Marbles #2

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WELCOME to the second issue of Marbles.

After the whirlwind of thinking up, putting together, then launching Marbles #1, we definitely left ourselves enough time to leisurely ponder over issue two. Just kidding. It’s been a lovely, terrifying rollercoaster, once again. Luckily, we’ve had overwhelming support from writers, readers, backers, and Mums. Thank you all. Since our beautiful launch party for our debut issue, we’ve had an outpouring of love about how essential a magazine like Marbles is. We like to think so, too. We were also invited to speak at the sixth annual Magfest – something that seemed like a pipe dream, given the idea for Marbles only came about after Magfest number five. It was an amazing chance to talk about our wee magazine, our tiny revolution, and why people talking about their own experiences in their own voices shouldn’t be ignored. Not only that, but it brought on board one of our new writers. James McMahon (p20) talks about being ‘emotional’ and being ‘needy’ and how the two aren’t necessarily bad things. While also being a staggeringly good writer, James is also a big supporter of Marbles. Big up mutual love and respect. We’ve also got a few returning writers: Arusa Qureshi (p17) interviews poets Nadine Aisha Jassat and Taz, and Esther Beadle (p48) writes with beauty and care about living with borderline personality disorder. As well as this, we’ve got some amazing newcomers: Harry Harris’ essay (p32) about the anger of Neil Lennon is an essential read about mental health in sport, while Umairah Malik (p10) discusses BME mental health services. But that’s just a wee handful of who we’re featuring this issue. Thank you, as always, for reading. We hope you’re enjoying our journey as much as we are.




George Allen

Why I’m ashamed to admit I don’t have bipolar any more


James McMahon You’re so emotional


David Pollock

Interview with Mark Lockyer


Emily Reynolds

Mental health and the creative industries


Becca Inglis

Interview with Rolain Bradbeer


Helen Millington Illustration


Kirstyn Smith

Interview with Marie Collins


Esme Leitch PTSD

Edited by Kirstyn Smith Designed by Rita Faire Printed by Stephens & George Print Group All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without written permission from the publisher. The views expressed in Marbles are not necessarily those of the contributors, editors, or publishers.



Umairah Malik Marginalised


Felicty AndersonNathan


Rebecca Monks Apples and oranges


Claire Sawers

Interview with Julia Scheele


Arusa Qureshi

The power of words: BAME mental health and poetry


Harry Harris

The anger of Neil Lennon

Gay panic


Eris Young

Sleep is for the weak


Esther Beadle

This is why we can’t have nice things


Kirstyn Smith Interview with Loki



Organisations that can help

For Fiona Smith Special thanks to Joe McManus 3 | MARBLES


At 16 my mum drove me to the psychiatric hospital after several weeks of bizarre behaviour. I sat in the waiting room and saw Daily Mail headlines about a swine flu epidemic, which made my apocalyptic delusions feel all the more credible. The doctor asked me a few general questions about my state of mind, and within minutes I was gabbling about the inevitable doomsday and how people were watching me. She gave me two options — voluntarily admit yourself to the ward or you’ll have to be sectioned. Scary stuff. I went for the first option and I was there for 30 days. It started with a breakup from a teenage love, added to a lot of drink, years of being depressed, and exams. It ended with a complete breakdown, a total disconnection with reality, and that brilliant, dangerous confidence that comes with being manic. When the doctor at the hospital told me she believed I had bipolar, I felt like I had won something. I felt accepted and relieved. I had spent years suspecting, wondering, but feeling not-quite-depressed or not-quite-manic enough to justify the label. But here was a professional confirming it all. I wasn’t moaning or making a fuss MARBLES | 4

— I had Something Wrong With Me. And it was very real. The next few years were, at times, hellish. Stress was a key trigger for the manic episodes, and they could be terrifying once they were sparked. Sometimes they stayed in the background, with simmering paranoid thoughts like the idea that tap water was poisoned. But sometimes they bubbled over. During my third year of university at 20 I became completely consumed by paranoid thoughts — in particular fearing in a very real and scary way that I was being watched and followed. My family forced me to take a few weeks out from university and somehow, without medication, I returned to normal. It was decided that the stress, too much drink, and a bit of weed had triggered my manic and paranoid tendencies. Several years on, at 23, I wasn’t seeing a doctor any more and I wasn’t taking medication. Before starting my first job in journalism at a regional newspaper I decided to check in with a doctor — I was afraid the stress of the job could trigger my third big episode.

‘We are all just loose bags of bits of personality, and the way we assemble them and come up with a character is arbitrary.’

But I they did not have the right to take away my diagnosis. I still strongly identify with the symptoms, and other people who have been diagnosed with it.

I had a checklist-ticking appointment with a cold doctor, who asked the usual questions, before leaning back in his office chair and saying — as if it were some kind of gift — ‘I don’t think you need to come and see us any more’.

But the doctors thought my symptoms did not match any more. I was given the diagnosis by a doctor at 16, and it was taken away by another doctor at 23.

I left that surgery feeling ashamed and cheated. Who was this old man, with no connection to my life, to tell me I did not have the label that explained my experience?

But at 24 I am still clinging to that diagnosis. It fits me well, I understand it and it helps me to understand myself. We are all just loose bags of bits of personality, and the way we assemble them and come up with a character is arbitrary.

My world suddenly stopped making sense. I only told my boyfriend, but I also told him that I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t tell my parents or my friends. If I told them then I would be robbed of the identity that explained me, and gave my character texture, and sometimes performed as an excuse. Most of all, I didn’t want people to think I was fine. Because I was not fine.


Being bipolar is the character I have chosen. It is my decision to keep it if I want to. I would be ashamed if my family and friends knew what those doctors told me last year. But bipolar explains me, and no one should be able to take that away without my consent.

George Allen is a reporter for the Derby Telegraph in the Midlands. He started in journalism as the first editor for The Tab at Hull University, and now specialises in LGBT news and social media. He is also the press officer for the Morrissey fan club Mozarmy. 5 | MARBLES

Becca Inglis

Music has a complicated relationship with mental health. On the one hand, the industry is infamous for drug abuse and emotional breakdowns, with the recent death of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington prompting the launch of Music Minds Matter, which will offer mental health services to people working in music. On the other, music offers solace to many who are struggling. In a series of videos with BBC Social, rapper/MC/counsellor Rolain Bradbeer (Conscious Route) opened up about how listening to, and eventually writing, rap lyrics helped him manage his depression. ‘I suppose in rap there’s a lot of suffering, a lot of mental health issues, and a lot of anger, so – listening to certain rappers – I related to that,’ he says. ‘Rap’s quite egotistical, but it’s about ranting. It’s emotional. It’s an outlet. It helped me to process, helped me to understand or to talk about things that I don’t think I really knew about.’ Bradbeer now freelances as a counsellor and runs MARBLES | 6

hip hop workshops with the youth music project Totally Sound, making him well-placed to discuss the parallels between music and therapy. Music can be a form of escapism – Bradbeer notes how writing was once his way of creating a safe space – but it can also be a mindful act. ‘I think art is about presence,’ he says. ‘I thought it was about disassociation – that I was hiding – but actually it’s a grounder. It puts me more in the now within my ideas and my thoughts.’ In a roundabout way, it has also helped with his therapeutic practice. ‘It’s something that I don’t have to rely on other people’s acceptance for,’ he says. ‘And it supports me. If I didn’t have that I’m not sure how well I’d be. I think it aids me to be more present with people.’ Bradbeer’s workshops with Totally Sound give young people an introduction to writing and performing rap lyrics. Some activities include karaoke rap, where the group practice reciting chunks of a song against a backing track, creating

a word bank, and writing rhymes based on a topic they have chosen. Just the act of creating something can do wonders for self-esteem. ‘It’s just like seeing growth, isn’t it?’ Bradbeer says. ‘Or seeing change. It’s a good thing. If you’re doing something that you can get excited about in life, and that’s something of you, if you’ve got a bad opinion about yourself then it’s a way that you can connect to yourself.’ He cites one girl who, at the start of the workshop, could not sing in front of other people. By the end of the project she had gained greater confidence in her songwriting and went on to do several live performances. Through the group’s encouragement, she was able to silence her inner critic.

