Changes: Will Young
The audio version of this episode is available here.
Annie [00:00:00] Before we start, a word of warning that this episode contains some upsetting content. Please check the show notes for full details... Hello, I am Annie Macmanus, this is Changes where guests share the biggest changes in their lives and today's guest is so special. We have the musician, actor and author Will Young with us. Will graced our screens for the first time back in 2002 when he won the first ever series of Pop Idol with over 13 million people watching on. Since then, he's released eight studio albums, four of which have gone to number one in the charts. He has won two Brit Awards and had a Laurence Olivier nomination for his performance in Cabaret at the West End. He's currently starring in the one man play Song From Far Away at Hampstead Theatre in London, and he hosts his own podcast, a new podcast called The Wellbeing Lab which is in its second series and discusses all sorts of mental health and wellbeing topics. Will is a polymath, he's also written five books including Anything Is Possible, To Be a Gay Man and Be Yourself and Happier: The A to Z of wellbeing. Will, it's such a pleasure to have you on Changes today, thank you for being here! *Laughs* what is that? Is that sage or a joint? I can't tell.
Will [00:01:17] God, that would be interesting wouldn't it? *Annie laughs* A joint, me stoned, oh my God I don't think I'd say- I'd just eat.
Annie [00:01:22] It would be a great podcast. It'd be listening to you eat yeah *laughs*.
Will [00:01:27] Yeah, erm no, I've just lit this thing. I went to New Orleans and they had this white sage but they make this sort of- it's mixed in with all these other herbs so I like lighting it at different points during the day. It sort of gets me back in the room.
Annie [00:01:41] How are you in general?
Will [00:01:43] Yeah, I'm alright thanks. Yeah, I'm doing this play so that's taking up a lot of my time but it's a nice routine I'm in at the moment and it's quite interesting really going into a very different world, you know, going into theatre. It's only me. It's a piece that's quite beautiful. It's about death and grief and the breakdown of a family and this guy's very, you know, terribly shut down, and love and it's quite funny but it's also dreadfully sad.
Annie [00:02:16] And I mean, correct me if I'm wrong but you've never done a one man play before have you?
Will [00:02:18] No, I've done a-
Annie [00:02:20] That must be- is it intense?
Will [00:02:24] Err, it doesn't feel intense. It's quite fun.
Annie [00:02:27] Yeah.
Will [00:02:28] It's really fun, actually. It's probably like the closest I get to a sort of flow state.
Annie [00:02:33] Wowww.
Will [00:02:34] Yeah, which is quite beautiful.
Annie [00:02:36] It's the kind of essence isn't of the creative endeavour, I suppose, that flow state. It's what you're looking for, right?
Will [00:02:41] I think it is, yeah.
Annie [00:02:42] Do you ever get that when you sing? And is there- I suppose I'm interested in the change that you've made from singing to serious theatre acting, what that difference is like.
Will [00:02:49] I don't get it so often when I'm singing because it sort of- singing seems to bring up a lot more insecurity so I have a lot more chatter. I've got on top of it because I can just sort of witness it and I'm like, oh that's interesting, that's what's going through my head, but I think probably I feel more vulnerable when I'm singing and a part of me doesn't really like that. Whereas when I'm acting I'm sort of being a character, so I feel a bit more protected and that kind of makes sense. So sometimes when I'm singing, it can be a lot harder to navigate a lot of the thoughts that come in and that can be quite exhausting, which you know, after 22 years, you know, one might think that that's- I've sort of got on top of that, but I haven't really. Some things we just can't get on top of. Maybe I will. Maybe when I'm 80.
Annie [00:03:41] Will, how are you with change in general?
Will [00:03:45] Pretty good. I sort of got to a stage where I realised that none of it really matters. So, you know, if you said to me, 'tomorrow your house is gone, your job's gone and everything's gone', as long as I have my dogs and I could eat and chat to people and have some shelter, I think I'd be okay whereas in the past I think change would be more scary because I would have put a lot more on it, but I don't really put much on it.
Annie [00:04:15] Was there a point in your life when that transition happened, when you realised it just doesn't matter?
