Tag: suicide prevention

Long Live The Stag and Hounds

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and I couldn’t let that go by without posting something, so here’s a post.
I had a gig last night with my band, Ghost Of The Avalanche, and it was a bitter sweet show because it was the last ever gig we will play at a venue in Bristol called The Stag and Hounds, as its closing down at the end of the month. We pulled out all the stops, got some friends on stage with us and did everything we could to give the place a proper send off in true Ghost Of The Avalanche fashion and needless to say (I think it was) it was a success.

Live music for me (and loads of people I know) is a way of escaping battles in your head. It is a safe place, a place of acceptance, a place you can let go, enjoy yourself and know you won’t be judged. I’ve met dozens of people at shows who’ve said they’ve struggled all week because of whatever is going on upstairs but the couple of hours they have watched bands playing at whatever gig I’m talking to them at has totally erased all those thoughts from their head. I know that feeling well myself, and getting home after a show knowing you’ve had a few hours of ‘down time’ is a feeling like no other.

The Stag and Hounds closing down is a fucking phenomenal blow to the UK underground music scene. The bands were ALWAYS good, the beer and food is decent and cheap, the staff, sound engineers and infamous promoters are all legendary and every punter in there (at least when I’ve been there) is there for the same reason, a love of live music. Seeing it close is hard, knowing it’s one less place that people like me have to go to as a place of safety, acceptance and escape.

Last night we played a song called ‘The Park’ which is about me dealing with anxiety. I introduced it with a speech; telling everyone in the crowd to look after themselves, be open with each other, talk to your friends about your battles, that it is okay to not be okay and to look after themselves and one another.

I’m writing this to echo what I said last night. This is me talking: I am sad that my favourite venue is closing. I am scared I won’t find the exact escape I get in those walls anywhere else but I am thankful I got to spend so much time there and now it is closing, I will hold memories in that place for as long as I have the capacity to remember them. I’ve met a fuck-ton of amazing people in that place too, some of whom have become jam-mates (if you read this, waddup Matt from DC, that was fucking good fun last night!) and best friends. I love you mad people!

If you supported my bands as I played there in any way, thank you.

Long fucking live The Stag and Hounds. 

Footage of the show can be found here: https://youtu.be/R1lELlJ8sIw

Photo credit: Simon Holiday

My life with gender dysphoria, anxiety, and suicide

Published for Trans Day Of Visibility, March 31st 2017.

I have decided to go public on my battles with mental health. Society seems to be encouraging more and more people to be open with their issues in an attempt to show solidarity and support for one another. I’m hoping that – although my story is not a pleasant one – some people may find parts of it useful or even comforting. I know I’m not the only one who has had the feelings and battles I have had but I didn’t know this until reading or hearing other peoples stories. I’m now in a position to share my own and in doing so I want to show others that you’re not alone.

This is about coming to terms with gender dysphoria (GD to save typing), anxiety, self hate and suicide as well as the moments of my life that have led up to writing this post. To those who actually know me well; this won’t be easy to read, some of you might hate me for the things I say and the language will be fucking atrocious. This isn’t a cry for help or sympathy and I want it to be clear that as I write this I am the happiest I have been in my entire life. Everyone has a past, this is mine and although it may be uglier than most it isn’t as ugly as some. The point of this story is for me to tell you to talk to one another about mental health in general, and I urge you to before it could be too late.

My life with gender dysphoria, anxiety, and suicide.

When I was about 6 my parents split up and I was passed between two homes for about a year. At my mums I slept on her bedroom floor because I didn’t have my own room. At my dads I shared my sister Leanne’s bed. I loved staying at my dads because we used to watch Robot Wars on Saturday, play Lego together and Leanne would sing me songs as I fell asleep. When I was seven, my dad got pissed up and flipped his car on some ice like a weapons-grade bellend which triggered the development of cancer in his body. Six months later – two weeks before my 8th birthday – he was dead. DON’T drink and drive you fucking idiots, and stop using your fucking phone at the wheel while we’re at it!

