At the start of the new year, we spoke to Stuart Mills, founder of The Noisy Brain, about his Mental Health journey and his project!
Tell us a bit about yourself and the noisy brain project & what is the power behind using creativity as a tool of coping with Mental Health issues?
Hello all! Thanks to AndysManClub for inviting me to tell my story and share a little about The Noisy Brain idea!
I’ve taken the liberty to combine the first two questions. It’ll start of a bit arty-farty but bear with it. It’ll get worse…
‘Kintsugi’ is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery pieces with gold. The idea is to emphasise the breakage and repair rather than being something to be ashamed of, disguise or throw away. The repaired object now has a story to tell and therefore has experience, learnings and greater wisdom.
The Japanese use this same analogy when appreciating the ability of an individual who has overcome traumatic events during their life.
I now recognise that the meaning behind ‘Kintsugi’ is a great philosophy to reflect on when dealing with and living through life’s harder times. It has helped me realise that everything we go through shapes and strengthens us for our futures. And each of our endeavours in helping others become a little bit stronger with meaningful shared experiences and subsequent learnings.
That is also why I admire everyone involved with AMC. Those who set it up and equally those who attend, share and help each other. As human beings, we each need this obvious and simple connection.
So, along with the Kintsugi mindset, talking things through is important. AMC’s #ITSOKAYTOTALK is something I have often fallen back on and advised friends, family and colleagues to do. We all need this simple human outlet of talking openly and honestly in this horrible world of anti-social media.
A little about me. I was born in the seaside town of Folkestone in Kent, England. I worked in the awful industry of advertising for almost 30 years, creating ideas for global brands at some of the world’s most famous agencies like Saatchi & Saatchi in London and Ogilvy & Mather in Singapore. My work took me around the world — from England to; Australia, Singapore, Vietnam, South Korea and currently I’m back and settled in Singapore.
It was in Singapore around 2019 that I re-encountered my personal mental health demons. I suffered a lengthy period of depression, suicidal thoughts and ‘self medicating’ with prolonged bouts of alcohol abuse.
Intrusive suicidal thoughts became a huge part of my life. Moments of relaxation and fun suddenly became scarily frightening, leading to anxiety-fuelled moments of uncontrollable thoughts of various ways to potentially end it all.
Let me attempt to explain.
Enjoying a film at the cinema could be ruined by simply seeing a scene where a character innocently drove by a tall building or bridge. Nothing at all happened with those two reference points. They literally only needed to appear as a fleeting image for my mind to become trapped and transfixed on them.
My mind wouldn’t allow me to continue watching the film. It would take me hostage on an anxiety-causing mental exploration of nearby places to end it all. I would be transported towards the nearest tall buildings and bridges, looking and studying the exact places I would land and where people might find me laying. All this while still sat eating popcorn with my wife in my comfy cinema seat.
I’m fairly sure I was never actually going to go through with any of these intrusively scary scenarios. But, the fact I can’t even type that sentence and put a ‘definitely’ within it, makes for uncomfortable writing. Those intrusive thoughts that occupied my focus created some of the scariest, unnerving and, yes, I could even go as far as calling them terrifying moments of my life.
I suppose when these intrusive thoughts happen, we need to understand that they’re only fleeting. We must try to recognise this, pause, and not react too quickly. We need to reach out to our trusted friends and family. Talk it through with them and then visit experts who are qualified to have these important chats. This can and should be done without shouldering any of the stigmas that society has allowed to accompany these situations.
I struggle writing these pieces at the best of times with my habit of overthinking everything. I’ve often thought that this is half the problem. If we were able to control the overthinking in our noisy brains, would we sail through life? Now there’s something else we can all start overthinking!
All this had a domino effect which culminated in a situation that I could have easily avoided if only I had opened up and talked with someone. But, as most of us know, that’s not easy to do until it is often too late. I’d spiralled into a mindset where everything and everybody else was the problem and drinking to forget had become the norm.
I was caught on video in an unnecessarily aggressive altercation with a local after being out drinking for a few days. Widespread outrage and a social media storm followed, including death threats to myself and my family. This forced me into a self-inflicted lockdown. The next 6 months were some of the darkest, but this was also when a transformation started to take place. I was again diagnosed with a major depressive disorder, underwent therapy, found out that I’d almost definitely had ADHD all my life, had further counselling, and ended up serving a short sentence in Singapore’s notorious Changi prison.
Keeping ‘kintsugi’ in mind, my continued recovery gives me the strength to acknowledge the harm I have done to others and myself. In the long run, it’s those flaws that make me who I am and now give me the strength, energy and positivity to pick up the pieces, rejoin them and make myself stronger than ever.
And while things may never be how they were, I’ve finally found a purpose in establishing The Noisy Brain to raise awareness and help others with their Mental and Emotional Health Issues (MEHI).
Through my contributions, I hope to help others embrace their imperfections as something to be worked with, not shamed and hidden.
I have now decided I want to encourage people to embrace their problems, share them and turn them into positives. Maybe we can each help others discover their own journey of ‘kintsugi’ and take steps towards their own unexpected strengths.