Will [00:04:19] Yes. Yes. I had a breakdown which I would highly recommend. And you know, make sure you tell everyone you're having a breakdown, that's what I'd do if I had it again. You know, I'd be a lot more public about it, I'd be like 'I'm having a breakdown'. You know, like I'd go on Graham Norton and be like, 'I'm freaking the fuck out I'm having a breakdown', you know 'how's the new record?' 'it's good, by the way I'm having a breakdown' *both laugh*.
Annie [00:04:44] So you kept it to yourself?
Will [00:04:45] Well, I sort of did. I sort of wish I'd been a bit more, you know, open about it. Be quite fun just to see people's reactions *Annie laughs*. But yes, I had a breakdown and I guess a lot of that was, you know, ideas of thinking that things were important. The right car, the right house, all that nonsense. And then when I realised, oh, no, no, none of that's important, that's quite a game changer but also it takes quite a while to readjust because I thought, oh well no hang on isn't that what life is all about? So, you know, that's a lot of the messaging that we've been given is in the West you know-
Annie [00:05:22] Absolutely.
Will [00:05:24] So it took me a while to realise, ohhh, no none of these things are important.
Annie [00:05:30] What was your point when you're like, okay, it's official, I'm having a breakdown.
Will [00:05:34] Couldn't stop crying. Lost my appetite. Couldn't leave the house. You know, couldn't get out of bed and that was quite unusual behaviour for me.
Annie [00:05:46] And this was in your *hesitating* 30s? In your 30s or something?
Will [00:05:49] Yeah, mid-thirties.
Annie [00:05:51] Was there context or was it just a slow build up to this? Was there a reason?
Will [00:05:56] I'd moved house and I'd got this incredible house and I'd sort of done it up like the world of interiors. I think an Arctic Monkey lives in there now *Annie laughs*. I just love the idea of one of them rattling around. Well, probably not, they've got a family. I did this dressing room and it was sort of, you know, done like a sort of Georgian gentlemen's shop.
Annie [00:06:18] Wow.
Will [00:06:19] Yeah, there was a lot of brass and-
Annie [00:06:21] Wood panelling?
Will [00:06:22] Oh, yeah. So much wood panelling. Yeah.
Annie [00:06:25] All those lovely in-built carpentary like drawers and like pull out ones.
Will [00:06:29] Oh, yes. Pull out- yeah soft close.
Annie [00:06:30] Drawers just for your ties, that kind of thing?
Will [00:06:32] Oh, yes. All that. One just for jewellery because you know, I'm the type of person who has a drawer just for jewellery, *Annie laughs* you know what I mean it was like that. What type of person am I? Ha, this is the type of person I am. And I moved into the house, I'd just got a number one album, I'd got a top five single.
Annie [00:06:53] Wow.
Will [00:06:53] And I had a TV special, and I was just so unhappy and I thought, oh God, oh dear, this isn't good, oh dear. And I think I even said out loud, 'oh dear' *laughs* 'this is not good, I'm a bit buggered'. And so there was sort of quite a big unravelling then. Couldn't avoid it anymore.
Annie [00:07:17] Well that's what I was going to ask, was that the first time since you had become famous and successful as a singer that you'd had to confront yourself?
Will [00:07:24] I think so-
Annie [00:07:25] Behind the ambition, behind the kind of daily grind of pushing forwards. The next thing, the next thing, the next thing.
Will [00:07:30] I think so, yeah. I mean, I started having therapy and that had really helped, but I got my work life quite on track. You know, I was like, oh, yes, I've got all that now I understand, I need boundaries and no, it just sort of really helped. But yeah, personal stuff not good. Drinking too much, was watching a lot of pornography which you know, hysterically I made the mistake of mentioning in an article and it was like, 'Will, sex addict!'.
Annie [00:07:59] Yeah *laughs*.
Will [00:08:00] It's amazing how you have an addiction, it's quite shaming, and then how like the media and society will shame you even more for something that's quite shaming.
Annie [00:08:07] Oh yeah.
Will [00:08:07] I'm like, oh wow, this is interesting. No wonder people get so bloody ashamed of any addictive behaviour.
Annie [00:08:14] Of course.
Will [00:08:15] Know what I mean. Let he, you know, who cast the first stone and all that, or she, uh or they, however you want to identify yourself. So yes, I had a lot of behaviour that was not great. Just took a long time to get back on, get back on track.
