Anxiety can be a real contradictory thing at the best of times. I’ve had a few people say that they don’t understand that I can suffer from anxiety attacks but calmly front a band. That’s okay, I don’t know how I do it either. The anxiety has had me at a point where I’m not sure that I’m able to do that again.
First of all, let me give some context. Let me explain about my band.
I’ve been in several bands over the years playing guitar and singing. At the minute I front a rock band called Blackout Hotel with three of my friends. There’s Paul, our bass player, who I work with, Trev, our drummer, who’s been in bands with Paul in the past, and Craig, the lead guitarist. I’ve known him now a long time, have played and made music in several bands together, and I think of him at times like the kid brother I never had. We have fun when we rehearse and play, often ribbing each other and generally enjoying ourselves. We don’t take ourselves too seriously and, I think, that’s why people enjoy us.
I’ve found, since my late teens, that I’ve enjoyed performing. I’ve always been kind of shy but this gave me an outlet, a way to express myself. I took a further step by joining a band a couple of years later. This became the perfect release for me. Not only was I able to express myself on a stage, acting as a conduit for the music, but I was encouraged to write lyrics. The darkness would often come flooding out of me. I could say things that normally I wouldn’t be able to anywhere else. I could expel the Dog by drowning it in countless watts of power and decibels of noise.
Surprisingly, I found people liked me. They wanted to talk to me and be my friend. Considering how quiet and shy I could be this was a bit of a shock. I wasn’t in a known band. Always been at this small local level, never really playing to more than a couple of hundred people. And I’m fine with that. I like that a few people like what I do, and that’s alright.
The past year or so I’ve noticed some subtle changes. I’ve found it hard, sometimes near impossible, to write lyrics. Considering I could knock out a set of working lyrics quite quickly is a little worrying. It’s not that I’ve run out of things to say or how to say them. It’s just I seem to struggle with that at the moment.
Another, bigger thing, has been the ability to play. Last year the band played our best gig supporting the Eureka Machines in Newcastle. There was some pressure on us but we played well and people seemed to enjoy us. It was a great night and seemed to be the culmination of why we played. I even enjoyed myself and seemed to get through it without any major nerves or anxiety. Then came my last big anxiety episode last year that at one point left me feeling like I couldn’t play guitar anymore. I just couldn’t face it. My confidence felt gone. I came close to quitting the band, telling my friends to move on without me and sell my guitars. But part of me wouldn’t succumb to it, it told me to keep on fighting. So I did.
A couple of months ago we played our first gig in a while for a friend’s birthday, a no pressure gig. I felt uncomfortable. I felt a mess. Afterwards I mentally ripped my performance apart, trying to find some comfort within it which I never did. Was I being too harsh on myself? Possibly, I honestly don’t know. I know that, at the moment, the prospect of playing a gig worries me. I’m worried that the anxiety will come back and take away something I love to do. I’m worried that I’ll let my friends in the band down. I’m worried that I’ll let down the people who come to see us.
Before all of this, the Scott that would get up onstage was a projection of myself. It was everything turned up full. He was confident, witty, sharp. That Scott was capable of anything. I keep trying to find parts of him every now and again but I’ve not found any traces of that side at all. It’s like my anxiety has finally killed that part of me dead. Even at practice I don’t feel quite right. It’s like the guitar and microphone are sometimes alien to me. I’m struggling to remember the words and chords of songs we’ve played for a good while. There’s nothing that’ll throw a metaphorical spanner in the works than forgetting how a song you’ve played countless times goes.
I keep thinking I’m being overly critical of myself in this situation. After all, I’m supposed to be doing this for fun. But part of me worries that I’ll never be able to play a gig again. I was hoping this year to go and do some solo gigs but even that fills me with dread a bit. What if I can’t do it anymore?
Part of me wants to just do it. The part that’s ruled by the anxiety is telling me to sell my guitars and move on, to tell my band mates to move on without me.
But I don’t know if I’m ready for that just yet. Part of me wants to give up. Part of me wants to fight it. Let’s see where it goes.
The title of this volume of my blog comes, of course, from REM’s ‘Loosing My Religion’. You can find a link to a YouTube video of it at REM – Loosing My Religion (Live).
If you want to chat to me, please drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. I’ve set up a closed Facebook group, also called The Order Of The Dog for sufferers of mental illnesses and people who want to help support them. Please click on the link if you’d like to join. It’s a closed group so only other members can see and comment on posts there. Also, finally, please feel free to share this blog with anyone or anywhere you think it might help.
The Order Of The Dog.