Bradbeer believes that acknowledging your stage fright can bring you more into the moment, and that learning to manage it could have knock-on effects for regulating the fight or flight response that is typical of anxiety. He spends time in his workshops teaching young people different techniques for handling nerves. ‘I always teach distraction. Don’t get up in the morning tressing about your gig. Get up and do some stuff, make calm, and then try not to think about the gig until late. Until you’re like 10 to 15 minutes to getting onstage. That’s a good time to start worrying about it.’ Unfortunately, live situations also present a risk. ‘A lot of mental health issues stem from public interaction and public shaming,’ Bradbeer explains.


It helped me to process, helped me to understand or to talk about things that I don’t think I really knew about.

‘ NOTHING’S EVER A CURE THOUGH, IS IT?’ ‘So if you’re rejected onstage that can be really damaging.’ It is this pressure to impress, especially in a commercial environment, that Bradbeer sees as key to the industry’s problems with mental health. ‘When you change doing music to support yourself to doing music to make money, that’s when all the stress comes.’ The material reality of being a musician – the short shelf life of albums, an unstable income, your success hinging on others’ approval – is naturally difficult to handle. ‘If you’re scraping by, you’re always worrying about when you’re going to pay your bills and how you’re going to eat and all these things, so they factor into managing your life stress.’ This is especially the case if, like Bradbeer, musicians enter the industry with a history of mental illness. ‘A lot of people do art as an outlet to cope with depression,’ he says, and that relationship to their art can be challenged by consumer demand. ‘You have a team behind you and they’re going to push you in a certain direction to suit whatever’s really marketable. You start to change yourself for people. That can be quite damaging for someone who’s emotionally unstable.’ Add to this the horror stories of people being extorted by labels, and it is easy to see how the industry can be corrosive for vulnerable artists. Bradbeer is beginning to focus more on his career as a counsellor, which gives him the freedom to write material that matters to him and be more selective with the gigs he plays. It is making connections with the audience, composing lyrics that resonate, and finding enjoyment in art that matters most to him, and music will always be there to ground him. ‘Nothing’s ever a cure though, is it?’ he hastens to add. ‘It’s about minimising and easing distress and creating confidence.’


Becca Inglis is a creative non-fiction writer and reviewer based in Edinburgh. Her essay ‘Love in a Time of Melancholia’ appeared in 404 Ink’s collection, Nasty Women, and her article ‘When Women Steal the Patriarchy’s Toys: Feminism as Terrorism’ was published by the Dangerous Women Project. Becca’s writing has also appeared in The Skinny and The Wee Review. MARBLES | 8




ISED It’s no secret that mental health services are in crisis right now, which is slightly ironic. But I’ve got a different narrative. BME (Black, Asian, and minority ethnicities) mental health is a group of people often subjected to media scrutiny. Indeed the term BME itself is deemed as problematic by Trevor Philips who said it exists purely ‘to tidy away the messy jumble of real human beings who share only one characteristic — that they don’t have white skin.’ I spoke to registered organisation, Inspirited Minds, a faith-based, voluntary mental health charity, working predominantly with those from an Islamic faith. When asked whether they felt having culturally MARBLES | 10

Umairah Malik

and religiously sensitive services would make people from minority communities more willing to access treatment from the NHS, they replied: ‘Yes. We feel a lot of people approach us because we have those sensitive elements in place. People want to be able to talk openly and freely about sensitive topics which occur in their religion and culture (such as their belief in black magic or the use of their faith to help improve their mental wellbeing) without being judged or misunderstood.’ Stigma rears its head again. The biggest barrier they’ve faced since launching in 2014 was that although many people approach them for help, many don’t take the help offered after their

initial request, despite needing counselling. One of their greatest unexpected findings was the major contributions of prominent early Muslim scholars to psychology and mental health, much of which has been forgotten.

are still things we can do to help. I volunteer my time to a participation group at the local child mental health services, meeting with commissioners, mental health workers, and service users, and encouraging them to give feedback to improve the service internally.

Do they envision a world where stigma is significantly decreased? It’s one of their main aims, as it is with many organisations, and while they’re aware of how difficult that would be they intend to strive to do so until such a goal can be reached.

When you’re waiting for an appointment in a hospital or surgery and there are small boxes labelled: ‘We’d love to hear about your time here.

Research shows that South Asians underutilise services compared to white people. I asked Talat, founder of the charity, why many are so reluctant to seek treatment. ‘A lot of Muslims come from a culture where having a mental illness holds incredible amounts of negative value,’ he says. ‘This could be from things like reluctance when it comes to marriage proposals, to having the stigma permanently attached so they decide to remain silent. They also believe they will not be fully understood from mainstream services so choose not to use them.’

‘In my time volunteering I’ve only seen someone visibly Muslim once: a young woman on a placement.’

This is important. In my time volunteering I’ve only seen someone visibly Muslim once: a young woman on a placement. The Muslim Women’s Network carried out a counselling pilot and found that 91% of clients felt a faith- and culture-service was important to them.

Tell us what you thought.’ It turns out they aren’t just there as dust collectors — they’re crucial. But overworked hospital staff members don’t have the time to actively collect such feedback and the boxes remain there, untouched.

How many are there available on the NHS? One. ‘Finance is always a huge issue. We have amazing volunteers, but volunteers can only dedicate a certain amount of time,’ says Talat. ‘Our volunteers dedicate incredible amounts of time and efforts towards Inspirited Minds, but not being able to pay them means the progress of our work cannot go any faster. We do however see this as an opportunity rather than a problem and hope we can build a movement of passionate individuals all committed to change.’

Each service requires different, personalised improvements, and, as service users, we’re in the best place to provide it. What began as a government initiative (funding didn’t last long) is now on its way to becoming a somewhat established feedback program. If we can’t rely on the establishment, we can still do our bit. Having met mental health workers, they’ve all said our feedback is invaluable. Maybe next time you’re waiting, ask for a feedback form and fill it in.

However, when it comes to a lack of money, there

_ Umairah Malik is a freelance writer, book reviewer, mental health activist (if you couldn’t tell), inter-sectional feminist and all round avid bookworm, typically with a huge ‘to be read’ pile . She manages the blog at Salome Literature, has appeared in Huffington Post and written for other various publications. Follow her on Twitter @umairahh_m, usually tweeting about all things writing. 11 | MARBLES


Rebecca Monks


I never longed for fruit in the Old World. Back then the office had bowlfuls, the pantry pregnant with apples and oranges. After weeks of neglect, these proud things would grow their own armour: thick skins of mould, designed to keep us out. A punishment, which I now know was fitting. Bananas would blacken under our watch, but I didn’t care. Back then, The Boss would just toss them out. In the New World, strange hands grope around me to win tins of peaches, drunk with syrup. Tomatoes come chopped and packaged, tarted up with supermarket labels. I tell the supervisor that I long to taste freshness once again, to have citrus cut across my tongue, to feel a new apple in my hand. ‘Do you have any?’ I say, my voice a whisper. ‘Apples?’. As I speak, I feel my daughter’s small hand tug at mine. I never thought she’d spend enough time in a food bank for it to exhaust her. ‘Fruit and veg goes to the people who bother to show up before 10,’ he says, handing me a bruised box of Del Monte. ‘But if you’re really desperate, just look around at these people. There are plenty of bad apples here.’ He laughs at his own joke, and I press tokens into his hands without looking him in the eye. I don’t see the rot he speaks of. I see mothers and fathers feeding hungry children. I see people, jobless and scared. I see wounds left by cuts. As we walk home, leaving the food bank behind, his vinegared words and salty laugh find their way into my mind. There, they bounce off the sharp corners left by worry. Worry about bills. Worry about jobs. Worry about Her. In the Old World, I would work the anxiety away. The 9-5 was medicine, was a tonic, with the whirring computers and the bad coffee and the hello-how- are-yous that, somehow, we learned to start the day with. Then pay day.

