I Must Be Getting Better Because I Can Really Hear Music Again - the Relationship Between My Depression and Music
I received ‘Mozart for children – for relaxation’, in effort to calm the nervousness and insomnia I suffered from an early age...
I’ve always been a music lover, music of all types...
...I remember one of the first CDs I received as a child, of maybe 6 years, was ‘Mozart for children – for relaxation’, in effort to calm the nervousness and insomnia I suffered from an early age. I was obsessed with this CD and still have it today.
A year or so later, we saw an ABBA tribute band play on the holiday resort in Majorca, at the time, was the greatest thing I’d ever seen with my eyes or heard with my ears. Again, an absolute obsession followed for the next couple of years. Certain musicals also became my favourite films to watch and sing along to, such as ‘Joseph and the amazing technicolour dream-coat’, ‘The sound of music’ and ‘Oliver’ just to name a few.
...I enjoyed learning to read sheet music, a line for each hand, lots to think about for my mind and my fingers
In primary school, every pupil was encouraged to take on an instrument beyond the terrible and tympanic membrane distressing recorder. I asked my Grandma if I could play guitar which she deemed to be for boys, I didn’t even bother asking about drum lessons. As a timid 6 year old, I struggled too much with the violin to tolerate the sharp-tongued teacher so abandoned it quickly.
I then commenced keyboard lessons, I enjoyed learning to read sheet music, a line for each hand, lots to think about for my mind and my fingers and the resulting sound was generally fun due to all the other buttons. My grandparents were amazing and marched straight out to buy the best keyboard they could afford and I played it every day.
At this point, the music teacher encouraged my grandparents to put me into private piano lessons to make the most of the new skill I was learning and that they did. I never looked back, I climbed through 5 grades and learned more and more about the sound of all different types of music not just for piano but of all classical music from Gregorian chant up to recent modern classics.
Meanwhile, as my interest in other music began to take a seat in my list of favourite things such as rock music from my mum’s mixtapes...
...pop music from my mates at school, I was still listening to and collecting CDs from all eras and genres.
I was lucky enough to know two classical singers throughout my childhood, who are still very special to me, who would extend invitations to classical concerts and became teachers. I met conductors and composers which blew my young mind. I’m forever grateful for this influence as it has allowed me to enjoy music to its fullest potential, which I still do when I’m well.
That feeling you get when your body falls into the music and you can’t think about anything else, goosebumps, eyes shut, hairs on end etc. I love it. Unfortunately, this vanishes among many other things when my mental health takes a turn.
I finally was gifted an electric guitar as my 13th birthday present, all ready to go with an amp, cables and a plectrum or two. I didn’t travel far without this Fender Vintage Stratocaster, I adored it and played it for hours each day, to the point of splashing blood over the scratch plate but I didn’t care at all. I learnt the Green Day American Idiot album start to finish and trolled through ultimate-guitar.com daily to find new tunes to learn. I joined a string of bands before landing in a Leeds and Wakefield based alt-rock band.
My love for music just kept on growing and growing.
Not surprisingly, being a singer-songwriter and lead singer in a rock and became my life, writing, playing, gigging, driving and recording. I noticed at this point that I seemed to struggle between the gigs, particularly straight after coming off stage, with a monumental drop in mood despite my onstage presence.The band noticed too but were patient and supportive, apparently it’s quite common.
Gradually, as the band's success grew, I only really listened to music that would inspire me to write for the band with our unique song. As if music had become work, not really to be enjoyed. After 4 years of this, I left the lead guitarist and therefore the band at which point I reopened my mind to all music I loved before.
During the first 6 months of being a newly-qualified nurse, I began to experience severe insomnia and consequently crippling low mood, the first time I’d noticed the colour drain from my environment and the joy of music disappear.
This lasted approximately 3 or months but when it finally lifted, I can remember like it was yesterday walking in through the city of Leeds, in the rain, listening to Karl Jenkins and watching the colour re-emerge as my pulse seemed to match the beat of the music and I knew at that moment I was improving.
In the last 18 months that I have battled with PTSD and more recently severe depression...
...I have noticed that not only do I struggle to choose what to listen to, but I just stopped enjoying it in the same way, just as I did 4 years ago as a newly qualified nurse.
I was almost never affected by a piece like I was before I was ill, no music was all consuming or distracting so it took a back seat behind podcasts which I found more to be engaging.
So to be listening to my old favourites as I sit here and write, whilst occasionally stopping typing to really listen is a really positive marker for me. That I’m really hearing the beauty created, appreciating it as my senses seem to reengage and flourish with sound and colour, which it would seem I’m unable to do when I’m unwell.
Hence I may reason that I am recovering, for now at least, either way I’m grateful to be sensitive to charming sound today.
So to be listening to my old favourites as I sit here and write, whilst occasionally stopping typing to really listen is a really positive marker for me.