[00:08:31] *Short musical interlude*
Annie [00:08:41] You've always seemed courageous. I feel like there's a sense within you of conviction and courage that I'm curious about. I mean, the first and most overt example of that is you on Pop Idol, talking back to the to the villain himself, to Simon Cowell and saying, you know, when he says to you in an audition, I watched this video back recently, he felt your performance was distinctly average and you really take him up on that and say, well, this is how I feel you are as a judge, your behaviour and I don't think that what I did, you know, was anything near that. And there's a real sense of, I don't know, just such bravery in being able to see through the system and talk back at this person who is the person with the most power and have the conviction in yourself to do that. And I'm curious, I suppose, about where that came from and where that part of you begins, I suppose. Because it's still there, even talking about porn like, that's brave.
Will [00:09:35] Yeah, I mean I do think, I think it comes from my parents. You know, they're not the norm. You know, my mum is in her seventies, she drives a Japanese supercar, she has got five tattoos and counting.
Annie [00:09:48] Wow.
Will [00:09:49] Yeah, she's quite a sort of free spirit. They don't really like authority, either of them. You know, in some ways they are- they tell you the line, you know, and sort of in their tight because of their upbringing and all that, but in other ways they're very sort of special and unique and so I think that probably gave me a sense of standing up for myself. I also never liked bullies, and I did see Simon Cowell as a bully, you know, still do so- I mean, it's, you know, pretty I would say well documented.
Annie [00:10:23] Yes.
Will [00:10:24] I don't know- we'd lost a friend of the family so that was my first experience of death and I think I was just a bit like, you're not a very nice person and someone needs to stick up for these poor people. Wasn't really so much about me it was- I just felt I was watching it and he was making all these people cry and I just thought, you're such a wimp, you know, *Annie laughs* you're such a wimp, it's so easy for you. You know, you got all the power, it's so easy. These poor kids were all going on and I just remember saying to my friend- I just said, I'm going to take him on because I don't like him *laughs*.
Annie [00:11:06] And interestingly, the viewers felt the same as you, you know, and people voted for you in the hundreds of thousands.
Will [00:11:13] Yeah.
Annie [00:11:14] Obviously, you know, there was singing, part of it, but I do feel like so much of that is a popularity contest. It's not just about how you sing.
Will [00:11:21] No, no.
Annie [00:11:21] It's about how you present yourself and how you fit into their perceptions of things and, you know, humanity. But you really struck a chord with the viewers.
Will [00:11:30] Yeah, I think it did allow people- well I sort of became the person that spoke back which, you know, I was quite happy with. Thing is, I ran into Simon Cowell on a boy band competition on This Morning and I walked out live on this morning and saw this man, had no idea who he was and had an instant physical reaction to him. I just for some reason, I thought... I just had this reaction.
Annie [00:11:54] Wow.
Will [00:11:55] And, you know, because of legal reasons I can't talk about it that much, but I had a very difficult time at my first boarding school.
Annie [00:12:02] Right.
Will [00:12:03] So my barometer for a certain type of person, shall we say, is quite on the money.
Annie [00:12:11] Yeah.
Will [00:12:12] And my body just reacted. So then I did Pop Idol and I was like, oh my God, it's that bloody man again. *Laughing* I walked into the room and was like, 'oh my God, he's there again!'.
Annie [00:12:23] Wooow.
Will [00:12:23] So I just had an instant dislike. For some reason, I knew he would try and sabotage my trajectory. And the irony about the whole thing is, is because he tried to sabotage it, he gave me, like a point of entry!
Annie [00:12:40] He did, yeah.
Will [00:12:43] Do you know what I mean! I don't think he ever got over it really but, you know, *Annie laughs* maybe he's- maybe he's better now. Who knows?
Annie [00:12:49] He is such a pantomime villain on the television. I don't know what he's like in real life, but he is- He plays a role, or maybe he doesn't, very well.
Will [00:12:58] Who knows, yeah, who knows? But I mean, it was really interesting for me, and it did bring out a courageous side, you know, and it just goes to show like we can, you know, in many areas I wasn't confident but sometimes you do- and I'm sure you've had it in your life, your career, you know when you get to a point and you're like, no, that's my bar. I'm not-
Annie [00:13:18] Yeah.