Can you give us an overview of the community that use the Noisy Brain’s App and the wide range of content that is posted?
So, in brief…
The Noisy Brain is a steadily growing global community collaboration of people with Mental or Emotional Health Issues, musicians/recording artists, writers, and fantastic supporters, all helping each other break the stigma surrounding Mental Health.
We encourage anyone dealing with their Mental or Emotional Health Issues to use writing as an outlet for sharing experiences. Writing is a great way of opening up. Sharing allows others to feel less alone and vulnerable.
Each shared ‘writing’ inspires others to contribute. It encourages more open and relatable conversations about the issues people are dealing with, leading to greater awareness.
The Noisy Brain takes these words that can harm us when kept inside and turns them into songs to inspire others. Songs are made with the amazing talents of collaborative musicians from all around the world.
THE NOISY BRAIN
Creating a more forgiving world,
One Lyric & One Song at a time.
We gladly receive writings from anyone dealing with Mental and Emotional Health Issues. You don’t need to be a poet or musician. I’m certainly not! Just getting the words out of your head can help to release negative emotions. The benefits of opening up about your personal anxieties to others and writing about it are massive:
It gives it a face.
It gives it a voice.
It gives you perspective.
It allows others to connect.
Let’s face it. We all need to connect and communicate more. A little less time on (anti) social media and more time making meaningful connections. Sharing stories from your mental and emotional struggles allows others to feel less alone and isolated.
The Noisy Brain would love to invite you to join us as a contributor.
Contact us on: firstname.lastname@example.org
or click on the link on our Instagram bio to get started! @thenoisybrainer
How have music and the creative arts helped you deal with your own Mental Health?
First things first – I have zero musical ability. This is a big part of the reason why I created The Noisy Brain.
Immediately after my incident, I had this uncontrollable urge to write. I literally couldn’t stop. At the time, my mind was very disturbed with suicidal thinking, depression and self-medication. But there was also a creative outpouring of varied emotions that I had completely bottled up inside. This was only released once I opened up and talked. Admitting to my wife, family and friends that I had problems with depression and suicide was the first step towards an amazing and liberating experience. If only I had the guts to talk to my loved ones before things took a turn for the worse, I could have avoided hurting others and myself along the way.
As all of you that attend ANDYSMANCLUB already know; talking literally allows everything to flow. The release is immense. For me and others like me, talking opens that pressure valve – #ITSOKAYTOTALK
Don’t get me wrong. A majority of what I was writing was (and still is) shit! But I’m at least getting it all out of my head and out of me. The act of writing in isolation created other frustrations. I wasn’t sharing these anxiety-fuelled written rants. I was only reading my anxiety and problems back to myself.
It was only when I shared my written rants with someone that I realised the full benefits. That amazing person put one of my rants to music.
The Noisy Brain is an idea focused on mental health, music and wellness. The platform (app, web, social) has been created to help encourage people with mental and emotional health issues to write and openly share their writings in a safe space. We celebrate and embrace these ‘Noisy Brains’, encouraging them into musical collaborations with an aim to create beautiful pieces of music. This simple but important process has the potential to provide a therapeutic creative outlet. Ultimately, we hope to; Create a more forgiving world, one lyric, and one song at a time.
The effects of music are amazing. It helps relieve anxiety and stress, calms breathing, improves mood and helps people with their overall well-being. When collaborating on The Noisy Brain, musicians have the opportunity to uplift our contributors by adopting submitted ‘writings’ and putting the lyrics to music.
Musicians and recording artist from all over the world, read through our bank of writings and the short background story that inspired each piece. Artists often collaborate directly with the writer to help improve the finished song or demo. We then ask that the musicians credit the contributors as co-writers on their finished songs. Writers then also have the potential of earning royalties if their song is released.
How can people access the app and how can they best use it?
Please Download and share The Noisy Brain FREE app, please spread the word within your own community. There’s still a long way to go and happy to hear any suggestions and receive any writings from you.
Here’s a quick download link:
We completely understand that sharing is not for everybody. But in the spirit of openness that The Noisy Brain embraces, we believe that the more people who are willing to talk openly, the more likely it is that others will relate, feel less alone and share their own stories without the fear of stigma.
This is the open movement we are creating. Let’s start conversations, let’s start removing the stigma surrounding Mental and Emotional Health Issues.
Sharing our own stories is necessary to help others. We are all fighting battles that nobody knows about. Being open and honest encourages others to do likewise and in turn it helps change perceptions. So, let’s get talking, let’s start listening and let’s start sharing.
The Noisy Brain wants to invite you to join their growing community as a contributor.
Please contact me directly on:
On the link on our Instagram bio to get started! @thenoisybrainer
We would love to see you download our app and join the mutual collaborative efforts of sharing truths and helping each other that both AndysManClub and The Noisy Brain both strive for and both support.
We look forward to seeing you become part of the growing community and see you sharing your ‘writings’ and experiences on The Noisy Brain app very soon.
Thanks for all your continued support to everyone at AndysManClub.
Good luck with everything you are each pursuing this year and remember #ITSOKAYTOTALK
The Noisy Brain