Time to set the scene! From my early teenage years on through to my early twenties I laboured under a recurrent and heavy depression, striking out with moments of love and happiness but ultimately feeling kicked around and dejected.
As a young adult I was reckless and furious, abusing alcohol, amphetamines and steroids, starving, binging and beating myself and using irresponsible and vacuous sexual encounters to convince myself I was connected to something. Every other wall I passed mashed up my knuckles under a torrent of punches.
Thankfully things started to straighten out. I had a steady relationship in which I saw a future measured in decades. I found a home I felt safe and happy in, was part of a wide and supportive community, and saw a future full of exciting and relevant employment opportunities.
Then at the end of university it all fell to shit. The relationship ended (albeit perfectly amicably), I was forced to move out of my home, and the community that meant so much to me dissolved as various people returned to their original hometowns, disappeared into families, or threw themselves into anti-social jobs. I was flung from my education into a world that had no interest in my qualifications, where my pathetic experience and belief that things would just “happen” for me gave me very little in the way of prospects.
I fell back on old habits, letting myself behave like nothing really mattered any more, letting myself crawl back under the largely self-imposed weight that had slowed me down and messed me up before. I saw no permanence to anything. I hadn’t decided on a way out, but I knew that it was all going to end soon. I had simply given up.
I don’t even remember why or how, but I stumbled upon a video of Henry Rollins from a show recorded many years earlier. In his closing words he reflected on the still unsolved murder of best friend and roadie Joe Cole, on the significance of life- all life, and what a tragedy it is to waste it.
The message wasn’t new to me, but the attitude was. You can’t be cuddled and coddled out of a deep depression. Henry’s suggestion that to waste or throw away a life is the most selfish and ungrateful thing imaginable pierced through the dark clouds and other shit metaphors that surrounded me. I related to it like no other. Perhaps it was something to do with sharing in a certain angriness of spirit. It was a much-needed kick in the face.
Do I still suffer under depression? Of course I do. Neither a kick to the face or cuddle is going to shift that. Am I anywhere near as self-destructive as I was? Hell. No.
To say things turned around is understatement. Without Henry Rollins there would have been no willpower-driven Green Lantern tattoo, no move to Manchester to get the fuck out there and get on with things, no stacks of writing, no close friends, no regular 10k runs, no Following the Qun and no rampant insatiable desire to go everywhere, meet and love everyone, and pass it on.
Henry Rollins saved my life, and helped make me who I am.