Goodbye July – Mental Health and the Music Industry

Ulster Hall, Belfast

A few words as we head into the first days of Autumn…….. I’m in two minds about the summer, I feel like it has come and gone in the blink of an eye and then there’s days like today when I feel it’s been the longest summer of my life.

Some amazing things have happened so far, it’s been busy. The biggest for me being the release of my album ‘I wanted to do it right, but there’s no such thing’. It feels like that was a dream now. Much has happened since with me personally and I guess that’s what I’m here to discuss, briefly. 

To jump straight into it, in this day and age it’s hard to avoid hearing people discussing mental health and why it’s so important to look after it. I have listened to endless podcasts and read dozens of articles about it in the past always feeling quite lucky that the things being discussed weren’t something I felt I identified with. Yeah, i’d felt pressure at work before, I’d felt anxious about certain situations, I’d gone without enough sleep to finish whatever project I was working on, but all in all I always felt solid and knew that I could manage. I’m extremely good at multi-tasking, I’ve always been a doer and always kept myself busy. 

I knew that when I decided to release this album into the world, I would go hell for leather and give it the best shot it had. Being an unsigned and completely independent artist means taking on a range of different roles ….. being the songwriter, the performer, the manager, the PR company, the radio plugger, the gig booker, the tour manager, the social media marketer ….. the list goes on AND ON

I was excited, I didn’t have a big budget to do all of the above with but I was capable and I really wanted people to listen to the songs I had recorded nearly three years previously. 

I would say the pressure probably began back in February when I released the first single ‘27’. I’d work my day job as a primary school teacher and then get home and throw myself straight into the never ending ‘to do’ list of music based tasks I had set myself to promote the new single and start planning out the album release itself. Thinking back now, this is definitely around the time I started getting unexplainable and random pains in my arms, back and neck. It would come and go, I didn’t pay it much notice and kept going as I was. 

I was so busy and wrapped up in everything that I failed to notice that I wasn’t giving myself a second to breathe. My nerves were growing about the live performances I was doing the week of the release and I was growing more anxious that people were going to think my album was a load of shit. None of these thoughts are particularly strange for people who have a creative output, it’s a scary thing to put yourself out there. But I wasn’t acknowledging or accepting those feelings and just ignored them. 

In the final two week build up to the release and the gigs, I was on edge. Reflecting now, I know that I hadn’t slept enough, wasn’t eating properly and was tired all the time but I refused to believe that I was anything but fine. That’s when a major panic attack came my way. I thought it was completely out of the blue, I was driving on the M50 and completely freaked out. I couldn’t see the road ahead of me and had to pull over and call family for help.

My mental health proceeded to completely de-rail from there. I started getting really intense migraines every day, where I felt like my head was going to explode. I was given a range of drugs to try and combat these which became a complete crutch for me for the next six weeks. Getting through the release week was exciting but also one of the hardest weeks I’ve ever had which made me really sad. 

I expected that after that initial week of madness, things would calm down and go back to normal. Unfortunately, it only got worse and I wasn’t coping. I’ve never felt like that before, my anxiety and stress levels had been building for so long that they had completely consumed me. I was so embarrassed as I felt it was definitely affecting me in social situations and my performances. It got to the point that even going to work was difficult. 

I’m very lucky to have an amazing support system, it’s taken nearly 6 weeks of completely stopping and actively doing nothing to somewhat realign myself again. I finally feel like I’m getting back to my normal self. 

I guess I’m writing about this because I’m even more aware now after reading up on it that stress and anxiety are the silent killers of the western world – my doctor told me that at least 30% of clients she deals with are presenting with these types of issues. I now realise that it’s hard to talk about it when you’re going through it because it’s not something people can see and it can appear out of nowhere without a whole lot of prior warning. I relate to people talking about anxiety on a whole different level now.

I know that social media has it’s part to play, I was trying my best to be present on it and spread the word of my new music. But, I find it to be a toxic place for me at the best of times and I become addicted even when I actively try not to. I think this is going to be constant battle for me, trying to find a happy medium of using it to share my creative output and not get bogged down in other people’s lives, comparing and contrasting (which we all do, whether we admit to it or not). 

Again, another reason for me to write about this, to share the fact that even during a time I’m sure my life looked nothing but merry and joyous online, there was so much more going on in the background. 

I’ve taken a lot of things on board over the last few weeks and learning to be nicer to myself is huge and actually really difficult. I’m not one to say well done to myself an awful lot, but guess what, that’s really important!!! I gave something my absolute all, it broke me a little bit but I’m very happy with how it went. 

I’ll also take this opportunity to thank everyone for all they’re amazing feedback about the album and for buying it and sharing it – after taking time out, I’m looking forward to getting back to promoting it. 

I’m also re-locating back to my second favourite city at the end of the summer – London!! There’s been a lot of change in the last few years for me – definitely trying to embrace it and take it all as it comes! Life has a funny way of throwing unexpected things at you!

The rest of August for me will consist of lots of yoga, healthy eating, spending time with friends and family and slowly getting back into a healthy pattern of work again ……….  

 

Talk soon, be kind to yourself 

 

X

Some links for you to find my new music 

You can listen to “I Wanted to Do It Right, but There’s No Such Thing’ here – choose your preferred listening platform: https://lnk.to/iwantedtodoitright

Watch the music for single ‘27’ here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWwQOQeZcpM

Watch the lyric video for ‘Stay’ here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2OCuluMqYk