Mental Health Awareness: Interview with Déhà of Slow/Déhà

I don’t typically care too much about you goons’ atall tention spans, but I’m about to throw a LOT of words at y’all so I’ll try to keep this quick. If you’ve read Grymm‘s moving musings on mental health and the metal community, you know what this is and what it’s about. If you haven’t, you suck should do so before diving into the wordicide that follows the nonsense you’re presently reading. This is a conversation about depression between two clinically depressed individuals, aimed at providing some insight into life as we see it through the eyes of manic depression. Its purpose is twofold; firstly, we strove to paint a clearer picture of various aspects of the condition for those who are not affected themselves. Secondly, we sought to humanize the topic through unabashed addressal of our own experiences, in the hopes that others affected with depression might feel encouraged to do the same.

I have never had such a candid and comfortable conversation about this most miserable of subject matter with anyone before my discussion with Déhà, the mastermind behind Déhà and Slow, among others. It is my sincere hope that someone out there will read these words and feel the same level of support and understanding that I felt as they transpired, and it is all but certain that this will forever be the post that I am most proud and humbled to have contributed to this great Hall ov ours. Always remember that there are others who are there for you, in any fight, and never be afraid to show your scars. We’re all in this together, if you need to reach out then reach and if you see someone else in need of a hand or shoulder then give them yours. Now, enough Muppety babbling, yo, it’s time for… well, some Muppety babbling.

Muppet: First off, thank you so much for agreeing to help us with this project. As you’re surely aware, many people prefer to never discuss such less than joyous topics as anxiety, depression or even suicide – and yet your music makes it darkly clear that you are hardly interested in shying away from such subject matter. Why is it so important for you to put such openly distressed and negative material out there into the world? Aside from Aurora Borealis, everything you touch seems to turn to tears, why is that?

Déhà: It’s not “important” to put it out, if you will. I think that this is the second goal of it all. All music is selfish (I dare someone to contradict me, in “our” music, in “our” scene), and it helps us firstly. Then, it can touch and help other people.

I mean, can you remember a time when you were listening to one of those ballads on TV and you were completely bewitched by it, brought to tears almost? Then you read the lyrics, interpret them and you’re double kicked? It’s the same here.

There are two sorts of emotional interactions: active and passive. Active when you “make” it, and passive when you “get” it, when you understand, you’re touched, you feel understood too, and through a bad circle of emotional breakdowns and “just music,” you tend to feel better. To have this “catharsis” in a passive way.

I need this. I need to express these feels, and they are a lot. Not all of my too numerous bands have a particular emotion/catharsis, but a lot are indeed different and it has become vital. Like smoking: You know it’s bad but fuck it. And I know that some music of mine can or cannot touch people for whatever reasons and I am okay with it. Once again, everything is selfish at the start (and there is a lot of stuff I am keeping, because yes, a lot of music stuff I do is complete shit but it serves its purpose of me letting go, feel “better.” But it sucks, music wise, and I need to be able to hear that and cope with it.).

And it seems too obvious, but my desire is that people understand this need of letting things go, through anything (this being emotional violence & music) so they can be more at peace in this (shit) world and not do unspeakable things out of drugs, alcohol or any other simple doors the masses would take because it’s normal/cool/trend/needed. I want people stronger, facing their own shit (sober), learn from it.

Muppet: Gotcha, I think. The idea isn’t to deliberately throw negativity out there out of an arbitrary sense of things ‘needing’ to be negative, more that it just happens to run that course – in a sense making it personally important that the music happened at all, not so much that it accomplished a specific goal but rather that it accomplished itself. Art as catharsis, and all that.

