“Not putting too much pressure on yourself, that is the big one for me.”
We chatted to Chris, from HAARM for our ‘We Love Life’ exhibition which continues through mental health awareness week at Constellations in Liverpool.
So what are your plans for today?
It’s a really beautiful day so I’m going to cycle home along the waterfront and look out across the Mersey. Then I’ll lie down on the grass for a bit probably.
Are you working, in addition to being in the band at the moment?
Yeah. I do whatever needs doing. I’ve always done jobs on building sites. Labouring jobs. That was fairly grim. But now I work at Sentric Music, which is an independent music publishing company that I’ve worked with as an artist for the last 12 years, but now come on board both as an artist and as a member of staff.
Are you listening to anything in particular at the moment?
It changes everyday and I listen to a lot of music through work. I normally come back to my favourite albums; Talking Heads 77, Weezer’s Blue album. I love that last Sufjan Steven’s album Carrie & Lowell, I listen to that a lot.
Are you reading anything?
Yeah. I’m reading a book by a chap called Mark Rice-Oxley called ‘Underneath the Lemon Tree’, about depression, but it’s a memoir type sort of thing. It sounds heavy but its not. It’s actually quite uplifting, about a guy documenting his mental breakdown when he hit his 40s. It’s an interesting read, because he was a high flyer with everything he wanted in life who couldn’t believe he was depressed, even when he was diagnosed, because he was like what have I got to be depressed about. And then he went on a mission to learn about depression and he’s documented it.
I suppose it shows you that depression can affect everyone.
Yeah, it’s not your situation, it’s an illness.
What would constitute a perfect day for you?
Perfect day, I guess just spent with friends, with no worries, somewhere warm. I love being in the sea, so probably the beach I guess. But somewhere nice and warm. Not too busy. Where I can get in and out of the sea constantly whenever I feel like it.
For what in life do you feel most grateful for?
I guess it’s being alive really. As you get older you know, sadly you lose people along the way. And sometimes you lose people maybe a bit too young, too soon. And I think when that happens to you it really makes you appreciate your friends a lot more while they’re around. When someone’s, I know a lot of people have been through it, but when someone’s whipped away from you when they shouldn’t have, when it’s not like you’re an 80 year old man and your losing your mates, when your like 30/35 and you’ve lost a couple of mates it just makes you grateful for the friends you’ve got here on planet earth now.
That’s understandable. So what does ace mental health mean for you?
I think a lot of people kind of shackle themselves with trying to be happy and no one really knows what happiness is. So I guess I stopped trying to look for happiness a few years ago and I’ve never felt happier. I don’t think you will ever be truly happy if you know, because you will always be searching for something. But just being happy with what you’ve got and not putting too much pressure on yourself, I think that is the big one for me.
So being happy with the smaller things in life and being in the moment?
Yeah, exactly. Maybe trying not to be too ambitious.
So do you do anything in particular to stay mentally healthy? What are your coping mechanisms?
They’ve changed a lot over the years. When I was younger I used to self-harm quite a lot. Like it got a bit out of hand when I was like early 20s. Then I started a course of Fluoxetine, which is an SSRI, and to be honest it has just worked wonders for me. It has really sorted me out. Given me a bit of clarity and just helped get rid of the negative thoughts that kind of creep in, or crept in quite a lot, without me, even though you kind of try and fight them away kind of thing. Basically you just have to do whatever it takes, whatever works.
Are there any other strategies you’ve put in place? Do you practice mindfulness or CBT?
Exercise is the only other thing I’ve found that generally works. Like running is so hard and boring but if you find the motivation to go and do it, its just you feel so good when you come back.
How often do you do run?
Like two or three times a week. I play football two or three times a week. Cycle to and from work every day. So I don’t know why I’m still fat. Metabolism and probably all the beer and burgers that I drink.
And is there anyone who inspires you particularly? Any artists or musicians from the past?
That’s a good question. There are so many people really. I guess, it’s quite hard to think of just one person, but anyone who kind of sticks to their own….
We practice mental health first aid here at the Mind Map, do you think MHFA would be a good thing for the music industry?
“I think that is vital. Getting help early can help a lot.”