Posted in Blog, Mental Health

I’m a Pro-Black Rock Chick; Why Is That A Hard Concept to Grasp?

I grew up listening to rock and indie music, not because I grew up in a white centric environment, but because it was the music I grew up with and resonated with my own narrative. My father loved rock music and most of my favourite bands now are many of his own favourite bands. I even have some of his old LPs which I managed to salvage from the collection my mum threw out after he left.

 

When I suffered from bullying because of racism last year, I was extremely conflicted by my music choices. For the first time in my life, I began listening to hip hop music; for the first time in my life, I realised that white men like Thom Yorke and Robert Smith were not the same colour as me and probably didn’t care about me, perhaps didn’t even care about racism and what fans like me were going through as a young Black woman. As you’re reading this, if you’re white you’re probably saying/thinking

 

“what does race have to do with it?”

 

“why does it matter that I am a different colour to these bands? Or from a different culture?”

 

Well it does. Especially when you are constantly being abused for the colour of your skin and told that you don’t belong.

 

I say this time and time again and I will forever say it: Kendrick Lamar literally saved my life last year.

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One of my tattoos (The Blacker The Berry, by Kendrick Lamar)

 

I had always been a fan, but I had never really sat down and listened to his lyrics, until I went through what I went through last year; he spoke to me in a way a musician had NEVER spoken to me before; he allowed me to be unashamedly angry for the first time in my life. Another rapper I find similar to Kendrick so resonated with is Open Mike Eagle: he also speaks about violence against the black community and how his perceptions of blackness have developed from childhood to adulthood. I love him because he’s a great storyteller as well as visual artist. I never knew that hip hop could do this, probably because I’d never given it the chance; throughout my childhood, my mother had always told me that Tupac was just a thug, until last year I discovered he was a better poet than any of the classics I’d taught as an English teacher.

 

For many months, I stopped listening to rock music, and invested my time into hip hop, because these were people who looked like me and could see where I was coming from.  However, recently I’ve now found a good balance where I can still enjoy my rock and indie music, while also embracing hip hop (old and new), so essentially marrying the new me with the old me, and while my black comrades have finally fully embraced this, because they can still see that I’m a pro-black woman who just fucking loves music from different genres, many white people – including my girlfriend – find it difficult to wrap their heads around this concept. I’ve been accused by white people of giving them a free pass for racism because I listen to “white music”; that I’ve forgiven white people for the racial torture they frequently put me, and my brothers and sisters through, just because I’ve started listening to The Cure again and am currently obsessing over DIIV (both white rock bands). Listening to rock music, also doesn’t mean that I’m going to visit some white artist at the Tate (Jenny Holzer), just because she thinks her anti-patriarchal art is progressive, when she refuses to acknowledge intersectionality in her “progressive” feminist pieces.

 

WTF?

 

Listening to rock music doesn’t make me any less pro-black; it doesn’t change the fact that I think that all white people are born with racial biases and many are unwilling to accept that they are born with privilege. In fact, I find it beautifully ironic that every day as I walk through the streets of North West London, I am being judged for the colour of my skin and sometimes verbally and physically abused, whilst listening to Led Zepplin or Roxy Music on my phone through headphones. Which is why when white people say to me “colour doesn’t matter” well actually it does because white people perceive me as lower and “other” just because of the colour of my skin and furthermore, I AM FUCKING DIFFERENT TO YOU so have some respect for my skin colour and culture by recognising that. However, the irony of othering me while I’m listening to the bands you also may like, is that we still have things in common which most white people refuse to acknowledge.

 

I cannot change who I am, God knows I’ve tried. However, the point I’ve now come to is that I am no longer ashamed of who I am. I’ll always be a rock chick, but I’ll also always be pro-black.

XOXO

Posted in Blog

Racial Segregation @Gigs

Tonight I went to see Sunflower Bean with my girlfriend at KOKO at Camden. I was apprehensive about it however, it turned out to be a pretty good gig!