Degree preferred. Experience necessary. Minimum wage. In that sleek, polished office, I found The Boss alone. ‘I’m worried it’s not enough,’ I told him. Stale coffee on his breath. Nothing in his eyes. ‘I’m worried I’ll struggle to live.’ ‘You shouldn’t come to the office for money. You should come for the reward of hard work. And I’m offering plenty of that.’ He handed me an apple. ‘Did I tell you I’m rolling out a fruit scheme? There’ll be boxes of the stuff in the kitchen.’ Rent. Council Tax. Credit Cards. Phone bill. (Save some for food). Year one and I work late nights, filled with extra miles and goalposts ever shifting. The debt piled up. I stored apples in my desk. Rent. Council Tax. Credit Cards. Phone bill. (Save some for food). Year two and my skin turned bad: yellow and marked. My chest grew tight. I struggled to sleep. The apples festered. Rent. Council Tax. Credit Cards. Phone bill. (Save some for food).

Rent. Council Tax. Credit Cards. Phone bill. (Save some for food).

‘It’s not enough,’ I told The Boss. Stale meat on his breath. Money in his eyes. ‘I’m struggling to live.’

I had signed that contract, hadn’t I? But then again, there were no other contracts to sign.

Year three and I break. I buckle. I leave. There were balloons and cake and tear-filled goodbyes. I told


‘I know I don’t pay well,’ he told me in between sips of Italian coffee. ‘But think about this: some places don’t pay their creative staff anything.’

COUNCIL TAX. PHONE BILL. myself I was taking some time. Then, she happened. My stomach swelled and grew as the months passed. I felt her kick. I felt him leave. There was no more pay day. I fear there never will be again. Suddenly, I longed for an apple. Rent. Council Tax. Credit Cards. Phone bill. ? The New World started when she came. The New World is full of tears and milk, and the rest I buy with tokens. I cry when she does, and when I sleep, I dream of fruit.


Rebecca Monks is a journalist, playwright and author based in Edinburgh, with bylines in The List, The i and more. She has had two plays at the Edinburgh Festival — Scour and Tyke — and is currently working on her debut novel. Sometimes she talks too much on BBC Radio, and she regularly RTs funnier people at @Rebecca_Monks 15 | MARBLES

the of


WOR Arusa Qureshi


ower BAME mental health and poetry

If you’ve ever lain awake at night worrying about the widespread injustice and brutality that exists in the world today, or found yourself fixating on the nature of our current political situation, you may know that familiar feeling of anxiety that bubbles up, churning deep in the pit of your stomach. Many people actively choose to disconnect with current affairs for fear of the impact on their mental health but for BAME individuals around the world who experience the consequences of our increasingly worrying political climate on a daily basis, there is no choice but to engage or suffer in silence. And both scenarios can be deeply traumatising.

poet and writer who also works in gender-based violence, is aware of this dichotomy that exists between the need for support and wariness of the support that exists.

‘One thing which I think people — practitioners, service providers, the media and wider society in general — could consider is the role that wider racism and Islamophobia and xenophobia can play in making it harder for BAME people seeking support,’ she explains. ‘Say for example, you are conscious of a widespread narrative which claims that “migrants are overusing NHS services”, which say that all Muslim women are oppressed, and which says that if you call out racism you’ve got a “chip on your shoulder” or you’re an “angry black woman”. Within this context, if you are going to a mainstream mental health service, might you worry that they secretly think like that, too? Might you worry, that if you speak about pressures you are facing, your counsellor could see it as further evidence of that racist rhetoric in their mind, or not understand it or dismiss it, or project their own bias on to you? Might you worry that you may not be fully heard?’

RDS According to the Mental Health Foundation, people from black and minority ethnic groups in the UK are ‘more likely to be diagnosed with mental health problems’ but also ‘more likely to disengage from mainstream mental health services’. These stats, coupled with the prevalence of racism, poverty and inequality, are not only alarming but proof that a change is needed in how mental health is perceived within such communities.

For many BAME individuals, cultural implications can create barriers which deter them from seeking out treatment, but there is also often a lack of understanding by mainstream mental health services, leading to alienation and, in some cases, discrimination. Nadine Aisha Jassat, a feminist

Despite the stigma attached to mental illness that often prevents it from being discussed openly within BAME communities, there are a rising number of creatives, like Nadine, that are attempting to use


‘Might you worry, that if you speak about pressures you are facing, your counsellor could see it as further evidence of that racist rhetoric in their mind, or not understand it or dismiss it, or project their own bias on to you? Might you worry that you may not be fully their art to open up the conversation for the benefit of not only themselves, but those that may be struggling to seek help. Nadine’s debut poetry pamphlet Still focuses on the voices of women, reflecting on race, sexism and experience to address the process of finding strength. ‘I think any arts medium and any medium based in storytelling can have a transformative power for the artist and the audience alike.’ She says. ‘It is a wonderful way of connecting, of owning your journey and experience as part of your healing.’

Taz, a Cardiff-based poet and YouTuber, feels similarly about the impact of poetry in terms of the frank discussion of mental health. She has been making spoken word videos for over a year, utilising the medium to speak honestly about her own mental health. ‘When I started writing poetry, I had no intentions of starting discussions on mental health,’ she says. ‘I didn’t understand it myself, I was simply talking about my own feelings and experiences and people related to it. As my audience grew so did my confidence and over time I’ve become much more vocal about raising awareness for mental health.’

Taz’s YouTube channel, which currently has over 154,000 subscribers, features an array of videos covering tough themes from bullying to body image. But the response to these videos has been overwhelmingly positive, highlighting the fact that there is an audience out there that is benefitting from hearing her poetry. ‘I receive messages daily from people all over the world telling me how my poetry has helped them come to terms with their mental health — how they felt understood, less alone and empowered. Posting poetry online has also encouraged open conversation — my channel has become


a safe space for people to talk and discuss mental health without fear of being judged.’ It may not be considered the taboo that it once was, but the fight against mental illness and the negative associations that surround it within minority ethnic communities is very much ongoing, with poets like Nadine and Taz contributing to an encouraging dialogue through their work. Nadine in particular is keen to stress that there is a resilience in BAME individuals that should be recognised. ‘If you find yourself in a world which presents things which challenge your existence, then recognise how much power there is in the fact that you actually do exist, and breathe, and survive.’ Nadine notes. ‘Your story and experience is valid, and your feelings and pain also; and I am sorry that there are those out there who would say otherwise. Remember that their opinions are not the most important one. Your relationship with yourself, and the terms you set for yourself, is.’ Find out more at and

_ Arusa Qureshi currently works as a Content Producer for The List, having recently completed an MSc in Magazine Publishing. She was the winner of the Postgraduate Student of the Year award at the 2016 Scottish Magazine Awards, her dissertation won the Postgraduate Dissertation prize at the 2017 London Book Fair International Excellence Awards, and she won the 2017 Allen Wright Award. She has a particular interest in arts journalism and dreams of one day becoming a big-time hip hop scholar. 19 | MARBLES

They said they’d heard I was ‘emotional’.