I think a lot of the stigma around discussing/admitting to mental health concerns stems from a misunderstanding of mental health in general. For example, being bipolar I often experience people assuming I’m aggressively volatile and uncaring of others, when in reality (don’t tell anyone!) the majority of my thoughts and actions are focused solely on making myself or others laugh. I’m well aware of what I’m working with, so I put all my energy into maintaining a positive environment around me wherever I am; I would hardly consider myself unstable or best avoided just because I’m bipolar. Could you give us some similar insight to help humanize the concept? What have you noticed, about yourself or others you’ve met with their own struggles, that you wish the world knew and understood about individuals affected by depression, anxiety, etc?

Déhà: I think there’s an issue with a lot of “fake” people, especially since the social networks took over and make people mostly “online.” I’ve seen people ‘unhappy because they don’t suffer enough to get the attention whoring results’ of it. So, faking mental illnesses (bipolar – manic depression) or some introvert traits (sociopath, loneliness) has been an actual part. “The boy who cried wolf” if you will. Your illness (real!) can be not taken seriously by unaware people who are just seeing online assholes (who, by the way, can become such assholes IRL, living the lie). So yeah, beware of such products of modernity.

I think it’s all about being as honest as possible with it. We cannot measure such illnesses but we can speak about the threshold, our main feelings and how we would simply react whereas healthy people would react a complete other way. We just need to be believed, understood. Awareness is something, but a lot of people are taking such problems as “our youth’s main problems which are not so harsh, they just overdo it” until someone breaks. The problem with generations. My dad never believed I had such problems until I broke it down to him, harshly. As he told me “I can’t be depressed, I’m too busy with life.” And I love what this means indeed. I’ll leave you to think about that.

We need to sometimes be bold about it, you know? Fucking people need to leave us alone sometimes, and then take us in their arms while some of us actually can cry, while others would wish they would. We’re just ‘handicapped’ teenagers with responsibilities and we try our best. A few people were taking me seriously when I was talking about the mental disorders, because it was the start of social medias and there was (is) a fashion to be super edgy / problems in life / emphasis on them / super depressive / etc.

But I decided, at some point, that it’s the same as music: It’s selfish. My problems are mine, you’re the first one to really address them with such seriousness.

Muppet: Oh yes, please, let’s talk about that for a second, the edge factor. When I was younger and hadn’t been diagnosed with bipolar ‘disorder’ yet, I struggled fuckin’ hard. As a teen, the biggest obstacle was trying to not be seen as some effeminate weakling even though fucking everything made me cry. What sucked even worse, though, was when, as you put it, the fashion element became the new obstacle. Nowadays, the condition is often perceived as just something artsy types like to say they have in order to seem ‘deep.’ Does this distorted view say anything to you about… I guess anything? Why does the idea of others needing help make us so uncomfortable and quick to hide the conversation under the rug, or else to throw some blanket negative stigma over it and essentially shame those who are open about their condition?

Déhà: There is a huge problem : attention whoring. It works, don’t it? When people can use any kind of manipulation to reach a goal, even through white lies or horrible ones, for the sake of being enabled by people you don’t know, getting likes & shares and all of that. I mean, it’s understandable, in a way (Devil’s advocate, all that). The problem is that we (mentally sick people) are mixed with those people and I cannot stand this. As you said: it’s been glorified, “normal” people are jealous (WTF) and faking it. COME ON PEOPLE. I remember Diapsiquir (French band) saying something which was, to my eyes, insanely true: “Stop suffering of not suffering. That shows it all.

Society killed humanity, in a way. Be born, school, do drugs and choose one (cigs, alcohol or something they have control of), get a partner, work, kids, work, survive, work, work, die. So, with all this, we kinda forgot who we are, our emotions, fears. Apart from the “influencers” and the “motivational coaches” (God. Fucking. Dammit.), there’s no place for emotions because you have to work and do it well and, it’s known, emotions get in the way of good job. So you have these super amazing workers denying emotions (who are actually super sad but they put it under the rug because career and “see me succeed”), and you have the others who don’t know what to do. So yes, quickly judged. Often exaggerated even “nah you ain’t bipolar, you’re just a bit sad so get better.” HOW WOULD YOU FUCKING KNOW, KAREN?

