Updated: Apr 2
My friend, @rudebrowndude, would like to remain anonymous for this interview, but their words need to be seen. Another wonderful human raising awareness on struggles so many of us face, and some struggles which may be less common but are no less important to understand.
In their own words:
Just a human on this planet, who’s trying to be, the best possible version of me.
1) Hey, how are you?
Not too bad, just chilling.
2) How are you really?
Hahaha only someone who knows ever asks that! But yeah appreciate it and honestly not too bad. Surviving each day and doing my best to live.
3) Why did you feel it was important to share your experiences today?
First, I think it’s a fantastic project. Through doing the poetry/art and just speaking to people, it’s kinda opened me up to talking more about my mental health as it’s often alienating when you feel like the only one in the world. By sharing, I’m hoping it’s good for me and whoever might see this understands that it’s ok and has someone to relate to.
4) Tell me about the struggles you faced with your mental health during your childhood...
I mean, it’s all quite a while ago (half my life in fact!) but yes, I was diagnosed with depression and low mood as a young teenager at around 14 years old. Before then I feel like I had some issues with anger and shyness, mainly after my parents went through a very messy separation/divorce. Truth be told I went from a very cheeky and outgoing child to a very introverted and quiet one.
5) Did you receive any help or treatment as a child?
I did in the form of school/government counselling up until I left secondary school. Other than that I can’t say I did as the relationship with my family and authority figures wasn’t the best. In hindsight I wish I had reached out for more help but I felt like who was I to ask for attention when so much was going on around me with others.
6) Did you feel a difference after the counselling you did receive?
In the sense of within myself, definitely. It really did start to help me understand myself and my mind at the time, how depression and counselling works, and also gave me a space to be honest with my thoughts, which was super hard for someone from my religious/cultural background due to the stigma attached.
7) Tell me about the struggles you've faced mental health wise since being an adult...
I think dependency was a big issue. This is a bit difficult to say, I don’t really like passing the buck and a lot has to do with my own shortcomings.
Having had such an early diagnosis, and also being told I’m anaemic for instance, means I should have been taking better care of my diet in my early twenties, which mainly consisted as a diet of drugs, alcohol and fast food. Obviously that didn’t help either.
I found myself going in and out of relationships in my mid-twenties, which whilst I could say added to the feelings, in reality I need to be honest with myself and admit I was trying to find stability and validation in someone else thinking that would “fix” me.
Now I’ve just turned thirty and still just plugging away but I'm a lot more at peace with myself in these later 20s/30 than I have been previously. The past few years, whilst at times difficult, have been some of the most rewarding personally.
8) Tell me more about what has been rewarding for you personally over the past few years?
Reconnecting. I mean that on many levels.
Reconnecting with my friends who I lost contact with as I tried to chase the romantic dream. I sort of distanced myself from them, not consciously, whilst trying to please other people I thought I needed to.
Reconnecting with family. Moving back home the past two years has had its difficulties, especially with my family being devout Muslims and myself being more of a free spirit and self-admitted agnostic. Truth is though without my sisters and my mom, my brothers and extended family, I probably wouldn’t be here today.
Reconnecting with Birmingham. I love this city and never wanted to leave when I did. It’s always felt like home and I feel like it’s grown so much, especially over the past 10 years, that it was nice moving back and finding old faves and new.
Reconnecting with arts. Painting, graffiti, poetry, stickers, music, just the whole scene. I’ve always said it’s a shame we all don’t get together more, but each scene is full of life and when the creatives do come together it’s amazing! It feels like the creatives here are all super supportive, from the biggest names to those starting out.
Lastly reconnecting with myself. Just through better habits, mentally and physically, all the above and letting it all go. Realising how fragile and uniquely inconsequential everything kind of is makes that much more beautiful. I mean it’s hard to explain, I can best put it for creatives as there’s a moment when you first feel inspired and then another where you first learn you’ve helped inspire something/someone else. In between that is freedom, expression and some of your best and most authentic work develops and as such so do you as a person.
But I could just be chatting shit and delirious from the experience of the first proper haircut I’ve had in a year haha.
9) For anyone who has never experienced depression, how would you describe it?
I used to describe it as a cycle.
Then it became a void.
Now it’s more of a pins and needles feeling, where you always feel it there (much like anxiety) but it’s about coping with it and taking the steps to alleviate the feeling.
If anything, I would say it manifests differently in different people and you never know who is going through what, but you can ask how they are coping.
It’s ok to just have a day sometimes, it doesn’t always need to be nice, and to reach out if you need it.