And then it made sense... James McMahon

I wanted to contribute to Marbles from the first moment I heard about it. I’ve only ever been asked to write about mental health once before. About ten years ago, by a women’s magazine I can’t remember the name of, and it would be unfair to name anyway. Ten years ago was a different world. It was a magazine of some stature though, I remember that. I remember being flattered to be asked. It meant something. I remember asking why they’d asked me. Said magazine was published by the same company who published the magazine I’d been staff on for five years at that point. I was told I’d been recommended by an Editorial Director in the company. Like I say, flattering. But confusing too; at that point, I largely wrote about terrible indie bands and very little else (it was 2007, all the indie bands were terrible). You can file Editorial Directors next to the dinosaur bones if you’d like. Most publishing houses had roles like that, largely staffed by people employed on three times the money anyone else was, to come into meeting rooms, scratch their chin, and then suggest that whatever they’d been invited in to give an opinion on could maybe be done in the complete opposite way. Publishing houses had a lot of roles ten years ago that largely MARBLES | 20

don’t exist anymore. I got on the phone to my contact at said magazine and talked through what they’d like me to write about. It kind of sounded interesting. The money was decent. I was more than ready to be writing about things that weren’t terrible indie bands at that point. And then I asked: ‘why me?’ They said they’d heard I was ‘emotional’. And then it made sense. Ten years ago, ‘emotional’ was a code word for ‘that person might have some mental health issues’. If you were stressed, you were ‘emotional’. If you were upset about something, you were ‘emotional’. The other word that came like a sidecar bolted onto this was ‘needy’. And being tagged ‘needy’ was a terrible thing! Being called ‘needy’ was the herpes simplex of mid-noughties magazine journalism. You could try anything to get rid of it, but it wasn’t going anywhere. I’ve had a pretty successful career in magazines — I fulfilled my childhood dream of being on staff at NME for over half a decade. Then I fulfilled my other dream of editing Kerrang! for over half another. All I need now is to get a job making puppets for the Jim Henson Company and I’ve completed the trifecta. But there are still elements of the magazine industry that think: ‘James McMahon? He’s emotional. He’s

needy’. Hmpf. As a friend of mine tarred with the same brush once said to me: ‘sometimes people are needy because they need things’. So me and the women’s magazine editor talked on the phone for a while. That thing I said about ten years ago being another world? Well, I don’t think the phrase ‘mental health’ was used once. Now, I’d tell a stranger in the street that I struggle with often debilitating anxiety, fair to middling OCD, topped off like rancid Hundreds and Thousands with negative thought disorders. I mean, the stranger in the street might cross the road, but I’m empowered enough now to think it was their problem not mine. But then? Then I was ashamed of the brain I’d been given. And, as a fairly ambitious sort — like a lot of 80s kids raised in northern pit villages, who’d gatecrashed this world of words and pictures and creativity, and who vowed to never ever go back — I worried that having this brain might affect being considered for bigger, better jobs. And then came the question: ‘have you ever tried to kill yourself?’. Truth be told, I’ve never tried to kill myself. I’ve thought about it a lot, and for as long as I can remember. But it’s like this; when I’m playing a video game, and it’s really hard, I sometimes think: ‘fuck this, I’ll just turn it off’. It is like this that I think of killing myself. Have I ever tried to do it? No I haven’t. Life is wonderful. I just wish my brain would allow me to enjoy it a bit more. A pause. A pretty big one. ‘Oh, actually, I’m not sure we’ll need the piece after all then.’


h I’m so pleased that Marbles exists. I’ve always wanted a magazine like this. I’m going to be so proud to see my words printed within. Because I’m 37 years old. I remember vividly talking to my friends on the way back from Tae Kwon Do lessons at the local swimming baths when we were little about what the future might hold (and whether the Ultimate Warror had a chance of beating Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VI). We talked of flying cars and hoverboards and teleportation and all the things little boys talk about. Obviously, Warrior aside, none of these things happened. But for me, the fact that Marbles exists now, is as remarkable as if any of those things had.


James McMahon is a writer/illustrator from the north of England. He lives in London. He is perhaps the only northerner ever to prefer the south to the north. Previously he was editor of Kerrang! magazine for six years. Before that he worked at NME in a variety of roles for eight. In spite of ‘wretched, near debilitating anxiety’, he’s made a living writing for The Guardian, New Statesman, Big Issue, Shortlist, Vice . . . oh, we could be here all day.


‘Life is wonderful. I just wish my brain would allow me to enjoy it a bit more.’

helen millington I am an artist and art teacher based in Kirkcaldy, Fife. My latest work is based on my personal battle with mental health and the unfortunate stigma attached to an illness that can appear invisible. I have recently graduated from the University of West of Scotland with a MEd in Arts Education. I submitted a series of work which is a reaction to derogatory comments and harassment I received. The pieces are a mix of paint, pen, and digital media. The following untitled piece is the first: a self portrait merged with a skull symbolising the fragility between life and death. More of my work can be seen on my blog.


GayP Felicity Anderson-Nathan

Much of the research done on LGBT mental health is divided between gender identity and sexual orientation and, as such, I’ve focussed on anxiety as it affects lesbian, gay and bisexual people and have not gone into depth on trans specific experiences. There are of course trans people who are also lesbian, gay and bisexual and this distinction is not intended to exclude trans people, deny their importance in the LGBT community, or to discount their own struggles with mental health. ‘Now you’re just another queer with an anxiety disorder.’ This is what I thought to myself as I finally acknowledged the reality of my mental health. It was obvious — on days where I didn’t implode in panic attacks I was filled with deep, nameless dread. My chest was so tight I thought I might have asthma. I was afraid of calling the doctor, of being alone, of being in crowds, of falling asleep, and of the bouts of insomnia which kept me awake. In all of that fear, though, I found space to be afraid of something else


— of being a statistic. In between gay as in happy and queer as in fuck you there’s a whole load of LGB and clinically unwell. Numerous studies have found that we’re at higher risk of mood disorders, self harm, substance abuse, and suicide. Why? The medical establishment in general, and mental health services in particular, have a bad history with LGB people. Freud characterised homosexuality as arrested sexual development caused by inadequate parenting and even tried to psychoanalyse his lesbian daughter straight. Homosexuality was formally removed from the DSM in 1973 but it was only in 1987 that it was fully de-pathologised. Gay conversion therapy remains legal in most of the world, including the UK. Your doctor can’t diagnose you with ‘sexual orientation disturbance’ any more, but it’s not all rainbows and SSRIs. I was afraid to bring up the subject with my GP who had already

Panic demonstrated her biases when discussing my sexual history. I had heard horror stories of therapists who recommended that lesbians break up with their girlfriends, told bisexuals to ‘pick a side’, and picked apart gay men’s sex lives. In a survey by the charity Mind, 20% of lesbians and gay men and 33% of bisexual men stated that a mental health professional made a causal link between their sexual orientation and their mental health problem. I was already close to breaking point and the thought of going through a potentially traumatic vetting process daunted me. I was afraid that my sexuality would be demonised and that my mental illness would undermine the progress I’d made in coming out to my family. It would be like admitting that my gayness was a problem, never mind that the trigger for my anxiety had been completely unrelated. It’s natural to want to defy the negative messages we receive, but the truth is our sexuality can be connected to our mental health. Bullying, social exclusion, loneliness, and good old fashioned self loathing can all lead to mood disorders; even in a case like mine, I suspect that years of insecurity about my sexuality set me up for a crisis when something else went wrong. We have to be able to accept that while the pressures we face in a homophobic society can put us under

mental strain, being gay in itself doesn’t make us broken. Self-acceptance is one the biggest factors in achieving good mental health outcomes. It’s something LGBT health organisations recognise too — my local LGBT Health and Wellbeing chapter has regular events focussed on mental health, while the NHS is working with the charity Stonewall to try to improve their care of LGBT patients. While it was alarming that so many people in my online and real-life circles seemed to pair their sexuality with a diagnosis it also meant that there were a lot of people who understood me and my experience. Their resilience inspired me and gave me the community and love I needed. While I still wouldn’t say that I’m proud to be anxious, I do accept it and the ways it’s been shaped by my sexuality. I’m another queer with an anxiety disorder, and that’s okay.


