This week I’ve been mostly feeling empty. All my energy bars depleted. Desperately in need of a powerup. Veering wildly between panicky and desperate, and “oh, what’s the point of any of it”-type resignation. There’s been a decent amount of numb staring into space, a respectable number of whinges, and fairly regular confused crying.
Sometimes, when depression descends, it comes out of nowhere. You’ll wake up, and in those first few seconds, you’ll feel it and you’ll know – nope – this ain’t going to be an easy day. Other times, there might be a trigger, something that pokes at your existing emotional wound and reminds you of it. This week, for me, there were a few things – some real-world triggers, exhaustion, and a cracked rib didn’t help. All these things made me an easy target for the illness. And it came in strong this week.
Depression tricks me into measuring my success and happiness by all the wrong metrics. Judging myself by the standards set by those who I don’t respect. But they shout their expectations so loudly sometimes, at least in my head, that they are hard to ignore. Of course, by all the valuations that count, I’m doing just fine. I get to go on stage and show-off, to act out the silly ideas I think up, and enough people seem to like it that I’m able to have a roof over my head, a wide selection of hats and ties, and get Wimpy whenever I like. This job has given me a life I share with so many awesome humans. One, particularly awesome.
And usually that’s enough to keep me happy, and my keel even. But when my mood is low, when the black fucking dog is standing by the front door snarling and drooling at me whenever I try to leave the house, my perception changes.
I must be a failure. A loser. I’m not doing as well as whoever. I’m not selling as many tickets as I could be selling. I’m not in demand by the right people. I’m not in the cool gang. If only I hadn’t buried Britain’s Got Talent so publicly and so often, maybe I could turn off my soul, bite the bullet and tilt at the windmill of a million instant extra twitter followers. But no. I made my bed, it’s just that right now I’m finding it hard to get out of it.
I know, I know. There’s always someone better, and there always will be. Prince didn’t stop being Prince when he realised he’d never be James Brown. He concentrated on being Prince. There’s always someone more popular, richer, younger or thinner.. It’s just that when you’re too busy with the dog to think straight, it seems like that someone is everyone, and it always will be, and you might as well give it all up because really, come on, what were you thinking? And when that dog is straining at the leash, I find myself with no answer to that question. Suddenly, in my mind and heart, I’m back to being the teenager with the different name who dreamt of being something like Mat Ricardo, but was too often told that it should remain a fantasy, or at best, a hobby. I find myself wondering if those people were right.
They weren’t, of course. And here I am, at a coffee shop in Marylebone station in London, hunched over my notebook like a jazz pianist, scribbling this all down in the hope that the reasons that these people were wrong will spill out of me.
If I hadn’t, on a Wednesday morning in the late 80’s, swallowed my nerves and taken some tentative steps out onto the scarily large space of Covent Garden’s West Piazza, I’d have none of this. I wouldn’t have met the cool Welsh girl who’s smart as a whip and packs a killer right cross, who became my wife. I wouldn’t have a family of crazy beautiful people spread across the globe, who can do amazing things with their minds, bodies and hearts. And that’d be a shame.
I alluded to this earlier – my real name isn’t Mat Ricardo. Except that isn’t quite true.
It’s not the name I was born with. But that kid was shy, a timid loner who didn’t have many friends and would always rather not do something, than do it. Becoming Mat Ricardo was my way of starting again. Being a different person. One I was more happy being. And I’ve been him since my late teens, so, that other kid, he’s not me any more, and hasn’t been for quite some time.
Except when the dog is here. He brings that timid kid along and taunts me with him. Tells me that however much I’ve moved on from him, he’s never truly all the way gone. And I weaken. I start believing what idiots tell me. I stop listening to those I love and those that love me. I start being bitter. Mean. Sad. Jealous. Jealous – goddammit – of people who go on talent shows.
Well, f*ck that.
I became Mat Ricardo for a reason. Because I wanted to be more confident. To not waste my short time here with insecurities. To not just leave the house, but to keep on walking. To have adventures. I wanted to make friends in bars, restaurants, street corners, dressing rooms and audiences. I wanted these people to help me find myself. I wanted to be inspired by the love and artistry of indie creators – people for whom making it isn’t anywhere near as important as making something. And I got all I wanted. And I’m greedy for more.
“Don’t forget what happened to the man who got everything he wanted”, says Willy Wonka, “What happened?”, asks Charlie, “He lived happily ever after”, says Wonka.
Well, sometimes it’s not the getting what you want part that is the challenge, it’s the living happily ever after. But that’s ok. It is what it is. One just has to remember, as they say in the fight game, to keep your hands up and your face pretty. And hit first.
I’ll dress better than I need to, and work harder that I used to, and take the black dog with me on my adventures, and show it the fun I’ll have.
That’ll confuse the f*cker.
Mat Ricardo is a Showman Extraordinaire, Columnist, Comedian & Mental Ideas Ambassador from London.