MENTAL HEALTH TALK – by Innes Watson

Hi everyone! First I’d like to say that I am so glad that the Traditional Music Forum exists, doing what it does.

So, mental health is on the agenda of late. We’ve seen a vast increase in the number of people with issues that we can now highlight as “mental health problems” within and outwith this scene. I have been an open sufferer of mental health issues since 2011 and I’m so proud of all those whom have helped brush away some of the stigma that surrounds it. Having the confidence to share my inner thoughts has helped me to deal with a whole host of problems within.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy was my first port of call.

I had worked based in Glasgow for almost 10 years by that point and had struggled with lack of stability, lack of financial regulation and a lack of confidence in self. I have since realised we are not alone in that experience. At the time I thought I was in the wrong, not only acting in a self-destruct manner but also suffering from self-deprecative thoughts on a regular basis and finding myself in a cyclical torrent all the while putting on a confident/brave/carefree facade.

I later learned this is a very common issue in the fight against one’s “artistic resistance”, from “the war of art” (a fantastic wee book suggested to me by Hamish Napier). It highlights the internal struggle between artist and cause/reason/drive to create whatever may be in your heart/mind/fingertips. Reading this book opened up a new way of thinking. Understanding that so many creatives have come and gone before us really helped. Their struggle at the cost of their aspirations, their drive for recognition and difference from other creatives who have gone before, allowed me to write-off a whole host of issues I was having as a creative in this industry.

It is an industry, the music industry. The difference between us and those who feel they are destined to be “famous” or “popular” or “liked” even, is that we have a cultural axe to bear. We feel that however we came to realise our abilities we did it through the hard work and struggle of hundreds of humans before us. We must not forget this. Everything we do is a fight for unquestionable recognition from ourselves for what we do. Only once we become worthy of ourselves do we become worthy of criticism and by that point you have already criticised yourself to the nth degree proving to yourself that what you are doing is WORTH IT. Long before this point, however, we are culturally significant. Everyone is.

My struggle has not been whether or not what I do is worth it. My struggle has been with living up to my own understanding of what the “universe expects” from me. I was an entertaining child, apparently blowing my own nose at 2 (and my own trumpet at 34), I just kept on surpassing the mark throughout my developmental stages. Eventually I reached a stage where even I expected more from myself because I had always managed to exceed the mark. At that point i felt “the system” had failed me. “It” expected things that I had shown myself capable of and when I didn’t hit the mark I felt incompetent.

  • That still happens to this day. My incompetence is only seen by me and the path I have chosen rarely shows up the cracks in my ability to perform (as was my curse at an early age). I had to over-act in order to exist because performance had become a part of my being, not just something I was good at. It became how I learned from other humans, it became how I engaged other humans and made them like me, it became how I made friends, it became how I managed to get by, despite my lack of understanding in certain situations.

Innes Watson is not broken (he says, in the third person) but he is struggling (always has and always will) with the responsibility of having to understand and explain who he is all the time. He is capable of survival, of adapting, of acting and encouraging. Without this he would not have lasted as long as he has. I have. I have endured.

I believe we are on to something absolutely extraordinary here. It will take effort to succeed on the most valuable and significant cultural voyage we all embark upon each day. Go Trad Music, it’s life changing. Working together is a vital part. Share your experiences, pass on your stories, live your life as if it’s the one you are supposed to live – because it is. You have one chance on this fickle earth and woe-betide anyone who wastes that. I should take my own advice sometimes. My soapbox is short, but it is a soapbox nonetheless…