Why the apprehension you ask? Because I’m a Black woman in a room full of white people, unprotected. The last gig I went to was to see Feeder at the O2 Brixton Academy, where I was attacked in the crowd and I definitely feel like it was racially provoked: I was in the mosh pit, the white people didn’t like seeing me there and attacked me. I’ve been in mosh pits before, most recently at a Wolf Alice gig at Alexandra Palace and I was fine. In fact, I had the time of my life. It always depends on the vibe of the crowd and this Feeder crowd was definitely aggressive. I ended up leaving the gig early, because I was too upset to stay and I was so anxious about being around white crowds I missed the next gig I was supposed to go to the following week.

Sometimes I wonder if there is an unwritten rule that as a Black woman, I’m supposed to be at the back at gigs, and then I’m safe. At Wolf Alice I was in the middle, so perhaps I was pushing my luck, but tonight I was at the back so everybody left me alone. In fact this was my view at one point:

Is that fair, just because of the colour of my skin? Even though I’ve paid the same amount as everybody else? And I noticed that the other Black people in the crowd were in the same position as me.

Is there an unwritten segregation law for gigs? I’m trying to think back to the gigs I went to when I was younger with my Indian friend and come to think of it, even then we were hassled quite aggressively because we were always at the front – at the time, we just joked that it was the white girls getting their knickers in a twist, because they wanted to be closer to the lead singer and we were in their path to daydreams of losing their virginities… but now I wonder if it was all racially motivated?

Sometimes I go to gigs and the only people of colour are the staff in the cloakroom, on security and on the bar, but just me in the crowd. Would you believe me if I said that it never even occurred to me until I became aware of my own Blackness?

But even as my culture changes and henceforth my taste in music, old influences still hold ties upon my heartstrings, even if they don’t give a shit about racism and Black lives.

Furthermore, racial microaggressions as well as racist aggressive culture itself, has only become more open and explicit in Britain over the years. Brexit was like a red flag for these racists; public spaces are no longer safe and a simple “please leave me alone” will now no longer suffice. The Feeder gig was proof of that.

I tagged Feeder in some tweets on a very active Twitter account, about what happened to me at their gig and they didn’t even respond. Rest assured, that relationship is over. And as much as I love live music, I’m starting to become weary about where I’m spending my Black pounds.


Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Music As A Medicine

I haven’t had a chance to write about The Drums gig I went to in November, which was actually quite monumental for me, and unfortunately I don’t have any pictures from that night, because my phone from then has deceased 😦 

I actually almost didn’t go, because I found out that one of the members had left and also I wasn’t feeling well in myself mentally.

But music is always my go-to mentally; even when I can’t face the rest of the world, I can face my favourite band.

This year in particular, music has had a profound effect upon my mental health. I  would use it to get myself out of bed as an alarm for my teacher training mornings and wherever I go, I always listen to music.

As a child, I couldn’t sleep in silence, I found it deafening and needed music to sleep to. Personalised playlists helped my on my runs and my highs and lows of life has a soundtrack to it.

I don’t just feel a connection to music spiritually, I also feel it psychologically. At times, it’s not even the words that speak to me: I go to gigs and realise that I’ve been listening to a song on repeat for ten years and don’t even know most of the lyrics, because I’ve been listening to the bass or something. Since disconnecting with God, I’ve found a church in music. There’s no greater feeling than standing amongst a group of people who are all on at least some same wavelength as you, just riding a beat – what goes on outside doesn’t need to matter for those couple of hours. Sharing communion.

However, this year within the chaos of my mental health deterioration, I have taken stock of who I am listening to and what they have gone through in their own personal lives so that I am not selfishly consuming. This is why I still love The Drums regardless of being one man down, because I know that Johnny Pierce has also used his music to help him through his depression and having grown up in a strict Christian family, which also had an effect upon his mental health, the stars aligned the night of that gig in Hammersmith, when Johnny decided that he had to speak. He spoke openly about mental health, and about not letting anybody tell you who you ought to be.

“Too high functioning”

I’ve been looking into the use of music to treat clinical depression, more so since I was rejected from the Community Mental Health services for being to “high-functioning” because of the fact that I go to gigs, yet my mental health state has never been worse.

Last year I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, and after seeing a Personality therapist at the Community Mental Health services, it was decided that instead I have Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder. These diagnoses are useless to me.

