We are always running. Living in the future or the past.
Everyday at the edge, ready to snap.
Uncomfortable in our own skins.
Desperate to close the gap between chaos and order we disregard the only moment we are actually alive in……now.
We want things to be different from how they are. But we don’t see how they are. All we see is the distorted projection of ourselves.
We busy ourselves with perpetual doing, planning, worrying, suffering and look outside ourselves for solutions. We expect science or religion to relieve the pain created by our own self-destructivity.
Rumination, despair, fear…..all creations of the desire to release ourselves from an indescribable grip. The subterranean grumbling of the inevitability of our deaths.
We try to think our way out.
Stop asking questions you know you cannot answer.
You are perfect as you are. You are a biological miracle. The being that knows and knows that it knows. You have the chance to experience a glimpse of this glorious universe in awe rather than greedy disappointment.
Everything beneath your conscious surface is working benevolently to keep you alive. Don’t worry, your heart will continue to pump and your lungs to breathe without “you” doing anything. Shift your focus of attention from the festering tiny world of ‘me’ to the Universal.
Stop living in the claustrophobic space behind your eyes.
The traps of modern society compound our cyclic negativity. Money and power make greed, envy and anxiety. Work, consume, die. Our lives are measured by what we have not who we are.
Images of horror and perfection leave us feeling sad and inadequate.
We don’t act. Paralysed in the only lives that we have, lost in our daily mazes. Hating ourselves and blaming others. At the mercy of politics and media.
It leads us into economic despair and addiction to escapism. Digging deeper holes of emptiness inside ourselves.
No drug will fill the hole.
No amount of money will create self worth.
No amount of thinking will stop you thinking.
Depression is a plague. The relentless apathy it creates fuels the self defeating lethargy cycle.The do-nothingism. The cutting off from normal sources of stimulation and pleasure. The building of the emotional prison, the isolation and incapacitation.
It is a paradox. We don’t run from tigers anymore. All that latent fight-or-flight stress goes into our thinking. Our own thoughts have become our enemies.
We must recognise depression as a symbol of change, a calling to re-humanise, to go back to the natural, the ritual, the calm meaningless truth of ourselves. An opportunity for rebirth. It is the unconscious warning the conscious.
Your thoughts are not you.
You wear them like a lead chain around your neck. Break that chain.
Stand proud outside your rumination. You are infinitely wise and extraordinary. You are completeness, unified, integrated and harmonious, your strength unbreakable. You love being alive. You love to love.
Your darkness is a symptom of conditioned mental events. Bad habits. Functions of the hyperactive ‘doing mind’.
Don’t get caught in the panic trap. Don’t get lost in experiential avoidance.
Happiness is just a skill, a discipline.
Humour yourself with compassion, misjudging the injustice of existence.
March 2013 was a fucking juggernaut of brain pain. The old workaholic self keeping me doing and doing. Layer upon layer of self-inflicted responsibility, questioning. High as a kite on perpetual stress. Moping about in the night like a slapstick ghost. The never ending “story of me” being played out in the bedroom, the bathroom, the hallway. You can’t run from that story. That hamster wheel tragi-comedy.
Here began the delight that is Chronic Insomnia.
Most of my life sleep was an issue. As a baby I would sleep two hours a night and drive my parents up the walls. Still, they did their best to ease that psycho baby. Struggling with their torn unconditional love.
The doctor said it was a sign of high intelligence. No consolation for my puffy-eyed parents and the disturbed mini me.
A week after I was born I became sick and was held in isolation. Close to death. Nobody was allowed to touch me. I have hungered for that lost week of care my whole life. In 2013 I became that baby again. Back in the ring with my original fear.
My mother was also up at night. She had no schedule, her wandering mind as scattered as the mind that her genes created. Never able to turn it off. She also had an endless stream of major physical illnesses leading her into bouts of depression and hospitalisation. Sickness and struggle was often in the air.
She told me I was her nighttime buddy. Always awake ready for a chat. She never saw that this kid needed reeling into a ruthless routine.
Nonetheless I was a happy kid. My nature was optimism, curiosity and drive. Bulldozing forward laughing. I love that image of me.
Often I focus on the purity of my child self. My grown up cynicism has stolen my youthful innocence. I want it back.
When I left home as a teenager and started with the entertainment lifestyle, I instinctively threw myself into hedonism. This then became my excuse for bad sleep.
I became addicted to cocaine and alcohol to ease anxiety and to make the banal shallowness of fame all around me more bearable. Facetiously increasing my problems with glamourised relish. I was always the last fucked up man standing at the party, never accepting that it had to end, angry when people would leave, disgusted that I had to come down.
Underneath my party mask I was insular and brittle. My work was the only real grounding force.
After a 10 year blur of mind and body abuse, when the drugs induced only terror, I managed to quit the hard stuff. The sleeplessness remained. My oldest friend.
It has lead me into manic streams of creativity. It has shaped who I am. And that unrest no doubt shaped my schizophrenic music. I am ok with that. It was an asset in that sense.
But it never hit as hard as 2013. Something changed, it sharpened its teeth.
Subsequently I have learned what I had my whole life was not full blown Insomnia. Just the long slow inevitable build-up to it.
In my new found cycle of awake I got to know what a real sleep disorder is, how it changes your life and grinds you into a mental pulp.
After a successful IAMX crowdfunding campaign and a work trip to Los Angeles I returned to Berlin in deep winter. It began as prolonged jetlag.