Will [00:13:18] Going below that.
Annie [00:13:19] Yeah. Yeah.
Will [00:13:20] And you sort of have a moment when you go, no, I'm not doing that or I'm not putting up for that and those moments are really special in life.
Annie [00:13:28] Can I ask about your feelings towards Pop Idol in general? Do you feel like it's defined you and are you okay with that if that is the case?
Will [00:13:39] I don't think it's defined me. I struggled with it for a while because I got quite a lot of snobbery in the music industry because of it. You know, and that probably won't surprise you. And that really hurt me and it did damage me and I think that there's probably lingers of that now, there are probably things that if I was a sort of parallel artist, opportunities that I might have got that I didn't get because of coming from that show. Funny enough, even as I say that now it feels- I have really left that behind. I spoke to someone the other day, this is really interesting, I'd work with him and he comes up to me, I mean, a lot of this is his stuff and he goes, 'you were always my guilty pleasure' and I said, oh, that's interesting. I said, 'why?', he goes 'oh, you know what I mean?' and erm I said, 'no, I don't'.
Annie [00:14:39] *Laughing* I don't know why you should feel guilty for listening to my music.
Will [00:14:43] I don't know what that means!
Annie [00:14:44] I mean, first of all, what the fuck is a guilty pleasure? Like that shouldn't exist. That question is ridiculous but also, that's so offensive! That's so offensive! .
Will [00:14:53] Oh my God it's so offensi- and I really was offended, actually. I thought, you know, I've been doing this 22 years- I thought that kind of snobbery might have gone, you know, and it was just a very odd thing to say. But I thought, God, oh my God, this person that I've worked with for quite a few years, and I was like oh, okay, that's interesting that someone might still feel like that, you know, so I suppose I used to get that a lot more. And also I think it was hard because, you know, I entered the show, won it, and then a lot of people that I loved their music, you know, had a lot of comments to say about the show. So I guess me being involved in the show- and that was hard, you know, hearing people say nasty things about the show and me who I'd sort of grown up listening to their music so I, I think because of that, I never really felt that welcome in the music industry. It wasn't till probably about seven years into my career when people started getting excited to see me, younger artists, and I thought, oh, okay, maybe I'm established now, and that's quite a nice place to be. I think the other thing was it was tricky being gay because, you know, really, you know, obviously times were so different then and I'd get a lot of people that would come up and say 'oooh my husband listens to your music. I mean, he's not gay' you know, it would be like if you listened to Will Young, it basically meant you were gay if you were a man. And so, you know, that was probably quite hard to hear. But Pop Idol itself, no I just thought it was amazing.
Annie [00:16:36] If you had the choice to go back and do it differently, would you do the same thing or?
Will [00:16:40] I'd definitely do it again. Yeah, yeah. I don't think I would be able to do something like that now because the pressures are so different, but no one knew how big it was going to be. No I had the best thing ever. You know, I was a posh politics student *Annie laughs* that didn't write his songs at that stage, was openly gay, and I worked in the music industry. I was already working in the music industry, working for Sony Publishing, so there's no way anyone would have given me a contract. But I did feel like if I got to the public, they would like my voice, I felt that.
Annie [00:17:12] Yes.
Will [00:17:13] And I believed in the public. I thought, I think they'll like me if I can just get to the public.
Annie [00:17:28] Let's talk about change in terms of your life. You mentioned your mum and dad.
Will [00:17:32] Mmm.
Annie [00:17:34] Growing up you had an older sister and a twin brother, right? What was the biggest change, I suppose, that you experienced in childhood?
Will [00:17:42] It was learning to ride a bike because we lived in the countryside and so you couldn't get around, you know, unless- there were no buses. And so once you learned to cycle, it was like a whole other world, you could cycle around all the lanes, could cycle to the train station and get a train.
Annie [00:18:05] So little Will cycling around the lanes, what kind of kid were you?
