How am I different

In this article I want to share with you one of my favourite musicians Aimee Mann and to discuss what her work means to me and how important it is for understanding mental health.

When I was about 20 years old I watched this film called “Magnolia” and it touched my soul. The feel of the film is very sad but contains some of the best drama I have ever seen on film. The film has some big stars like Tom Cruise, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Juliane Moore. One of the elements of the film that attracted me was the music. On investigating this I found out that the director of this film Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights) was in love with Aimee’s music and so he asked her to score the entire film using her music. The music was like nothing I had ever heard so that inevitably led me to look through her catalogue of music.

I started with an album called “Batchelor No.2” which I believe to be one of the best albums I own. In this album Aimee doesn’t just give you music, she gives you a window to her own personal fears and anxieties. Many music critics have described the music as raw because it has a lot of depressing lyrics though the melodies are not always in a minor tone.

If you are the sort of person who has an inner dialogue that criticises you and tells you you’re not good enough like I do then you can hear this argument in her music. Aimee isn’t always writing about herself she plays the parts of different characters and can be offering advice too.

Lost in Space is one of my favourite go to albums when I’m feeling a bit low. The album is about people who have a drug dependency. Aimee would compare taking taking heroin to being lost in space. The album has a number of fascinating rhymes which really stretch the imagination. Aimee once rhymed “Margaret Thatcher” with “Compound Fracture”. For me the most moving track on this album is titled “Its not” which I have included an excerpt of below:

“So here I’m sitting in my car at the same old stop light. I keep waiting for a change, but I dont know what.

So red turns in to green turning into yellow, and I’m just frozen here on the same old spot.

And all I have to do is to press the pedal, but I’m not, no I’m not”

I find these lyrics beautiful and very clever in the way they play with metaphor to describe a feeling we all have in life. Hidden expectations we are all expected to live up to. People around us who all seem to know the right way to live their lives and know all of the choices they need to make it happen.

I think if you don’t like to think about your music then this isn’t for you, and if you’ve never dabbled in self deprecation then this perhaps isn’t for you but I’d try it anyway. This music might be downbeat but it sends an important message that we’re not alone in how we feel.

I recently found out bizarrely that Aimee in the past lent her vocals to Canadian rock trio Rush for their famous single “Time Stands Still”. Aimee also plays the girl who had her toe chopped off in the Coen Brothers film “The Big Lebowski”

Mental Illness is Aimee’s new album and lends itself to the territory of how people with mental illness cope in their day to day lives. I haven’t yet fully explored the content but I’m excited for what new fruit will come from it.

Aimee is still touring, I had the pleasure of seeing her in London and picked up a signed copy of Charmer. Aimee is such a bright and funny woman that you might not think she is capable of writing such sad music but perhaps this is one of those ironies in life, the funniest can often be the saddest inside. Please give Aimee’s music a try and let me know what you think.

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The Drugs Don’t Work

If you have watched enough American children’s TV you will know the effort America puts into keeping teens off drugs. Schools in America are littered with Public Service Announcements declaring the ‘war on drugs’. Despite their attempts there will always be kids that try drugs. In the UK there is still a strong focus on drug misuse but when I was growing up it felt very light.
When I was 13 I tried cannabis for the first time, I was not in with a rough crowd, and I did not succumb to peer pressure. I was with a crowd that specifically decided that they would try this drug, and I asked to join them of my own free will. When I tried it for the first time the feeling was intense, and just like in films everything slowed down, and sensations heightened in many ways. When I tried cannabis it was fun and exciting, part of the amusement is knowing that you are indulging into something which is naughty. Breaking the rules and being anarchistic as a young teen comes hand in hand with drug taking. Enough Rock and Roll inspired the ‘fuck society’ attitude.