Felicity Anderson-Nathan is a writer, tutor and freelancer. Her work has been published by Dear Damsels and performed at the Edinburgh Book Festival Story Shop and That’s What She Said. You can find her on Twitter @flick_writes. 25 | MARBLES

Claire Sawers

‘I’m unpacked now at least,’ she says through a very relieved-sounding exhale. ‘I’ve carried certain weird postcards and pictures around since I was 16. I don’t feel grounded until they’re up on the wall. There’s a B52s postcard, an old photo of my grandma, science stuff by other artists . . . I’m someone that really needs a home, and my things around me. Living out of a suitcase was exciting for about a month, after that I started getting edgy — it didn’t help my mental health.’ Scheele’s been creating comic books, zines, and illustrations for over a decade now, often dealing with messy emotions and more complex mental MARBLES | 28

health issues. Her work in the past has covered bad breakups, dating, anxiety, gender roles, identity crises, and depression. ‘I suffer from an anxiety disorder, which I don’t mind talking about. I do a lot of autobiographical comics so it’s all out there already. I’ve always used doodling as a way to get things straight in my head.’ Scheele was working at Forbidden Planet in London when she began drawing as a way of coping with a lot of changes and stress. ‘I didn’t sit down and decide to do that, it happened naturally. I enjoyed reading comics about other

people’s lives. It made me realise how common anxiety and depression was. It all seemed very relatable and made me feel less weird. I was surrounded by this little community of illustrators and that’s when I started self-publishing.’ Over the years, drawing for herself expanded into a full-time job, leading to graphic design work and commercial projects including an animated video about the NHS. In 2014 she and a friend set up One Beat, a zine-making collective whose aim was ‘to produce anthologies and distribute cheap-andcheerful zines by women with strong intersectional feminist voices, and to work with women of all

ages and backgrounds.’ Last year she also illustrated Queer: A Graphic History, a non-fiction comic book about queer thought and activism, written by Dr Meg-John Barker. ‘My work varies. Some of my freelance work can be almost mechanic so that’s okay, but if I’m having a bad mental health phase, the personal projects — which need much more input — can be really hard. That misconception about depression making you more creative is really damaging and not true.’ Scheele has gradually got better at coping with bad periods of anxiety. ‘I used to feel pressure to be “always on” and constantly productive. I’d 29 | MARBLES

beat myself up for running behind with work, for example. I’d start these cycles of self-hate when I felt I’d slipped up. Now when I feel tired and low, I take a break right away. I realise it’s not a personal failing, or some flaw in my character. My anxiety is an illness and I’m still working on ways of dealing with it.’ Although her first experience of taking antidepressants back in 2010 wasn’t a success (she decided citalopram wasn’t for her and gave it up after three months), she tried medication again this year. Facing a stressful phase as she moved from London to Scotland, Scheele was dealing with panic attacks and vivid anxiety dreams, so started taking sertraline. Although she felt nauseous for the first month, and emotionally numb, the side effects settled and she says it’s been helpful. ‘I had so much to do, I needed something to help me function. I also used an online CBT course and face-to-face therapy. Different people react differently to different meds, and also need different types of treatment. Finding a good therapist is like dating; you need to shop around for something that suits you.’ Besides NHS-prescribed treatments, Scheele says the next most important thing has been a solid friendship group. ‘It took me years to get here. And not everyone has that. I still need to go to professionals for help. But being around friends who can relate, who you can hang out with without needing to be entertaining, that’s a huge help. Performing is incredibly tiring.’ She’s glad illustration and comics have given her a place to speak honestly about what she’s going through. ‘It’s stigmatised to talk too much about mental health but for me it’s been essential. Friends have worried that it’ll put off future employers. I realise I don’t do well with people that repress stuff. Their mental health issues aren’t compatible with mine!’ Follow Julia’s work at or on Twitter @juliascheele


Claire Sawers is a freelance writer living in Edinburgh. She writes mostly about the arts and music and people doing interesting things. She has been published in The Times, The Guardian, Haaretz, Resident Advisor and The Wire. MARBLES | 30


Harry Harris


In March 2017, Hibernian manager Neil Lennon held a press conference to discuss an incident he had with Morton manager Jim Duffy, the transcript of which can be read in full on The Daily Record. It’s clearly pitched in a scandalous, sensationalised way: ‘furious press conference’, ‘astonishing tirade’. At one point a journalist asks Lennon: ‘is this the angriest you’ve felt in football?’.

Throughout, Lennon is undeniably furious, but his frustration stems from what he perceives to be the media’s opinion of him — as an agitator, someone who brings these things on himself — ‘I warned you, don’t make it out to be Big Bad Lenny, and you have done it. You are taking fucking liberties.’ The way people seemed to goad Lennon it’s as if they didn’t know, or didn’t care, that he’s had a history of depression, dating back to his time as a player with Leicester City, and first spoken about in his 2006 autobiography Man and Bhoy. Indeed, a couple of months later, after the season had ended,


with Hibs getting promoted as champions, Lennon revealed he’d suffered with depression during the campaign.

In an interview from around the time of Man and Bhoy, he talks about how his depression is genetic, that his sister and his mother both also live with it, but beyond that, this is a man whose career has been beset with off-field issues. Sent death threats in 2002 after saying he wanted to play for an international team representing a United Ireland (he retired from international football as a result), assaulted in 2008 by two men who were subsequently imprisoned, separately sent packages containing bullets and parcel bombs in 2011. One would think that any attempts to portray Lennon as an angry or volatile character should be at least be contextualised with this in mind — when you consider this plus a history of mental illness, then sensationalism in the manner of that Daily Record write-up seems irresponsible at best and callous at worst.

THE NGER NEIL By now, football should know better. It was 2011 when former Wales captain, then Wales manager Gary Speed committed suicide. Two years previously, young German goalkeeper Robert Enke did the same, his life and illness chronicled in Ronald Reng’s book A Life Too Short. Former chairman of the Professional Footballer’s Association Clarke Carlisle made an unsuccessful suicide attempt in 2014. This year too, Everton and England winger Aaron Lennon was detained under the mental health act. Each of these cases has been followed by outpourings of support, pundits and commentators developing social consciences, imploring young men to talk about it, to seek help. It speaks to the growing consciousness people have around mental health issues, particularly among young men, and the work of organisations like CALM and Mind — but it never seems to last.

Neil Lennon’s reputation will likely continue to precede him throughout his career, his on and

off-field achievements — League Cup wins with Leicester, captaining and then managing Celtic, returning Hibs to the Scottish Premiership — always tempered by this idea of him as volatile, nononsense, old fashioned, troublesome, angry. And look, tribalism, rivalry — these are part and parcel of being a football fan. They’ll never go away, but if those involved in the game are fostering these attitudes, stoking fires, at the expense of a person’s safety, then we’ve learnt nothing. It’s all well and good saying we should talk about mental health, but if nobody’s acting on it then you have to wonder whether anybody is really listening.


Harry Harris is a writer and musician based in Edinburgh. He’s been featured in Mundial, Nylon, VICE and The Skinny.



