“I didn’t want to live”: James Blake discusses mental health battles in new essay

"I became so self-obsessed and isolated that I wasn’t the success I seemed to be on paper."

James Blake has opened up about his own mental health battles in a new essay.

The ‘Assume Form‘ singer and producer outlined his struggles for ‘It’s Not Ok To Feel Blue (And Other Lies)‘, a new collection of mental health writing for Penguin, curated by writer Scarlett Curtis.

In his contribution, Blake explains how he first battled depression and anxiety after he was bullied at school at a teenager.

“I put girls on pedestals and worshipped them, but only ever remained their friend. I fell in love many times and it was never reciprocated. I had no automatic right to them of course, but they kept me around for years and allowed me to be bullied and humiliated by their friends, accidentally betraying me out of awkwardness,” he writes.

“I resented their understandable, youthful inability to know what to do with a sensitive boy who made them laugh and feel good about themselves, but whose body they did not want.”

Describing how he battled with gender stereotypes at the same time, he explained: “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.”

Blake says that his mental health battles only intensified after finding fame, as he battled with the weight of fans who wanted “a normal interaction and, even more impossible, a new album”. As his public profile soared, he explains that he experienced hallucinations and panic attacks on a daily basis.

James Blake performs on stage at Rosalia concert during Primavera Sound

BARCELONA, SPAIN – JUNE 01: James Blake performs on stage at Rosalia concert during Primavera Sound on June 1, 2019 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Xavi Torrent/WireImage)

“I became so self-obsessed and isolated that I wasn’t the success I seemed to be on paper,” he said.

“And so the chasm grew between my alias – the guy with the ‘Pitchfork best new music 8.0+’, with the uncompromising and flourishing career, who seemed in control of everything – and the man-child who for many years was hurting, spiralling, never leaving the house, wasting away in an ego prison, refusing to collaborate, allowing himself to be bled financially and taken advantage of by his friends and their extended family, playing video games and smoking weed fourteen hours a day and not taking any care of himself what-so-ever until he was in a black depression, experiencing daily panic attacks, hallucinations and an existential crisis.

“I was asking questions like ‘What is the point of me?’ and saying I didn’t want to live. I became afraid of the growing fog of war outside my house because of what I knew people expected of me if I entered it: a normal interaction and, even more impossible, a new album.”

The piece also sees Blake praising girlfriend Jameela Jamil, who encouraged him to stop comparing his mental health struggles to others, after he felt his struggle was “comparatively tiny”.

“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.”

Earlier this week, Blake also clarified Jamil’s role in creating ‘Assume Form’, saying that she (and other female partners of musicians) are often unfairly referred to as a ‘muse’ or merely ‘inspiration’.