For a long time after this I never encountered drugs until college when it became an infrequent recreational activity. I think a big misconception is that all drugs are to blame when people die from over using them. People often like to say that cannabis is a ‘gateway drug’ and that as much as a few puffs of weed, and the next thing you’ll be shooting heroin! We know of course that this is not true. I know that there is a big leap between cannabis and Heroin. I have only ever tried one A-class drug but have never had the passion to try others. I was put off by mind-altering drugs ever since a friend of mine had a bad trip on acid and mistook eating strawberries, and witnessed vomiting his own intenstines. With cannabis you can easily see the plant that you are taking, and it feels more natural. The effects of cannabis are more relaxing and it feels like someone is rubbing your shoulders after a hard day. The only negative effects I have found is the burden of paranoia or the occasional ‘whitey’ but this is nothing that a tall glass of Orange Juice couldn’t cure. With manufactured drugs there is no way to see what you are taking. I find it astonishing that people will purchase white tablets or powder from some lanky snotty nosed druggy, and with no knowledge of what they contain put them into their bodies? I said to a friend of mine that he should think: what if you were the person who bought drugs for a party and gave them to a friend and that ended up killing then? Could you live with that guilt? If the government intervened and sold drugs legally in a controlled fashion people could still enjoy stimulants with none of the risk. Despite some recognised risks Britain has clearly made it’s mind up about self-medicating with drugs, and even though the UK received 29,000 signstures for a petition to legalise cannabis, they still declined to consider it in parliament. Part of me wonders if they ever will?

When you have people who are going through a hard time in their lives and have access to drugs, this is where abuse will happen. If you are having a bad time drugs will solve your mood, they will be the PERFECT distraction. The government is worried that if drugs are made legal it will be chaos and that it sends a message that they encourage this abuse. They must think of extremes like Russia where 65% of the country is addicted to Heroin. Russia is a poor example though, because there is no control over selling. I believe that if drugs were controlled and sold legally then drug use would be a lot safer and if enough support is given to those individuals they will not want the drugs at all, Or will be able to use them in a sensible way. In Scotland currently they are trialing 24 hour walk in centres that allow for the legal injection of Heroin to help drug addicts to lull their addiction. Alcohol is sold to this country and not everyone is an Alcoholic. Alcohol doesn’t wreck ALL lives, and those that it does cause problems there are support groups like AA.

It’s curious that a large number of death’s in the UK are through alcohol (10% In 2014) and tobacco (163,444 death’s in 2014) which are still sold and consumed in large quantities. Both of these are destined to increase your chances of numerous cancers by 57% and diseases. Despite all the evidence they still are sold, en yet some recreational drugs have limited statistics on long term harm, and remain illegal. Cannabis has actually been proven to aid the prevention of some cancers specifically through the use of hemp consumption of its oil.

There is a hypocrisy between the selling of things that clearly harm us as opposed to the exclusion of certain drugs and making them illegal. I have read books on drug taking and how it has weaved it’s way into our societies and world history, so why is it kept illegal when there is historical proof that drugs can be responsibly accepted into society. It is natural for us to want to use drugs to try out experiences. In an indirect way when we try drugs and feel sensations from them we are realising the incredible power of our own brains and how they allow us to bend our senses.

Louis CK – “Drugs are a solution”

Personal Challenge

On a seperate note, to end this blog I want to say that there are some things in our daily life such as caffeine and sugar which have all the strength and addictive qualities of most illegal drugs, contributing to obesity and cancers but are common place. The truth is that sugar and caffeine sneak their way into our foods whether we like it or not and there is so much processed food that it is hard to live without it. I have heard of people who attempted to remove artificial sugar from their diet and they experienced withdrawal symptoms and mood swings. Much like a recovering drug addict the person who can live without it for 1 month comes out the other side feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. As a personal goal I am going to try and go 1 month without added sugars or processed food. I will document my feelings and note them in a weekly blog. I will either write my achievement or my failing to do this, but I want to try! Think you can do this too and join me on my quest to beat sugar? Drop me a message and give me all your tips and advice I’d really appreciate it.