances not friends; because I struggle to let people in for fear that they will see the monster in me. I’m in love with someone who sees me as an absolute cluster-fuck of raw emotion and insecurity. And sometimes I lay awake at night and wonder what it would be like if I never started this writing shit. I question whether I’d be happier, whether I’d be more willing to accept my own limitations, or more willing to let other people in.

The point is that our greatest failing as a species is that we only have the ability to see what is on the surface. When we look at our friends and family and see them smile, we naturally assume that everything is OK; that they are happy. But sometimes there is a fragility hidden beneath their smiles, a vulnerability concealed in their laughter, which can only be discovered if we take the time to truly connect with them. Have you ever heard the story of Pagliacci? It’s a simple story within one of my favourite novels of all time: Watchmen. It goes like this…

I heard joke once: Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Life seems harsh, and cruel. Says he feels all alone in threatening world. Doctor says: “Treatment is simple. The great clown – Pagliacci – is in town. Go see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears. “But doctor…” he says “I am Pagliacci.” Good joke. Everybody laugh. Roll on snare drum. Curtains.

Sad isn’t it? Yet so true. We misconstrue happiness and we fail to see just how powerful our thoughts, our feelings, and our words can truly be. But all is not lost, and although we so often become consumed with our own lives we can still stop and make time for each other. Unity is intrinsic and compassion, honesty, and candour are the only cure to mental illness. Take me for example: I’ve got pride by the fucking bucketful and before this blog I would never have even considered sharing my lower moments with anyone. I thought that my depression was a weakness and something to be ashamed of. And while it is a weakness, that weakness is in the chemistry of the chemical make up in my brain. Not in my character. My illness and my lower points are not something to be ashamed of at all. In fact, being able to speak about mental illness is about the bravest thing anyone can do. Having the guts to say ‘you know what? Fuck it. I’m not OK’ is something that should be celebrated not condemned.

So, this Thursday the 11th of September I beg of you to ask the question of those around you: Are you OK? Listen, empathise, and grow together. To paraphrase the epigraph above; help those who are low to realise that they have friends by their side; that they can have hope in their eyes. And that they can have dreams to aspire to; and a whole wide world to watch below. Your kindness just may pull someone back from the depths of their own self destruction. Take it from someone who has been there.

Those in glass houses…

…Should not throw stones. That’s what they told you. So you use your fists instead. You’re so angry, so confused and afraid. The only thing that helps you through is the idea of tearing down everything that you have built. The beautiful glass house on the edge of a scenic cliff becomes a twisted prison where you catch the reflection of the person you’ve grown to hate in every surface. So the smashing begins. It hurts at first. Your fist shatters the glass and your knuckles split and spill blood. Your nerve endings sting and your mind screams at you to stop. But you can’t. Not now. Not when there is still so much damage to be done.

You strike another surface, the cuts grow deeper, but soon the shock takes over and you’ve torn away the flesh leaving nothing but exposed bone, making those thick panes easier to crack. You tear down the walls and rip down the roof, until all that remains is the skeletal frame of a once stunning home. You’re bloody and tired, but still you’re not done. Just because there is nothing left standing it does not mean there is nothing left to destroy.

You drop to your knees and you rip the floorboards free. The torn flesh of your fingers catches on the splinters and nails. It hurts; oh god does it hurt. But you want to see your glass sink into the dirt and these goddamn floorboards are preventing the indignity. You toil until the boards are gone, but you can still see the reflection of the man you hate in the shards now lying in the soil, smiling manically at you as though he is somehow in control. So you punch. You punch and you punch, caving in the reflective skull of that piece of shit until his face is lost in the splinters of glass and your blood soaks into the dirt. He’s gone. That man you hated is finally gone.

So you rise and you walk to the edge of the cliff thinking that your troubles are over; and not a single stone was thrown. But your stomach drops when you see that the once calm blue waters of the ocean before you are now ink black and brooding. The storms are coming and you’ve just torn down the only shelter you’ve ever known. You realise then in that bitter sweet moment of triumph that all you have succeeded in doing by tearing down everything you’ve ever owned, is exposing yourself to the unrelenting touch of a winter’s chill.

You turn to your broken house of glass just as the first whip-crack of thunder echoes overhead, and you stare down at your damaged hands, unaware of what possessed you to cause this destruction in the first place. You move into the home and you sit amongst the piles of broken floorboards and the slivers of glass, your face streaked with the tears of a god and a fraud as the heavens release their wrath. You’re soaked in an instant, watching as your dried blood moistens and dances across the surfaces of a life left in ruins. Your bones ache as the winds cut through the skeleton of your safety and solace.

With nothing left to give you sit and you wait out the bitter cold and the brutal winds that cut through you with an intensity that leaves you breathless. You accept that there is no more hope, no more opportunity for the man who destroyed his own glass house.

But after an eternity those vicious rains subside and a single sliver of light slips through the clouds. It’s minuscule, not enough to warm you, and in your fractured mind you see it as nothing more than a taunt to a man as broken as his home, left sitting in the dirt

Then it happens.

The clouds shift again and the pinprick of light falls into a pile of broken glass, causing as flash-flood of colour to pierce your vision. A kaleidoscope of earthy browns from the soil, deep reds from your blood and gentle blues from the rains dance across your eyes and for the briefest of instants you can see the glasshouse standing in all its glory once more.

You know now what you must do; you must rebuild your home, your solace, and learn to protect yourself once more from the bitter cold of the rains. You light a fire and you gather your broken glass, heating it until it can be made whole again. You erect your walls and you replace your damaged floors, admiring the now stained surfaces of a once perfectly polished world. Your glass has been dulled, and your floorboards warped, but you would have it no other way, because this is the house that you built yourself. This is the house of a man who survived the rains.

