On being crazy

The tracks for our new EP are pretty much finished (HURRAY!) and we are starting the production on our video for the first single. The video is going to be centered around de-stigmatizing mental illness (ooo, big words!), and while I know that sounds like something you might read in an Oprah Magazine, believe me when I say that I see this concept as so much more than a “hot topic”.

A few years ago, I was diagnosed with type II bipolar (which comedian Maria Bamford calls “the new gladiator sandal” cause it’s, like, so in right now) as well as anxiety and panic disorder. I’ve always been cautious not to say too much about my mental illness online, mostly because I was scared of how people would react. Will they think I’m just a weak/ lazy person and tell me to suck it up? Will they become uncomfortable when they hear scary words like “bipolar” and walk away slowly, making no sudden movements?

I also tried to keep a lot of this to myself because I HATED the mentally ill part of my brain. Can’t I just scoop it out with a spoon and pretend this never happened? See this girl lying in a FIELD of CUPCAKES?? THAT is who I am, not this twisted, dark, maniac who can’t get through a shift at work without curling up into a ball in the staff bathroom!

I tend to forget that mental illness is not who I am… it’s an ILLNESS. Not only is it an illness, it ‘s a COMMON illness. I’ve seriously had a doctor say to me “Oh sweetheart, you’re the third suicidal person I’ve seen this morning!” The clinic had only been open for two hours.

So I’m going to start talking about it, and I’m going to start writing songs about it, and I’m most definitely going to stop lying about why I’m always going to the doctor. (The flu? Again? Really?)

I’ve been inspired by other artists who are open about their experiences. Hearing their stories has helped me get to this place of acceptance… I know, I know, I’m starting to sound like Dr. Phil, but it’s true! So here’s to everyone dealing with mental illness in some way, shape or form. My heart goes out to you!


Posted: August 14th, 2013


Remember when you were a kid and one of the most important questions you could ask a fellow kid was what’s your favourite colour? I was the kid who answered rainbow. Which is a cop out, I know… but how could I choose just ONE?!

I love ALL colours, especially when they are loud and clashing and making things pop. I love colours in my hair, on my nails and in my cereal. And as a kid, the clothes my mom picked out for me at Osh Kosh B’gosh were always a frenzy of neon tye-dye, and my primary teachers chose colour schemes for our classrooms that were bright and inspiring. We even had assignments that were simply to “colour” something. What more could a girl ask for?

(me with colours in my hair and on my face…)

ALAS! As we get older, the colour starts to drain from our lives. In grade 7, the most colourful part of my classroom was my teacher’s bright yellow mushroom cut. In grade 11, my high school had hired painters to put a thick coat of grey over any colour they could find in our school hallways. I guess they thought that a nice, noncommittal grey would be better than the outrageous orange that had been left over from some decade long past (possibly the 90’s). To me, nothing could be worse than grey.  The painters were like Bunnicula, the vampire rabbit who sucked all of the orange out of his carrots until they were limp and lifeless. I’m not sure if anyone remembers that book, but I promise you, it was terrifying.

This was around the time that I wrote the song “Is it too late to apologize”.  In the song, I talk about singing 80’s hits in the hallways to bring back the colour, which I’m sure I did on a regular basis. I was seventeen, and for the first time since puberty, I was excited about who I was. I wore colourful dresses with bright, ridiculous tights and walked down those grey hallways thinking of my outfits as some sort of anti-dote.  I wasn’t out to cure other people, I was only trying to cure myself. I have always been a very sensitive person, and at that time it felt as if I was drowning in a bunch new and heavy emotions. My silly outfits were my life preservers, and they kept me floating right until the end of high school. I was teased for some of my fashion choices, but it was usually by idiots for whom I had no respect. I didn’t need the approval of some guy who still couldn’t conjugate the verb avoir.  In my song, I wrote “I won’t change for you”. Instead I would remain bright and colourful and would wait for the real world, where boys accept you as you are and everyone can be anyone they want. Right? RIGHT???

A year after highschool, I went back on my word and I “changed for him”. I was finally in a relationship with the boy I had been waiting on the sidelines for, and I felt fantastically happy. He was caring and loving and everything I wanted him to be, but at the time, he was also very insecure. He saw my bright, whimsical outfits as something that would make me, and by proxy him, stand out… and I think it scared him. It was a strange concept to me, because I hadn’t really cared about dressing to fit in since my brief stint with skate shoes in 2004. But I cared about what he thought more than anything, so when he suggested that I wear no more than two colours at a time, because it was embarrassing for the both of us, I was tripping over myself to comply. Of course, what I should have said was, “No, honey, this is how I dress and it’s important to me”, problem solved, but unfortunately, I didn’t even consider saying anything at all. I barely noticed it was happening. By the end of the relationship, my favourite outfit was his grey jeans, his grey sweatshirt, my brown leather jacket, and his black toque. I mean, EUGH. I felt like one of Bunnicula’s carrots. It was like god had given me a pipe cleaner instead of a backbone.

When we broke up, it took me a long time to embrace colour again, because I still doubted myself constantly (for reasons other than the break up). Lately, when I get dressed in the morning, I like to have at LEAST three colours in an outfit, and my official colour motto is “the more the merrier”.  I live in Vancouver: the skies are as gray as my highschool hallways, yet the most people walk around in BLACK and GRAY and that army green. There is nothing wrong with those colours, but I’m tired of blending into the background. I LOVE colours, and though these days I usually say my favourite colour is red since the answer “rainbow” has taken on a lot more meaning than it had when I was six, I aim to look like a walking, talking box of Smarties. Because it’s FUN. Because it’s SILLY. Because it’s who I am, and when I am drowning in a pacific ocean of sadness, bubble gum lipstick and a bright yellow dress will keep me at the surface.

If you feel like wearing a thousand colours today, please, don’t think about whether or not you’ll look like Ms. Frizzle. Ms. Frizzle looked totally awesome in all those colours, and so will you!

I love you,

Sarah from the Oh Wells

Posted: February 28th, 2013