My older sisters disappeared to deal with the death in their own way. I was forced – for lack of no other option – to move in permanently with my mum. A year or so later, We moved to another town into a house with her boyfriend whom I didn’t like, where I knew no one and where I started at a school I didn’t know. The long and short is that I wasn’t happy, I felt neglected, the house I lived in was loveless and full of lies and hatred, my sisters weren’t in my life, I missed my dad and I didn’t feel welcome in my own home. After my GCSEs I couldn’t decide what A Levels I wanted to take so I temporarily dropped out of education. My mum didn’t want to home me unless I worked full time and paid her rent (which at 16 I didn’t want to do because I still had dreams of being a fuckin’ rock star) so she threw me out. I was homeless at 16 for two weeks until my support worker Fiona found me a flat.

In the 4 or 5 years that passed (between the ages of about 16 and 21) I moved from flat to flat, making friends, doing my A Levels, playing music and getting fucked up on my dads inheritance because I didn’t know what else to do. I remember feeling angry almost all of the time. I’d spend nights alone crying for no real reason, fantasising about what it would be like if I wasn’t there. I used to shout at the ceiling ‘IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT’ as if my dad was listening but after a while I knew I was alone and that’s when it started to sink in that I didn’t want to be alive any more. I used to wonder what it would be like if I could go back and start again in a new body with parents who were alive and actually showed me they loved me.

Now on to the GD bits. It was during these years that I started to notice a change in my brain and that I was starting to feel differently about myself. I was starting to become more interested in my appearance yet feeling more uncomfortable with how I looked at myself. I started to imagine what I would look like as a girl, and I used to project my ideal image onto my girlfriends at the time. I would suggest clothes and outfits for them to wear or ways to style their hair because this was as close as I was going to get to being a girl myself. I was confused, upset and unhappy because I didn’t know who I was or what identity I wanted to have.

Enter: The Internet.

Somehow, sometime, while aimlessly browsing websites of items of clothing I dreamed of owning or wearing, I noticed that there were people out there who didn’t give a fuck about what they wore and they were actually comfortable in public wearing clothes ‘designed’ for the opposite sex. This presented me with a moment of total clarity – aside from anatomical, biological and evolutionary differences, what is the fucking difference between guys and girls? Theres no difference between black, white or Asian people so why should there a be a difference between having a dick or a pair of boobs? And why should I dress like a guy just because I was born into a biologically male body?

This was – and still is, generally – my opinion of being Gender Neutral (abbreviated to GN to save typing). Right in the middle of the GD spectrum, not seeing any difference between being male or female and having the freedom to associate with either gender. I accepted this idea as beautiful and decided this was how I wanted to live. The problem was getting there, so I started to do it in secret. I had two separate wardrobes, a ‘male’ one and and a ‘female’ one, the latter of which I never told anyone about until years later. I knew that my mum and most of my family would be blown away by the fact that I wanted to be accepted as a girl or GN and I was scared of what my friends and people around me would think.

At the age of about 22, a couple of years after I had first discovered I wanted to become GN, I plucked up the courage to tell someone about the ‘female’ me. The only reason I told this person is because she had told me something painfully personal in confidence, and as a result I knew I could trust her, so I told her how I felt. Although I still felt scared, she didn’t give a shit and was supportive, but we’ll get more into that later.

A couple of months after the above conversation (I was now 23 I think) I was fucking broke and basically my only option to not become homeless again was to move back into my mums house. I had to figure out a way to live my adopted female life now I was living under my close-minded mums roof and simply put, I couldn’t do it. She was always there and I had no privacy at all. I couldn’t talk to her about it because I knew how she would react – it’s not her fault she’s from a different generation but at the same time that didn’t help me. I was permanently male, so I was permanently unhappy. I passively took it out on my bandmates and girlfriend at the time and spent as often as possible at the bottom of a bottle. Too many of my friends were picking me up in the middle of the night and giving me a shoulder to cry on or helping me clean the wounds I’d created on my wrists. I’d have panic attacks coming home from work about going back to my fucking room and I felt like a neglected child all over again.

