Kerr and Hotel Mira Set to headline Re-Mind on May 24th in support of the B.C. Schizophrenia Society
Charlie Kerr stands on the edge of the stage, punctuating his lyrics with hands outstretched to an audience that in turn surges forward with his every word. Behind him, his Hotel Mira bandmates build the tempo beat by beat, and suddenly the room explodes into a frenzy of dancing bodies, thrashing guitars, and impressive keyboard feats. And Kerr stands in the middle it all, gesticulating wildly while pouring his heart out into the song.
At one time, this lightening fast ability to connect with total strangers would have felt completely impossible to Kerr.
“I felt like I wasn’t equipped to be a human being, very much like an alien that crash landed on earth.” he recalls. This disconnect was largely due to several chronic and undiagnosed mental illnesses, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), borderline personality disorder (BPD), and the occasional but horrifying bouts of psychosis that can sometimes be attributed to either of these disorders.
The first time Kerr noticed any relief from his feelings of isolation was as a 10 year old child taking his first guitar lessons. “I had never really connected with anything,” Kerr says. “Looking back, it’s really clear to me [that] it was a therapeutic thing to be sure. It was somewhere to put everything I was feeling.”
Music is a reliable source of joy in his life. Kerr recounts how one of the first rushes he ever received from playing music was from when he suddenly broke into a rift from Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” during a school assembly. Since then, he has been continuing to chase that high. But at the same time, the Vancouver native was slowly being worn down by the crippling symptoms of his undiagnosed and untreated mental illnesses. At age 20, Kerr found himself struggling with hallucinations of voices telling him he would never be good enough, and feelings of hopelessness – he was ready to give up.
Then, the suicide of a friend who was the same age snapped Kerr back to reality. He realized that like his friend, he needed to get help. So he started working with a therapist, and then switched to another when the first one didn’t quite fit. A diagnosis came soon after and Kerr was able to take some real steps towards feeling better.
“I started treating myself with some kindness for the first time,” he admitted. “I realized that since I didn’t have a neurotypical brain, it was okay if I experienced life a bit differently, and that was more freeing than defeating.”
Until that point, Kerr, like others who live with untreated mental illness, thought what he was going through was normal.
“I thought that everyone went through the same amount of pain, but I was just worse at [managing] it,” he recalls. Now days, he knows that although what he feels is similar to what others experience, the way he takes in those emotions and responds to them is much more intense, and can be debilitating.
On top of the overwhelming exhaustion and confusion related to his PTSD, Kerr struggles with a battery of symptoms associated with BPD.
“Crippling fears of abandonment, a desire to self harm, a lack of identity – these are all common symptoms,” explains Kerr. “In the past and almost to this day, there are a lot of anxiety and panic attacks [from both PTSD and BPD]. I think a lot of people with this diagnosis self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, but luckily I’ve avoided that kind of thing for the last ten years.”
Throughout it all, Kerr continues to lean on music to give his life purpose.
“What I’m realizing about my life now is that music [and] writing songs gave me the will to live. Oh, I don’t mean that in a romantic way,” he quickly corrected. “I mean that being a musician and entertainer gave me an identity I felt positive about. And so, I feel like music kept me alive until I found other less fleeting ways to keep me going.”
Now, Kerr says, the benefits of his passion for music have come back to reward him in another way.
“I hear from my fans that the music helps them connect to their feelings, and process what’s going on in their head. For me, that’s everything.”
Kerr will appear alongside Hotel Mira during the upcoming Re-Mind event. This evening of art and music will be hosted by the B.C. Schizophrenia Society on May 24th from 7 pm to 11 pm at the Beaumont Studios in Vancouver, B.C.
Kerr promises two distinct sets. The first, an acoustic solo performance earlier in the evening, will speak to his struggles and his sources of hope, followed by a later performance with the rest of Hotel Mira, which he promises will be “loud, energizing, and quite the production.”
Admission to Re-Mind is free, and all ages are welcome. This event is also generously sponsored by the Otsuka-Lundbeck Alliance.
Featuring art and performances by people living with schizophrenia, psychosis and other pervasive and serious mental illnesses, Re-Mind: An Evening of Art, Music, and Readings is now in its third year, BCSS is excited to bring people together for another exceptional evening in the name of breaking apart the stigma associated with mental illness.