Mark Lockyer is a stage and screen actor who has worked extensively with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre of Great Britain; his filmed credits include Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and the Olivia Colmanstarring London Road. He walked out on the RSC in 1995 in the midst of a major breakdown, but is now back with the company, as well as telling his story in the one-man touring show Living With the Lights On. Interview by David Pollock. ‘After I recovered from my first major bipolar breakdown, I realised I had an incredible story worth sharing. I was standing on stage in a matinee production of Hamlet at the Globe when it came to me. I couldn’t pretend that something extraordinary hadn’t happened. The people I’d met, the places I’d been . . . if I told people the tale, would they believe me? ‘I was eventually diagnosed after nearly two years MARBLES | 34

of freefall through hospitals, prison and secure hospitals. Committing a serious crime and going to prison was my salvation, because my mental health was taken seriously there. In October of 1997 I was finally diagnosed with mixed state bipolar affective disorder, with chronic alcoholism and a skunk habit that was off the scale. Recovery has taken nearly 20 years of medication, and being abstinent from alcohol and drugs has helped my recovery soar. I go to AA and NA, and having a programme of trying to be a kinder, more thoughtful person has helped no end, I recommended it. ‘My family on my father’s side is rife with addiction and mental illness. I think I lived with undiagnosed bipolar disorder all my life, until my diagnosis in my early 30s. I was an eccentric young boy, to say the least. I’ve been an actor 32 years this year, and 11 of those I lost to mental illness. ‘I’ve no doubt that suffering an illness that not

WITH HTS ON all work environments, and that’s a good thing. When I fell ill in 1995 even GPs were uneducated about mental illness. My workplace was incapable of supporting me because they didn’t understand. It’s not like that today. I’ve found that lowering my expectations and keeping my ego in my pocket helps keep everything in perspective. Being honest when I’m struggling and remembering that however bad things get, nothing stays the same, is sometimes the best we can do. It gets better, it really does. One foot in front of the other. Life is worth living, it’s all we have and I try to make the most it.’

many understand has affected the way I’m viewed, particularly as I committed a crime. However, I can never know what others really think and indeed it’s not my business, they can think what they want. Yet many people have been very forgiving, and people like my agent stood by me through thick and thin. Loyalty is a value I hold very close to my heart. ‘The show is really simple, it’s me telling the story of what happened. I play all the characters; doctors, my mum, policemen and, of course, the Devil. You can’t have a show about mental illness without the Devil, can you? It’s also very funny, I take the piss out of myself incessantly because I was such a prat. ‘Support for people with mental health issues in the entertainment industry is getting better, as it is across

For more information about Living with the Lights On, visit


David Pollock is an arts, music and feature writer from Edinburgh. He writes for The List, Scotsman, Independent, Guardian, Mixmag, Big Issue and many other titles, and has discussed music and other subjects on BBC Radio Scotland. @thelatedave 35 | MARBLES

Gianluca Bernacchi Marie Collins

Matt McGoldrick Duncan Carswell

Marie Collins’ place in Scottish art pop group The Vegan Leather is an ever-changing one: onstage switching from guitar to synths to battering floor toms or rattling cowbells. ‘Live performances can get pretty boisterous, but the actual physical act of playing instruments in front of a tumultuous crowd releases a great deal of tension and stress for me,’ she says. ‘To physically perform something that you have written, and put a lot of love in to, is a feeling that I’ll never get tired of.’

Kirstyn Smith

We’re discussing the ways mental health relates to songwriting, from the emotional attachment surrounding writing lyrics, to the physical release of live performance. ‘The whole songwriting process from bedroom to stage is an extremely beautiful, challenging, and rewarding one,’ she says. As a painfully quiet young girl at school, it was music that opened her up to being able to understand and portray her identity in the way she wanted. From 37 | MARBLES

There is a lot of talk about the “tortured artist and I think we have a tendency to look at musicians... and romanticise their mental illness.

badgering her mum for drum lessons aged nine (they compromised on guitar), through a childhood soundtracked by the Clash, Blondie, and Stevie Nicks, to performing as part of her school’s talent contest (Kate Nash’s ‘Foundations’, complete with fake English accent and mustard tights), Collins soon began to depend on music for socialising and as a creative outlet. ‘I longed to be part of something bigger and outside of myself. I wanted to be in a community that strived towards a creative goal, and to really belong. I think I’d always been a bit socially anxious, but playing music made sense.’ Back in 2011, Collins was mentored by Dan Willson (aka antifolk troubadour Withered Hand) as part of a project called the Fruit Tree Foundation, set up by fellow Scottish music luminaries Idlewild’s Rod Jones and the Delgados’ Emma Pollock. Together, they worked on some music, exploring the nature of everyday living and appreciating smaller things of life. Although Collins thought the Fruit Tree Foundation was going to be useful to help her to promote mental health, it, in turn, unexpectedly helped her own mental health by building her confidence as a songwriter. ‘For young people, using creativity to explore the issues of mental health is extremely effective,’ she says. ‘After my experience with the project, I began to realise there was a definite and clear connection between the music industry and mental health.’ The day-to-day reality of being part of a band is something Collins sees as being both helpful and detrimental towards mental health. The Vegan Leather, her project with bandmates Gianluca Bernacchi, Matt McGoldrick and Duncan Carswell, has been fast-rising: they’ve amassed a hardcore fanbase and headlined the King Tut’s stage at the first TRNSMT festival this year. But while Collins can understand why the rock’n’roll lifestyle is appealing, it’s not without its drawbacks. 39 | MARBLES

‘There is a lot of talk about the “tortured artist” and I think we have a tendency to look at musicians like Nick Drake, Ian Curtis, and Kurt Cobain and romanticise their mental illnesses. In reality, there’s nothing cool about feeling shit.’ On a personal level, Collins finds the pressure to achieve, lack of routine and irregular working hours are the main factors that affect her mental health; the calmness and mayhem of a show plays havoc with her emotions. ‘You’ll be on an extreme high playing a packed-out venue, with the crowd screaming your lyrics back, and then fast forward eight hours and you’ll be helping your granny to the supermarket.’ The main antidote to such an asymmetric lifestyle comes in the form of a decent support system. Her Vegan Leather bandmates are her closest friends, she says, putting this down to the connection they’ve made through music. ‘If we play a good show we revel in our success. If we play a not-so-good show, we’re there for each other. It’s like having a therapist, only you help them out too. You’re at your most vulnerable when you’re creating something, and to feel vulnerable together is a very powerful thing.’ MARBLES | 40

nothing cool about feeling shit.


P OR Eris Young


It colours your days grey and saps your higher functions, especially your creativity.’

I’m ten, and I’ve just been diagnosed with ADHD. I’ve been put on medication and now I’ve got more tics and twitches than you can shake a stick at. I can’t step on a pavement crack, I blink all the goddamn time, and in order to fall asleep I have to do this weird humming thing, to the alarm, no doubt, of my parents. At 15 or so I’m on a better medication, but now gender dysphoria has begun to set in, and because I’ve got no language with which to talk about it, with it comes anxiety. I lie awake thinking about anything and everything. Around this time I also begin to write, and I start thinking about stories as I try to fall asleep, without realising that this is a surefire way not to do so. At university there are nights I can’t seem to fall asleep at all, and I create a kind of divination to try and rationalise them: the Santa Ana winds, the full moon, even solar flares are blamed. I realise now that I was desperate to categorise and label these miserable nights as anomalies; ascribing them to a discrete, measurable force of nature meant I didn’t have to live in fear of a monster that could strike without warning. I’m no stranger to mental illness. But the spectre that’s followed me around the longest, the thread binding the corpus hippocraticum 43 | MARBLES

of my mental illnesses is insomnia. Insomnia is pernicious and pervasive. Even on good days it can work its fingers into the cracks in your life and begin to prise them apart. It colours your days grey and saps your higher functions, especially your creativity. There are nights I’ve feared that I might never sleep again, and that fear is so strong I still cannot watch thrillers or horror movies that use sleep deprivation as a device. At times, even quite recently, it has seemed like anything could destroy a night of sleep — being in a strange place, ill, injured, anxious, even sitting up at 8pm to write this article in front of my computer is a gamble — and it’s insomnia’s longevity, the delicacy of my sleep ecology, that has turned it from an annoyance into a chronic condition. I have known many, many people who suffer from insomnia, but I’ve never seen it discussed as a legitimate illness in and of itself.

Insomnia is isolating because it’s seemingly impossible to comprehend for a non-insomniac: ‘Just turn your phone off before bed’, ‘Have you tried aromatherapy? Yoga? A white noise machine?’. Yes, I have. We all have. For an insomniac, going to sleep is a concerted effort, a skillset you have to build. And perhaps it is only my desperation to claw some valuable lesson back from the massive time-sink that is this illness, but I could swear it’s taught me some things, cultivated in me a level of self-discipline that would be absent otherwise. Controlled breathing, indeed, even meditation. I’ve become a master at sleep hygiene. Most of all, though, I’ve found that exercise has a tangible effect on the quality of my sleep, so I’ve become a Person Who Jogs. I understand that I am very lucky: if not for the vast green space that is Holyrood park, a mere two minutes from my front door, it would be impossible.

There doesn’t seem to be a gene or neurotransmitter responsible for it. It’s framed as a symptom, one whose myriad causes make it only nebulously treatable, with meditation techniques, herbal cures, and drugs of dubious safety and even less efficacy. So when I’ve had a bad night, I’m forced to come up with an excuse, a ‘real’ illness, to justify taking the day off work. ‘I’m too tired’ just doesn’t seem to go over well. Is this because we live in a society that glorifies overworking oneself, burning the midnight oil, addiction to coffee awwnd tea? You’re tired? We’re all tired. ‘Sleep is for the weak’, say those who go without of their own volition.

But sometimes these habits are not enough, and sometimes the very effort of maintaining them is itself exhausting. After a night of bad sleep the mental energy required to get into that meditative state, the self control required to turn off Netflix and get out a book, is often simply absent. So I’m not cured. I still wear earplugs to bed and I still sometimes have to go upstairs and tell my neighbours to shut the fuck up (seriously, who has a house party on a Wednesday night?) but I’m getting there, and every time I go out for a run I hate it a little less.

_ Eris Young is a queer writer and editor whose work focuses mainly on transgender issues, though they dream of writing the next great epic fantasy novel. Originally from Southern California, they moved to Edinburgh for the lit scene and, apparently, the damp. MARBLES | 44

I have known many, many people who suffer from insomnia, but I’ve never seen it discussed as a legitimate illness in and of itself.’


this is why we

can’t have



Esther Beadle

This is why we can’t have nice things. You come into the living room. You don’t look at me. You sit on the other sofa. I know, just know what this means. It means that you hate me. I ask why. I plead with you. I want to know what I have done wrong. I can’t drop it. I ask and ask again. Two hours later you tell me it’s over. This is why we can’t have nice things. I am lying in bed. I am thirsty. I don’t deserve water. I stay thirsty. MARBLES | 48

scrapes moments that should be cherished into fear. Fear they will not last. Fear of the blackness that will come later when the cherished inevitably dies.

I am nothing. I am down and dormant and dead. This bed is a desert. It is sandpaper dry like my hollow rattle bones that clutter and my mouth that caverns with woodchip teeth. I do not understand that my body needs water. I cannot hear it. I do not understand.

The red hot extremes burn holes into the hearts of men who love passionately for all of six weeks.

‘You should make some time for yourself.’

My borderline disordered personality stretches to the end of the earth and back until it swallows everything it loves whole.

‘You should self-soothe . . . have a nice bath.’

Is it better to burn out than to fade away?

I do not deserve these things. They make me hate myself more. I enjoy my bath. I am a bad person. There’s a million things I should be doing other than wallowing in this heat and steam. Heat and steam rising so much it hurts. I am not enjoying this. I don’t know what enjoyment is.

Every swallow and gulp of good and bad repeats and repeats and the cavernous belly of emotion is never filled. It is too full. It spills and bubbles over. There is too much emotion here and not enough room to carry it. It drowns us all.

Being kind to myself does not work. Being kind to myself makes me want to hurt myself.

This is why we can’t have nice things. I cry. I cry because this moment is beautiful. It is too beautiful to exist. It will not last. I cling and grasp so hard that it shatters between my fingers. Like a mirror that slices air and flesh and all you can see when you look down is the reflection of what was once so perfect spitefully taunting you from the shards of window glass, smattered with blood.

This is why we can’t have nice things. I love you. I absolutely love you. We will dance around the kitchen, we will marry, we will set up shop on the wild windy coast line and laugh and love until we spin into the forever. I spin you too far. Too fast. Your fingers fall from mine. You slip out of my arms and into the breeze and you get carried away. You get carried away because I got carried away.

Every purest joy becomes tainted and shadowed and smeared with that steaming ruby thick claret of ‘Well, you tried. And look what happened.’ It sabotages. It runs away. It enjoys too much. It does not understand. It destroys.

This is why we can’t have nice things. Borderline personality disorder twists and turns and

This is why we can’t have nice things.

_ Esther Beadle is a freelance journalist and mental health campaigner. She was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder last year. She tweets at @estherbeadle and likes videos of baby goats. Do with that information what you will. 49 | MARBLES

lo Photo Š Steven Reynolds

oki Kirstyn Smith


‘For me it’s all about emotional truth and literacy.’

Photo © Steven Reynolds MARBLES | 52

the media and academia.’ He speaks about growing up in Pollok in Glasgow, the son of a singer-songwriter who became a single parent at a young age. Where wearing the wrong trackies or trainers could end in a fight. Where intelligence was a seen as a weakness. ‘I only realised how bad Pollok was after I had visited Byres Road, which felt like another country ‘Because I’m a rap artist, people assume I’m deliberately trying to provoke people with PTSD. I’m not. I’ve suffered PTSD, so when I address this issue, then I come from a place of understanding.’ Scottish rapper Loki, aka Darren McGarvey, is explaining the concept behind the title of his latest album, Trigger Warning. The term ‘trigger’, he says, refers to a number of things: ‘It’s a reference to content warnings, which are designed to forewarn people about themes or suggestions that may upset them. Then it’s a reference to political events triggering each other; Scottish independence, Brexit, Trump and the rise of the far-right.’ It’s a phrase that sums up everything that’s going on in the world, he says, both politically and culturally, as well as referring to the third and final theme of the album involving the literal trigger of a gun. ‘I’m just throwing everything into a pot and cooking it for other people to try,’ he says. ‘That’s what the album attempted to do, through character, narrative and plot. It’s part one of a fully realised story which examines the current world as experienced by the ostensibly privileged white male, in the broader context of nationalism and identity politics. It’s a concession that toxic masculinity is real, but that we require something more sophisticated than othering and condemnation to tackle it.’ Art is supposed to be challenging. And Loki, obviously, given the album title, likes to challenge and be challenged. He acknowledges the fact some in some corners of the internet, he is regarded as ‘controversial’, but also points out that the term feels a bit like pigeon-holing. ‘I know I have a confrontational nature sometimes that doesn’t help. I’m working on that. In the real world, where I am invited into prisons, primary schools, residential care homes, colleges and universities, my work is appreciated and, to some extent, well understood both by the public as well as

altogether. My first thought after coming off the underground at Hillhead was: “So, this is how people dress when they aren’t afraid they’ll get stabbed?”’ Because of his childhood and upbringing, he has explored at length the links between antisocial behaviour, social deprivation and mental ill health. Stress, he says, is a culprit. ‘Stress is the connective tissue between our many social ills such as addiction, violence and ill-health, as well as the multiple crises in our public services. In many cases, a short sharp burst of stress can be a positive force, propelling us to superhuman acts of creativity or endurance. However, prolonged stress, of the kind so many of us find ourselves suffering, can become chronic and create the fertile ground from which those health conditions grow.’ When it comes to looking after his own mental health, Loki has turned to self comprehension, responsibility and trying to be as healthy as possible, physically and mentally. ‘I understand my own impulses and drives intimately and can, to some extent, walk negative feelings back to their point of origin. For me it’s all about emotional truth and literacy; that is when you understand yourself deeply without judgement and are able to read your own emotions as opposed to engaging in delusion about why you feel a certain way.’ He read up on nutrition, learned to cook, stopped weighing himself weekly, and took up running – which also helps with his creativity. ‘I know I am alienating a lot of my fans with this heavy vegan sounding shit,’ he says. ‘But at the end of the day, if I didn’t change my life I’d be dead. If people can’t respect that, fuck em.’