At the same time, do you really want to spend time & energy to explain something barely explainable? “I’m considering suicide, but not committing.” “I’m not sad, I’m depressed as hell and it’s going to last a moment I can’t plan.” “No I’m not alone, I’m lonely.” “I need help, but I hate asking” and so on. If people decide to be deaf and close minded to you, there’s nothing to be done. And we’re, most of the time, concerned about others, so we don’t want to “annoy” them or something and this is a problem too. We know it, we will never be truly happy, so let’s take a couple of risks for fuck’s sake.

Muppet: Let me just say that this all hit insanely close to home. The struggle of not wanting to cause concern while at the same time wanting/needing some way to be heard is an absolute bitch to dance with, yo. Still, life either finds a way or doesn’t. It sucks but at the end of the day it falls solely on us, the affected, to fend for ourselves, whether through medication or counseling or art or whatever else will make us feel understood. Is there anything specific to the metal community that you think could/should change to help with this? We talked about the glamorization of depression, do you think anything can be done to combat or reverse that?

Déhà: The metal community should stop being so dumb. Pardon my French. Here’s a “Oh man come on you’re exaggerating this” list: mindless assholes listening only to one style / the open minded assholes who can’t stand primal/proto styles, the know-it-all encyclopedias, the stupid mainstream youth, the stupid old elitist assholes, the fat ego-ed reviewers (you know who you are), the jealous musicians (you know who you fucking are²) sabotaging others, the stupid alcoholics who can’t enjoy one concert without being dead drunk and pissing off others.

Music is selfish and healing, actively (when you compose / sing / do this shit) and passively (when you listen to it / feel it). So yes, sometimes some music is not meant to be played live, as much as some others are. And yes, sometimes it’s “cool” to be hyped with some edgy shit (cutting yourself on stage and such), because “metal” has always been the one pushing down boundaries, shocking people, being harsh, unique, elitist. It’s fine. Remember when Iron Maiden was labelled “the Devil’s music”? Now listen to Bethlehem. And understand such darkness and, so called, Devil’s music.

What I despise, is it has been enabled to self destruct oneself without any actual purpose. For example, I don’t understand the DSBM scene crying all the time and showing off cut arms instead of doing music: crybabies looking for attention, making such a personal / strong style look as a stupid one for 15 year old kids (those same kids who made Emperor & Shining back in the day, just to say). Or the actual promotion of alcohol, man. Fuck. I don’t drink, haven’t for years and people are still shocked and “mad” that I don’t drink nor accept drunk behavior. Nah, they prefer buying expensive “beers” from “bands” with a catchphrase. No thanks.

This is just the peak of the iceberg here, and just for me and my personal experience. Everyone’s different.

Muppet: Speaking of personal experience, my next question was written for anyone reading this who lives with their own mental health disorder. I also realize it might be a bit (more) personal, but: is there anything you’ve learned to appreciate about living with manic depression? For example, I’ve noticed and am kinda proud of the fact that I’m often better able to see all sides of any given conflict since I’m used to always needing to look at things from multiple angles just to keep my own reactions in check. Do you feel like there are ways that you actually benefit from your condition? Is there anything you’d like to say to others affected to help them look at things in a more encouraging light?

Déhà: Oh the condition is a bitch, let it be known, and should not be “liked.” Don’t forget that we live in a world where people would not mind being physically handicapped because they “identify as such,” which is the biggest insults to those who actually are handicapped.

That being said, look at the amount of bands and projects I have. I think it speaks for itself that my condition is the catalyst of it all, since I *need* to make music, to get some shit over with. So for me, that’s indeed positive and it helps me day by day.

The sensibility / sensitivity is also important. Music, art, people… anything. As you said as well, the ability to see outside ourselves and being “helpful” in harsh situations for others, seeing a thousand scenarios and being able to pick several and explain what it could do. We’re “real” too, we don’t lie. We’re also in love with knowledge, discovering things, being explained things. But once again, this is nothing to be ashamed of. There’s no way we would be 100% cured. We just learn to live with it and to control it the best of ways (that’s, of course, my subjective opinion).

