This week I begin work on a new project with a local community centre (The Belvidere Centre, Wirral) called “Me and My Music.” It will be an exploration of our relationships with music and the young people will choose songs that are special to them, we will listen, play, talk and work through what music means to us. I’m so excited about it as I just know the power music has.
I thought I’d use this space to explore my own relationship with music, how it has helped me and explain a bit more about why I’m so passionate about the use of music and sound in helping others.
This will be very honest and is a look back on some darker times in my life so please only read if you feel it will help you or someone you know, I don’t want to make anyone feel worse by sharing my own challenging experiences.
As is the case for most of us, music has been a constant, consistent companion through my whole life.
I’ve always loved music but one of the first times I turned to it for therapeutic reasons was in Secondary School. During the first four years, I was teased a lot for the way I looked. Not hurt physically, but very much so verbally with what felt like intense hatred. This affected me more than I realised and I would shut myself away with headphones and books to escape. I actually listened to a lot of intense rap music as I related to the hatred and anger in the lyrics. It matched my frequency at the time, now though if I listen to the same tracks, I can appreciate the beats and rhythms but can’t relate to the tone, which tells me I’ve let go of that anger.
During this same time, I was also singing in school choirs and other little groups. Joining in music groups gave me a connection with others who were also feeling isolated but loved music. I’m really grateful to my parents and teachers at the time who encouraged my music and singing and gave me a lifeline during a difficult time. I struggled to express what I was feeling through talking, but singing always felt right. This is one of the reasons I love using music as an opening way of connecting with others, it forms a common ground that we can use as a gateway for a deeper bond.
I truly have forgiven everyone in my past who may have been cruel to me. We have no idea what happens in people’s lives. At school we think we know our classmates but we only see them for a few hours a day and don’t really know what they have to deal with at home. So I only wish good things for them and am always saddened when I see people post things like “The bullies at school are all wash-outs now and I’m doing this incredible thing blah blah blah”. Life isn’t about your position on an imaginary scale made up to boost your own ego. Have compassion and love for them instead of misusing the term”Karma”, which does not mean what you think it does.
I thought I was ok after school but when I moved away to Uni, I became very depressed. I absolutely loathed myself to the point I would not leave my room for days. I either ate junk food or didn’t eat at all in order to punish myself for that. Singing was one of the only constants in this as I could play music in my room and my voice sounded the same no matter how I felt I looked. Luckily, throughout all the abuse I put my body through, my voice did not suffer or give up on me.
Every time I sang or played piano, I felt better. I didn’t know why at the time but now I can see all the ways it helps. Singing helped calm my breathing. It made me more mindful of the present as it’s hard to worry about future possibilities or cringe about the past when you’re in the middle of a song. Piano practice gave me something to focus on to, to build up on and learn, thus giving me reasons to get up and out of bed.
A related practice of breathing work was also so helpful in reducing my panic attacks. One time, I was hospitalised with a suspected pulmonary embolism. Thankfully, it was not this serious, it was intense panic attacks causing shortness of breath and dizzyness. I remember at the time though wishing I had a physical illness as that seemed so much easier to deal with than a mental one. Now though, I can look back with gratitude that despite all I put my body through I remained relatively healthy and did not have any illness other than what I was experiencing mentally. Learning how to breathe properly and fully, changed my health a lot. Less colds, a clearer head and a feeling of more time developed after a few sessions. This is why I always begin our sessions with breathing work as not everyone is starting from the same inner tempo.
I did feel better but never truly ok so later in my mid-twenties, I asked to be prescribed anti-depressants. I was also self-medicating with other things and so again, pushing my body to its limits. Medication did help level out my moods but also meant I couldn’t feel extreme happiness. During this time, I cut a lot of people off and let down those who had been so supportive and I’m very sorry for this. I can’t explain it other than I just wanted to hide from the world and so I did! At the time though I was just grateful not to be feeling so low any longer so I kept on with the tablets for a time, even though I knew they were not helping me progress.
Then, everything changed and again, I have music to thank, as well as supportive people around me. I was encouraged to take up singing again and to build it up to something more than blasting out songs in my room. I was so lucky to have my wonderful partner Tim and several friends and family who supported me in this and when I got my first gig, I knew that I had to take care of myself. I needed to be physically healthy now to do well. This was the end of punishing myself, self-medicating and damaging my mind and body and I’m so thankful to music and the people around me for that. If I’m honest, I do still have days where I get down but these are more so when I feel overwhelmed by outside events in the world, rather than through introspection.
More recently, I discovered sound healing. A beautiful, ancient practice that uses tonal frequencies to resonate with us in order to create balance, which is needed for optimum health. This practice has enhanced my breathing and meditation work so much and it does feel transformative in that I always feel so lifted after a session and for days afterwards feel better and more energised yet relaxed at the same time.
So this is my journey with mental health and music. I can see how much it has helped me in different ways. This is why I want to use music and sound to help others and share my own experience in order to connect more truthfully and I really hope I can!
Do get in touch if you’d like to share your own experience with me, or see how I can help, always happy to listen!