Will [00:18:09] Accident prone. I was accident prone *Annie laughs, which went hand in hand with the bike. Always falling into water for some reason. We used to go to Scotland on our holidays and my mum used- when we went walking, she'd have to go with an extra pair of jeans, socks, pants, t- shirt because I would just fall into a bog, or a river or a stream. It was just inevitable that I would fall over. Very sensitive. Quite teary. I was easily made able to cry, always singing to myself, yeah and very sort of gentle, really.
Annie [00:18:48] So you mentioned boarding school, I know you can't talk about that lots but just in terms of that change from going from your house to living away from home, what are your memories of that?
Will [00:18:59] Yeah, it was terribly tricky.
Annie [00:19:02] How old were you, Will?
Will [00:19:05] Well, I went to the school at seven, but we were actually the first day boys they'd ever had. We didn't board till nine, which is still obviously very young. And yeah, it's tricky. I'm sort of involved in legal proceedings now, and I don't want to damage not just my case, but other cases, but what I will say is that for me when I realised how much that experience had damaged me, you know, and it did also lead to my breakdown, the last few years a lot has changed in terms of how we can get recognition and recompense for that. And I think it ties in a lot, interestingly to- I'm seeing a sort of correlation into when I was talking about not liking seeing contestants being, you know, made to cry on Pop Idol. I feel very strongly with what I'm doing now with my boarding school, is that it's not really about me, you know, sometimes it's quite stressful, it's can be quite triggering but I've done a lot of work on that. But it's giving other people permission and showing them that you can, you know, ask for what's the word- ask for people to at least face the law whether I win or not-
Annie [00:20:25] To be accountable.
Will [00:20:27] To be accountable, exactly, that's the word. Accountability. And I feel very strongly about that. And it's not just for me, it's for other people. People can get broken for their life. I mean, that's it. They can get broken because of stuff that's happened. And the sad thing about the boarding school thing is people, you know, they don't see the kids, they just see like privilege and they just see money. And I did an interview- it was it was honestly the worst interview I think I've ever done. I won't say who the person was, but the questions that were asked was so, so awful. And it was the kind of things that people- it was victim blaming really. You know, and the way people reacted afterwards, you know, which this person was very happy to read out their reactions. And it was terribly, terribly disappointing to hear that, 'oh, well, rich kid, you know, spoilt' and I just think, oh God, who would look at children being in such an awful place, abusive place, and just see the money of their parent? I mean, that just says more about the people. So I think that's why a lot of people don't come forward in terms of boarding school but also, you know, the correlation is the same with any childhood abuse. People in positions of power, normally removed from the family, they might strike up a relationship with the family and their made to feel like you can't say anything. You know, it was a really awful time but actually something that this has been quite an interesting experience for me.
Annie [00:22:03] Have you reconnected with other alumni of the school in doing it?
Will [00:22:07] Yesss! Yes I have! I saw a couple of them yesterday, actually. And it was just so, yeah, we've become really good friends and- I didn't realise, this is the other thing, a lot of it can be public but you know, you don't always know- when you're in that place you can see certain things but you don't see all the things. That's been really hard for me to hear. I get terribly upset when I hear people come forward and people that I knew and I hear their experiences and I didn't see everything, of course, how can you? So that's tricky. But ahh, they're lovely people. It's weird how life works. Really like struck up a really great friendship. It's someone I haven't seen for years.
Annie [00:22:52] That's a beautiful thing to happen off this, off this thing.
Will [00:22:55] Yeah, we keep each other strong, you know, It's not sewn into our identity. It was something that was very tough and we're doing something about it so that's, you know, that gives my sort of younger parts- they feel like, oh, you know, like grown up William's doing something about it so, it's quite sweet, really.
[00:23:13] *Short musical interlude*
Annie [00:23:22] Okay, so let's talk about now the biggest change in adulthood. You talked about going on a 'survivor's workshop', what is this?
Will [00:23:29] Well, it was this great workshop- I had this brilliant therapist called Lois Evans. She was this Jewish New York woman. Her earrings were from Tiffany's. Once she pointed at them and said, 'you paid for these' *Annie laughs*, you know, amazingly permed hair. Quite tough but sort of very maternal. She sent me on this workshop run by a guy called Randy Berlin.
Annie [00:23:51] Oh my God.
