James Blake Pens Essay on Depression and Toxic Masculinity for New Book

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James Blake has contributed an essay on depression and masculinity to It’s Not OK to Feel Blue (and other lies), Scarlett Curtis’ new collection of writing on mental health. In the piece, which published online this week via Penguin, Blake describes his hesitation to disclose mental health problems given his privilege as a straight white man. But he argues that if people like him are discouraged from speaking up, we risk letting “cis-gendered white male egomaniacs” continue to “bleed their shit on to everybody.”

Blake says he was bulled at school, rarely socialized, and he “wondered for years whether [he] had some behaviour disorder.” He identified his inwardness with femininity, he says—“I thought I had the sensitivity of a female but in a male’s body”—and “remained a virgin until the age of twenty-two, because I was awkward and unable to be natural around women.”

“I put girls on pedestals and worshipped them,” he writes, “but only ever remained their friend. I fell in love many times and it was never reciprocated. I had no automatic right to them of course, but they kept me around for years and allowed me to be bullied and humiliated by their friends, accidentally betraying me out of awkwardness. I resented their understandable, youthful inability to know what to do with a sensitive boy who made them laugh and feel good about themselves, but whose body they did not want.”

Despite his subsequent success, he contrasts his artistic “alias” with another identity, “the man-child who for many years was hurting, spiralling, never leaving the house, wasting away in an ego prison, refusing to collaborate, allowing himself to be bled financially and taken advantage of by his friends and their extended family, playing video games and smoking weed fourteen hours a day and not taking any care of himself what-so-ever until he was in a black depression, experiencing daily panic attacks, hallucinations and an existential crisis. I was asking questions like ‘What is the point of me?’ and saying I didn’t want to live.”

He describes this, he says, “to show how a privileged, relatively rich-and-famous-enough-for-zero-pity white man could become depressed, against all societal expectations and allowances.” At the same time, he concedes to “having the uncomfortable but rational thought that my struggle was actually comparatively tiny, and that any person of colour or member of the LGBTQ+ community could feasibly have been through exactly the same thing and then much, much more on top of that.” In the end, he says, “my girlfriend verbally slapped some sense into me, saying it does not help anybody, least of all oneself, to compare pain.”

He goes on to reckon with President Donald Trump’s appeal to “disaffected white men,” and more. Read the full piece via Penguin.

This week, on Twitter, James Blake discussed his partner Jameela Jamil’s contributions to his 2019 album Assume Form. “People focus on ‘inspired’ because the idea of the ‘muse’ is so romantic and pervasive,” he wrote. “Shout out to all the partners who selflessly placated a musician during a very self absorbed process like creating an album, who got the title ‘muse’ afterwards which basically amounts to being an object of affection while the musician exercises their ‘genius.’” Find his tweets below.





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