I’ve been taking antidepressants intermittently since my late teens and consistently for three years, and each dose increase has had no effect on my mood like music does.  There is methodology in science to suggest a causal correlation between mood and control, which I have personally seen within myself and for days following a gig.

Science of course perceives music as more of an experimental therapy, however research is ongoing, particularly in the field of neuroscience.

In terms of healing, music-making can engage a patient holistically: it engages the patient’s perceptual, mental and responsive motor-functional capacities, while the act of listening to music creates an ambient and sheltered environment, which also promotes healing for the mind, body and soul.  Some people find it in gospel music and blame it on the holy spirit.

“Part of the design”

Lately I’ve taken to listening to classical music to create an ambient atmosphere in my bedroom, as it also helps a little bit with my mental health too.

Therefore, the music is only a part of the design: you also need the extras in order to create the atmosphere, which is how “Musical Psychopharmacology” is created. For example, at a gig, you would have lights, a crowd, sounds effects, acoustics, encores. You can actually pay to go to place to create this all for you too!

But now imagine how therapeutic gigs are, and then tell me that a) they’re a waste of money, and b) they make mental health sufferers who are also regular gig-goers, “too-high functioning”.

XOXO

 

References

Rudinow, J. (2014). Soul music : tracking the spiritual roots of pop from plato to motown. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com

Posted in Blog

When Will It End?

Sometimes, I don’t know who I am anymore.

Some days I wake up, work on MSc, do some blogging, etc etc. Yes, I’ve got it together!

T1bfikb

But then, some nights, my anxiety is through the roof and I cannot shut my brain off, while some days it’s completely silently dead and I cannot move, so I stay in bed all day – on days like today, where I slept my life away.

I’ve gained weight because I’m no longer as active as I used to be, and I’m not vocal about it bothering me, but it does bother me, especially when I used to be bulimic. I fantasise about making myself sick, but I can’t because I have to cling to to those stupid pills that stop the seizures. So I just watch the weight gain every morning in the mirror instead.

I’ve spent an entire week arguing with my employer, trying to arrange an afternoon to collect my belongings from my old desk. I have nothing that belongs to them, because when they escorted me from the premises like a criminal for standing up to racism and disability discrimination, I was instructed not to take anything with me, so they have everything of mine and I have nothing of their’s. With the dire state in which the education system is in, I had to buy my students stationery to use in my lessons, so I spent a fortune on supplies which I had to leave, and which have been sitting at my old desk since May. My employer have spent a week at first trying to convince me that I had already collected the supplies (I haven’t), and then refusing to set a date. This was supposed to be the job of my Union Representative, who was far too lazy to do his job. At four in the morning on Wednesday, I finally emailed him and told him to do his job, and now I’ll be going in on Monday to collect my things.

These people are sick. 

Oh, and my Union Representative also sent me a copy of the Settlement Agreement I was forced to sign, (legally binding me to keep schtum about the name of my employer, as well as stopping me from suing their asses) with a coffee stain on it. When I pointed this out to him, he apologised, claiming that he hadn’t noticed before he posted it to me.

The coffee stain to me, was a visual gesture of what these people think of me, of how poorly they value me as a person.

Which is fine, because I feel exactly the same.

However, I still have to live with the damage. I’ve now moved to an area in London where my two nearest tube stations have no step free access, so if I have to travel during my postictal state (post-seizure), I’m screwed. Last week, I went to The Pink Floyd Exhibition at The V&A Museum, (aaaaamazballs by the way. I cried at it’s celestial-ness!), however I had to change at Green Park station. For anybody who lives in London, and has regularly done the interchange at that station, or even encountered it a few times, you’ll know it’s a lengthy process. Even at my fittest, I’d avoid it just to save time! Last week it killed me. I had to do this journey postictal (the tickets were pre-booked and non-refundable) and I’m currently at my unfittest. It was worth it for the exhibition, however I massively paid for it, both mentally and physically for days afterwards.

I’m trying to get over the mental damage, however knowing that there may have been a different outcome if I had been white, is a bigger pill to swallow than any of my anti-depressants or AEDS.

