Back in the hot seat
My music career has always been one that happened in waves. I often perform tests to see if I still want to engage with music, always concluding that I want to. This happened with my 14 Days Of Christmas project in 2019, was repeated with the condensed 8 Days of Christmas in 2020 and a higher-effort 8 Days in 2021-22.
In mid-2022, I organised a birthday party at a small venue in London called The Others where I played a 30 minute set. This went better than expected and I was offered the chance to organise a monthly night at that venue, which I accepted. I ran 2 nights, entitled This & That at The Others, in October and November 2022, where I played sets on both occasions to small crowds. These nights also featured a robot fighting segment known as Rock & Robots due to there being a drummer soundtracking the fights in realtime.
(Blog posts will happen for all of these things eventually)
Things at the time were stressful in general. I was managing a full-time job, coming home almost every day to work on organising monthly gigs and planning music writing while needing to provide care for my disabled dad who had considerabe mobility needs and would need my help to get up from wherever he was. Friends later told me that around this time, I was "firing on all cylinders" whenever they saw me. On 22nd November 2022, I planned to do some gig organisation but it turned out that my toilet stopped flushing. I spent over an hour trying and failing to fix this (it wasn't straightforward, the cistern is obscured by the bathroom counter. The same night, I attempted to record my Spotify Wrapped video. You can definitely see that I'm not in a good state.
I have a memory around this time of thinking about whether there would be a defining moment to my life that hadn't happened yet - something that would dominate the conversation when I met new people. Soon enough, I found one.
On 23 November 2022, I was at work when half my body suddenly went numb. I was advised to go to A&E, where they told me that I was likely to be experiencing the first episode of a migraine with a sensory aura. This tracked with the frequent single-sided headaches I had experienced earlier that year which I hadn't referred to as migraines because of the agonising descriptions I had read of migraines seeming a bit more intense than what I experienced. I was booked in for an MRI scan a few days later.
The scariest part was when I took a bath on the day after going to A&E. The left side of my body felt normal but the right side didn't feel any warmth, just the wetness of the water. Imagine a line running down the mid-point of your body, through your nose, sternum, navel, spine and everything else on that plane. To the left of that line, everything felt normal. To the right, dulled responses to touch and inability to feel heat or cold.
Waking up every morning to find that this weird feeling hadn't subsided became more and more concerning. I headed to the MRI scan not knowing what to expect. The consultant's first words were "welcome to the stroke clinic", which shocked me a little. The scan itself was very relaxing. I especially liked that they told me to go into the room, lie down and do nothing - I hadn't had a command like that in ages.
They diagnosed me with a ruptured cavernoma in my brain stem. Seeing the picture of the scan made me so relieved that I had some physical proof that something was up with my brain. Mentally, I had been stressed for a while but couldn't really point at anything without the possibility of being talked out of taking it seriously, either by myself or others who sought to put me down. The instructions from the doctor were clear: no more stress, no more heavy lifting, maybe I'll be back to normal in 6 months.
This left me unable to do my job and unable to do what I had been doing as the primary carer for my disabled father. The sourcing of acts for the gigs I was running, especially as I wasn't getting confirmation that I would have a night to organise the next month until after the previous gig, was another form of stress and putting the gigs on hold cut my overall stress levels. Since I was making a small amount of money frrom these gigs, it would be fraud to be organising them while I was on sick leave - I didn't want to end up going to court over making £30 for one of these nights.
Towards the end of December, most of the feeling on my right side returned. However, this was replaced by a fatigue which kicked in after walking anywhere. The distance I could walk before feeling this pain decreased over time and soon, I was unable to walk outdoors without experiencing this pain most of the way. Canes didn't help so I was stuck with using a wheelchair or a rollator frame. This continues to this day. Shoes are often uncomfortable too, so if you see me outside, I’ll usually be wearing flip-flops with socks. We do what we must.
With regards to work, I was ruled out of doing what I was previously doing since I was only fit to work from home and they couldn’t adapt my job to being solely home-based. I was given early access to other jobs in the hospital I worked in, landed an interview as an information analyst but couldn’t convert it to a job. A few weeks ago, I had a medical capability hearing at work where I was presented with a few options and decided to accept termination, mostly because staying on the pathway with early access to job ads would be unpaid and wouldn’t allow me to pursue any other paid work or business endeavours.
So as of now, my main job is as a promoter and artist for my company, Tolerable Music Ltd, and I will be organising gig nights featuring live robot fighting at The Others in Stoke Newington, beginning on Sunday 14th January 2024 and continuing on the second Sunday of each month. The event page for the first event is here: https://fb.me/e/37k9teqqN and tickets can be bought in advance at ticketsource.co.uk/tolerablemusic
It's currently undecided how many of these nights I will be playing at since other gigs I'm looking into have exclusivity deals which would prevent me from announcing or playing other gigs for various periods of time. I will, however, definitely be hosting both the gig side and the robot fighting.
TL;DR Eli’s back. Hope to see you soon.