James Blake Discusses Depression And Privilege In New Essay

James Blake is a young, tall, good-looking straight white guy. He’s great at singing and making beats. He’s pretty famous. If I had to guess, I’d say he’s doing well financially. And yet his music mostly involves feelings of paralyzing, overwhelming depression. Earlier this year, a pretty funny tweet about that seemingly contradictory state made the rounds.

Blake himself knows that it seems pretty ridiculous, from the outside, for him to be sad about anything. But Blake says that he’s been dealing with mental health issues for his entire life. That’s the entire point of “How Can I Complain?,” a new essay that Blake has written for It’s Not OK To Feel Blue (And Other Lies), a new book about mental health that Scarlett Curtis curated. The book features essays from people like Sam Smith, Lena Dunham, and Emma Thompson.

Penguin, the book’s publisher, has shared Blake’s essay. In the piece, Blake talks about how part of being a depressed white guy is the shame of being a depressed white guy. He gets deep into his own issues, including a video-game addiction and an inability to get beyond platonic friendship with women. In the piece, Blake writes:

These feelings of betrayal, persecution and rejection I kept to myself. In the crude gender stereotypes I was aware of at that age, I thought I had the sensitivity of a female but in a male’s body. I joked my way through it and made sure nobody ever saw me cry. I remained a virgin until the age of twenty-two, because I was awkward and unable to be natural around women. I was afraid of the vulnerability of sex after so many embarrassing attempts at it. (The song “Assume Form” is, in part, about finding the ability to feel safe during intimacy.) It seemed to me that it had taken my success as a DJ for women to pursue me, and then I distrusted them for their sudden, transparent interest, so I pushed them all away. Slowly the face of every woman morphed into the faces of the girls who I felt had betrayed and humiliated me. And the face of every man became a bully who would underestimate me and try to kill my spirit…

But my girlfriend verbally slapped some sense into me, saying it does not help anybody, least of all oneself, to compare pain. And that was good advice to hear from someone who’d been through what she has. I can only imagine how frustrating it was for this Pakistani woman to watch me — with all my advantages in life — self-sabotage and complain like I have. Fuck.

You can read the piece here.

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