Will [00:23:53] Yeah, who was this sort of Texan guy, looked like he was carved from stone and it was called survivors, but it just sort of taught me about boundaries, because that was one of the hard things was that, well, everyone has opinions and when you're in the public eye, they're very happy to tell you your opinions. So, you know, like people would be coming up to me just telling me, I mean, anything- 'ooh I don't like that song' 'why aren't you doing that?' 'oh, I do like that' or 'oh, that's not very good', you know, and I was like a sort of feather in the wind just being like oh okay, okay.
Annie [00:24:24] So at what point in your life did you do this? Like, what age were you?
Will [00:24:28] 2007.
Annie [00:24:30] Oh, right, okay so right in the height of it. Yeah.
Will [00:24:33] Mhm.
Annie [00:24:34] Okay.
Will [00:24:34] And it was brilliant. And I didn't have a bad day's work after that.
Annie [00:24:39] Seriously?!
Will [00:24:41] Still haven't. I've lost things. I've gained things. But I just- I learned boundaries and I learned that- to protect myself so like, they did a thing called a- you imagined you had a suit on, suit of armour, mine was a Batman suit.
Annie [00:24:58] Right.
Will [00:24:58] So I thought it was kind of hot. And then you had a sort of little door over your heart and you could open it from the inside. And I'd have my- I call it my Batman suit, if I get a call from my manager, immediately *poof* Batman suits on because I don't know what he's going to say.
Annie [00:25:15] Right. So you have to be prepared.
Will [00:25:17] So I'm prepared. I was never prepared before.
Annie [00:25:18] For let downs.
Will [00:25:20] For letdowns or anything, or people come up in the street 'oh Will, can I just-', *boom* Batman suit on. My Batman suit now, it's so well practiced and it's not even a conscious thing.
Annie [00:25:30] Is the Batman suit on now? Are you wearing it?
Will [00:25:34] Yes.
Annie [00:25:35] Yes.
Will [00:25:35] Yes. Things bounce- and it's rubber, so things can just bounce off. You know, bounce off. And it just changed my life.
Annie [00:25:44] How?
Will [00:25:45] Because I stopped taking things in. I stopped because it's like, anything would be, you know, not just like a stick, it would stick in me. So I get a call 'Coca-Cola wanted you for this job. They don't want you any more'. Before it would be like, ahh! My Goddd.
Annie [00:25:59] Take to bed, yeah.
Will [00:26:00] Yeah and then I'd be walking with that in and then lets say I do an interview and someone says oh, you know, 'I don't know if you read that review about your-' you know, eughh another battle.
Annie [00:26:09] Yeah. Yeah.
Will [00:26:11] Trying to walk through life with these --- taking me down. And now I don't- they don't affect me.
Annie [00:26:18] Wow.
Will [00:26:18] So I can be free and I can just- I could just walk through life and the stress wouldn't stick with me, you know? And I just felt so much more free and protected. I was never protecting myself, I never knew anything about boundaries so it was just life changing, actually.
Annie [00:26:35] I can imagine from a very pragmatic level, like a functional level, it saved you shitloads of time. Like the amount of time you would have spent just, you know, in despair about stuff that you can then just spend on yourself doing constructive things or pleasurable things.
Will [00:26:52] So much time and sort of internal time, you know. You know, because, I wasn't sitting there-
Annie [00:27:00] Self-flagellation *laughs*.
Will [00:27:01] Yeah, yeah, basically. So I just couldn't believe, now looking back how I would just walk around taking everyone- I mean, I'm probably an empath anyway.
Annie [00:27:14] Mmm, I think as an artist you are particularly permeable to all things like that, aren't you? Yeah.
Will [00:27:20] Yes. So probably pick up on people's energies and things like that. I just don't know how I managed it before.
Annie [00:27:25] When everybody has an opinion about you and you are that person, you know, which makes you a good artist and a good singer and a good actor and all of these things, how do you marry all those things that people have to say about you, all the judgements, with being okay in the world?
Will [00:27:41] I don't know, well I wasn't, you know, it was really hard. Luckily I had friends and I had humour and humour was really great.
Annie [00:27:47] Yes.
Will [00:27:48] I think that's really important. And then I think as you go on, you just learn to not- you know, so reviews are in for my play, I'm not going to read any of the reviews.
