TW: Open discussion of mental health issues
I’ve been in hospital for the last couple of weeks but was discharged just in time for Washed Out last weekend. A band I was really excited to see at the festival was Hora Douse, an emo/mathy three-piece from Manchester. During my time in hospital, their latest single, Outgrow/Anything, was released and I’ve spent a lot of time since listening to it. As Tom, the band’s frontperson says, it’s a song about mental health, how things can get bad, but also how you can heal from that. I sat down with Tom after the band’s show to have a chat about music and mental health as part of the blog beginning to refocus on mental health.
Tom: Outgrow/Anything is a funny one because I wrote it a few years ago when I had my first bout of serious, severe depression and mental health affecting me to a point where everything stopped. I don’t want to go too much into it, but I feel that it’s important to get as much information out as I can without revealing too much privately. I got admitted after a serious incident a few years ago, and I wrote the song around that period. It’s about mental health and how it affects yourself and the important relationships in your life. It’s a really tricky line to blur because you can’t blame yourself for it, but you’re also responsible to yourself. And it’s a really weird line to balance because both sides are correct. It’s a song about healing as well, which is nice, and up until a few months ago, I was not ready to put it out yet. I was travelling around, living abroad and working abroad, trying to make myself better and get away so I could have space for myself. I only really started to feel like I was recovering last year, and I was slowly doing more band things again and starting to make a plan to put it out. Now we’ve put it out, and it is so weird how cyclical things are. I thought I’d healed, but it never really goes away and it’s important you don’t stop trying.
T: You take responsibility for yourself to feel better, but you’ve got to figure out how to help yourself and get out of the habit of blaming yourself. No matter how you behave when you’re in an awful state, and how that affects you and your friends, forgiveness is still an important thing. This is all really vague! But yeah, I’m glad it’s out, and it’s nice at the moment because the period when I wrote the song, when I was going through really bad stuff, and the people that negatively affected outside of myself, like my friends, it’s been a few years since then and now I’ve seen them come out to the shows this week and it’s really nice to be in touch with people I knew and thought I’d never talk to again. It’s important to remember, no matter how bad things get or how guilty you feel about the way you hurt yourself and how that hurts other people, you can heal. Give it time. I have a very obsessive brain, I think a lot of people do, and my, I guess, agenda in life is to be the best kind of person I can be, you know? Promote kindness and empathy. I feel like I try to relate to people, because for me the best way to help myself is to help other people. That’s what I found the last time I was recovering. I feel like it might be a little bit hypocritical at the moment – these last few weeks, last few months, I’ve had a few bad episodes when I was out in Europe and I’ve not been my best self. I’m not saying my head is clear right now, but I can say it’s clear enough to keep pushing forward. I can’t let it linger, we can’t let the bad thoughts overwhelm us when they do. Just try to reach out for help.
T: I think one of the triggering things for me is that I’ve had friends, recently and over the past few years, when I’ve been bad and they’re not able to help or support you. And that’s a really difficult and triggering thing that sent me into a spiral, but you can’t put that onto other people because everyone has their own things. It’s not the end of the world, they’ll come back to you once you feel better. You’ve got to just reach out for other friends or seek professional help. I’ve been resisting that for a long time, since after the last time I got admitted, but I’ve started going to the GP again after a good couple of months of complete resistance. Feeling like I don’t want to go back to that, I don’t want to feel like I’m sick again. I thought I hadn’t been for a year or so, and it’s one of the things that’s tough.
Ronan: Yeah, what with NHS waiting lists being how they are. They’ll put you on a six-month waiting list and maybe you’ll get six weeks of counselling out of it.
T: I think, especially recently, I feel very emotionally isolated from myself and also from other people to an extent. I’m not saying anyone’s doing it intentionally, it’s just how my brain feels even when that’s not the case. I think it’s important for me if I’m trying to help myself to reach out to other people who are suffering too. That’ll help them, but it’ll also help me feel like I’m not alone in this, I’m not the only person feeling this way. Even though that’s how we feel all the time, like ‘why is this only happening to me?’ ‘Why am I feeling shit and everyone else is out enjoying life without me?’
R: I think you’ve got to find mutual interests and mutual areas of support. Take what can be given and give what you can.
T: Yeah, it’s a two-way street.
R: Do you find that music, either listening or playing or writing or whatever, do you find that helps?
T: Yeah, I guess so, this week has been really nice. The shows we’ve done so far have been small rooms but full rooms, and very kind rooms. Familiar faces and unfamiliar faces who are all exceptionally warm and sweet to us, and complementary, which is nice too. I think it helps, I’ve not played for a while, I wasn’t playing or performing all last month [when on tour helping out The World Is A Beautiful Place and Kamikaze Girls]. Being on tour for a really long time, in my head it’s partly always a good idea because it’s good to get out, but the other half, it’s so intense that it’s probably the reason why I lashed out again and had a few relapses into mania. But I’m trying to move on from that. Playing these shows has helped this week. I’ve been feeling a bit better. Day by day.
