A lot of you don’t know much about me other than I write for 25 Years Later and I’m the guy that posts a lot on Facebook. But I thought I would share part of my story with you, my experiences at the Twin Peaks UK Festival and how it’s provided me with a new-found motivation and positivity.
I’ve suffered with various mental health problems for as long as I can remember—probably since my very early teenage years—but what I don’t know for certain is what caused them. Was it because I was bullied by not only students at school but teachers, the people we’re meant to look up to? Was it because I didn’t know how to handle feeling too different to everyone else due to my sexuality? Was it because I was abused and tormented in my adult life? Or was it simply because this was just the way I was meant to be as a person? Maybe I was born to struggle.
They’ve become friends in a way: my depression popping in every now & then to be with me and the anxiety being a life long partner. They affect me in very different ways, but they don’t just affect me, they affect my relationships with family and my partner. I go through phases where it feels like the whole world’s sounds are being amplified right in my ears. You know how it’s annoying when someone loudly eats crisps on a bus? Imagine that times a thousand and that’s what it’s like for me. Everything feels so loud around me. I get stressed over the slightest of things. And not just a normal kind of “Oh for God’s sake” kind of stress; a stress that makes me worry so much I feel like I may pass out. I get hot and sweaty, irritable and I feel like I’m trapped in a place I can’t escape from. I can go for weeks on end without leaving my home. I actually do trap myself in a place I can’t leave. The stress causes migraines which makes me rely on painkillers to get through each day which could ultimately lead to addiction. I sit replaying every mistake I’ve ever made in my life and continuously beat myself up over them. I remember something embarrassing I did when I was 7 years old and it still haunts me. When I get into that kind of head space and do leave the house I genuinely feel like I’m about to die; I panic so much that I may mysteriously drop down dead from nothing that I have to get back to my safe place. How do you explain to people who you think you may suddenly die from just being outside your home without getting funny and judgemental looks from them?
My social life suffers, of course. I don’t just pop out for coffee and catch ups or down the pub for a swift pint. If anything, I’ve pushed people away over the years because instead of just being open about problems I make excuses for them and eventually people give up asking. I have my partner and a handful of friends who’ve stuck with me through everything whom I love and will always be eternally grateful for the support they’ve given me. I don’t have many other people around me. My parents live abroad and, as I said, a lot of other people just gave up.
Eventually I began making an online life for myself through various Twin Peaks-related groups; online friends will always be there right and won’t get annoyed if I don’t go to a get together if I’m feeling low, right? It was these online communities that lead to me working for 25 Years Later which I will forever insist was a lifeline for me. I have a whole new family in the form of my fellow writers. I get to write about things that I love and interview the actors behind the characters I love. This kind of thing doesn’t ever happen to people like me. I’m just a nobody from the North East of England.
Last year when I knew Twin Peaks: The Return was going to air I decided to try to get my partner into the show. He’d never seen it before, but I knew I had to try to get him into it so I had somebody to experience a whole new season with. He thought I’d tricked him into watching some crazy kind of soap opera at first. He didn’t get it. But eventually something just clicked and he fell hard and fast for the show. We watched both original seasons and Fire Walk With Me in less than two weeks. Do you have any idea how hard it is keeping quiet about who Laura’s killer is when you’re being asked who it is every day? I’ve never had to use my poker face more.
Then we watched The Return. Man we were blown away, the levels of emotion and feelings that surrounded us both during that first watch were so intense. We laughed, cried, consoled each other, and those first feelings will never be felt again. I watched Peaks with my Granddad when I was far too young, but I was an odd horror obsessed-child, so he was the only person I’d ever experienced the show with. The rest of my life had been watching it alone coupled with failed attempts to get friends into it, but now I had someone who loved it in equal levels to me and it was something we could share forever together. It was this shared love that made me realise that all I wanted to do was go to some sort of Peaks event with my partner: the Twin Peaks UK Festival.
It took me about 8 months to psyche myself up for the festival. How on earth was I going to be so far away from home? What would I do if I freaked out and needed my safe place that was hundreds of miles away? (I wish I knew then that the festival itself would actually become my safe place). I went through multiple stages of telling myself I’d made a mistake and that I wasn’t a strong enough person to go to something like this. I knew my online friends would be attending, some of my colleagues from 25YL, and I was scared I would have some sort of “I’m going to die” freak out during the festival which would result in me losing them all. I only really told my partner about my stresses, worries, concerns about going and pretty much kept quiet to everyone else.
