Suicide: Missed Calls, Guilt & Goodbyes #OKNotToBeOK

It was the last Bank holiday in May, a Monday morning, 8am, and I received a text from one of my closest friends asking if it was okay to call.

I got that sinking feeling.

Firstly, because close friends don't ask permission to call. Well, not mine anyway - they wake my ass up at all hours for things ranging from nail varnish colours (anyone who knows me knows how ridiculous this is), to juice recipes, needing my AA cover to get towed home or just to say hi.

My first thought - are the kids ok? My second - is she? My third - what the fuck's wrong! I don't recall the beginning of the conversation, or if there were any pleasantries or formalities. I don't know if she heard the panic in my voice, that I always try to play down, and is often mistaken for nonchalance, when I really do care.

I just remember the softly spoken voice of a usually cheeky and often loud friend saying, "David passed away." Read more

Me & Mom Dukes, NYC, December 2012

Music My Medicine, Yoga My Therapy #OKNotToBeOK

Mental health issues were never unusual to me. In fact, they were pretty normal and still are. When I was seven or eight my cousin attempted suicide and I walked in on her crushing pills into the bathroom carpet. I didn’t know exactly what was happening but I alerted my parents by saying she was "crushing chalk." I never saw my laid-back dad move out of that bed and into the bathroom quicker in my life. Read more

My Mother, by L. Michael Gipson #OKNotToBeOK

On January 16, 2013 my mother committed suicide. She was 55 years old, just two months shy of her 56th birthday. The suicide was her second attempt in three months following an eleven-month illness that several physicians and specialists failed to correctly diagnosis until eight weeks before her more successful suicide.

While her physical illness was rare and particularly aggressive in her case, leaving her struggling with great pain in her last days, it was her mental health condition that contributed to the lack of seriousness in which my mothers’ physicians took her claims of great suffering.

You see, 13 years before her death, my mother was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, had been on disability for most of that time, and had a long, well-documented experience working on her illness with mental health professionals throughout her city. She complained of severe physical pains, demonstrating and documenting her symptoms with great specificity to each doctor, desperate to be heard, to be believed, and received in turn the kind of dismissive pats you give a child trying to get out of bedtime. Read more

Kathy Iandoli: Every Little Step #OKNotToBeOK

In June of 2010, I was scheduled to interview two artist friends of mine on camera on a rooftop in SoHo. The morning of the shoot, I went to the gym to run like I did every other morning before that day. I pulled my hamstring on the elliptical; it hurt, but it didn’t disable me. By the afternoon, I was in my car heading from New Jersey to Manhattan for the shoot. I parked several blocks from the building to walk through the Village – I always do that, even with my slight limp from my hamstring. I met my friends outside of the building, which was a six-floor walkup apartment. I rubbed my hamstring, almost prematurely consoling it for the beating it was about to take.

What happened after that moment, I can’t quite explain…

As I rounded the third floor of the building, my injured leg locked. It literally wouldn’t move. My friends and the camera crew had already conquered two floors above me, so I was standing alone in the staircase with one immobile leg. I don’t exactly recall what happened next. When I came to, I was standing at the entrance of the building, facing the New York City street and gasping for air. Read more

Taalam Acey: The Source of Depression in Artists #OKNotToBeOK

If you are a depressed artist, the following may be helpful. Conversely, if you are not depressed then, I would imagine, you are either not an artist or are a fortunate exception.

The old blues cliche about becoming "a better artist when you've suffered more" does not apply here. This essay is about your inherent make up rather than typical life problems (i.e., harsh upbringing, baby mother/father drama, financial difficulties, etc.). Read more

Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil by Brenda Pinkston

Trouble Sleeping #OKNotToBeOK

I know I’m not the only one with trouble resting. I’m not sleeping at night. I take naps, mostly. I see the postings on social networking at all hours in different time zones where people display their tosses and turns. We’re blurting out different levels of stress, we’re trying to figure out why we are blue, or panicked or frustrated...

It’s intriguing because these same social networks would lead us to believe that our counterparts all have it together all the time. Brunching and partying, working amazing dream jobs getting promoted every few months, traveling to exotic locales, laughing constantly while basking in a never-ending supply of financial resources and fancy clothes… While some of it feels real, we all do a lot of pretending: pretending to be OK. Read more

Musa Okwonga: Getting Down, and Getting By. #OKNotToBeOK

So here’s the thing: I get down pretty often. Only thing is, I don’t always notice it, in the same way that if you’re running very fast on a cold day then you don’t feel the chill. Read more

SoulCulture launches mental health campaign #OKNotToBeOK

I’ve always been a bit melancholic, however much I smile externally.

I took it as a character quirk for years and never paid it too much attention. Until the summer of 2008, when I became so miserable a year into a full-time job in entertainment PR - i.e. being paid to smile - that I’d cry upon arriving at the empty office every other morning. I’d get it together by the time the boss got in, then lose it again when I got home. Sometimes I found myself sitting on the bathroom floor crying for no tangible reason, before dragging myself to bed and doing it all again.

I soon went to the doctor and brought up some irrelevant, mild physical ailment [an itchy foot, I believe] before bursting into tears and mumbling the truth of what was going on. “I think you’re depressed,” he said. I cried harder. It had never occurred to me that I might suffer from depression. That something was happening to me. In me. That the up and down emotional cycles I’d been experiencing regularly since I was a child, weren’t just me being a bit moody by nature.

In retrospect, my first real indicator that it was something more serious was at university. I went from being a straight A student, sports captain and serial hobbyist at school to someone who could barely drag herself out of bed in the mornings, let alone make it to class. By year two, it wasn’t uncommon for me to dissolve into 18-hour sleep marathons. Immobile. Disinterested. This was unbeknownst to my friends there, who generally weren’t studying the same courses as me and wouldn’t notice my frequent absences because I still found a way to show up at the club - breakfast time, for me - and lose myself in music for a few hours before heading home to repeat the cycle. I knew this was a serious problem, but still didn’t connect the dots.

I came up with the idea for SoulCulture that year, and thought my new-found passion was in part the reason for my sudden disinterest in studying. Or that it was discord with the city I was studying in [Manchester]. Or after-effects of the tough breakup I’d been through. Or.... Well none of that really felt like the reason, I had no major traumatic event to reference, but I also had no alternative ideas. So I moved back to London and gave a different university [King's College] a go - for a year - before giving up on that too. I worked various jobs in entertainment for a while, and freelanced for a few music magazines.

I was going to say, freelancing with fluctuating income whilst attempting to get your mind right do not go together so well. In fact, doing ANYTHING whilst trying to get your mind together can be an immense, intense mission. I still don’t have a tangible reason for why I experience depression. For why, on some days, I absolutely cannot open my eyes let alone get out of bed. For why I can be on top of the world in one moment, and in tears the next, without trigger. Or why I practically fall into a coma sometimes when I do sleep.

But I know I'm not the only one. And I know I have to do something about it. Read more