Annie [00:27:58] Right.
Will [00:27:59] Because that would just be madness for me.
Annie [00:28:02] God, I wish I was as good as you. I can't not read them. I have to read them.
Will [00:28:05] Oh, I don't-
Annie [00:28:06] I want to get better at that.
Will [00:28:07] How do you manage that? I mean, wow, because I just- I can't. Even if it's a five star review, I know the way my mind works, and I would just pick up on the one thing.
Annie [00:28:18] Yeah, yeah.
Will [00:28:19] And then that's it. I don't go on social media. I'm not on social media because that's not good for me. You know, you have to learn a bit more now because, now you have things like social media and all that, you didn't at the time. And if I get a whiff of someone about to tell me something like, I stop them in their track.
Annie [00:28:41] Say no thanks, you don't need to tell me that.
Will [00:28:42] Ignorance is bliss.
Annie [00:28:43] Yeah. Yeah. Wow. Will, can I ask about your brother?
Will [00:28:49] Mmmm, what would you like to know?
Annie [00:28:51] I suppose just when he died, was it a surprise for you and your family? Did you know? Was there a kind of expectation, I suppose, that it might happen?
Will [00:29:03] My brother took his life, it wasn't a surprise for me. Um, we have a very interesting relationship with death, and I think with suicide in the world. And I think people who are listening- and maybe you've lost people yourself too who've taken their own life, it's a heavy topic and it comes with a sense of shame, I suppose in a way. I just sort of knew that my brother did everything he could. And I realised that more and more and more actually after he'd gone. I sort of got this- even more of a respect than I'd had before. And I think people can be like, 'ahh it's so selfish!'.
Annie [00:29:44] Oh, God no.
Will [00:29:47] 'It's so selfish on the families!', well you're not the one who took your life.
Annie [00:29:52] I think that's people who have no experience of mental health crisis.
Will [00:30:00] Yeah, I just err- of course it could be so devastating for people, you know, the tragedy of it. It is the ultimate tragedy. For me, you know, I got a lot of years with my brother, and he decided he'd had enough and weirdly for me, that was okay. Some people might find that a strange thing to say. So for me, it didn't seem as tragic as I think other circumstances around suicide can be. You know, particularly often people don't actually want to take their life, I mean, that's a real tragedy.
Annie [00:30:31] Yeah. So they do it as a cry for help or something?
Will [00:30:35] And I think maybe this is useful for people to hear about suicidal ideation because I spoke to this psychiatrist and often people don't talk about suicidal ideation, and I can get suicidal ideation and it's a symptom of, you know, real distress. I know I don't want to take my life and it can feel a thing that you really don't want to share with people because it was throw them into a complete panic, because obviously like, the ultimate panic is... My friend, my partner, my child, my parent, whoever is going to take their life, I mean, that is like the ultimate panic. So sometimes sharing about suicidal ideation, people are scared to do it because they don't want to panic people. But I think it should be spoken about more actually, in terms of just a symptom of distress. And the other thing is someone told me once a psychiatrist, never forgotten it, if you feel like your suicidal ideation is a bit of like a tractor beam, you feel like you're being drawn towards the idea of taking your life and you sort of can't stop it-
Annie [00:31:43] Yes.
Will [00:31:44] And you start making plans, you know, that's when you need to get help. And I've had that only a couple of times in my life for myself, and I rang the Samaritans.
Annie [00:31:56] Awhhh, the Samaritans are so amazing.
Will [00:31:59] They were great. This woman I rang once and she said, you know, are you tired of life or are you tired of, then it was my anxiety. I said, oh, that's a really good question.
Annie [00:32:09] Yeah.
Will [00:32:09] I mean, I kept on getting her name wrong, but I felt like.
Annie [00:32:12] I'm sure she forgives you.
Will [00:32:13] Let's not split hairs.
Annie [00:32:14] Yeah, I'm sure she didn't mind.
Will [00:32:16] That's not split hairs here, Debbie. Even though her name is Donna, lets say, *Annie laughs* I don't know.
Annie [00:32:21] God bless Donna.