Self-care is so important. Yesterday, while lying in bed and feeling rubbish about doing so instead of research for my latest assignment, I stumbled upon thread about self-care on Twitter. Such simple steps: 

  • Getting out of bed (always a good start!) 
  • Drinking water – it is so important to keep hydrated, not just when you have epilepsy and you’re on AEDs, but also when your mood is low
  • Doing something other than what you HAVE you do – so we’ve just moved, and I’ve been putting off unpacking for ages, because of my MSc. Yesterday I decided to just put some music on and unpack. A flat full of boxes is so unhealthy for your mental health anyway. It’s like living out of a suitcase but worse! 
  • Take a shower. So after all of that unpacking, I was pretty sweaty anyway. Again, I put some music on really loud, had the bathroom door open as I was home alone and took the longest shower I’d EVER taken. It was glorious! Back in the day, before I was ever in a relationship, I would go days in bed, without showering, never changing my underwear, festering in my darkest thoughts. Not good. If you’re too weak to stand, treat yourself to a bath – you fucking deserve it you beautiful biatch ❤️
  • Read a good book. The best thing about not being an English teacher anymore, is that I get to read whatever I want, because I’m no longer constrained to the curriculum! Glorious! At the moment I’m reading Assata Shakur’s autobiography “Assata: An Autobiography” which I highly recommend. One thing I’m also trying to do, is getting into a routine of reading in bed, in order to calm my brain down. 

Anyway, these are just my suggestions, mixed with some I’ve come across. Life is tough, but we can’t give up right? 

XOXO

Posted in Blog

#Radiohead #Manchester: For A Minute There, I Lost Myself….

On Tuesday 4th July I travelled to Manchester to see Radiohead play at Emirates Old Trafford Cricket Ground.

I travelled alone.


My partner isn’t a crazy enough fan to pay £72 to see them play live, plus the £87 for the return train ticket, plus the £36 for the hotel room, plus the £25 for the official tour t-shirt.


Lol.


To say that I was apprehensive would be an understatement; I was excited because Radiohead are probably my all time favourite band, I’ve only seen them play live once in 2008 and the experience left me feeling so high, my feet didn’t touch the ground again for days after. However, I couldn’t shake off the uneasiness… Speaking of which, I was sat next to the most restless traveller I have EVER come across! In fact, I blame her for my seizure because sitting next to her and watching her fidget so constantly stressed me out to the max!

I’m still having daily seizures; I can still barely walk; I’m finding it difficult to stand for long periods of time, and on the train to Manchester Piccadilly as I felt the aura consume me before the complex partial seizure came on, I understood how reckless I had been.

But the inevitable had happened now and I was in constant contact with my partner so somebody knew where I was if anything did happen.

“Are you well enough to go to the gig?”

I did feel a sense of relief when it happened.

I did also fear that it could happen again at any moment.

I was reminded of the unpredictability of my disability. When my partner asked me if I was well enough to carry on, my response was that I had to.

When I did get to Manchester, I did feel a sense of achievement.

I’d done it, all on my own, even with a frazzled mind! And I thought that the euphoria would carry on into the gig but unfortunately it didn’t.


The sound quality for a start was weak – in comparison to the warm up acts, this was surprising and disappointing.

The crowd wasn’t warm: metaphorically or physically. I’d actually moved into the crowd against my better judgement because it was so frickin’ cold (I’m a southerner!) but this left me constantly on edge that if I had a seizure I wouldn’t be safe. I don’t know how to explain it… I’ve been to gigs on my own before, and never felt so uneasy like this.


It was strange.


It wasn’t all doom and gloom – the visuals were incredible. They played “You and Whose Army?” where screens were consumed with only Thom’s eye, staring you down. That song has been my battle cry many a time.


And of course getting to see Thom move across the stage (I’m a sucker for his dancing!) was awesome! 

They also played “Pyramid Song”… a song I’ve sat and sang to myself in my room in my mother’s house, so many years ago….


This trip reminded me that I can be independent. 

This past year I’ve really lost myself and believed in so many lies that have been thrown at me. I’m also loving that my partner is finally getting to see the real me again – the woman he fell in love with so many months ago, before the bullies got into my head.