One week turned into two, three into four … on the fifth week I stopped sleeping altogether. At this point all I could think about was death. I can say that with a distant smirk now.
This feeling activated me enough to go to emergency in the search for something to explain it….a brain tumor, meningitis. I was checked, given a brain scan, a handful of random sedatives and sent home.
It did nothing.
I found a Berlin sleep specialist and he prescribed heavier medication. The pills managed to shut me down…for an hour or two a night, for a while. Giving me a surface rest, without the deep sleep necessary to be a balanced human, ….but I got some relief from the anxiety.
I continued to think the problem would magically go away. I thought I would ‘click’ back into being the driven sarcastic me again. So I decided to get back to work, push on and start rehearsing for the long awaited US tour.
That tour was phenomenal and life-affirming despite the condition. The love I was receiving was out of sync with the way I felt. I was pumped up on devils energy and adrenalin. Beating the fuck out of a drum every night with frustration.
The toxic combination of long term sleep deprivation, medication and touring turned me into an ultra sensitive wreck. I saw love and suffering everywhere. Being on stage was like being put through a shredder. Confused, full of adoration and queeze in equal measure.
My compassion grew, I am thankful for that, but I was a fucking shambles. I was giving more than I had.
So I made a long overdue decision to stop touring. Go back to my homeland and get some help.
In England, back in the fold, burnt out, I began to rebuild my relationship with my own mind. Chipping away from all angles in an attempt to break the vicious cycle of sleeplessness and panic.
I was diagnosed with Chronic Insomnia, Depression and Anxiety. I was put on appropriate medications and a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy course indefinitely.
Two years earlier I had completed my fourth solo album Volatile Times. I can say now, with hindsight, that that period was the definitive beginning of my spiral down. It brought up persistent black thoughts that wouldn’t go away. The blanket feelings of disappointment just grew. I was not aware of being sick in the head at the time. We never are.
The harder I threw myself into my music the more power I gave to these feelings and the more they would suffocate me. It became difficult to perform songs without being consumed by them.
My music began to seem like a psychological threat. Where once there was a pleasurable release of emotional energy there was now a build-up of negative association.
But IAMX has always been an exploration of this spirit. I cannot separate my life from my music.
IAMX exists because of these problems.
I therefore find myself faced with a dilemma.
How to continue being creative without losing myself completely.
This is my next project.
For 3 months I lived in my parents’ garden shed. They fed me every day. They carried me.
The shed was a real shed. It was shit, sitting at the back of their soggy English garden. I cleaned it out and made it my temporary home.
I needed to be close to them. I was broke after cancelling a huge IAMX tour so there was no mythical glamorous 5 star retreat. Just back to roots, my working class past.
Most days, after therapy, I forced myself out. I often ended up at the wide beaches of Camber Sands and Dungeness or the forests of East Sussex.
Running, photographing, meditating, neurolinguistic programming. Waves of indescribable exhaustion would overcome me. I would sit for hours, days unable to move. In a choking tunnel. Frozen by a phantom of repetitive anxiety, hopelessness and fear. Blubbering about nothing.
I stared at an apple tree in the back of my parents’ garden every morning for a month. I know every curve of it. I can smell the sea air blowing through it.
I couldn’t remember who I was. I didn’t know what was happening and how to get out of it.
I felt like it was the end of my life. I was quietly saying goodbye inside.
Yes, it was that ridiculous, it was a primal feeling.
Days with my little niece India and my parents’ dog helped to distract me. I tried to embrace nature and the zoned-out beauty of the being mode. Nature puts us in touch with the infinite. It soothes.
We all have the capacity to understand when life is good, when art is good. It is a deep knowing, a feeling of something that reminds us of balance or ancient truth in the universe. We are conditioned to tolerate and suck up shit hype and mind poison for money’s sake from an early age. That’s the culture of business. But the unconscious still knows what’s right.
When I watch fire or the sea I can’t reconcile the idiocy in the world.
I sit here and I observe myself following rain drops running down the edge of a tulip.
I am the raindrop, I am the tulip.
I am devoted to the universe. I am consciousness totality infinity.
I look into the eyes of a person and I see eternity.
This is reality. The superficial constructs of modern life are not.
I am writing this blog to have some kind of closure on 2013. Maybe also offer some kind of comfort.
I know when I was at my worst I found comfort in reading about people like me. I still do. When you’re inside a torturing habit, it seems like there’s no end.
But there is.
We get through, that’s what we do. We adapt. We are fucking strong.
Our sense of our own strength is not clear to us. We think we are weak. We think we need or deserve somebody there always taking care of us. We don’t deserve anything.
In trauma we are all WILL machines. We have become disconnected from our inner resolve. Our immense power and drive to survive.
During the long nights I thought about giving up, artistically, mentally, physically. Feeling sorry for myself. Feeling like a victim. Over-indulging the fragile bitch that I am.
That is the life I have chosen. My fucking nature. Bring it the fuck on.
And the constant stream of imagination that burns a hole in my head and demands to be tapped, organised and made understandable, is also beautiful. I cannot deny it.
It is one of the dependable satisfactions in my life. It makes me feel alive just like fucking or seeing your passionate soaked faces in front of that music does.
I read all of the moving, uplifting messages you sent to me. Letters, emails, tweets. I know your names and your faces. The trials you people have been through made me feel better about my own nonsense. Thank you for sharing.
You, along with my closest others, gave me a firm helping hand when I needed it the most.
I will never forget.