Will [00:32:22] No, they're brilliant. And also, you know, anyone who is feeling in that position, you know, know that the Samaritans are always there. I've used them. They've been brilliant.
[00:32:30] *Short musical interlude*
Annie [00:32:40] Will, I must ask you and want to ask you about your podcast. I listened to the communication and relationships episode, bloody hell. Felt like I needed to write a lot of stuff down after that. But yes, this podcast is only in its second series. I suppose, why did you want to do a podcast purely about wellbeing?
Will [00:32:59] Well, I had done a podcast called Homo Sapiens which is still going with a chap called Chris Sweeney, and I loved that podcast. And then I sort of thought a lot of stuff that was coming up in Homo Sapiens was wellbeing really. And another thing that I found stressful was trying to find guests, so I thought right-
Annie [00:33:22] Oh it's sooo stressful! It's such as hard work.
Will [00:33:23] It's such hard work, so I thought right, I'm not going to speak to anyone famous so I don't feel like the pressure of having to do that. You know, I'm not-
Annie [00:33:32] And to deliver big names week after week, yeah.
Will [00:33:34] And also like maybe getting people just because they're famous, but they might be an arsehole, and I don't want that.
Annie [00:33:39] Right, or not have much constructive things to say, you know, that pertain to your podcast, right?
Will [00:33:45] Exactly, so I made a decision to sort of do, I guess quite a niche podcast, which is just talk to professionals really about varying topics. Some of them really, you know, not really so well known. And then occasionally talking to people who are professionals and they're also, they are dealing with that condition. So we've done so many different things. Body dysmorphia, hypnotherapy was quite an amazing one actually, I interviewed this woman and that was on hypnotherapy but really therapy with hypnosis and I thought that was quite extraordinary actually. Communication one was great, conflict resolution, it just goes on and on.
Annie [00:34:28] Well we'll put a link to the podcast in the show notes for this, anyone who wants to go and listen just check the show notes.
Will [00:34:35] Thank you.
Annie [00:34:35] Last question, Will Young. The change you would still like to make in your life?
Will [00:34:42] I think I said more joy?
Annie [00:34:44] You did.
Will [00:34:45] Yeah, that's what I'm working on. It's hard to have joy if you get a lot of anxiety, because your body's going, oh no, no, we don't have time for joy.
Annie [00:34:57] Well you're in fight or flight all the time, right?
Will [00:35:00] *Laughing* you're in fight or flight. Or often for me it's also a freeze response or a faint response, you know so it's quite difficult to sort of go 'oh yes, I'm experiencing much joy'. But as my anxiety gets better, I'm noticing more joy come in and that and that's quite fun. It's normally the little things. Normally comes with a sense of presence.
Annie [00:35:20] How do you mean by that? Sorry, when you say sense of presence.
Will [00:35:25] Let's be joyful in the moment now. Let's be joyful- because our brains and maybe our bodies, you know, because of our past or whatever, might be thinking 'oh, this isn't going to last, this isn't going to last, can't do that'. So I found that to be joyful, it's not necessarily an elation.
Annie [00:35:43] Right.
Will [00:35:44] It's like a- like yesterday's performance was a joyful performance for me, but sometimes I have to sort of just remind my brain a bit. I'm like, well, why don't we just enjoy this moment now and see how that works out. It's quite a good little practice.
Annie [00:36:04] Pulling yourself back to the now. Stroking the dog, eating something gorgeous, burning the sage.
Will [00:36:10] Exactly, burning the blumin' sage *Annie laughs*. Sometimes I'm like, sage ain't working, sage ain't working!
Annie [00:36:16] *Unintelligible* *Laughing*
Will [00:36:19] *Laughing* yeah, sage ain't working.
Annie [00:36:20] You got to keep trying, right? That's the whole point.
Will [00:36:23] You do.
Annie [00:36:24] Yeah. Will, thank you so much.
Will [00:36:27] Thank you.
Annie [00:36:28] Yeah, it's a real pleasure to speak to you, thank you... Do please rate, review and subscribe to Changes. It is so appreciated and if you fancy sharing it on social media too, that would be amazing. The more people we can get listening to these episodes, the better. We want to tell our stories far and wide. Changes is produced by Louise Mason through DIN Productions. Thanks for listening!