Even if it unfortunately wasn’t THE best gig I’ve ever been to, it was definitely great to take some time away for me, because for more than a minute I did lose myself but I’m slowly reclaiming myself back. 

 In the uber to the hotel, the driver was astounded that I’d travelled all the way from London on my own and I couldn’t wipe the proud grin off of my face. 

The hotel was amazeballs by the way, I highly recommend it! Oakfield Lodge Guest House 

Posted in Blog

Labels #5: Kid A (My Depression)

Thom Yorke gif.gif (Image Source)

This was never part of the original concept when I decided that I wanted to blog a series on labels. I knew that mental illness was going to be part of the series, however I didn’t expect to be writing about Radiohead. Now, I cannot imagine how it couldn’t have ever been part of the original concept.

I’ve suffered a few breakdowns, however my most recent one has been the worst and music has always been key in saving me. In trying to write this piece, I’ve been also trying to recall the first time I actually ever heard of Radiohead, but in all honesty I can’t remember. I can recall hearing them from the distance of the TV or the radio as a child while in another room, but never really hearing them. This obviously came from my dad, who was the indie-rock influence in my life.

However, it wasn’t really until my early teens that I really heard them.

Radiohead.bends.albumart

(Image source)

By this point, I was incredibly lonely, incredibly aware of my alienation from my family as well as my school friends and I heard The Bends and suddenly heard people speaking my language. 

For almost twenty years, their lyrics, their melodies and their rhythms, make me feel safe, secure and understood. My mother thought that I’d discovered a cult because she couldn’t comprehend how I could blindly follow “this man” (Thom Yorke – she never seemed to see the rest of the band: Colin Greenwood, Jonny Greenwood, Ed O’Brien and Philip Selway haha) without any question, but when it came to God, there was always such stubbornness in my heart, dispute and henceforth chaos brought into her home?

OK Computer

(Image source)

I was disgustingly late to the OK Computer party. When I went to University in 2004, even now I cringe with shame to admit it. I spent all of my student loans and grant on a sound system and all of the CDs I could get hold of – including all of Radiohead’s back catalogue of music.

I have a Radiohead song for EVERY significant moment in my life:

  • “High and Dry” – The Bends (the song the boy who had taken my virginity the week before serenaded me with – he did by the way, leave me high and dry, soooooo many times!)
  • “Fake Plastic Trees” – The Bends (the song we sang in the SU bar – somebody put it on the jukebox when we were tired of hearing pop crap, we thought that only our table would love it but the majority of the bar ended up singing along and getting pretty emosh!)
  • “All I Need” – In Rainbows (the song playing when I realised that I was in an extremely unhealthy relationship and I wanted to go home. This song probably saved my life at that time)
  • “Sail To The Moon” – Hail to the Thief (the song playing when I found out in the newspaper that the brother of one of my close friends from University had passed away)
  • “Daydreaming” – A Moon Shaped Pool (the song I played the very first weekend I left the house after I was suspended from work this year. It was the first time I had left the house in days, after feeling like I was about to reach a point of “no return” in my state of mental health. I also felt like a fool.) https://play.google.com/music/preview/T2d2sp4rw6mczxgid6xoxoai2yu?lyrics=1&utm_source=google&utm_medium=search&utm_campaign=lyrics&pcampaignid=kp-lyrics&u=0#
  • “I Promise” – OKNOTOK Computer (the moment I realised last weekend, that I needed to get better and that I not only needed to get better for myself, but also my partner).
  • “The Gloaming” – Hail to the Thief (actually used to be one of my least favourite songs on that album, until I saw the band live in Victoria Park, London in 2008 where they played this and it BLEW my mind. Now it’s a song I use to take me back to my happy place when I need to desperately retreat from the real world).
  • “How to Disappear Completely” – Kid A (again because of the live performance – this was the In Rainbows tour and I never expected them to perform this song which had become my mantra over the last year, due to how my mental state had deteriorated. I felt like everybody was watching me and judging me all of the time because I was such a failure and so I just wanted to disappear. Plus I couldn’t believe that after working SO hard to get to University, I was back living with my fucking mum again. Because of this performance, I now cry with happiness every time I hear this song.
  • “Pyramid Song” – Amnesiac (“there was nothing to fear, nothing to doubt”… this is how I feel EVERYTIME I listen to this song.