R: I was really worried I wasn’t going to be able to make it this weekend, but I haven’t done anything for my blog in ages, because I just haven’t had the energy.
T: Same here, I was really worried I wouldn’t be able to do this tour. I was at the point where I was feeling so bad that I felt like I maybe had to cancel it, but I couldn’t do that. In my head I didn’t want to do that to everyone else and, even though you do have to put yourself first, I knew that if I did this it might have made me slip a bit, but in general it was a good idea. Otherwise I’d have been at home, in bed, crying at myself, you know? I think last month was good, because I had slipped back into some old habits but during the tour I was feeling worse than I had done in a long time, but I didn’t physically do anything. Even though things got bad, I’m taking that as a win. At the moment I’ll take whatever I can. This week, like being surrounded by friends can be stressful, but at least they’re there to help distract you a bit, and it makes you want to be better. It makes you not want to break down in front of them. And I’ve done that many times, recently as well, and it’s horrible, because the feeling of guilt is crushing and overwhelming and it absolutely makes things worse. I’m glad I have really kind friends who are very caring, but that’s a tricky thing I’m trying to navigate right now, is how do I work through so much stuff? And a lot of it is like, in my head, how do I work through so much stuff that I can’t really talk with certain people about when I feel I need to.
R: For sure, people have their boundaries and you don’t want to overstep those.
T: I think I’m guilty of overstepping those, to the point where I’ve ruined a lot of important relationships, and I’m trying not to blame myself. I feel guilty about it, but I’m trying not to be overwhelmed by that guilt. I know all I’m doing and all I want to do is work towards being a better human towards myself and other people. Everyone slips in that regard, and everyone’s in the same boat. My mindset is, especially over the past few years since the first time it got bad, we’ve got to accept that our friends might not always be able to relate and that’s why boundaries are important. For me, I feel like I’m very open to talking about anything at this point, like I don’t want to put any guilt or shame on anyone else, but personally it’s a case of I don’t want anyone to feel the way that I have felt. There have been points where I felt there was no one I could talk to, and I want to make sure I reach out to anyone and everyone. I might not be anyone you want to talk to, but I’ll be there to help.
R: I feel like that’s a really positive thing, to know that you can begin to help other people before you are ‘healed’ – whatever that means.
T: And that’s my way of helping myself. Helping other people makes me feel better. Knowing how bad things can get, you can definitely relate to it, but I know how bad that feels and I don’t want anyone to get to that place, so I will do whatever I can to make sure you’re ok. I don’t know if this is heathy for me, and I think sometimes I overreach and sometimes prioritise other people before myself, which is also unhealth. So, it’s finding a balance, life is a balance.
R: Yeah, it’s about figuring it out and making sure you don’t beat yourself up too much if you get it wrong.
T: It’s moving forward. Right now, I’m trying to focus on music stuff, but after this I think I’m going to take another little break because it got bad again for me and I need to take some time out. But we have a new song that we’re hoping to do a double A side with Outgrow/Anything. They’re both about mental health and relationships, and how they intertwine. So, at some point I’d like to release that as a double A side 7” some time in the future. We have half an album, but we can’t afford to finish it! With the way I’m feeling, I want to take my time with it. There’s no rush to sort anything out now, things will come out when I’m ready for them. Like Outgrow/Anything, this song could’ve come out a year or two ago, but it’s come out now and that’s fine. The album can wait.
R: I feel like there’s this urgency with music, like ‘you’ve got to do it when you’re young!’
T: Yeah! It’s such a big push. I want to do lots of albums, but I want to make this one right, the first one. One thing at a time, we’re in no rush to do things. A lot of bands have that urgency and it’s great, that that’s good for them that they can take care of themselves, but it can wreck some bands’ mental health and I don’t want that for myself. Seeing what’s happened to the 27 club, like all the bands that I grew up with, like my favourite songwriter Elliott Smith. Now there’s such an awareness for it, but then it was much less so. And that’s a thing that worries me, now that I’ve slipped into depression, being a musician as well, knowing that a lot of my favourite people and songwriters have committed suicide. Knowing how prolific they were during the time they had too, I feel like working to put myself there would make something similar a very real possibility for me. That’s the worst-case scenario for everyone, I’ve got people that care, and it would destroy a lot of people and that’s still my responsibility.
R: It’s a rough one, that thought process, doing whatever you can to keep yourself going. There are healthier ways and there are unhealthier ways. It’s about finding balance, right?
T: Absolutely. Day by day.
R: Day by day.
Thank you to Tom for being such a kind person to interview and thank you to Washed Out for an amazing weekend. Listen to Outgrow/Anything on their split with Been Stellar here: