More and more young women are scrutinising themselves because of all the ‘likes’ of certain other girls and ladies on these social media accounts. They start studying what parts of the female body are ‘desirable’. Couple that with all these famous people promoting plastic surgery, like Kylie Jenner, who has the most likes/followers in the world. Subconsciously this creates an idea of ‘the most desired’ person due to being the most popular on social media. These young women/followers then start to change themselves to become more like Kylie (in this example). Sometimes physically changing themselves as well. Just to be ‘desired’, to please and get approval from strangers who scrutinise them on social media.

There is another side to the coin, where these women feel empowered and confident by changing certain traits that they do not like… is this a debate that will carry weight in the future?

Today is to recognise that mental health affects everyone and it doesn’t discriminate. Remember that it’s a serious issue that can lead to drastic measures, but by asking someone a simple question like “are you okay?” you can help someone in need.

My life as a young adult was in a constant battle with the many burdens of my mind. It was a constant spiral of sorrow, remorse, ecstasy and an unremarkable amount of self-loathing. The only thing that got me away was a bottle and more. Having succumbed to depression, I consistently turned to substances that got me shit faced four days of the week and hated myself for the other three.

I started a blog, The Mind & The Milky Way, which became a series of poems & stories that reflected the monotony of modern life. It was to express the juxtaposition of it all; the promised life of a man (and woman) and the reality of. Each written piece was like a band-aid that made things feel a little better… but after publishing each post a ball of anxiety would flurry over me. I tried my best to move along, giving myself a break between each post to manage the anxiety. It seemed that I found a place where I can be true to myself. Everyone thought of me as the happiest man they’d ever meet. But beneath all the intoxicated surface, was a man who was intoxicating himself because he couldn’t give two shits anymore.

During 2016’s New Year’s Eve, anxiety got the best of me. So, I sat home with a bottle of wine, numbing my thoughts in peace. I only went outside to watch the fireworks and came back home to stare at a blank sheet of paper. I touched my pen to the paper and started drawing. This was the new beginning.

I drew something every day, and not long after, I did the same with the guitar. My heart started to feel warmer, and soon I was smiling. It was unforced and pure. The overall effect it had on me and my mentality was rejuvenating. There are relapses, sure. I self-criticised myself to oblivion, telling myself that I was an incompetent prick like; “Why is your art so shit. Look at this art piece on Instagram. Why can’t you be like that? You are so shit.”

As the days went by, I continued to spiral from feeling self-accomplished to self-doubt. But as my skills developed so did my perception of the things around me, like art. At some point it just hit me, and I realised I was thinking different. My thoughts were no longer questions but aspirations; “This art piece… is amazing… I’m going to make something this good one day”.

I started admiring the process. I saw things in a positive light to aspire rather than compare. I started feeling okay. I am what I am, and that is okay. I can only make something out of what I have currently, and that is okay. If I want to achieve something greater, I have to work for it. If today I’m shit, tomorrow I could be better. If someone exceeds me, remember that they might have worked three times longer and harder than I have currently. But always remember that progress is still something to look forward to. So smile.

It’s cliche and is as obvious as Trump is an idiot, but experiencing this ‘revelation’ first hand is what gets me up every day. I get up and look forward to be creative. For some strange reason, art had triggered a more positive mentality. A better state of mind.

This year, 2020, has been a piece of shit for everyone. But it did give more time to reflect. To be honest, the COVID-19 pandemic has given me so much inspiration; it has been a cruel reminder that no individual has control over what happens in this universe. It’s both depressing and refreshing. Juxtaposed in nature, this crisis is a destructive virus yet also a medicinal healer for the world. We are merely humans, animals and living organisms in a single fucking Milky Way. We control only one individual in a whole eco-system. No single person can cause a change, but as a community, great waves are formed.

Mental health has deteriorated exponentially during the pandemic, and so I am motivated to help those in a way that holds true to me, through art. I know that everyone is different, but I have experienced the positive effect of practising art first-hand and want to provide the opportunity for others to do so.

If you managed to read through this whole passage, I would like to thank you for staying with me. Having gone through, and dealing with, depression and various mental issues, I am passionate about helping others with their mental health. I hope this can shine a light as to why I’m doing what I’m doing and how we can work together as individuals, artists and art enthusiasts to form a community to promote and support better mental health.

Please visit @mindthemilkyway and our website: www.mindthemilkyway.com

Sign up for a free membership and get discounts on your Milky Way Products – we are currently working with Black Dog Institute to raise funds [read more].

Much love,

@jatney

It’s a new year and although I spent most of the transition from 2019 to 2020 with family, I spent the rest alone. After facing the reality of losing two beloved ones within the last 6 months of last year, I felt an imbalance within me. I just felt like I needed to get away. Somewhere, just anywhere.

As I drifted, weightless, under the ocean I felt a sense of serenity. I was far away from almost everything that I wanted to leave behind, and yet it felt like I was encapsulated by all of it…

Inhale… exhale… inhale… exhale…

It truly was blissful. To recapture that sense of balance amongst the chaos. Just floating… weightless and without effort. I realise as I enter this decade that I have nothing to lose and yet I have everything to lose.

It’s January 1 2020. I’m sitting here in a hospital room in the province of the Philippines with no power but to watch and wait for an ending… In the very first hours of my waking life in this decade I was hit with reality, the honest truth.

This made me realise that I should also continue to be more honest to myself and continue in a path that I’ve chosen to get ‘better’ than who I was. To make my time worth every second, in suffering, release and every essence of what it means to live pleasurably.

Here is my first honest statement of the decade:

I hate everyone equally and therefore I love everyone equally. I can only truly know and care for a small group relative to, those who I can show true adoration to, so I’m sorry but I’m not sorry. I say that with utmost love and sincerity.

Fuck You 2019 and here I come 2020s, give me your best fucking shot!

A puff to blow the worries away. A sip of giggles to help waste the night away. Have another puff, then repeat. The night started early; so we roll another, pop-off some caps and repeat. As the air filled with smoke, I notice my body and my mind finally feel at ease after the day’s toil. Oh, how I longed for this moment, every day.

Porter is sitting on the edge of the couch, twiddling his fingers, legs shaking and eyes swaying from side to side.

“Yo Porter. You alright?”

“I… um.. I think… I… I will… walk… I will walk home now.”

He jumps and walks straight out of the door.

“What was that about?”

I look at Dennis, puzzled. I guess that’s that. What else is there to say? The guy wasn’t enjoying our company, huh. The man went straight on home. It’s pretty early though, the night had only just begun. Porter woudl usually be up for a big one.

*black out*

Waking up, I am to exist once again… nursing a drought in my head. I get out of my cradle, and roll one. Inhale… exhale… much better, and just in time for sundown. I always hate myself for doing this every weekend. But I just have to accept it, this is me. My weekend-being. Inhale… Exhale… A sack of shit who never sees the damn daylight. I stare out into the horizon as dusk slowly blanketed the city. You piece of shi-

~BRANGGGG BRANNNGGGG~

Fucksakes. Who is it? I just wanted to enjoy this before I do anything. Inhale… Exhale… Sigh…

Me: “Hello-“

Tash:”Can you come over?! RIGHT NOW! I NEED HELP! It’s Porter!”

Damn it! That sounded urgent. Shit. I sprint to my room and grab any clothing that isn’t my robe. Straight down to Porter’s place. He’s not too far away.

As I get there, I jump the fence and notice the glass sliding door was slightly open. I let myself in only to find a horror scene. The white walls are covered in holes, a knife in one.

Me: “He-Hello? Porter?! Tash?!”

No response. What the fuck is happening?! I scramble around the house, trying to find any other clues. The place is a mess. The positive? No sign of blood. Thank God. 

I walk out to the street, trying to get a hold of Tash. I roll one. Inhale… Exhale… I look down the street, phone cusping my ear, and I see Tash walking towards me. As she got closer, I see her wearing a face of despair, and yet she seems oddly calm. The fuck?

Me: “Tash! What’s happening? Where’s Porter?”

Tash: “Ah… yeah… you know… Porter just had a bit of an episode, so I just got out of there to get away for a bit. He does this. If he’s not home, then he’s probably out somewhere. Sorry I called, it just gets a bit scary when he’s like this… I know you guys hang out a lot.”

A bit of an episode? He does this? So this has happened before? Or rather it happens more often than you’d like. Despite her calm demeanor, I can’t help but think of horrific scenarios in my head. Inhale… exhale… I take my phone out to call Porter. He sounds drunk.

Porter: “Hey dood~ What’s up?”

Me: “Hey, where are you?”

Porter: “Whaat? I ca-“

Me: “Where… ARRR–“

Porter: “I can’t hear you! I’m out right n-“

Me: “I’ll just text you.”

I send him a message and he invites me out to get drunk. I accept his offer, BUT… not to get drunk, only to clear things up and make sure he is okay. He wants me to go to a bar, so I went. I get there and its packed as usual. I see him in the crowd standing alone with a beer in each hand and just observing. I take two steps and I already start feeling a little queasy… I’ve never felt so uncomfortable approaching him. So I nod at him, he nods back. I go to the bar… one drink, two drinks, three, four… I lose count…

What is happening? Where am I? 

I suddenly feel a numbness in my nose and a lump in my throat. I start to feel brand new. Wow! What a great night this is panning out to be! Damn, this is exactly why Porter is such a wildcard.

I didn’t notice before but the sun is coming up. Holy shit. Where did the night go? Seriously, I swear I was just there for a couple of hours. So here we are, Porter and I walking back home… we didn’t say a single word.

We get back to his house and Porter sits on his chair on the front porch. I roll one; inhale… exhale… pass it on, repeat. I look up… knife. Ah, shit. I forgot about that…

Porter: “… Yeah… I can get REALLY nasty when my medication don’t arrive…”

I guess he noticed me staring at it. He continued his story. How his parents turned to feeding him medication at a young kid as a means of not having to deal with him. For as long as he remembers, he’s been given all sorts of medication for his ‘disabilities’. This explains why he has such a high tolerance. Disability though? He seems… dare I say, normal? But then again, when he doesn’t get his medication he gets fueled with rage. It’s strange… ever since I’ve known him, I felt like he was a very decent person and completely competent. People did describe him as a bit of an oddball, I never thought of him in that way at all. But then again, I think every single person I meet is weird, never in a bad way, but that’s what makes everyone ‘normal’. People are just weird.

Porter passes me the last toke, “hey… I’m sorry I left so suddenly the other night. I just… Sometimes… I get a weird feeling and I can’t focus… I get these images in my head… It’s… it’s hard to describe.”

I told him, “It’s okay man. You don’t need to apologise for leaving early at all, if you have to go you have to go.” 

A family walks pass the front porch.

“Ah fuck…“, I sighed.

Inhale… exhale….

“…that’s my cue to go home.”

That night has continued to mark a stain on my mind. I don’t even want to imagine what he’s going through. All I can say is that this experience was the door to a world that I knew existed, but never truely understood. The days go by, and weeks past. I’d roll one, sometimes two after each day to relax and feel at ease. I started to notice my habits and addictions. Were any of them ever necessary? What would happen if I were to take one of them away? Thinking back, I was an alcoholic. Giving excuses like “I just party a lot”, while I numb myself down with almost anything and everything. Completely dependent. I had to start confronting that person, that coward that I see every morning pissing in the toilet bowl. It’s time to stop, feel everything, embrace what the world has to offer. Cold turkey.

I remember that final weekend. The weekend of a new beginning. I was going to get everything out of my system. So, I rolled one; inhale… exhale… take a swig… inhale exhale… repeat. Once everything is blurry, I numbed my face until I felt like a king. Then, lights out. I passed out.

I woke up again, with a drought in my head. Nothingness. That was what filled my head. I got up and rolled one. Hold on. I wasn’t supposed to do this. So I placed it back on the table and just sat on the balcony. I watched people below me. My vision blurred. My legs started to shake uncontrollably. My fingers twiddled around in circular motions as my jaw tightened. My eyes started… rolling… rolling… rolling…

My head’s in the clouds,
My head’s in the clouds once again

I’m looking, but I’m not really looking
I’m listening, but I’m not really listening
To anyone or anything around me.

‘Cause I’m not even sure why I’m here,
Oh dear,
I’m here again.

My head’s up in the clouds once again,
Mhmmmmmm

It seems that everyday, I struggle through the same pain
Of living life once again
A circle spiraling
Over and over,
Once again.
I’m here again.

Mhmmmmmm

Now my head’s in the clouds
My head is up in the clouds once again.
My dear,
My baby, oh dear.

Are you looking, are you really looking
Or listening
To anyone or anything around you?

When your head’s in the clouds,
When your head’s up there in the clouds
There’s nothing and nowhere.
Just time and space,
Between you and I,
Just ‘being’
Up in the clouds once again,
My dear, oh dear.

Fear,
It hath no mercy.
Fear,
Lingering above me
As darkness scour along these plastered walls, like the tides of sea.
A sea of shadows, crashing along the shores of my spirit.
Taking everything, but my fears.
It’s as if I’ve stumbled upon an abyss
Exposed to nothing but the shadow of me.
A shadow of me.
My shadow.
Me.

Chasing
The person who I used to be
Chasing.
Hopelessly
Screaming questions that can never be answered truthfully.
Yet these screams continue to fill my head, echoing through these hollow grounds.
Taking over everything, but these fears.
Walking along the planes of darkness,
Like a solitary martyr marching forward, shadowed by me.
A shadow of me.
My shadow.
Me.

Anger
Whispers, softly.
Anger
Smiles at me benevolently.
“Don’t worry my child,” she said, “As you can see
I am still with thee, so please do not leave me be.
I will fight these fears that scare thee.
Through darkness or dismay
I shall walk with thee for eternity.
I’ll be there, like a shadow.”
My shadow…
Me.

As she talked to me

Her eyes started to tear.
And at times the words of her voice were unclear.
My mind floated to dream of heaven, I chose not to hear.
The things I did, I apologise, so sincere.
I grabbed her hair from ear to ear,
We kissed ever so violently, I thank you, my dear.

Although she pushed and shoved,
I held tighter to her love.
Gripping the neck of the white dove.
A burning passion, so deep, yet I stared above
Afraid to have looked into her eyes, in fear of
Demise as she suffocated in the lies of true love.

My heart started racing as I grew impatient
To fill my body with an unholy yet divine sensation.
Ostracised from any emotion,
She was smothered in a deceitful concoction.
Shattered, on both hands and knees, she cries in subjugation.
I held her near, only with love but no devotion.

The clouds, they glisten in the light.
The engines roar, I listen, as they boast their might.
Voices, they whisper, echo through the chamber of fright.
While demons quiver and shiver in cold delight.

The air grows stale, chilled, by the frosty night.
Yet somehow I’m thrilled by this dreadful and eerie sight.
The faces of fear and panic, praying for a savior, a knight.
My spine a-tingling, ecstatic, filled with delight.

Their screams of anguish resonate as we descend in our plight.
They’re unable to fixate on the beauty of this night.
“Oh, glory! Oh, glory!”, my heart yearns, suffering blight.
My smile grows, my body churns, “Oh, such great delight!”.

Claims of innocence and regret, demanding for their lives outright.
Though innocence is a tale to offset one’s own spite.
Alarming bells ring, taunting me and my appetite,
“I can be the savior and give them peace,” such delight.

One by one the screams are silenced in this chamber of fright.
Only laughter and sirens left to echo in the night.
Stains they splatter, the work of a demonic sprite.
I bid you adieu as I lather in this delight.