Brian Harvey – East 17

Brian Harvey was extremely famous in the 1990s he had a string of hits with a band called East 17. Then after one interview the dream he was living all came crashing down.

Over the years I have followed Brian Harvey’s story. In the 90s I loved their music and bought a couple of their albums. It was just throwaway pop music that didn’t have too much meaning and shouldn’t be taken too serious or literally. In the last decade though, Harvey’s life in my opinion spiralled out of control. There was no solo career and the vain attempts at restarting the original line-up of the band fell at the first hurdle as they couldn’t even rehearse together without arguing or eventually turning into a punch up.

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It was Brian and other band members lack of disciple (by turning up to crucial meetings an hour late) that cause the tensions in the band. These men weren’t boys any longer and people don’t put up with bad behaviour when you are trying to restart a career. No excuses you get yourself there on time just as you would for interview for a job.

In the latest chapter Harvey was ranting online about his problems and threatening self-harm. This isn’t a second hand interpretation but a sad reflection on a video that is still posted to his YouTube site.

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In my opinion he is suffering from a persecution complex the idea that there is a shady underworld out their calculating and plotting to bring him down. There is no doubt in the last decade we have see terrible practices of the now defunct News of the World and their appalling phone hacking scandal that eventually forced its owner to close the newspaper down.

Harvey still believes there are people out there plotting to bring him down because of his knowledge of the phone hacking scandal. He describes in a video that his ex-manager had him sacked in the 90s and deliberately targeted Harvey because of the things he knew about Tom Watkins. In fact it was Harvey’s reluctance to continue churning out pop music for teenage girls and his desire to be a credible R&B singer that made people realise they had enough.

At the time I remember there was an anti-ecstasy campaign aimed for teenagers because of the death of school girl Leah Betts who had died after taking an E. It seemed strange now before social media but it was a radio interview Harvey gave that said it was okay to do E as he had in one night and driven home that caused outcry and his immediate dismissal from the band. The public might not have taken their music too seriously but Harvey’s words meant a lot especially if they were listened to by impressionable young teenagers.

Harvey’s apology and retraction did nothing to quell the anger and his fate was sealed. It is now he’s claiming he is all part of a conspiracy and others too as well as a manager are out to silence him.

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I think there are loads of changes he could make to stop the cycle of persecution complex but then I am not a trained psychologist. Harvey wouldn’t make any money from the youtube videos as they aren’t receiving enough views to generate the revenue he claims he is relying (one assumes) on Employment support allowance as he has will have declared himself unfit for work. I only know this sort of side of things as I spent a year claiming this after my mother passed away.

Whatever your opinion of Brian Harvey I am sure that we can agree that he shouldn’t be dismissed as ‘some nutcase’ but genuinely needs help and a powerful intervention. He should find another focus in life that brings him joy not something that continually contributes to his low self-esteem and poor mental health.

When people pass

I am saddened and upset that someone should take their own life no matter the circumstances or how life seems it isn’t the answer.

Firstly, I have been there where I thought that ending it all was the option. The only option. It isn’t something I took on the whim of a moment but something that was very real and very personal.

A young lad sadly took his own life in my home town of Chester-le-Street and I posted the news on the facebook page I run about the town. I have written about the problem of suicide in the UK and how over six thousand people a year take their own lives.

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The number of suicides is slowly reducing but it is my opinion still very high. People don’t realise that words can do so much damage especially in times when people are feeling vulnerable and near to doing something that could put their own lives at risk. It’s not right to tell the person that everything is going to be alright or they should ‘cheer up’. In that very moment the person is feeling 0% of that. They do not see a way out of it.

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I don’t know how to but I want to help. I feel helpless that people are still taking their own lives. Even if it helps by writing this post and realising that you are NOT alone in those feelings I hope that I can do something.

There are organisations out there that can help and in my experience its always good to have someone you can trust and talk to when you are feeling low. These sort of friends are invaluable people who can guide you through tough times.

Even if you don’t feel you can share something so personal telling someone in the medical field can also give you a lifeline in a desperate time.

From my own experience keeping the NHS 111 number in your phone. Knowing that you might have other numbers is also a good way of knowing you have something to fall back upon like the Samaritans 116 123. They are fully trained and not there to judge but to listen and provide an amazing lifeline to those in need of help.

 

Lost connections – depression

Maybe we do over think things. I know I do. But if there is a problem then usually there is an answer. 

I have been told  – not only by others but by my therapists – that overthinking something just isn’t good for us – but it is a natural human response. If we are lost in an unknown place we look for a way out and if are pain receptors are being buzzed continuously we will look for a cessation.