You bandage your hands and you let your wounds heal, and soon enough the sun returns and you venture to the cliff to watch the calm blue ocean stretch endlessly before you. You spin towards the house that determination built, catching sight of the man that you hated staring back at you. He’s older now, more dishevelled; but you realise that maybe he’s not so bad after all. You take a breath and you vow to never again destroy the beautiful home at the edge of the cliff that you created. To do so would be crazy; you can’t survive those long lonely nights where the chill presses against your chest until you find yourself wishing you were dead. No, from now on if you need to feel the rains you won’t tear down the house, you’ll just take a stone and break a single window instead.

I few years ago I went through a bout of depression. I was unbelievably low and I hated myself and everything that I had become. I tore down the walls of my own psyche and I left myself exposed. But through my writing I found myself again. Writing was the pinprick of light that burst through the clouds and allowed me to see the world anew. It became my reason for rebuilding my glass house. My hands are damaged, and my once crystal clear walls are now stained with the blood and grit of my own toiling. But I would have it no other way. I wouldn’t be the writer I am now if I hadn’t sat through the rains of self-doubt and self-loathing.

For me there was no shame in being broken. There was only pride when I learned to pick myself back up. At some point in our lives we all falter. But if we embrace the better angels of our nature we can rebuild ourselves to be something far stronger than we ever believed possible.

The Narcissist Veneer

Karma is a bitch. One of my most recent posts was directed at writers who take to their keyboards to bitch and moan about their lives as artists, and their struggles with financial hardship or whatever the hell else they have to complain about. The post was dripping in narcissism and self-indulgence. I claimed that I could bring a better class of post to my readers, and that I would do exactly that. I would not be one of those artists who turn their weblog into a soapbox from which to complain… Then everything fell apart again. Someone pulled back the thin veneer of narcissism that protects me and discovered a soul warped with depression and fear underneath.

Before we go any further I feel that I need to detail exactly what a narcissist is for those of you who may not be aware. Narcissism is most commonly described as follows:

The erotic gratification derived from admiration of one’s own physical or mental attributes.

And if I’m going to be honest, that does kind of sound like me. I do thoroughly enjoy the admiration of my own mental attributes (not so much the physical), and I do tend to consider myself to be better or more intelligent than my peers. I have created this whole persona for myself where I am Chris Nicholas: the self-indulgent, slightly arrogant writer who cares very little about the opinions or merits of those around him. I write what I want to write, and I associate with who I choose to, meaning that I often forcibly alienate myself from everyone simply because mankind baffles me and I can’t be bothered to change who I am in order to fit in. I’ve established myself as a lone wolf, with a head full of stories and a tongue laced with acid. My opinions mean more to me than anything and I will literally screw myself out of a promotion/friendship/whatever else, simply because I’d rather be brutally honest with people than kiss arse and do what is socially acceptable.

But like I said, this whole narcissist veneer is nothing more than a ruse. It’s a coping mechanism to hide myself from the world and prevent anyone from discovering just how afraid and alone I can sometimes be. By slipping on my mask of confidence and assertiveness I have learned how to parade myself through life as a normal functioning member of society who suffers from nothing worse than a slight attitude problem. People often comment on my characteristics, hint at my charm, and admire my ability to remain fluid and adaptable to almost any situation. But rather than feel pride in the kindness of their words, I feel a deep sense of sorrow and regret. I am now hidden so far beneath this false surface that no one can even recognise when I am struggling and when I truly need somebody to save me from the torment of my own vicious mind.

I’ve been through depression a few times now, and I can recognise the signs of an oncoming wave of apathy and self-loathing long before it arrives. But what I still can’t seem to do is find a way to actually prevent the self-destructive mindset that becomes all-consuming, threatening to derail my life. I still can’t find a way to stop my soul from becoming increasingly twisted and warped beneath the smooth veneer that shields it. When these waves of indifference wash through my head I throw away everything that I love. I stop writing, I shut out anyone who is close to me, and I batten down the hatches to weather the storm. It’s why I’m often alone. I have a partner, but she can’t ever possibly understand the depths of my despair when it hits. So she watches from a distance, revolted at the sight of a mind quite literally tearing itself in two, purging everything it has previously worked so hard to create.

I’m like this because I create such unrealistic expectations of myself. Although I call my narcissistic streak a veneer, there is a touch of the bastard gene cursing through my weakened flesh and soul. Pride means everything to me and whenever I take to my keyboard I do so with the intention of being the best writer the world has ever seen. When I submit enquiries to agents and publishers I assume that I am guaranteed a contract and that my work is infallible, leaving me vulnerable and distraught if they don’t share my unrelenting enthusiasm for my work. When I started writing at the age of eighteen I just assumed that I would have something in print just as soon as I finished my first manuscript. Now seven years later I’ve failed to achieve that rather ambitious goal, and a piece of me dies with every single rejection letter that I receive.

So why do I continue to torture myself like this? Because I feel that I have to. I don’t feel like I’m normal. I have an innate disconnection from the reality that everyone else seems so willing to accept. That is normality. I can’t see myself doing anything other than writing, and as each day passes and I fail again and again, finding myself perpetually stuck in the world of conventional employment, I grow increasingly distant from those around me. At my peak, I am a knowledge hungry aspiring writer with the world in front of me. At my lowest, I’m a boy lost and alone within a world that he struggles to connect with. Right now I’m feeling more like the latter and my writing is suffering greatly. But with a little positivity and a load of baby steps I’m hoping that I can survive this most recent purge and return to my writing with the narcissistic vigour that has gotten me as far as I have already.

Until then my faithful readers, I apologise for the lapse back into whiney writing that I so often condemn.

%d bloggers like this: