Things I Talk About When I Talk About Me.

When I was 20 I lived in Manchester with my then girlfriend Kath. We had a cat that we inventively named Cat. In hindsight our little 2 bed flat wasn’t big enough to accommodate us all, and the lack of outside space meant that Cat had no way to spend her energy other than to look me in the eye and swipe my things off of tables. It was sad when we later moved to London and our landlord didn’t allow pets but also a relief when Cat moved in with my Mum and became a proper little hunter, making the most of Surrey’s outside spaces.

I had just finished my degree and was working in retail, on the shop floor or in the stock room. I had just been to the doctor to complain of my nervousness and low moods. They were both recurring and worsening and it was making me angry. The horrible waves of panic and sadness would fill me from the bottom like that creepy Radiohead video for No Surprises where Thom Yorke nearly drowns in that fish tank helmet. The doctor diagnosed me with depression and acute anxiety. It seems bloody obvious now but at the time it was a revelation.

Cat being a dick

I start my shift in the stock room shortly after my GP visit. I’m wondering what the doctor’s diagnosis means for me and how I’m going to move forward. I’ve been prescribed medication but I have no idea what it does or how long it takes to kick in. I’ve never taken drugs before and they scare me. What if these drugs are dangerous? What if this is what kills me? My heart is now racing, hard and fast. I can feel the pressure of each beat in my ears. The racks of clothes are now towering over me and I can’t see the door. My legs give way and I’m on the floor. This is the worst it’s ever been and I need to leave. I don’t know how but I find enough strength to tell my manager I’m going home. I grab my bag, dizzy and unsteady and walk out of the store.

I’m 5 minutes away from my flat and waiting for the green man at the crossing. I imagine stepping out into the oncoming traffic and having it all be over. I picture a peaceful black stillness and begin to calm. I step out into the traffic and for a split second the blackness is reality and it’s all behind me. But then I’m back where I was, stood at the lights and traffic has stopped. I can see the green man.

I genuinely thought I had killed myself that day and have no explanation for what actually happened. I’m grateful that it wasn’t real when I’m clear-headed enough to see sense but at my darkest I still wish it had actually happened.

In the following 8 years happiness and depression took turns to visit. They would tag team each other on their way out. I married Kath (bless her bloody soul, you’ll know why as you read on) and cycled through 3 or 4 jobs until I ended up at [REDACTED]. Our wedding day was beautiful and the honeymoon an absolute dream. We were living in Camden above Fri-Chicks and opposite the sex shop. The floors were on a slope so everything rolled off of flat surfaces. It felt like we had Cat back being a dick. Eventually we made it out and moved south of the river into a much more respectable place. Things were going well so obviously everything was about to turn to shit.

A crude visual representation of Camden

My job at [REDACTED] was not for me. Actually, office jobs in general weren’t for me. There were times on my commute where I would be stood at the edge of a crossing, willing a car to gently knock me down. Not enough to get really hurt, but enough that I would probably have to take the day off to go to A&E. It was my most frequent and vivid dream. Believe it or not I couldn’t see the parallels between that and what happened in Manchester 8 years prior.

This time i’m at the train station surrounded by tory types wearing that ill-fitting blue M&S suit they all seem to have. They’re all looking at me. They know there’s something not right with me. I’m nowhere near the yellow line but it feels like I’m going to be pushed onto the tracks. I’m beginning to feel the pressure in my ears again so I turn around, tap out and sit on the floor around the corner. I’m breathing too quickly and can’t slow down. There are people running for their trains but also looking down at this pathetic bag of bones slumped on the pavement.

I literally don’t remember any more other than suddenly being at home with Kath on her way back from work to look after me. I refused to leave the house because I couldn’t go through it again. It was an unusual combination of guilt and paranoia that I hadn’t experienced before and it was freaking me the fuck out.

In the coming days Kath took time off work to teach me how to be normal again. She would order in my favourite food, we would schedule walks to Crystal Palace Park and I shit you not, play Pokemon Go. I don’t know why but those cute little bastards really helped me get back out into the world again. And how Kath found the patience and understanding to nurture me back to health is beyond me. I was basically fucking Rain Man.

A good thing that came of that experience was it pushed me to go to therapy. Every week I’d sit down with this old school hippy type dude and we would sift through all kinds of shit from my past. I won’t bore you with the details but I came out of it with a few very clear ideas. Get the fuck out of [REDACTED] and do something for myself. Be my own boss. Do something creative.

What was I going to do though? Get back into my music? Finally learn web design? Draw funny pictures of tits? Actually, I tried all of those things with varying degrees of success. The thing that brought me the most joy though was being a bit of an idiot online and trying to make people laugh. The boobs thing just felt right and somehow summed up my personality. I can’t tell you how many nights out have ended with Kath and me in a cab going home where I declare “I think I was very funny tonight”.

Antony Armstrong with tits

In September of last year I left [REDACTED] and went full time working on crudelydrawn. I should have been terrified but weirdly I wasn’t at all. I knew there was a pressure to make a success of it but I somehow just knew things would be fine. I don’t know if it was my new outlook on life or just how mega fluoxetine is but I didn’t care.

Now here I am telling you my story from a pretty good place. I’m happy but not perfect. I still have low days where the darkness creeps back but I also have the space and support around me to take time off to address it. I’m a right lucky cunt these days.

I cringe at myself as I write this but I bloody love interacting with everyone on my shop and on social media. For a shop that’s basically crudely drawn pictures of tits I don’t half get some lovely messages from people. And fuck me if I don’t get a huge hit of dopamine every time someone gets a kick out of my “Would You Rather?” questions or replies with something that makes me laugh.

I’ll wrap this up by saying:

Look after yourself.

Surround yourself with good people.

Don’t settle for the same old ordinary shit.

and

It gets better.

Oh and visit crudelydrawn.co.uk but bring money. Daddy wants a holiday.