Muppet: What might be some things we could start doing within our broader communities – i.e. neighborhoods, cities, etc. – which could potentially shift the perspective on mental duress towards something less hush-hush or feared? To that end, do you mind if I ask about some of the ways that you personally try to live around depression? Obviously music is instrumental, but have you found any particular practices or habits that help yourself to deal with the world or else bring yourself back to life when you’re extra dead inside?

Déhà: From my own personal experiences, I’d say that accepting we need help is the biggest step, and actually seeking help with a professional is the second biggest one. Speak about it with our very close ones when possible, so they can know why our behavior is unique. Never be ashamed of it, but always be fighting it, kicking ourselves in the ass, making efforts, never fucking give in. And giving in sometimes, because we need to understand that we are not weak, but we need those moments, in order to see / feel that we need to go back up.

Communication is always the key, but not the only one, because there is the biggest step first: being willing to be helped. It is horrible to admit you need help, but it’s the strongest step. That needs to be heard. Then, of course, it’s understandable that you will NOT vent to several of your friends, however insisting they can be. I lost one of my best friends like this. I was down, I told him, he came to cheer me up, he went back depressed and “it’s not the same now” and that’s it. I’m not mad at him though. But I’m not mad at myself neither. I should have not but, eh, fuck it. We’re not easy but for fuck sake we’re the kindest and the truest people. And we know it, because we understand us. This mashed up brain of ours isn’t dumb, we KNOW when we’re right, when we’re not, when something happens to us or not, we can’t control it but we feel it’s there, etc.

And yes, I have several smaller weapons to counter peaks. It’s not that easy though, but it’s simple:

  • Watching movies or series which are easy, fun (Ricky Gervais), get us somewhere else;
  • Friends: Invite them, go to them, have a movie, food, something nice simple n’ easy;
  • Writing : Sometimes, writing something (semi automatic) can put words on feelings & emotions so we can read again and contemplate them: “Oh. oh that’s actually what I meant and how I feel. Oh nice!” So we can understand better in order to help people;
  • Helping people: Of course helping people because of our experiences and counseling like a small shrink, and it also gives us a fix of attention whoring because we’re important to the venters, aren’t we?;
  • Anything artistic of course. From pictures to music to drawings, … catharsis at its best;
  • Kick ourselves in the arse for the lack of motivation: what’s the most difficult thing to do? cooking? Nah, going out to get groceries. And weirdly enough, once we have ONE FOOT out of the house, we enter in automatic mode – music in our head, walking, groceries and we’re back home in one hour and everything is fine. We perceive this as the hardest thing to do ever, and it’s just not. Lack of motivation is a con.

And what NOT to do:

  • Listening to depressive music: Yes we all do it but no, have some Norwegian Regaetton from Nanowar of Steel, Dragonforce, anything from Neal Morse, but no, not KATATONIANATHEMANTIMATTER please;
  • Drugs, alcohol: Easy ways out, chickening out, not facing your problems. Nope;
  • Go outside too much: Take it easy, understand your needs and fears, push the limits but never too much. Never forget we’re just a kid;
  • Getting mad at people attempting & failing to help you: Yes, you’ll have the “stop being sad!” and all these superb things, but don’t overreact. They don’t know how to help, but they do do want to. It’s like, they’re a form of God, we’re Humanity and we have no Metatron to translate. Biblical analogy: Done;
  • Never, ever force yourself: For anything. Kick yourself in the arse? Yes, but forcing yourself? Never.

Muppet: I’m not gonna lie, being told not to listen to depressive music by Déhà feels kinda like being ordered not to pray by God. To that end, I suppose it’s a matter of personal experience and preference; knowing what works for yourself is crucial, and if nothing else I’m glad to hear you’ve got such a diverse arsenal in the war against woe. I can never take you seriously ever again knowing that you like Dragonforce, but I’ll probably still listen to your music sometimes. Maybe.