After playing a gig one night (I’d been living at my mums for about two months) I didn’t want to go back to my prison cell of a room so I started to walk out into the country to a spot I used to go and think at when I was a teenager. I walked for hours and hours along a fucking railway line until I didn’t know where I was. All I knew was a train from Bristol to London would be due in a couple of hours and that not long after the sun came up it would all be over. I felt ready to accept my fate and I couldn’t see that the actions I was willing to take would have consequences on other peoples lives. I felt like I was never going to be the person I wanted to be, I had fallen deep into the rabbit hole and I couldn’t see the light. I was ready for it to all be over. I dialled 999 into my phone – just incase I had a sudden change of mind or heart – and sat down on the tracks. I sat there for about an hour on the cold rail when I decided to press dial on that number, I still don’t know what it was that compelled me to call it. The dispatcher on the other end of the phone asked me what service I needed but I just sat there in silence. She asked again. I stayed silent. She said something like ‘blow the microphone if you are in danger’ so I did. She said a few more things to suss out my situation and I eventually managed to respond. I can’t remember what I said, but before long I was screaming and crying and shouting as she walked me over the phone back to civilisation, to an awaiting police car where she then ended the call. I was taken by the officer to a holding cell for my own protection, stripped of my possessions and was then was told I was being detained under the Mental Health Act. If I remember correctly, the dispatcher and responding officer decided that I was a threat to myself and I needed to be held for evaluation. I had never been so scared in my life, I fucking wished I’d never dialled that number and I’d waited for the train to hit me. Everything was now out of my control. Over the next 24 hours I was assessed by a huge team of people who very quickly determined what the root of the problem was: the relationship with my mum. Hearing this from a team of professionals felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I was released with a guidance plan and some strict instructions on what to do next, the first thing being to find somewhere new to live before my health or even my life paid the price. I learned after the above experience that it is okay to be selfish and break off relationships that are toxic or restrictive especially if it is to take care of yourself. The day I moved from my mums house was the last time I spoke to her in over three years, which was time I needed to get my head straight without our relationship hindering me.

In the months that followed, with continued guidance and help from professionals and friends, my mood drastically improved. I still had issues and I had bouts of suicidal thoughts but I now had ways to keep them under control. The main thing was that I was now living somewhere new and with enough privacy that I was able to be my female self again. I was doing so more frequently in the comfort of my home as well as starting to feel more and more confident, although I was still far from happy or ready to come out publicly.

I had lived in my new flat away from my mums house for about four months now, coasting through life and wondering what I was going to do about what was in my head, when my friend Sam was found dead in his house. A year and half later, another friend of mine, Callum, was also found dead in his flat. Same group of friends. Both of them had hung themselves. Either of them could have been me. No one knew anything was ‘wrong’ with either of them. The night I found out about Callum I decided it was time for me to address my issues because I was still feeling confused, angry and suicidal at times and I didn’t want to be the next person hanging from that fucking noose. The times of both of these deaths are the only times I’ve seen my other friend called Sam cry, and that fucking hurt watching a close friend in tears at the loss of another. I didn’t want to be responsible for being the next person inflicting that pain on him and I didn’t want anyone else to feel the pain I felt because of his sadness. So, the night after Callum’s death, I drunkenly told my friend Beth about myself, and her response was ‘can I come clothes shopping with you if you publicly come out?’ to which I answered affirmative. I’d already plucked up the courage to tell my then girlfriend about myself and she was immeasurably supportive and equally excited, so now three people knew about the female me. I went on in the coming weeks to tell my friends Charlie, Jim, Josh and Sam (I had to tell Sam because he sarcastically asked me ‘have you got gender dysphoria or something?’ in response to something I said while we were pissed up at the pub) along with my band mates Nick and James and learned that none of them gave a shit. A few more close friends and some colleagues at work were next to be told and none of them gave a shit either. After this I went and maxed out my credit card on a fucking ton of clothes from Topshop to give my female wardrobe a much needed boost and I then started to seriously consider actually going public. I bought a Deed Poll kit from a law firm and prepared to change my name. I even started to ‘teach’ myself how to walk again, taking smaller, more ‘feminine’ steps with my feet turned inwards to try and make my movements look more female. I started experimenting with make up and growing my hair and I shaved off my beard. During this time (I was now 26 in early Spring of 2016) my colleague Lily came over before going on a work do and she was the first person to see me in a pair of Joni jeans from Topshop instead of the usual mens jeans I wore in public. She said they looked nice and asked me where they were from so I told her, she responded with something like ‘you should wear girls clothes more often!’ and that was pretty much the final push I needed to go public. Thanks Lily.

