Jonny Callender's thoughts on CURL & Mental Health for Dials Festival
Name: Jonny Callender
Role: Drummer, Producer, Gent
What does ‘CURL’ mean to you?
Curl is always a reflection of our journeys in life.
To start out that might sound like a really pretentious statement, but on point of further investigation you find out and understand what it really means; Curl is a real sense of belonging.
It’s a beautiful romance between the south coast of the UK and the south coast of France.
We don’t necessarily have a political agenda, not that we are not political, but our art form is made up of all the glory in our lives, but it’s also all the darkness in our lives brought together. I think it is important, because otherwise musically you then become stylised; do you know what I mean?
Jonny on mental health
How is your mental health currently, how are you feeling?
Good, I’m managing. I think I’ve learnt to manage my mental health in recent years, through trouble and strife.
How old are you...if you don’t mind me asking?
Old enough! I’m a Dad, and I’ve lived life a bit.
When I was younger, mental health organisations and mental health issues came to the fore in society so people started talking about it more openly; I was very much in the school of thought “pull yourself together, what’s wrong with you”.
About 12 years ago, I went through a succession of very traumatic things in a very short space of time like bereavement of parents, a divorce, a baby, moving house, all areas of life, you know. One day I was in the supermarket and I kind of fainted and I’d never fainted before. It was only for a split second but it felt like someone had driven a lawnmower through my head. I can’t describe it, it was scary but wasn’t painful.
How did you feel afterwards?
When I got home, I was a bit tired.
The next day I had this impending sensation of doom, right, it was an impending sensation of doom, like the world was closing in on me. I had paranoia, bad anxiety, felt panic attacky, heart beating fast, numb limbs, I felt like I was removed from my own body. The next day I went to see my doctor and he said he couldn’t conclude what was wrong with me.
In the end I opened up to a friend of mine who said “you’ve been suffering from terrible anxiety and panic attacks” so he lent me some relevant books and I learnt about ‘fight or flight’. It is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a tough or painful event that happens to you, a threat to your survival. You let the events happen, just flow over you. After a while your mind and body goes through this long repairing process.
What was the healing process like, and how long did it take to get your ‘normal’ life back?
It was traumatic, for about 2 months I had this sensation of impeding doom all day, every day for the whole time I was awake. It was horrific; I would not wish it on my worst enemies. It is probably one form of madness; I was questioning my own sanity. A couple of times I would wake up in the middle of the night and walk to Accident & Emergency convinced I was having a heart attack.
For me the initial stage took about 6 months, and I was not properly back to normal for about 2 years.
All these issues happened to me all at once and I had a physical reaction to it, and a rewire of my brain. I still don’t fully know what was the trigger and caused it, probably unprocessed stress, and pressures of life; things bottling up. I worry for young people now as there’s so much competition and they are bombarded with so much information about how they should be, how they should look, how they should behave.
What support did you get when you were suffering?
I was raised with 3 sisters and a loving Mum and Dad so I was taught to communicate from a young age. As a result I have no problem in sharing my emotions and struggles in life with friends, because we should share, it is good, talk about how we are feeling; the highs and the lows.
There are a lot of people out there who can’t, won’t or don’t know how to communicate, that must be a really really lonely place to be. Therefore any organisation out there that can provide a listening ear, whether it’s to someone feeling suicidal, like the Samaritans or a mindful organisation, I think is absolutely brilliant. People shouldn’t be frightened of reaching out, or speaking to them, because doing so will help to repair themselves quicker, way quicker by sharing.
Did you see any signs leading up to your fainting experience in the supermarket?
Absolutely none, I was stressed out but there were no obvious physical or mental signs at the time, I wasn’t behaving differently. Saying that, looking back, I can see I didn’t have full control over my thoughts and my mental well-being. It was frightening. It’s not like “oh I’ve got a broken arm, it’s in plaster so I can relax it’s going to fix”. My psychological reaction and feelings took complete control over me.
All these issues happened to me all at once and I had a physical reaction to it, and my brain was rewired.
Do you have any advice you can give to someone who relates to what you went through?
I exercised and talked to people I trusted – so that’s it; walking and talking.
I didn’t know at the time of anybody or organisation out there who would understand what I was going through. It was a horrific; I had an internal fire going on.
I try not to fill my life with stress and avoid unnecessarily stressful situations where possible.
I also love walking on the beach regularly in sunshine, moonlight or storm.
Having that fresh air and most importantly, time to reflect on your life, what I did that week, or want for the future can be compartmentalised in my head.
Long term I feel stronger but am aware of my delicate side, and I would always talk, listen, and support somebody who is suffering in a similar way.
Why is playing the Dials festival so important to you, and CURL?
CURL is playing Dials in support of Solent Mind, to help promote awareness of mental health issues. It is an area we all feel strongly about and are keen to help promote it, and organisations like Solent Mind that are offering practical support to those who need it.
Sharing really is caring, in this intense world we live in…