If Merle Would Sing My Song

 

This is probably one of my favourite songs. It’s a bitter-sweet song about how somebody is looking for success, trying their hardest but isn’t getting the breaks or the opportunities that they feel they might deserve. It’s also a nice commentary on the world today when it says “But I still could be an overnight sensation / It would only take one sympathetic ear.” Because as we all know, with viral videos and trends these days, one person’s life can literally change overnight.

I perhaps relate a bit too much to this song. Perhaps not in the realm of music and playing a guitar on the streets of Nashville, but I have been writing content since I was eighteen and I have been applying for literary/journalism jobs since I graduated University. I’ve yet to find that sympathetic ear and it’s not for lack of trying.

I find this song to be quite alarming in the idea that it can literally take just one person to change your entire life. I’m also not sure how much other people realise that a simple act can change somebody’s life. It may not be a secret, I’m not sure how many people realise it, but I have written off and written open letters to people in positions of celebrity and high profiles asking for that “one sympathetic ear”. A chance to prove myself and to prove that I am good enough to put myself forward as a viable person with something to contribute to society (something which I don’t often feel currently in life). However, I have received no replies. Even those who I viewed as borderline infallible and practically perfect in every way didn’t even send me a courteous “acknowledgement but sorry” reply. It’s times like these that I feel invisible in the world.

The way I see it is that I’m in a huge hole. Probably about ten, maybe twenty feet deep. And I’m stuck there shouting for help. My friends are there and they know I need help but don’t have the resources to help me get out of the hole. Occasionally people walk by with a rope or a ladder and I try to ask them for help. Just to throw down a rope or ladder and then they can be on their way. They don’t have to jump down into the hole with me and stay with me, all I ask for is a rope.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand that it’s not an obligation to stop and help somebody out of a hole. There is no law that says they have to help me out just because somebody is in a hole and they have resources to help the person out.

Some may call me selfish, some may call me ungrateful for what I do have in life, but I’ve reached my end. I’ve been stuck for so long that I no longer know what to do without other people’s help. I no longer feel capable of getting out of this hole on my own. I’ve even been told that “that’s life” and that “dreams aren’t made to come true” but the only recurring positive I’ve had in my life is my dreams and I’m not sure what happens to my life if I decide to throw them away and give up on them. There’s an old adage that says “it takes a lot of strength to admit you need help” so I don’t believe asking for help is selfish, I believe it’s just admitting that perhaps you can’t do everything alone.

I’m probably not the only person in this position, in fact I can almost guarantee I’m not. But I’m asking for help. From anybody who has the resources/connections to help. I learned, from my time unemployed, that many people refuse to give “handouts” to those that need them. It’s no secret that a lot of people believe that a person should be able to “get themselves out of their situation” be this unemployment or purely mental health, however I have to say that sometimes it’s beyond your own capability to progress from your current situation to a better one, that’s when we need to ask for help.

Sometimes people don’t need a handout, sometimes people just need a hand.

Chasing The Likes

When I was very young and somebody asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I would tell them I wanted to be a lawyer. Then they told me that required lots of hard work and studying so I changed my mind and pursued the dream of being a writer.

I was asked the same question again when I saw my first psychologist (two years ago). My reply was simple; Actor or Writer. When she asked me if I could see myself doing anything else I replied with “I wouldn’t be happy though.” At the time I thought nothing of it but a few weeks later we had been talking more and more and she had come up with the suggestion that perhaps I find myself wanting the validation of other people more than I want the validation from myself. It was an interesting thought although I didn’t dwell on it for very long at the time. I had spent too many years wanting to be a writer or a journalist to just let that dream die.

It wasn’t until last week when I watched a viral video circulating the internet that I realised just how right she might be. The video explains about the current generation and their social media addiction. Now, I don’t believe myself to have an addiction to social media. I will quite happily leave my phone in my room while I go downstairs to watch TV. I turn the phone off when I’m at work and don’t have it with me at all. I can play games for hours on end and forget to check social media for a long time. That is, however, unless I’ve done something.

By “done something” this isn’t even specific. I could have updated my Facebook status or sent a tweet on Twitter, hell even when I share a blog post I find myself becoming slightly addicted to social media. I didn’t know why this was, I thought it was just because I wanted somebody to like and share my thoughts and ideas, turns out I was a little off the mark.

The reason my social media addiction flares up then is because the brain releases dopamine when people like, share or favourite your things. I will lunge for my phone every time it makes a noise if I think somebody might have subscribed to my blog or liked something I posted on twitter.

It’s probably not news to most people who don’t “chase the likes” because they are removed from the situation and can watch it from the outside. For people like me, we don’t even realise we’re doing it. We argue with friends when they don’t like or share a status or something. Because, to us, it means you don’t value me and I get my validation from what you think of me. I become addicted to that feeling when I see my work shared and liked or commented on. It’s an amazing feeling that actually shoots my happiness way up the charts. However, like any addict, my mood crashes when I don’t get my “hit”. When I don’t get the likes I want or the shares I expect, my mood crashes and I get depressed. These are some of the times it hits the hardest as well because I feel worthless and devalued.