 

It’s funny because after watching Radiohead’s set, at Glastonbury over the weekend and crying all the way through it, I shared on Twitter that I couldn’t believe that they had warned me and yet I’d STILL missed the signs to how shit my life would be??? 

Simultaneously, I always feel like I’m surrounded by an army while I’m listening to Radiohead (You and Whose Army). This is going to sound absolutely insane, but they’re the only people who have never let me down, neither have they ever lied to me.

I officially identified myself as “Kid A” when I was forced to return home following that awful relationship breakdown I mentioned before. I didn’t really talk to anybody about what had happened to me – I just withdrew into myself and Kid A became my soundtrack. I can still remember floating along the streets of Kent, on the fast-track buses, absolving my sins into the music instead talking to my friends and family, who I didn’t feel like I could confide I  anyway because

(a) they wouldn’t understand and

(b) they would only judge me – which they later on  admitted that they did.

I also constantly felt like a “Subterranean Homesick Alien” (OK Computer), continuously waiting to be invited home.

Because this wasn’t it.

Radiohead_-_Hail_to_the_Thief_-_album_cover

(Image source)

The Bends and Hail to The Thief got me through the first year of University, when I was having seizures and spending loads of time in bed, and needed to be pumped up because I had no idea what was happening and these two albums became the drugs that I needed when I was lying in bed. On the days when I wasn’t crying over the boy who had stolen my virginity, I was crying about losing my mind because it was the reasonable explanation for what was happening to me: “Everything is broken

Nice Dream” was my lullaby:

“They love me like I was a brother, gave me sunshine, make me happy….”

It didn’t matter if I couldn’t be part of the crowd mentally (and I was really struggling mentally), Radiohead had me covered in the tortured serenity of my dungeon.

Over the years I’ve been able to come back to Radiohead. There hasn’t been a moment in my life I haven’t wanted them or needed them.

At times, they give me the guts and strength to feel morally superior. Look at the state of our politics – I love their very frequent references to animals, pigs in particular when it comes to politicians, and the year Theresa May came into power, they came out with the anthem “Burn the Witch”. They always know what needs to be said! Which is why I always want and need them in my life.

moon-shaped-pool-radiohead

(Image source)

“Pleasure and despair, as band allow themselves to be beautiful again….”

I’m going to see them in Manchester next week. This will be my second time seeing them and I am beyond excited.

I would love to say that they came back just for me: A Moon Shaped Pool came out shortly before my last relationship ended haha and this Manchester gig is exactly what I need after the shit I’ve been through this year.

⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗

Tuesday 5th September 2017

I’m currently listening to Moon Shaped Pool now…

I never posted this piece. So much has changed since writing it. I’m a completely different person now. For a start, I’ve realised that I’m a black woman and a white man cannot possible comprehend what I’m feeling. This is going to sound pathetic, but I feel like I’ve gone through a break up but I’m not the only person of colour to have gone through the same process. A couple of friends who have grown up in the UK listening to indie / alt rock felt this particular genre helped them profoundly in our adolescent years, however we became older and more aware of our colour and culture, and therefore more aware of a DISCONNECT. We all also struggled with mental health issues during our adolescent years, had nobody to turn to and so relied heavily upon musicians who we felt could understand our narratives eloquently. Then suddenly, in our late twenties / early-thirties, society gave us a rude “awakening”, and those narratives we relied heavily upon for so many years were no longer ours.

It’s heartbreaking: I didn’t ask to be born in an area where I was the only person of colour; I didn’t ask to grow up among white-British culture and henceforth grow up culturally confused (I shouldn’t have to defend being here either). 

I recall telling a close friend, who is South-East Asian and a Radiohead fan, that I’m angry at Radiohead: they’re incredibly political, but heavily so in white politics, or anything closely linked to British politics.

Do we mean so little to them? 

But then what can we expect from a bunch of white boys from Oxford?

So I have to decide, for somebody where music is so interwoven with her mental state and identity, am I just here for the music and then do I “keep it moving”? Or do I cut ties completely…..