A few months after that works do, in the Autumn of 2016 – after a Summer of starting to reinvent my image and changing my name and legal documents – I came out publicly via my Facebook and Instagram pages that I wanted to be accepted as GN and that I had changed my name. My legal name is now Amelia Elsa Pereira, the first two names are recognised male in places like The Med and South America yet recognised female in North America and the UK, so I chose to bridge the gap and asked to be referred to as Melia, or Mel for short – although people call me Amelia, Mels and everything in between. In truth, I don’t care what people people call me, it was more the process of changing my identity so I felt more comfortable in my own body. My old name is a name from my childhood which I am trying to forget and Amelia is a name that has no attachments to me and it has helped me re-identify with myself. Note – I have no preference over he/she/him/her etc, Whatever falls out of your mouth is fine by me (cue all my friends who just call me ‘cunt,’ thanks you massive heroes!).

Nowadays (March 2017), I tell people there is no such thing as a stupid question and encourage people to ask me about GD, being GN and mental health in general. I like it when people ask me about these things and all though I’m still not in the body I want to be in (more often than not I’d kill for a pair of boobs, but with legs like mine I guess I can’t be greedy, right?!) but I am still the happiest and most comfortable I’ve ever been in my entire fucking life.

A young girl in a coffee shop asked me recently ‘why are you wearing a skirt?’ to which I responded ‘because I’m crazy!’ which made her laugh, before her dad said ‘he’s a punk, punks don’t care what other people think!’ which really made me smile, because I had just realised I’d become one of the people I’d wanted to be that I’d read about on the internet all those years ago. I didn’t give a shit what people thought about me anymore. I was wearing two inch heels, ripped fish nets and a tight-as-fuck wet look pencil skirt with a rolled up, cut off band shirt on and my now long hair tied into a messy bandana and mascara on and I felt like the sexiest fucking person in my town. As I write this paragraph I’m wearing electric blue leggings and a top that says ‘Gender Is Over’ and the shit I’m wearing underneath would make the straightest of guys think twice about spending a night with me.

People around me tell me I am brave for coming out GN but I personally don’t think I am, although I am eternally grateful of people who say such empowering and positive things to me. The bravery in me comes from sucking up the death of my beloved dad. I came out GN for one reason only: if I hadn’t done, I would be dead. For now, I am happy – the happiest I’ve ever been – but I still have a long way to go. The relationship with my mum is very slowly starting to rebuild, although she doesn’t yet understand what’s going on in my head. I’m also on the waiting list for more specialist help as well as HRT. I have an incredibly encouraging friends around me, I have discovered a whole new level of friendship with my female acquaintances and I no longer feel shy about a clothes shop sale!

The moral of my story is this: NEVER be scared to talk about fucking anything that is in your head. Your close friends won’t judge you even when your own head is convincing you they will. I spent most of my adult life coming up with ways to disappear and it took two of my friends killing themselves after almost throwing myself under a fucking train to see clarity and sense. All I had to do was open my mouth. ANYONE you regard as a friend will listen to you, especially those who have used your shoulder to cry on in the past.

I hope anyone reading this has found something they can take away from it. Nothing is more important in life than being comfortable in the body you’re in and it is vital to remember that people around you have to and will accept you for the person you are. Be comfortable in your body, project the image you want to and adopt my life motto for your own – ‘just work with what you’ve got.’

I didn’t chose to on the gender dysphoria spectrum, but I am. I am a transgender, gender neutral human being and identifying as one is the proudest fucking moment of my entire life.

X

I wouldn’t be here or be able to write this without the help of some very important people. To Tom and Chelsie for being there in the middle of the night more times than I can probably remember. To James for answering the phone and making me put down the knife. To Nick for buying me a record which became essential in the start of my transition. To David and Alex for being my voices of reason during one of the darkest, toughest and most harrowing points of my journey. To Fiona for putting a roof over my head and for being there for fucking years after. To Clive for telling me everything was going to be okay the night it all went too far, thank you, so much. And to Hannah for helping me put things into perspective. No one should be scared or ashamed of their past and you shouldn’t either.

To Mary – the first person I ever told – thank you for getting the ball rolling just by accepting what I was saying. I owe you more than you will ever know.

Some songs that help me which may help you:

  • Against Me!: FuckMyLife666 ‘Theres a brave new world thats raging inside of me’ – this song was crucial in my coming out process (along with the whole record)
  • The Beatles: For No One – for when I miss my dad and want to cry it out
  • The Beatles: Good Day Sunshine – for when I need to be picked back up after
  • The Dillinger Escape Plan: Farewell Mona Lisa – (not for the feint hearted) for when missing Callum just gets too much
  • The Zombies: Care Of Cell 44 – a feel good song for when I’m thinking of the past.