Angela blogs about how music, dancing and other creative activities helped her when she was struggling with depression and anxiety.
For over a decade I have experienced episodes of depression and anxiety. They've been with me from the age of 13 and I believe that childhood experiences triggered the initial development of my symptoms. These include insomnia, problems with concentration and comprehension, extreme fatigue, low mood, lack of motivation, loss of appetite headaches, aches, and pains. In the past, I have self-harmed, had suicidal thoughts and panic attacks.
When I was struggling with my mental health and life circumstances, creativity became a place to escape. It became a retreat and a safe space for me to redirect my energy towards something positive that made me feel good about myself.
"I felt like I had finally found something that allowed me to express my pain in a way that made sense to me."
I have various creative outlets in my life such as singing, writing songs and poems, and playing the guitar. Having these outlets has played a pivotal role in my mental health. From an early age, creativity was my place to escape, and when I started singing and dancing, I felt like I had finally found something that allowed me to express my pain in a way that made sense to me.
I would channel my emotions into the rhythm of the music, releasing them into the way I moved when dancing and feeling it in the vibrations of my voice when I sang. With it came this great sense of relief.
"In the past, I'd self-harmed, but eventually creativity replaced that."
I started doing performances with clubs and school, and the more I performed, the more my confidence developed. In the past, I'd self-harmed, but eventually creativity replaced that. It's a much healthier method of managing my depression and anxiety and it contributes to my overall wellbeing.
Creativity became my passion and eventually a career ambition. I went on to study dance and music at college, but my aim is to become a professional musician.
Recently, I experienced a long period of depression and anxiety, and I went several weeks without leaving the house. I couldn’t perform basic acts of self-care, I would sleep a lot, and stay in my pyjamas all day. I lost my confidence in everything, even music. I felt like I had lost who I was, I lost all motivation and hope, and felt like my vitality for life had been completely obliterated. The spark I had was gone. I was genuinely convinced that I wouldn’t ever get out of what was a long period of darkness.
Then I started university. Even though my mental health was still poor, I convinced myself that once I started my studies, I would be okay. I was hit with more difficult circumstances in my life, and my mental health declined further. I could not deal with the pressure of studying and completing essays, and consequently I dropped out after only a few months.
"Learning guitar gave me a reason to leave the house, and gradually made me feel like myself again."
I hit rock bottom, but this pushed me into immersing myself back into creativity. I began working on different projects at home such as revamping and upcycling old pieces of furniture, suitcases and storage boxes, and a few weeks later I began guitar lessons. Learning guitar gave me a reason to leave the house, and gradually made me feel like myself again, allowing me to rebuild my confidence with singing.
Completing a creative project or progressing with something on guitar contributes positively to my mental health. Not only does it act as a mood lifter, but it also provides me with a sense of accomplishment. This in return gives me the motivation and confidence towards acting in other facets of my life. By engaging in it, I am caring for myself by making room for something in my life that brings me happiness.
"Creativity has helped me through a lot of dark times and played a significant role in my mental health recovery."
Creativity gives me something to strive for in my life. Without it in my life, I felt completely lost. I believe it is so important to have something that you’re passionate about in your life.
Creativity has helped me through a lot of dark times and played a significant role in my mental health recovery. It isn’t always about creating something either. Listening to music also helps me, whether it’s an upbeat song that lifts my mood and makes me want to dance, a meditation or Buddha music that aids relaxation, or an emotional song that resonates with me on a personal level.
Experiencing depression and anxiety has shaped who I am as a musician, providing me with the emotional depth to deliver through my performances, giving me material for my song writing and poems. I want to use my music platform to raise mental health awareness and to combat the stigma associated with it and to hopefully help others the way music has helped me.
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