Stemming way back to my childhood I’ve always been an anxious person, even as a young boy I suffered from anxiety. I remember being at primary school and having to have extra support because I always had SO much energy, still do, I use to run everywhere – why walk when you can run I thought.
Everything seemed to change when I moved on to secondary school, I had a large friend group, we all stuck together, I had my best friend and I was getting on well, I adapted seamlessly. My anxiety became a thing of the past and as the years went on I completely forgot about it, or so I thought.
Fast-forward to July 8th 2012, a date I will never forget, and I’m sat in a small tent with 3 of my friends and it’s pouring with rain outside. One of my friends then opens a small clear bag and starts rolling up a five pound note, taking it in turns we inhale a browny-white powder called MDMA to have a ‘good time’. We were at NASS Festival and the experience I had was the complete opposite of a good time, I was 16.
It was only 3 months after taking the drug that I had hit the darkest period of my life. I was suffering from 2 panic attacks daily and an uncontrollable urge to wash my hands, I thought everything I touched had MDMA traces on, thus leading me to wash my hands at least 50 times a day. The MDMA had become the catalyst to my severe anxiety of 3 years, so bad that I couldn’t actually leave my bedroom, I became completely paranoid about it.
One of my behaviour patterns during my illness was the need to be with either one of my parents at all times if I left the house. To that end, I would often go to my fathers office. He is a graphic designer and as I spent more time there I began to scribble. One day, half way through my therapy when I began to feel a little better I came up with the idea of translating some of my anxiety drawings onto T-Shirts.
My father told me this was feasible. Encouraged I decided I would like to print my anxiety/OCD drawings onto T-Shirts so I could wear them. Maison de Choup was born and in 2015 launched to the world.
MDC has played in huge part in my recovery, without having something to do whilst suffering I really started to lose my mind, but with this project I had focus, purpose and something to get up in the mornings for. It pushed me to do things that I would never have thought I was capable of doing. Attending networking events, meeting incredible people and having to interact with complete strangers on an almost daily basis, for someone who was suffering from severe anxiety and couldn’t actually leave the bedroom for 3 years and then actively go out and want to talk to people, it was almost surreal.
‘My dark days made me strong. Or maybe I was already strong, and they made me prove it.’ – Emery Lord
For me, Maison de Choup isn’t all about being the next biggest fashionable brand, it’s about creating a brand that is synonymous with mental health. When people say ‘Maison de Choup’ I don’t want them to think ‘oh yeah they sell cool clothes’ I want them to think ‘That’s that brand helping young mental health sufferers through fashion’. It’s about creating and spreading awareness of mental health through fashion, connecting people and reassuring young people who suffer that they can do amazing things. I’m opening up, telling people about my battle with severe anxiety, OCD and how drugs affected me so cataclysmically, using my brand as a way of expressing my feelings. Vanity Fair quite simply summed up what Maison de Choup is about in one line ‘The Fashion Brand with a Mental Health cause at its heart’.
I’m partnered with YoungMinds Charity (I was lucky enough that my parents could send me privately for mental health care) for the young people who aren’t in the same fortunate position that I was, I don’t know what they do. The waiting list for CAHMS is now upwards of a year, within that time something unimaginable could happen. That’s why I want to give back to YoungMinds, they are helping young people, I was that young person suffering and I know what it’s like to be in such a dark place. It is so important to me that I can give back to a charity that helps young sufferers.
If you are a creative, I encourage you to persist with writing down and drawing your thoughts and feelings, for I found this was a great way of expressing myself. If you find you enjoy writing, pursue writing, if drawing is your forte, use it as a tool of releasing emotions. Photography is another passion of mine and is a great way of expression. When I realised that by writing and drawing my thoughts and feelings down in little notebooks was a release for me, I continued with it – I now have lots of little notebooks with my drawings inside.
Getting into the fashion industry is notoriously difficult but I believe people portray it wrongly. We all imagine ‘The Devils Wears Prada’ and ‘Anna Wintour’. Yes, that is fashion, but that is the very top. There are many ways to get into it. If there is one bit of advice I would give to people trying to get into the fashion industry or start their own business, it would be to persevere, nothing happens overnight, you learn from your mistakes and use them to push you further. When I think about it, having a lot of energy with no way to channel it is a recipe for disaster.
Remember, we all suffer. I know I’ll never get over my anxiety and OCD, but I am now able to employ coping mechanisms to deal with it in my own little way. Every day is a new day.
George David Hodgson. https://twitter.com/maisondechoup