Monday, 27 May 2013

Derren Brown is fucking with my head, and other first world problems.


I read an interview with Derren Brown this morning - I've read a few over the years - they are always the same, 70%  googled back-story, a name check to the place he's currently performing in or his latest show, a bit about taxidermy, something about how nice he is, and a single anecdote about the meeting - usually about what kind of tea they have, and something along the lines of 'he dropped some change out of his pocket and apologised'. He seems to be polite, engaged, good humoured and friendly - which is quite an achievement - considering how many million times he's given the same tedious interview to a succession of lazy, faceless journalists. This one was just the same.

I really shouldn't read them - they may seem harmless on the surface - but anything to do with Derren Brown has a profound and disturbing effect on me. I've never actually watched any of his TV shows or seen him at the theatre, in fact - I've never even seen him on telly - my entire experience of Derren Brown is a succession of banal interviews and the occasion photograph online or in the papers - with the notable exception to the lead up to one brief and very abstract meeting.

I should put this into context. I have nothing against Derren Brown, quite the opposite - he's a kind of metaphor for something else - and a trigger of sorts. What I mean is… as someone who has occasionally suffered from short, deep and frightening, but very manageable periods of depression - poor old Derren Brown has unwittingly become the tiny little shove that pushes  me over a precipice into a deep, dark, yawning pit of self loathing, depressive hopelessness and unimaginable torment - which sounds a bit camp and hysterical written down - but if you've ever been depressed, you'll know what I mean. When I say short and manageable - these are periods that used to last weeks but now generally dissipate after about 15 mins, as long as I have something else to occupy my mind, like work or dog walking or figuring out how to pay the mortgage every month.

"How did this happen", you ask, "and why?" Or more likely - "what the fuck are you talking about"?

It's a long story. Years ago I bought a copy of the evening standard and there was a photograph of Derren Brown and 'friend' coming out of a restaurant (it was back in the days - not so long ago, when anyone in the public eye who was gay would have a 'friend'). He was walking slightly to the front, they had obviously been to the theatre and were carrying programs, I think they were coming out of the Ivy. Both were wearing really nice suits, both looked really happy. The suits were great (and the shoes) - exactly the kind I would want to wear, the boyfriend was spectacularly good looking, not in the traditional sense, quite ordinary looking, just…. really attractive. The big problem was Derren, he had his hands in his pockets, casual rather than swaggering - and he looked happy, really happy. Looking straight into the camera, smiling and looking happy - and as hard as I tried, I couldn't hate him for it - I just wanted to be that happy myself, in that suit, outside that restaurant, with that staggeringly beautiful man on my arm, and the shoes were quite nice too. I also fixated on the fact that everything he had, he had earned himself, through talent, hard work, and just being an OK bloke. No privilege, no rank, this wasn't some pointless celeb dragging a brain dead arm candy about for the cameras, just a nice bloke who looked happy. 

If that was just it, it would not have mattered - at the time I was at the end of a particularly shit relationship with someone who had lied repeatedly, slept with half of liverpool and managed to extort vast sums of cash from me - partly because I was gullible, partly because he's robbed me blind, and partly because I was so desperate to be liked I found myself trying very had to keep hold of someone I actually despised and had no respect for - but had such low self esteem I thought I probably deserved it. This was not the first time, up until then - all my serious relationships had been exactly the same - as my bank records will demonstrate. I've probably spent half my life pretending that my friends are not either laughing at me behind my back, or feeling pity for me, and all because I've been trying to get people to like/love/respect me - and just ending up with a sign on my head saying 'MUG'.

So - anyway - Im looking at this photograph of Derren Brown and thinking - 'that's everything I wanted, but never had - and it's probably my fault' - and it sticks in my head for months and years, whenever I feel bad about anything, that image comes to me - and I seem to torture myself with it . Over time, I train myself to avoid getting depressed or allowing things to pull me down. The only time my doctor ever addressed it was when I went and asked to have my blood sugar tested because I was worried about my diet ( vegan at the time ) and felt run down - she just went off on a tangent and assumed I was depressed ( which I wasn't ) and treated me like an idiot - which is exactly how I intend to treat her - next time I see her pissed in the pub ( frequently ). Some time later I have a relationship with someone who didn't treat me like shit, is considerably better looking that I expected or deserved, and smarter than me. They didn't cheat on me, didn't steal from me, and clearly loved me, but life got in the way and circumstances made it impossible to carry on, so we separated - which fucks us both up and I get very depressed about things - but carry on regardless and keep it to myself for a couple of years. In the end - I force myself to do things that make me better - like writing this blog, and working, and being a better judge of people, and just being in control of things. Having spent most of my life dealing with a severely mentally ill parent - I'm very aware of the pity, faint disgust and misunderstanding that mental health issues engage - but everybody has ups and downs - there is no normal - the real horror is pretending that we don't have a full emotional spectrum - good things happen - we get happy, bad things happen, we get sad - that's normal. It's not the end of the world, you learn to deal with it, if you need help - you go and get it.

