Where to start…….
When I first started this blog just a couple of short weeks ago I was surprised about the feedback I was starting to get about it and whom I was able to reach. I started thinking about trying to tell other people’s stories. I had a crazy idea of contacting someone who was a huge influence on me, someone who’s had such an influence this blog is named after one of his songs. I slept on it and fired off an email the next day asking if they would be okay answering a few email questions. Within a short while I got the okay and today I got the reply from the man himself. But before I put them up, here’s a quick introduction to him.
Ginger Wildheart was born in South Shields up here in the North East. His first taste of fame was as a guitarist in the Quireboys before being kicked out for his rock and roll behaviour. After a while he formed The Wildhearts, a band that unfortunately became just as well known for their behaviour as their music. As a result, they’ve gone through line up changes, break ups and reformed get togethers. Ginger has also been just as well known to his fans for his multiple side projects and solo career. He has a new solo album out this week and an upcoming tour with one of his band’s Hey! Hello! in a couple of months. His fans are fiercely loyal thanks to his openness and honesty. Ginger could be one of the last great rock stars our generation has. A long sufferer from depression, he’s told his unflinching story on several occasions. The answers to my questions resonate like someone who’s deeply on touch with themselves as well as the outside world and he speaks with an honesty most people could only dream of. I’d like to really thank him for taking some time to answer these questions. It means a lot and I hope people will relate to them.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Ginger Wildheart.
When did you first start noticing the first signs of depression and when were you originally diagnosed?
I knew something was up when I was a little kid, but being from the North east we didn’t talk about feelings, or feeling different than everyone else. We try to tough it out, so that’s what I did.
I didn’t get properly diagnosed until around 2003, but I’d read enough literature on the subject to self diagnose fairly successfully.
Even since my first professional diagnosis, which was under private medical care, the odd times I’ve tried to get help on NHS the doctors would invariably be of the opinion “well, you seem happy enough”, such is the lack of understanding of the condition, even professionally. So finding the right counsellor could be the difference between help or continued suffering.
How have you tried to manage it over the years? Has different things worked better than others?
Early on I self medicated, starting with speed, magic mushrooms and alcohol when very young, all the way up to heroin, crack and cocaine as I got older. In recent years I’ve settled with using sedatives from online pharmacies. It got to the point where I assumed the illness was part of the comedown from drugs, so I stayed high as effectively as I could to avoid withdrawal.
Until recently prescribed Venlaflexine nothing really worked, rather obviously, and I’ve largely struggled through without medical assistance and continued experimentation. I figured I’d make it through life that way until I realised that this is impractical, that this illness would get me one day. It’s obvious.
And if I committed suicide then at least one of my children could follow that example. I figured I’d rather seek professional help than run that risk.
Obviously there’s been times when things have built up to a degree when it’s become too much. How hard has it been for you to get the help you’ve needed?
I’ve tried getting help through my GP, and have hit bureaucratic brick wall after brick wall trying to find assistance. Eventually I had to go private and book myself into The Priory to get professionally diagnosed. Only then was I afforded the help denied to me by NHS.
Part of the reason I want to be so open about my experiences is that the NHS is woefully underfunded, and in serious danger of being privatised. The government don’t take mental health research as seriously as they should. I hope that in speaking to people I can inform others in areas where their local GP may not be equipped to do so. No one understands this illness as well as a sufferer. This is a sad and unfortunate situation that I hope one day will be viewed like burning witches.
How has the Dog influenced your writing?
It has influenced the lyrics more than the writing and arranging of new music. In fact music has helped take me out of reality more times, and more effectively than anything else, often lifting the weight of illness or incoming attack. Even in the middle of an attack, when I’ve been unable to do anything else I’ve been able to write. I’ve always seen songwriting as medicinal and consider myself lucky to have this release at hand.
Reading through your G-A-S-S diaries and being a fan, you’ve had an incredibly busy schedule with your various projects. Things obviously came to a head last December when you were hospitalised and were forced to cancel the Hey! Hello! shows. Would you like to go through what happened and what led to this?
Stress related depression is probably the most common cause of depression amongst men. And I have the tendency to work through problems, taking on other peoples tasks along with my own and grinding myself to a halt. You can lie to your brain and your body to a certain extent, but in the end you won’t get away with it. Not in the long run. And every time I’ve got to the point where I’ve needed professional help has been as a result of identical conditions. Working myself into the ground until I feel no joy or stimulation in what I’m doing.
How are you finding things post this? What changes have you made to help things?
I’ve decided to take life easier and make it less complicated. Learn to relax. Do what I can do better than others, leave out what I struggle with and plan with more care and attention to obvious stressful situations that always become problematic.
I don’t find work, or making music, to be stressful if I’m in control. It’s when I let others take control, and they do what I consider to be a bad job of things, that I find myself doing my duties as well as repairing their mistakes, and ultimately stretching myself too thin. Once I lose my joy in what I do it’s a slow, downward spiral from there.
You’ve always been really open about your depression and how it’s effected you. Do you think that’s has helped you cope with everything? What kind of feedback to you get?
Apart from a very small, and obviously uninformed few people with negative feedback I find that most people who respond are grateful for my attempts to de-stigmatise the illness. I’ve never thought it brave to admit to weakness or illness, I consider depression to be a physical illness every bit as much as asthma, and every bit as debilitating. And no-one considers asthma sufferers particularly honest or brave. I hope that depression sufferers can enjoy the same openness and transparency in the future.
It’s 2016, no-one need suffer in this day and age.
Finally, for anyone who’s out there going through similar things, have you got anything you’d like to say?
Be open and you will find openness, be honest and you’ll find honesty. Hide it and you’ll associate yourself with people who hide it and congratulate you for getting through life without medication and therapy. And remember that people who try to hide it either have choices that others don’t, or perhaps they don’t even suffer from clinical depression.
People often confuse depression with feelings of sadness and low mood. Acute depression is more like a feeling of nothingness, numbness, and an inability to perform the simplest of tasks.
So know your symptoms, get a professional diagnosis and don’t feel weak for agreeing to a spell on medication or therapy.
These solutions save lives and they could save yours.
Thanks again to Ginger for taking the time for this. Look for Ginger Wildheart on the internet to find more about him, his music and his many projects.
Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org anytime of you’d like to talk further. Alternatively, we have a closed community on Facebook also called the Order Of The Dog, where we talk about anxiety and depression, and offer support to each other.