'Why haven't I spoken about it before?' Comedian Karl Minns reveals his fight with anxiety and depression
PUBLISHED: 18:47 29 November 2017 | UPDATED: 16:10 30 November 2017
He is a comedy genius well known for making Norfolk audiences laugh as one of the Nimmo Twins but for his latest show Karl Minns will bravely be going solo to talk about his real-life battle with depression and anxiety.
Meet Karl Minns is part of a special Creative Matters season at Norwich Theatre Royal’s Stage Two venue in January that will be putting the spotlight on issues around men’s mental health.
The in-conversation event with Theatre Royal chief executive Stephen Crocker will see Karl talk candidly for the first time about his own personal journey - and he said he hoped by speaking out it will help other men facing similar issues realise they are not alone.
“I walked around the block for a day and a half thinking, ‘do I want to reveal this?’ because it’s incredibly personal and it’s something that I had kept to myself apart from a few friends, and then, because of the nature of what Creative Matters is trying to do, which is to try to get men in this region to talk about mental health, I thought if I can do it and I can help someone else in the county understand that they are not alone in suffering from it...then it’s going to be massively helpful.”
Forty-seven-year-old Karl said while the prospect of the show was daunting, he felt it may actually also prove therapeutic.
“It’s going to be very unusual. To have 100-odd people listening to me talking about my life - without me wearing a wig, without me wearing a mask or hiding behind a character - is going to be really good for me because I think it will lift a burden from me...it’s easy for me to say there’s not a stigma around it [depression and anxiety] but why haven’t I spoken about it before? There’s no shame around it so why haven’t I spoken about it before?”
He said he felt depression and anxiety had always been part of his life, but at times it had reached the stage where he felt odd just walking down the street, anxious even when he was at home in his own flat, and nervous even when he was making hundreds of people laugh while performing a Nimmo Twins show.
“In my work it was overwhelming. I remember presenting an awards ceremony in Great Yarmouth and I remember driving away, and four lines in this two-hour thing hadn’t got a laugh, they were greeted with silence, and instead of going, ‘well that happens,’ I remember being in my car and my knuckles were on the steering wheel - white - and my heart was going at 1,000mph. I was having shooting pains and the thoughts in my head were, ‘you are wrong, you are less than, everyone is talking about that.’
“By the time I got home, I got out the car and I was walking to my flat and I thought there was somebody behind me because I had worked myself up into such a level of anxiety...That was about 12 or 15 years ago and that’s when I thought, ‘this is not right,’ and I began to try and get therapy for it and to talk about it.”
He added: “Everything had to be perfect. If I did a Nimmo Twins show it had to be perfect and I still have this. If there’s an audience of 300 people or 1,300 people here, people are laughing and falling off their seats, I will find the one person in the audience who is not enjoying it. I will look at him and go ‘he knows me, he’s right and they are all wrong, that this isn’t enough, this isn’t funny, this isn’t right.’”
But he said the difference now was that he had found ways to befriend what he describes as his inner critic.
“The last four or five years have been the time where I’ve turned round and gone right I need to make a friend of this anxiety, because if I don’t make a friend of it then it is truly an enemy for me.
“I need to go, ‘okay what do I need to do to control you?’ And for me it has been mindfulness, so meditation, having a semi-spiritual life, exercise - which I know is such a cliche - I’ve taken up running again for the first time in 10 years which is a shocking sight but it does make me feel better. “I go to the gym and I have an outreach now which is incredibly important, I have five or six people that I can pick up the phone to and say I’m not having a great day.”
He added: “I’m at a point now where I’ve accepted it’s going to be something that’s probably going to be with me all my life but it’s something that can be managed rather than something to run away from.”
Meet Karl Minns is at Norwich Theatre Royal’s Stage Two venue on Friday, January 26. The 7.30pm performance is sold out but there is now an extra performance on the same day at 5.30pm. Tickets cost £12 and go on sale on Thursday, November 30 at 9.30am. To book, call 01603 630000 or visit www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk
Karl is also planning to set up a mailing list for people to find out more about his solo shows and The Nimmo Twins. People will be able to sign up to the list within the next few days at www.karlminns.com
More about Creative Matters
Norwich Theatre Royal has joined forces with Norfolk County Council for January’s Creative Matters season focussing on men’s mental health.
The theatre’s Stage Two venue will host a month-long programme of productions, workshops and special events. These are particularly aimed at Norfolk men aged over 30 and their families because statistics show middle aged men in Norfolk are less likely to seek help and support around their wellbeing and that suicide rates in the county are above the national average, especially among men aged 30 to 64.
As well as the Meet Karl Minns event, other highlights of the Creative Matters season will include a stage adaptation of Matthew Johnstone’s bestselling book I Had A Black Dog, an open mic night with spoken word artists and singer-songwriters, and an exhibition called Portraits by artist Kevin Parker. For more details, visit www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk