Essay by Luke Foster
“Loneliness adds beauty to life. It puts a special burn on sunsets and makes night air smell better.”
Henry Rollins: I Know You: spoken word piece
I had a gay friend at school and I won’t use his real name but I shall just call him John. We were both in the same ancient history class at school and three-unit ancient history too. He worked in a local music shop after school and still does in another one in the Sydney CBD. He also worked in community radio and got us free tickets to alternative band gigs and album launches. He had a really hard time at school with other guys at an all-boy school teasing him and pushing him into lockers. I can’t imagine how much he must have suffered at school. However, he didn’t like Henry Rollins punk band Black Flag but in the year after school he played the Henry Rollins spoken word piece: I Know You on record for me and I was mesmerised too. That is because my years in high school were pretty idyllic but in the first week of art school aged 18 my best friend Nick Cuttel was electrocuted and instantly killed in a work place accident in a boat yard. I remember vividly my mum taking a call from Barbara Nicks mum and she was balling and came into my bedroom saying Luke I have terrible news Nick is dead. Then I too went into a deep black hole of emotions on and off for years until after second year and failing a sculpture class I dropped out of art school and lay in bed for weeks and everything went black. I took a year off art school working menial jobs that I couldn’t hold down but more importantly I started drawing and painting a lot and returned to art as a soul- searching system and returned to art school and my work was pretty good but a bit derivative of artists I admired.
Any way I easily could have taken my own life during those dark years but it wasn’t until many years later after my second stint in South Korea teaching English that I had my first major psychotic episode after bringing my recently married Korean wife to Australia. My demons chased me into the ocean at Mona Vale Beach on Sydney’s northern beaches where I tried to drown myself but fortunatly I grew up as a strong surfer and swimmer so it was hard to drown myself and fortunately my voices said stop and I swam back to the beach. There were two surfers sitting out the back but I guess they were none the wiser and just thought I was swimming. However, I am so glad I didn’t die as it would have shaved years off my dear mum’s life in grief. That was the first serious psychotic break from reality and in and out of hospitals for a few years like a yoyo, however I did draw a lot and completed a university course to be a school teacher. But the most horrific mental health problems I have had was from late 2021 when I went to Brooklyn New York for a backpacking holiday and drew and wrote a lot of essays and went to many art galleries and then for six months after that back in Australia at the Blue Mountains on a residency and then in Cabarita a small coastal town near Byron Bay. Sometimes three times a week I would go into states of deep horror and anxiety and all I could do is put on gentle music and breathe deep and hope that it would pass quickly but it would usually take about three hours.
However, it is remembering the movie about Patch Adams and his books, You Tube videos and personal letters that has directed me to be honest about my mental health issues and hospitalisations as he is.
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
Anyway, I am reaching out to the most vulnerable members of society who go through such mental anguish that they are driven to suicide. I have been to hell and back many times and I am still here and now spend most of my time relatively mellow and happy and productive with my art and writing.
I lean pretty heavily on my friends and support workers and fortnightly psychologist appointments on the phone as well as daily beach walks.
So, if you are a teenager or young adult and are suffering then don’t keep it to yourself all bottled up but let it out perhaps write a diary about your negative emotions and show a trusted friend, or school counsellor university counsellor. The horrors shall past and trust me I have been through it again and again over the past three decades and I still lead a full and interesting life.
Patch Adams Official Trailer #1 – Robin Williams Movie (1998)