t a l mheenalth & t he Crinedaustitrviees xxx Emily Reynolds


A series regular role on ITV’s Victoria, work for HBO, BBC, Mammoth Screen and Tiger Aspect and a string of theatre credits: Tilly Steele already has a pretty impressive CV for such a young actress. But that doesn’t mean that working in film and television is always as glamorous as it’s cracked up to be. ‘The level of uncertainty in this job is like no other,’ she tells me. As in other creative industries — art, music, writing — acting often involves ‘not knowing where your next job is or how you’re going to pay the rent’. That, she says, can be overwhelming and incredibly stressful. ‘Rejection is difficult,’ she explains. ‘But it’s actually the uncertainty that I think drives people to quit acting.’ Unlike writing or art, however, the film and TV industry also has an oppressive focus on image. This, too, can have a severe impact on mental health, self esteem and self confidence. ‘You’re surrounded by beautiful people in television,’ Steele says. ‘That can be really difficult for self esteem — especially when they’re filming in HD and I have a spot the size of Mordor. I just try to focus on the things I like about myself and celebrate the things I love about other people, but it’s very challenging sometimes. ‘I’m often told I’m a “character actress”, and so maybe I shouldn’t worry about not looking like a model — but that’s easier said than done.’ To deal with the stress and uncertainty, Steele has developed a number of strategies to help her through some of the more stressful facets of the industry. ‘People think the industry is very catty and duplicitous, but it’s my actor friends I lean on when I’m struggling,’ she says. ‘Talking about it with them makes it easier.’ Arming herself with small, practical coping mechanisms has also been instrumental for Steele’s ability to maintain good mental health. Mindfulness, which she started practising during a ‘stretch of unemployment’, has proved helpful here. ‘It’s helped immeasurably, both in and out of work. I can be quite self-critical, so it’s allowed me to focus more on what I’m doing in the moment, than worry about whether I’m doing a good job.’ Smaller acts of self care have also helped. ‘Music is really important for my confidence, so I always build a playlist for every role I come to,’ she MARBLES | 56

xxx 57 | MARBLES


r u o y t c e l g ‘Don’t ne

e h t r o f h t l a own he b, ause s ake of a jo b ec k c a b e m it will co .’ u o y t n u a h to


says. ‘It really helps to stay immersed in whatever you’re doing when there’s a lot going on. Especially if you’re having to do really emotional stuff, music is my go-to. You can feel like a knobhead when there’s no build up before “action!”, so I use music to create that for myself. ‘I bought some little bluetooth in-ear headphones so I could listen to music on set without messing up the beautiful period hairstyles.’ Steele’s experiences in the industry have also given her plenty of advice for those hoping for a career in a creative industry — particularly acting. ‘Make sure it’s all you want to do, because it’s only getting more competitive and you have to make sure that the work, when you get it, will be worth it. ‘Have a support system. Don’t neglect your own health for the sake of a job, because it will come back to haunt you. And if I had my time over, I would train in a skill like hairdressing instead of having gone to university. A skill like that can provide an income when you’re not working. ‘I had so many people tell me to give up before I’d even began, that I would never make a living as an actor, that I wasn’t conventionally pretty enough . . . the list goes on. But it’s been my experience that the people who feel qualified to tell you how to live your life are usually the people you should ignore.’


Emily Reynolds is a journalist, author and mental health activist from London. Her first book, A Beginner’s Guide To Losing Your Mind, was published by Hodder & Stoughton in the UK and Sourcebooks in the US. She is currently working on her second book.



In school, I was slightly above average academically and confident: perfect head girl material, but never picked first in sports. When it came to making decisions about life after school, I was easily funnelled by the subtle expectations put upon me, and last September I started a law degree miles away from my home town. Positive destination found, top marks education system ✓ End of story? I wish. There is a cliché of university being a time where people find themselves: reserved scholarly young people come out of their shells and take up binge drinking, supposedly straight people explore their sexuality, and the rich kids learn to budget, rebelling against their upbringing. The semester I became a fresher wasn’t a blur of nights out, hungover lectures, and wild societies, but a very real nightmare of sleeplessness, doctors’ appointments, and an almost constant state of panic. In the longest three months of my life, I just managed to keep my head above the surface and not drown like every part of my body was screaming MARBLES | 60

for me to do. This required medication, CBT, counselling, ridiculously supportive flatmates, an extortionate phone bill used to cry to my parents and (then) boyfriend, and — as it turns out — PostTraumatic Stress Disorder.

they were too much of my story not to be discussed. It’s been over nine months since my last day at uni and I’m still learning to accept what happened and the effect it has had on my mental health. I now work at my local community radio station, actually getting paid to have fun and one day I hope to work as a counsellor. I also work with my old school’s social enterprise, helping young people get the most out their education and as assistant direct the local Youth Theatre. Next year I’m hoping to run a marathon.

This wasn’t part of the plan. As the term went on, my stress levels continued to rise as my sleep-deprived body desperately attempted to create enough adrenaline to get me through my end-of-semester exams. With a week to go until the Christmas break, I had a fit, and after an emergency hospital appointment with no clear diagnosis, was told by my GP that my body went into spasm in a physical reaction to extreme stress. At this point, exhaustion was preventing logical thinking and against the advice of the people around me I sat my exams before officially withdrawing from my course a couple of weeks later.

Most days I can see that I’m doing fine and have achieved some amazing things since university, but on others I can’t see beyond my reliance on antidepressants and regular counselling. Arguably, my search for a busy schedule could be a coping mechanism, but I’ll find the balance. It took me three months to accept university wasn’t for me; some people don’t even need to start uni to know, while it might take others their whole degree to realise it wasn’t for them. I won’t ever advise someone else not to go because of my experience but I would suggest also considering alternative paths.

There’s no universal guide to getting a degree, but I must have been in the bathroom when they mentioned my experience could be a side effect. I live in a very rural, close-knit community so when I first came home I dreaded answering the inevitable questions about why I had withdrawn from university. I didn’t have an answer myself yet and was far too raw to explain how my mental and physical health had declined so dramatically.

I’m looking forward to a time when what happened doesn’t feel like such a big deal and I don’t feel as resentful of other’s achievements, but right now I’m challenging my issues and focusing on being happy, and I’d take that over a degree any day.

I felt stupid and ashamed, like I had failed and let everyone down. My self-esteem was crushed. For months, I couldn’t talk about it without crying and would have to stop myself falling into panic, overwhelmed by memories of my lowest days, but

For the people that go to university to find themselves: I say they should consider dropping out. That’s when the real magic happens.

_ Esme Leitch was originally from Brighton and now lives in the Highlands. She splits her working week between the local community radio station and her old high school, where she supports students through a social enterprise scheme. She is dedicated to raising awareness of the mental health issues that face young people and one day would love to make a career out of writing.


CONTACTS If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health difficulties, you are not alone. Here are some organisations you can contact if you need to.

IN AN EMERGENCY Call 999 Visit your nearest A&E

FOR NON-EMERGENCY SITUATIONS Visit your GP. If you feel in any way that your GP is not taking your concerns seriously, ask to speak to another doctor. Visit NHS Choices via


FOR EMOTIONAL SUPPORT The Samaritans Phone free from any phone 116 123 Email Web Offering a safe place to talk any time you like about whatever is getting to you. Rethink Mental Illness Phone Mon-Fri 9.30am-4pm 0300 5000 927 Web Offering practical advice on different types of therapy and medication, money issues, and your rights under the Mental Health Act. SANE Phone daily 4.30-10.30pm 0300 304 7000 Web Offering emotional support and information for people affected by mental illness, as well as friends and family.


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