And then, Derren Brown pops up again. A couple of years ago, I get a text from a friend in publishing, he's at a junket somewhere - and it goes along the lines of 'Derren Brown and partner standing in front of me - boyfriend has the most spectacular arse I've ever seen" Well that's just great, isn't it. Perfect from the front and the back. And I can't help but channel everything that's wrong in my life into one tiny and absurdly distorted fact. Derren Browns boyfriend's arse ruined my life. Or something like that.

Keeping depression at bay is like walking a tightrope sometimes, and after years of practice - I'm really fucking good at it - it's like keeping it in a tiny little box under the bed, but sometimes it gets knocked over and something gets out - and it's always something to do with Derren Brown  - it's not his fault, but he'll just have to learnt to live with it, as I do. No matter how hard I try - I can't help it - he always kicks me off - usually for about 10 mins at a time, but that 10 mins - a bit like being at the top of a roller coaster and feeling your guts wrench and twist - is pretty fucking terrible.

Epilogue ( this bit is quite funny )

Last year, just before Xmas - I was bullied into helping out with the pub quiz at a local bar/restaurant - I REALLY didn't want to do it, but had my arm twisted hard enough to agree. I wasn't in a very good frame of mind but had my 'happy' face on - at one point I sat on a chair with a drink in front of me, a room full of fucking idiots and an aching desire to be ANYWHERE else - and I looked towards the bar, where a youngish, fairly obviously gay bloke with his boyfriend, wearing tight jeans and with great hair,  was ordering a drink. The first thing that came into my head was, "Christ - he has the most spectacular arse I have ever seen". (you can see where this is going, can't you ).  If you are wondering, I can attest that Derren Brown is shorter in real life than I expected, not exactly good looking, but really attractive - very friendly and good natured, and wears a hat indoors. His boyfriend - apart from having a spectacular arse, is also staggeringly handsome. They seemed very happy. I read an interview with Derren Brown a few years ago - he says he never bothered to 'come out' because it didn't matter and nobody really cared, until he met someone he loved, and realised that it was unacceptable to deny who and what they were, was incredibly disrespectful to his partner - and he had no right to be happy until he did, which I though was pretty fucking smart. And brave, you get the life you deserve, and even in that he's mocking me.

I still get a punch in the guts every tine I see Derren Brown - nothing to do with him, he's just a metaphor, and I'm not even sure if I ever wanted to be in that photograph, in that suit, wearing those shoes - but I've always wanted to have that smile on my face. You can never really be happy unless you know what you want. By the time most of us have worked that out - it's too late. I've stopped beating myself up for all the mistakes I've made - except for those brief little episodes when I fall into black holes, and Derren Brown is always in there with me.

Perhaps I should stop following him on Twitter? (actually… he's quite boring, really )

*fact check:1  for the pedants, Derren Brown has a house a few miles up the road - which is why they drink in The Ship in Winchelsea Beach

*fact check 2. This is what happy looks like


7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hands down best blog post I've read all year. Thank you for sharing.

Steerforth said...

Ditto. Brilliant stuff. I've liked Derren Brown ever since he said that his motto in life was "Try not to be a wanker".

Re: depression - I've never been able to write a blog post about it, because it feels like trying to describe infinity, so I take my tricorn hat off to you.

Anonymous said...

A little masterpiece, thank you.

denise528 said...

I watched Derren Brown for the first time ever last night. OMG, I swallowed the deception, lies, misguidance, magic...hook, line and sinker...and loved it.

Ain't life like that. so much of society tells me is the same. I reckon that's what Derren is trying to tell me, don't be dumb about the reality you live in.

I love his motto, Try not to be a wanker, which sums up why he does what he does. Teaching me not to be fooled.

Very cool blog.

denise528 said...

Oops, I meant 'society (religion, press, politics, advertising) lies, deceives, misguides) does the same thing Derren does. It's much funnier when it's on the tele. Less so when it's the structure we live by.

Yep, trying not to be a wanker.

denise528 said...

fuuuccck, I give up, I really sound like a wanker. Those comments make no sense. Kept hitting the wrong laptop keys.

Anonymous said...

Love love love the blog. The only reason I'm on it is cos he is doing my fucking head in too. But for different reasons. P.S. noticed the typo :)

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