The problem? I don’t know how to not “chase the likes” because it’s all I’ve ever really known. My personality was formed around social media and the internet. It is pounded into us daily that the more followers you have on Twitter the better you are. Viral videos make people celebrities. Overnight fame is achievable. It may be fickle but it’s achievable much more than it was for previous generations.

But this doesn’t help depression. When YouTubers hit a million subscribers, when vloggers get invited to television shows, this just hammers home that I’m not good enough for this world. There is a female YouTuber named Zoella who a lot of people assume I hate. I don’t hate her. I hate her celebrity status? Why? Jealousy. I need the validation that she is getting from other people. I need that following to feel worthwhile in life. It sounds sad to actually read the words back but I can’t argue with how my body reacts to things. For the record, I don’t hate Zoella. Like all YouTubers I claim to “hate” or even “dislike” it’s just jealousy. You have something I want and I’m eternally chasing the validation you get on a daily basis.

I don’t particularly even have a solution here. I’m not going cold turkey from social media because my whole life is built around social media. In my spare time I’m on YouTube. I connect with my friends through Facebook. I check my Twitter when on my break at work. I can’t cold turkey it but I do have to admit I’m an addict for the likes. I don’t know how to not crave that validation or how to find the validation within myself. I just don’t know how to do it.

I’m sorry this is another blog post that doesn’t end happily, but it’s sort of life at the moment. They say the first step is admitting that you have a problem and so please consider this my admission. However, without help, I don’t know how to quit. But, as far as I know, they don’t make chewing gum or patches for quitting others validation.

Mental Health and Unemployment

My mental health was already skewed from the moment I began secondary school, but long term unemployment definitely did not help this. Not only does everybody look down at you as useless and lazy, but very very few people are actually willing to help you unless they get some direct benefit out of it.

I was unemployed for three years (from 2011 till 2014). I aspired to be a journalist and as such was looking as ways to boost my experience because I already had the University Education, it was just the experience holding me back. I decided that I wanted to start a YouTube channel focusing on interviewing people. I wrote off to a number of well known (and at the time lesser known) YouTube personalities asking for an interview (I figured they would be the most down-to-earth and contactable people rather than Hollywood Celebs). I explained that I would be willing to travel to them (if they were in the UK) or we could do it over Skype if they preferred that. I didn’t hear a single thing from any of the people I contacted. No acknowledgement at all that I even existed. This, for an unemployed person with mental illness, did nothing to help my self-esteem and I believe was a factor in my prolonged unemployment. I’m not saying everybody needed to agree to the interview but people need to realise their actions (or inaction) have consequences. Had they agreed to an interview it may have only taken 10 minutes out of their day and changed my life completely. Had they even acknowledged my existence it might have had a different outcome. By totally ignoring a perfectly innocent and professional request it made me feel like I wasn’t worth anything, like I wasn’t important enough for their time.

This may not seem like a big deal to most people because most people don’t wish to be journalists or work in the entertainment industry, I do. This was my first step onto a ladder. It was an inventive way for me to get myself out there and gain the experience I had been told I needed to get. Nope. Nothing. And on top of that I was turned down for internships at Newspapers and Radio Stations for no real reason other than “we don’t take people” and no explanation as to why. I was devastated after these interactions that sometimes I didn’t leave my house for weeks on end.

On top of this the Job Centre did absolutely nothing to help my predicament. In the three years I was unemployed I received absolutely no help in getting a job (which is what their job is). They decided that finding a job would be easier if everything was mandatory. I went on three different CV courses that they told me I had to attend. Every time I went to a new course they told me my CV was wrong, which was odd because it had been professionally written by another person working for a CV course. Eventually I ran my course in the Job Centre (12 months I think it was) and then they threw me over to a company that wasn’t even part of the Job Centre. There was no communication between the Job Centre and this new company and as such I spent a lot of my time there repeating stuff I had already done at the Job Centre and whenever I tried to explain that I had done it they simply replied with “But it’s mandatory”. This is the Job Centre’s way of helping. They don’t actively help you, they just make everything mandatory. It really became too much when, having told them I suffer with mental illness, depression and anxiety, they told me that I would have to work full time at a recycling plant (a dump) for free or lose my benefits. This is a horrific notion – how was working full time at a recycling plant supposed to improve my prospects of getting a job in journalism? The answer? It wasn’t. At this point the Job Centre had stopped caring about finding me a job that was relevant to me (or even paid) and just wanted to force me off of their books and into an unpaid role.

Fortunately for me a vacancy opened up at a supermarket near where I lived. I applied for and got a job working there (although this didn’t come without its problems). I feel sorry for anybody unemployed now because the world has taken a dramatically sharp turn towards “It’s not what you know but who you know” and unless you know people in the right places you could be looking at years of unemployment and mental health problems.

Please, as always, if you know anybody in a similar predicament please feel free to share this link with them. This blog is set up to make sure that people don’t feel alone and know that other people have gone through similar things and come out on the other side.