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 world’s favourite poison

There is strong evidence that Alcohol contributes to a large number of illnesses such as Cancer, Heart disease, Obesity, Strokes, dementia (the list goes on). Back in the 80s there was limited evidence for this but in 2016 they discovered how damaging Alcohol is and changed Alcohol guidelines completely.

How it’s killing you

Now the Alcohol guidelines state that if you must drink alcohol then this would mean 14 units for men and women over the course of 3 days or more, this is the equivalent of a bottle and a half of wine over the course of a week. The guidelines state that this guidance is in place only if you must drink alcohol, it is truly recommended that you consume no alcohol to completely make yourself risk free.

Many drinkers will cling to the belief that Alcohol (specifically red wine) is good for you, but this is largely a myth. In red wine, there are ‘flavanoids’ which are found in grapes that in chemistry are known to target pathogens and free radicals in the blood stream helping with disease and possible cancer prevention. The issue is that the amounts of this chemical in alcohol is so minimal that the effect is therefore minimal. You can find flavanoids in many other plant based foods that have no risks of consumption at all. It feels like this is a poor excuse for drinkers to skirt around this issues alcohol contributes to.

Confidence booster

Many can see alcohol as a confidence tonic that they drink because it lowers inhibitions. I was one of the crowd that would partake in drinking games and going out partying and it always felt like the drunkenness was just a temporary feeling before nausea and light headedness kicked in. People will drink so much making themselves ill and tell themselves they need to do this to have a good time? I am of the belief that your company makes you have a good time or the places you visit contribute to a good time but alcohol is peripheral. My partner is significantly younger than me and we were socialising with her friends and she kept being asked “Have you drank enough yet, cause you don’t seem drunk enough?”. The friend then accusingly pointed at a glass of lemonade my partner was drinking and said “What is that?” My partner had to lie and told her it was a vodka and lemonade and then the friend settled down. This bizarre conversation shows how many people associate alcohol with a good time.

Friend of the Alcoholic
Taking the physically destructive nature of alcohol out of this for a moment, alcohol can damage people socially. There are countless examples of people turning into monsters when they’re drunk and lashing out at people. When they are in the dizzy heights of their alcoholic binge they are usually so drunk that they can’t remember what they said or did. If I pissed in the street and got taken away by the police whilst it was all being recorded by a local news team and aired on television I would be mortified. Many people would laugh at this behaviour and even applaud it. How many times have you heard someone say in a proud way “I got so pissed last night” and the person being told laughs. They instinctively laugh even before a story has been told? This only seems to work with intoxicating yourself, no one would ever say “Oh mate, I got so stuffed last night, I ate a whole tray of lasagne”.

People laugh but the moment you regularly drink for pleasure at what point do you stop being a regular party goer and start being labelled as an Alcoholic. You might find this view extreme, but every Alcoholic has to have gone through the same journey. I have read that one of the main drives for alcoholism is to try and find the perfect party again, usually the party found in ones youth. Unfortunately for the drinker they are waiting for this party but it never comes, and although they will tell themselves they are having fun they are destroying their lives.

Pain over Pleasure

I guess for many they will overlook the pain brought on by alcohol and decide that it is worth all of it, because it has convinced them that Alcohol is responsible for their good time. I am willing to accept that people enjoy alcohol and would never insist someone wouldn’t drink it. But in the same breath I would never insist they DO drink either! Just because you have delusions that your opiate are the keys to finding happiness doesn’t mean you get to dictate to me whether I want to inject myself with the same poisons.

I associate the urge to get pissed with youthful mentality. For many people hey cling to this youthful behaviour and confuse drunkenness with raw happiness that would have been achieved even without having the Alcohol in their system! I know people who are outraged by my remarks on alcohol. To them alcohol is their safety blanket their tonic that allows them to be silly, and have something to blame when their levels of self esteem return to their normal crushing lows. If you try hard enough you can build confidence and be the life of the party without touching a drop of alcohol.

Social props

I drink alcohol but only when I have to. I never drink at home and rarely drink when I go out. The only time I ask for alcohol is when I feel in the company of people who would judge me if I wasn’t drinking booze. I can sometimes lie and say the coke is actually a JD and Coke but this is my issue. Holding a glass of beer is a social prop that in this mad world is strangely accepted more than holding a glass of water.

A cliché expression is that a healthy body suggests a healthy mind. As we know health of someone cannot just be judged on appearance alone. Eat lots of fruit and veg, regular exercise, plenty of fresh air, and lots of kind and generous deeds to others. Altruistic behaviour doesn’t just have to be demonstrated through a round of drinks.