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Stumbling across some youtube channels and tv programmes I found an interesting documentary maker called Hamilton Morris. He is pursuant of psychedelic experiences and the use of drugs to induce such as a state. I became interested in his research as I have had mild side-effect experiences from my anti-depressant I am currently taking called Mirtazapine.

I can single out that certain chemicals have reacted with the medication to cause sleep disturbance and vivid dreams bordering on hallucinations. It’s only after a couple of hours of being awake I have found myself free from thinking what I had experienced in sleep wasn’t actually real.

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Now, this could be a combination of a number of things I acknowledge that it has only ever occurred when I have been taken this medication. In a current study, the drug MDMA has proven effective in the treatment of PTSD. I am really interested in this area and whether I am able to take a pill in such a way that might ease the depression. But does that mean I would have to take it every time I felt I needed it or ‘prescribed’ on a regular basis like normal anti-depressant medication?

Hopefully, in the future we will be able to treat mental health as quickly and as openly as physical health. The funding that should be available for effective treatments. The chronic under-funding leads to a detrimental knock-on effect on the rest of the country.

 

 

How do you move on?

I spoke in the last blog about remembering the time when my father died and how it has affected me now that my mother is no longer with us. There are some people who stick to death and bereavement like chewing gum sticks to the cat. But how do we move on?

Firstly, do you want to move on? There seems a thread now in society that if we aren’t at the grave every week or sometimes even every day that we have forgotten the person or the person somehow doesn’t hold the same meaning to us when they were alive. I have seen and read numerous times how families are clinging on to the memory of their loved one in some vain attempt to keep them alive. Siblings forced to mourn for a brother or sister they haven’t even met.

Because you are moving on with your life that doesn’t mean you forget the person or love them less. Building shrines to someone aren’t helpful. I will talk about the person but there are times now after the stage of mourning where you have to start living your life again. Sitting around thinking about the person you have lost all day isn’t helpful or healthy.

I am not a one to shy away from bereavement and expressing the hurt and pain it causes. At my funeral, I don’t want any of this ‘celebration of life’ crap. I want crying and tears. Then when you have done the dishes and hoovered then you can raise a glass or seven and then start moving on with life. I am dead. Gone. Not coming back. No amount of bright colours or waving off balloons is going to bring me back. I might joke about this but I know that a lot of people want a celebration of life and there is nothing wrong with that either. It’s not me and not who I am.

People who post messages to a person on social media like they are looking in from another spiritual dimension can be helpful for younger people in the beginning but again I have read where people are posting messages about how the person who has died will be drinking alcohol and spending Christmas on a cloud somewhere. A bizarre way to view the afterlife and a little childish in my opinion.

Bereavement can cause a whole raft of behaviours that are strange. It’s when that behaviour is unhealthy or even dangerous that help should be given. It can cause serious mental illness and as someone who has suffered from depression for over twenty years I have had to be aware of my own health and keeping that from slipping downwards.

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The best advice I have heard in the past few months is taking a few small steps into the world again but don’t expect change over night. I am terrified of leaving my home town and going on holiday. I am racked with guilt about ‘enjoying’ life. Somehow it seems wrong to have a life outside of mum. Having been her carer for so many years. But if I was to ask what she might say about my guilt, she probably would laugh, and ask ‘What on earth have you got to feel guilty about?’.

She would then chastise me for being silly and tell me to move on. It would have been her way of dealing with things. Dismissing them and then getting on with life. If life was as easy as that I wouldn’t be writing this blog in my living room but in the south of France somewhere.

So you take small steps until you are ready. I went for bereavement counselling as part of those small steps I am not ashamed to say I got help. There is no shame in asking for help from anyone. It hasn’t been easy but I am glad I did it. It doesn’t make me any weaker or less of a man it means I am being honest about what I am feeling and willing enough to take steps to being well again.

Kenneth Williams

I had a look back at my blog and thought I must have written about him hundreds of times only to realise I think I mentioned him once when I had bought an autobiography for 1p on Amazon. That’s it. It is strange what you perceive in your own mind and what is the reality. Things couldn’t be any different once you delve into the past.

I feel an affinity towards Kenneth Williams not only did he appear in the 26 of the most successful British comedy films through his life but he was a consummate raconteur of the talk show circuit in the 1970s and 80s. He was a brilliant panelist on Just a Minute a BBC radio show from 1968 until his death in 1988. The premise of the show is talking and this was his craft and he honed it to perfection.

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Kenneth Williams led a reclusive and sad life. He wouldn’t allow people to visit a sparsely decorated flat that he lived in. He hated any kind of germs or untidiness. He was brought up in a strict Wesleyan Methodist household. It was certainly different from the Methodism we see today. High morals and certainly a disapproving of someone who was seen to be a homosexual. It would have been seen as a sin and a dark cloud that would have irritated and upset Williams’ father, Charlie.

