Peter kept on talking to his son, even when Ross was seriously unwell.
One of my passions before I experienced psychosis was stand up comedy, and I even did a few stand-up gigs while I was in the thrall of psychosis itself. When I was well on my way to recovery I decided that I would really like to get back into stand-up comedy. My dad saw this as an opportunity to create some bonding between us and so he read up on comedy himself. And for a while we were like partners in crime, learning the trade of stand-up together and sharing ideas and lines and sketches and seeing which ones were actually funny.
He encouraged me to talk about my mental health problems as subject material for the stand-up as a therapeutic device. And I think that in a strange way it really did help. Not only did it give me a way to make fun of my strange experiences, so that they had less power over me, but it also gave me a way to make others laugh with me and for me to be able to laugh at myself, which certainly made the depression I was going through at the time a bit more bearable.
I took to the stage at the end of a 10-week course in stand-up I’d taken and people actually laughed! My parents and brother were there to support me and it was a jolly good night, full of laughter and joy.
I think that was when my Dad had the idea that he would pursue the idea of stand-up further and so our joint quest continued for a little while longer. I eventually gave up the idea of a career in the profession but not without gaining a lot of confidence and having some great times both writing and performing the skits for my course attendants and my family, friends and girlfriend at the time.
"I gave my wife a vasectomy for Christmas..." (True!).
That was the first line of my first stand-up gig in a pub in Eton. I was there because Ross had completed a comedy course in London as part of his self-inflicted rehab process. I love comedy and spent hours talking with Ross about the technicalities and processes.
It’s just so good to talk about things that have nothing to do with depression or psychological states or mental health. It could be anything, just normal stuff, on a walk or down the pub, just relaxing and enjoying the company of my son.
But then he and his brother Owen dared me to give it a go - “You think you’re funny, dad...”So I did (put it down to an attack of the “personal developments!”). I wrote a script, performed – and enjoyed the evening. Afterwards, they implied that I hadn’t actually been totally embarrassing - which I took as quite a compliment from sons... Unfortunately, they videoed it.
Ross also went on that evening. When I watched him on show, the very “publicness” of it made me feel as though the pawl had just dropped over the next tooth in a ratchet that was tightening his grip on sanity. I bought everyone a drink to celebrate.
See Time to Change's own stand-up video
What do you think about the issues raised in this blog?
Read more about Peter and Ross' story on their website.