The night before day 1 of the festival there was an arranged get together in the pub so we could all meet each other and bond in person a bit. We stood outside the pub. I was shaking and smoking like a maniac because of how nervous I was, but then we got inside and people started to arrive. Within 15 minutes I completely forgot how nervous I was. Everyone just loved each other and went out of their way to greet each other and chat. Amazing people from the community like artists, authors, community owners etc—whose work I respect and admire—recognised me before I even introduced myself. They knew who I was. Me? In my eyes I’m nothing special so to have them already know me and my work was so touching, I still haven’t gotten over it today. I knew from this get together that we’d made the right decision to go. I was already feeling like a completely different person.
I won’t list every single amazing detail here about the festival itself as I think I would still be writing this article by the time next year’s festival comes around, but I will tell you how it made me feel. I’ve been to the odd one-day convention-type events in the past as well as gigs, concerts, exhibitions etc and they’ve always felt very regimented with no warmth or greeting of any kind. It’s always a kind of “Get in, do what you need to, go home” kind of atmosphere. But this wasn’t like that at all. We were greeted by festival creator Lindsey Bowden and her staff at the front doors and they all tirelessly spent the entire weekend making sure we (and everybody else) was happy and enjoying everything while at the same time running around making sure everything ran smoothly. It was a true joy to see a group of people so dedicated to other people’s happiness and well-being in action. We also met Rose Thorne and Benjamin Louche from London’s Double R Club, who both hosted many of the events over the weekend, yet still found the time to go around chatting and helping people. It was like meeting up with people we’d known our entire lives. Every mini event within the festival that we attended—from Gideon Bonaparte’s breath-taking VR experience (more of that in a moment), to the Double R cabaret, the talks, the quiz, TWINGO!!!, the performances, the fan films (to name a few)—were so well thought out and amazing to be a part of. I got to see Rebekah Del Rio and Chrysta Bell both perform on stage in the same evening, I cried through both performances due to how amazing it felt to be in the same room as them listening to the songs I adore. That to me was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
A lifelong dream of mine (and probably hundreds of other Peaks fans) is to go to Snoqualmie, Washington and see the real life locations used for filming but due to financial difficulties it’s probably something that I still won’t be able to afford for a long time. But we took part in Gideon’s VR experience—which is a completely immersive, 360-degree tour of the town and its iconic locations. I honestly can’t put into words how amazing it was. I genuinely cried so many tears of overwhelming joy that I was worried I’d be electrocuted from the headset. It honestly felt like I’d been to the town for real. I had pie at the RR Diner, I sat beneath the falls, listened to Carl sing at his bench, then slowly walked up the stairs in the Palmer house with the fan spinning above my head only to encounter something evil in Laura’s bedroom. Going through that experience is something I’ll remember forever and I can never thank the people who put so much hard work into making it enough. It’s truly a dream come true and I still get a lump in my throat today thinking about that joyous experience.
Just experiencing all of that would have been enough for me to class it as a perfect, life-changing holiday but there was one more aspect that resulted in it being an out of this world experience: the people.
Firstly, the stars who attended—Kimmy Robertson, Dana Ashbrook, Chrysta Bell, Rebekah Del Rio and Jake Wardle—were the most genuine celebrities I have ever met. It was never a case of just shaking hands, getting a signed photo and a selfie, and then waving goodbye. They went out of their way to have real conversations with everyone they met and were so generous with their time (I actually got to spend over half an hour with Rebekah, but that’s for another article). It felt like they had such an honest interest in the fans.
Secondly, the other attendees, the other fans. I said earlier I struggled friend wise and only have a handful of people in my life. That’s changed considerably since the festival. Never in my life have I met such a large group of genuine, amazing, friendly and loving people in my life. In the whole weekend everyone just got on, there was never any bad feelings in the air and it didn’t matter how tired somebody was they all just made an extraordinary effort. People were genuinely caring that I was nervous, worrying about little things or needed to pop outside for air and at no point did I ever feel judged or unwanted. I still can’t get over this feeling of true acceptance from such a large number of people and I do genuinely miss them every day. Despite only spending a few days in London with them it feels like I’ve known them my whole life and they’ll all be a huge part of my life from now on. It’s a true testament to the Twin Peaks community that it is such an accepting place, a supportive one and welcoming of all.
Since returning home I was very down in the first few days which I can’t explain (post-festival blues are a very real experience) and it did take a lot of time to adjust to life without the festival and people around me. It’s still hard to process everything that happened even now. But I’ve found a new confidence within myself and a motivation I struggled to find before. I’m more active. I’m trying to keep my mind active. I feel healthier. I’m eating more (pre-festival I was a one meal a day guy). I have enthusiasm and I’m finding the motivation for personal projects that I never had before. Thank you to each and every person that has contributed to this change, firstly my partner Anthony—whom I love deeply—and secondly, every single person from the festival. Next year’s festival can’t come quickly enough as I can’t wait to be with my Peaks family once again in our natural habitat.
I feel like a totally new person now and I think I’ve finally found my real (as Dougie would say) Home.