I’m almost done harassing you (read: you like Dragonforce so now I’m running away) but I wanted to ask about one more thing. You mentioned how you create your music to express yourself while essentially allowing it to speak for itself. Given just how diverse your cathartic musical output is, I’m just curious; do you feel like there’s any one sound/style/genre in particular through which you are able to ‘say’ the most through sound alone?

Déhà: BLASPHEMY! Nah, but you got my point. There’s a thin line between useless pain that we keep on feeding with sad/dark music, and when it actually is useful and helps. Everyone should know their own selves and be able to make this division as you said. Because let’s be honest, there’s a lot of self-sabotaging. Also, Power Metal is awesome yo.

I think, technically, the style where it would be the most efficient would be heavy, melodic music & screams. So anything from there. Melodic black metal, DSBM, doom, whatever that has power, not metal only. But I think the emotion has to be paramount. And I know, the Dragonforce thing made you tick, but there are a thousand ways to get your emotions up when you don’t apprehend them : pop music, ballads, classical… bring it on. Here are a few chosen favorite songs of mine. Beware: cheese.

. Crash Test Dummies – “Mmh Mmh Mmh Mmh”
. Oasis – “Wonderwall”
. Eminem – “Stan / Kim”
. Lou Reed – “Perfect Day”
. Dominic Miller – “Exiting Purgatory”
. Dr Dre, Eminem, Skylar Grey – “I Need a Doctor”
. Bon Jovi – “Always”
. AND WAY MORE but just to name a few.

Music touches you at a specific moment, with a specific emotion that suits you at that particular moment. Back then, having a N°1 on that MTV top 20 was quality, so I was listening. Trying to get magazines and their lyrics or something, understanding the meaning, deeper. The power of an open mind can lead you to more emotions until you can find some of them which suit you and soothes you. Like post rock. Or indie pop/rock. Or cloud rap. Anything.

Muppet: Bringing up Bon Jovi… I thought we were friends, yo! For real though, a well balanced musical diet is key for anyone, but I’d agree that it’s particularly important to know where to turn to when the great cold distance between you and normalcy leaves you Katatonic. I also always find it fascinating to hear what people can create when they play with more than one style; it may seem perfectly natural to you, but it still kinda surprises me that Nadddir’s “Silver” comes from the same hideously beautiful mind that birthed Yhdarl. The fact that I find both to be equally beneficial to myself is only further baffling, but I’m not complaining.

So before I get out of your hair and resume stalking you from the shadows, is there anything else you’d like to add regarding depression as it relates to the metalverse? As a fan, artist, etc, got any last words of wisdom on where we’re at in dealing with mental health troubles within the metal scene?

Déhà: Well it’s logic, ain’t it? If you find a special not so violent catharsis in, for example, running. You will definitely find another one in boxing, more violent maybe, who knows. It’s the same for me and “music styles” even though it’s annoying. Music is music. Simple: never be ashamed of it, get some (pro) help, don’t use it as an excuse for shit, and create create create! s/o to Shape of Despair though. They were the ones who got me into the slow tempos.

Muppet: Word, perhaps your judgment isn’t so terrible after all. Well thank you so much for your time and thoughts, man. This is an important subject, one that too few people ever engage in any kind of meaningful discourse on, and it means a lot to me that you would weigh in on the matter. It’s always nice to discuss these things with someone who truly understands them. I think, anyway, you’re pretty much the first person I’ve ever gotten to have such a candid conversation about this with – and it was fascinating to get a glimpse into the inner workings of Déhà. As always, thanks for being you!

Déhà: I don’t even think we’ve talked about ‘it all’ but if it can help, then it’s sufficient for me and I’ll be happier, and there’s nothing more important than this : Trying to be happy.
Thanks, Muppet. You’re weird and awesome.

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