It was only in 1967 that Britain decriminalised homosexual acts and by this time Kenneth was well into his forties. The deep spiritual belief that being gay was a sin was entrenched into Williams’ psyche something that he wouldn’t be able to accept or come to terms with throughout his life.

Even meeting the playwright Joe Orton with his liberal views wasn’t enough to shake off the British facade of wearing the collar and tie even on the beach. You had to look the man to be the man.

My mother was desperate for me to emulate older people within my family unit. “Why can’t you dress like your uncle so and so?” She used to ask me. Growing up with someone who believes that in the 1980s young teenagers should dress like someone in their late 60s caused a great amount of conflict in my house. Especially when it came for me to tell them I had become a Christian and would be regularly attending the local church. My mother was horrified that I was going to church each week dressed in jeans and t-shirt. I had become morally bankrupt in her eyes.

My life seems to have been almost a copy of Williams on paper. His father was Welsh. The religion was Methodist as was my mother’s. We both suffered from depression and conflicts due to being gay. Always the consummate clown from an early age. I was berated by my mother when they received the annual school report to say Philip is messy and a chatterbox. I can remember from the age of six thinking up my first joke. I explained to this to my mother many years later that in conversation with who it may be my brain is thinking of a funny line to say. If I do think it’s funny, I will say it. If it isn’t I won’t. Other times I will say things without thinking and some people do laugh but others seeing as being crude or rude.

Williams quoted someone in one of his television appears about being an atheist. The person in question had asked what if all of life was just a joke and there was no God. The person responded by saying if it is a joke let’s make it a good one.

Moving on

I moved to the house I live in now 14 years ago. I was so excited about getting away from the old house I really didn’t think for a moment that I would spend the next three month after moving day being utterly miserable and regretting my decision.

I know that statistics tell us that moving house is one of the most stressful things to have to to go through and it’s up there with divorce and bereavement. Being naive to this at the time, the move was extremely stressful as the looney that was buying the house that I owed demanded all sorts of work be carried out at my expense before she moved in. She dictated the process all along. She knew I was in love with the house that I wanted to move to and kept making pretty unreasonable demands.

When moving day finally arrived I really questioned whether all the stress, time and money was worth it. I was now in a house that I hated and was desperate to have the life I had back in the in the old place. I had moved on quite literally and I felt it was unnecessary and ultimately the worst decision of my life.

Sometimes you look at the past and you are desperate to go back to what you had. You want that final conversation or just time to say goodbye and know that the person you have lost knows that you loved them. Grief can do strange things to people and I what I have learned so far is not to punish yourself. Taking each day at a time is important and making small steps at a time when you know you cannot run.

Some people try and keep themselves busy almost to shield themselves from the pain but there will be a time when that grief will manifest itself in whatever form it takes. It can creep up on you when you are least expecting it. If you are one of those people who say ‘I am not going to cry or let it affect me’ you might be doing more harm to yourself in the long term.

I know people who we all have lost wouldn’t want to see us upset with pain but sometimes we need to let go of what the person we think would want and allow ourselves to mourn. In allowing ourselves moments we are releasing the pain. It’s not that we are releasing them or loving them any less we are allowing ourselves to heal. It’s not moving from the love but moving on with our lives.

BBC – Stephen Fry

The BBC have been highlighting the issue of mental health with week of programmes about the problems that people have faced with getting a diagnoses and treatment. The first programme retraces Stephen Fry’s life and how he has had to adjust things to cope. Ten years on from his award-winning programme about a secret life of a manic depressive.

I cannot believe that it is ten years since he made the programme and four years since he visited a country of Uganda with it’s hideous and rampant homophobic views of their politicians who have passed laws deliberately target those in the gay community. Seeing it as a ‘sin’ which must be crushed and eradicated. The established church have a lot of serious soul searching in fuelling that homophobic view of gay people seeing them as some sort of curse or deviant negative force in the world.

It was good to hear on the programme the different experiences that others had in having to cope with serious mental illness. It isn’t just a matter of snapping out of mood of feeling sorry for yourself or long-term sadness.

I know that looking at recent experiences and having to evaluate my own health and life that I need to make sure that I am doing everything in my own power to protect myself from being swamped by the over-whelming feeling of worthlessness and look introspectively.

Having cared for my mother for such a long time and that being my entire focus I may I have taken my eye off the ball and not realised that I too must take care of my own health. Allowing myself to grieve and taking time to get my love back for life and the things I appreciate and care about.