10) What goes through your mind on a day when you don't feel like you're struggling as much mentally?
I’ve always had quite a hyperactive imagination, I’ve learned through meditation how to be in the present moment which helps a lot. I try to focus on a task or just enjoying the downtime with being active or creative.
Obviously since lockdown that has been more difficult and I have to say there are times when I have struggled to escape the feeling.
11) Do you have ways of coping with your depression that you could share?
My writing is a massive part of helping me process emotions and experiences, there’s no two ways around that.
Everything from open mics to painting and posters to stickers and simple rhymes.
I need to express myself and I think that’s a big part of anyone’s mental health, although there are definitely times when I’ve wanted to write something powerful and it’s led me to a dark place which, whilst being based on my own experiences, can leave me in a bit of a neg mode after. I usually go for a bike ride or walk to clear my head in those cases.
12) Tell me more about your writing...
I mean it rhymes most of the time, haha. It’s just me doing what I do, exploring a topic/feeling/experience/etc and trying to paint a real story.
I have all the admiration for those poets, like yourself, who are committed to the craft and can create works of art through the imagery you invoke. I wish I had that, but that’s not me.
To me, authenticity is everything if all you have are words.
I do stuff away from instagram and poetry, but again that’s an outlet for a brain with ideas that it just wants to actualise.
13) If you're feeling particularly low, is there anything anybody else can do which would be of help to you?
Meh, leave me alone, say hi, be normal.
I mean it depends on why I’m low and what the situation is. I’ve always been good at removing myself from situations, sometimes too good, and it took a long time to get better at not seeing the alternative as confrontation but a chance for dialogue instead.
14) What is imposter syndrome?
It’s the feeling that you are shitter than everything and everyone. A sense of unworthiness and self pity that I’m sure has grabbed many artist.
15) How has imposter syndrome affected you?
Well, not just in my art life.
When I was younger and awkward, I just felt ugly. Like I was undeserving or unlovable.
That changed luckily as I grew up but prevented me from building strong bonds, especially moving around and to be honest, with some of my family. I still get that feeling just because of my background and having lived in an abusive house, my family not accepting my lifestyle, past relationships, moving, etc.
It’s weird because I’ll have days when no one can tell me I’m not amazing, but all I have inside is a fear of fucking things up and not being worth it.
16) If someone reading this today feels they can relate to the imposter syndrome you just described, what would you like to say to them?
Honestly, I never feel great giving advice, especially with things I find myself still struggling with, so I dunno if they’d want to listen.
If they did I’d tell them to embrace it. It’s a normal feeling we all have, especially those of us who see the talent and uniqueness in others. Just don’t wallow in it and let it stop you from pushing on.
Instead let it motivate you to learn, try new things, get better and connect with other creatives and even fans sometimes.
I feel it’s easy to lose perspective in times like these and when you’re feeling low. At the end of it all though, we're just atoms who miraculously managed to gain sentience. We spend so much time in our own heads that sometimes we need to remember there’s billions of us and somehow you’re the only one of you, so be you. Authentically you.
17) What do you hope people take away from hearing your story today?
Just that there’s people out there feeling things, who come from unique situations that aren’t the best and you may never guess, but won’t judge you.
I happen to be one.
You or anyone else you meet could be another.
Just take the chance and don't lose faith in that relatable and innocent sliver of humanity in mankind. I feel like we lose that as we get older.
18) What is your biggest goal with regards to your mental health?
To live in the present more. I do try, but it gets tough and it shouldn’t feel that tough in my experience if you’re truly embracing the moment.
19) What does it mean to you to be heard when you're speaking?
Ooof! Well I hadn’t really thought through it but I don’t think it means anything. I mean, anyone can hear you, it’s about what are they hearing. Let the world be deaf to me if it means I’m understood.
20) How do you feel after answering these questions today?
A bit reflective, in a good way!
A little vulnerable as well but that’s to be expected. I mean, honestly, the main thing is I'm just happy to be a part of a project I feel has a lot to offer and say.
Thank you so much my friend for agreeing to do this interview today, your story is going to be relatable to others without a doubt. Thank you for being you, and for allowing yourself to be vulnerable during this interview. I'm wishing you more years ahead of connecting with friends, family, your city, the arts, and most importantly, yourself. Never forget how important you are.
You can check out @rudebrowndude on instagram. You should. Their poetry is fire.
If you are reading this and you are struggling with your mental health, please reach out. There is help out there for you and you are worth helping. Go to the 'support' page on this website for contact details.