By Matt Hoss.
Illustration by Michael Julings.
Oddly enough as things are, for the last little while I’ve found myself the happiest I’ve ever been. My last couple of years were tough. At times, I felt close to giving up. I felt like comedy wasn’t going well for me, I went through a romantic rough patch and I felt alone.
During this time, a friend took their life. This was obviously atrocious and it hit me hard as we were in the same primary school class. Through my grief, I found a wake-up call. I was overweight, unfulfilled and didn’t really have much of a life outside of stand-up. So, I started making changes; actively trying to live my best life. I realised that if I had spent the first 25 years of my life being rather upset, I can spend the next 25 relatively happier. So, I started to run for the first time and continue to do so, with my friend’s spirit in my heart.
The momentum of positive thinking correlated with me doing more and more positive actions. I started playing keyboard – it was something I really wanted to do, so I did. I went on my own solo trip to Dublin because I wanted to. It was self-liberation. I started to do all the things that had made me scared because I didn’t have any fears left. As far as I was concerned, I was living on borrowed time, so I was damn well sure I was going to enjoy every moment of it. I said yes to things I wanted and learned to say no when I didn’t.
For me, finding a balance was the key for my emotional wellbeing. Stand-up comedy is a highly unstable life: you travel far in unusual hours, you contort your emotions for comedic effect and you are constantly financially insecure. It’s fun, but it doesn’t offer a nutritious range of life. It was my dream job but I had sacrificed money, hobbies and relationships for it. I realised that whatever your passion may be, it shouldn’t be the only thing in your life. Through the year I became more and more resilient. My confidence and self-esteem grew on that journey. I started falling in love with comedy again.
Life is not like a Disney movie: there is no easy fix or Deus Ex Machina to instantly help you. Doing activities made me start thinking in a more positive frame of mind, which meant that I was able to be resilient in my day-to-day life. Over time, things which would have made me cry in grief, I was able to deal with.
No one can avoid stress. Resilience is about being mindful of how we deal with stress and how we cope with life’s adversities. It’s not just about bouncing back, it’s about improving – it’s about bouncing forward. I didn’t just get back to where I was. I came back stronger than ever, and I continue to do so. It’s so tough, but against the odds I managed to make it through. I am proud of myself and I love who I am. I love my career, my personal life and am more appreciative of everything in my life. I still have some troubles, but that is kind of the point. You can become stable, without fear of reaching a tipping point of no return.
My mental health journey relates to my stand-up hour, Here Comes Your Man. It’s a show about falling in love and the heart-breaking year which followed. The show’s message is that even through the worst of times, there is always a positive. Always. It’s easy to label a subject as good or bad, but ultimately, all circumstances are just experiences and you can choose how to perceive them.
Now, I feel like a different person from the person I was when I hit emotional rock bottom. I work at Mind, the mental health charity and I deliver Emotional Wellbeing workshops to people in Durham. So I know, things change, and things can get better. Juliette Burton, a fantastic comedian, exquisitely said that “the opposite of depression isn’t happiness, it’s purpose”. This is true. Find that purpose in yourself and explore your desires. Stop living in the past, or worrying about the future and be your true self in the now. What else have you got to lose? Love yourself and allow yourself to be happy.