for better mental health

Music saved my life

Thursday, 25 June 2020 Dr Rony

Playing guitar and writing songs helped Dr Rony out of despair. Here he blogs about how he realised his dream of being invited to play at Glastonbury.

Teenagehood is not easy for many of us.

I grew up in Paris, and having to endure the rigid French education system didn’t help either.

The educational and social pressures for good marks, were extremely high. Always trying to be a good student was unbearable for a 13 years old.

That’s when things got darker, and when I reached the bottom on a sunny Sunday afternoon. I nearly ended it all. I just wanted all that pressure to go away and let me live.

Thankfully, at the last minute, the thought of my parents and family being devastated prevented me from doing the irreparable.

Shortly after, I started playing the guitar, learning all the legendary riffs of my heroes, Kurt Cobain, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones. Music had entered my life and filled up my soul.

I was transported into another world, where loneliness was cured by thousands of other musicians sharing the same passion

I felt that I could create beauty; I was transported into another world, where loneliness was cured by thousands of other musicians sharing the same passion, living in the same world and speaking the same language. It was my refuge and life was sweet in that infinite paradise.

I can safely say that music had saved my life. I never attempted anything tragic after I became a musician.

In the morning, before going to school, I would always get stomach aches when it was exam day. Or when I knew that I had a lesson with a particular teacher, who liked to surprise us with an impromptu test.

The only thing that would bring me peace was to pick up my guitar and sing, just for five  min, with my coat, backpack and shoes on in my bedroom.

I ended up studying medicine, and specialising in anaesthetic and intensive care medicine.

It’s been a long and challenging journey that took 12 years to complete but I always had my music, where I could take refuge. I dreamt of a professional music career and gathered a collection of songs that I wrote mainly when i was on holidays or travelling.

I don’t know if I would have managed to survive being an Intensive Care Medicine junior doctor without music

I don’t know if I would have managed to survive the hardship of being an Intensive Care Medicine (ICM) junior doctor without music. Without that parallel magical universe.

When I  was in my final year of training as an ICM doctor, about 10 years ago, I had a particularly rough on-call night shift. I kept on thinking, “Is that what I really want to do for the rest of my life? Will I cope with all theses deaths for the rest of my career?” Because no matter how good you are, or how hard you try, some lives cannot be saved.

I shared my struggles with my boss at the time, who advised: “You’ll get used to it, you’ll toughen up”.

At the time, psychologist support for healthcare workers wasn’t available and it still isn’t today. So, I snuggled into my music, went home and wrote a song called “Strong”.  Which helped me transform my emotions into music.

That song was dedicated to all healthcare workers. I was told many times by colleagues that they could relate to the song so well, it brought them to tears.

As a result, I decided to fundraise for King College Hospital with that song in 2015.

When I finally qualified as a doctor in France, I decided to move to London the very next day, to study music. I was determined to combine my two passions: music and medicine. These three years at music college were the best years of my life. I was literally living the dream!

That’s when I heard about the glorious Glastonbury music festival, and since then playing on the Pyramid stage with my band has been one of my major life goals.

To my regret, I tried every year to buy tickets to simply attend the festival but I guess it was victim of its success. I’ve never been able to purchase a single ticket. They were all sold out within seconds. I guess that made me even more determined to play there.

I was invited to play at Glastonbury 2020 (on the Greenpeace stage). I cannot tell you how excited I was.

After all these years gigging my dream came true and I was invited to play at Glastonbury 2020 (on the Greenpeace stage). I cannot tell you how excited I was!

As we all know, COVID-19 made that impossible, and  to say that I was disappointed would be an understatement. But I promised myself to be back and on the Pyramid stage one day.

During the pandemic, I’ve witnessed many of my colleagues burning out, even before it started in the UK due to all the intense preparations to ensure we were ready and no one was dying needlessly. 

Some of my colleagues broke down in tears at the end of their shifts and I thought, “Oh my god, they are really at risk of developing PTSD”. 

I also knew that it could be prevented if treated in the early stages. I decided to write a song called Super Heroes and fundraised £8,400 towards the employment of a full-time psychologist in our ICU. He/she will be able to support the staff, the patients and their families.

I hope that in the short term, more and more psychologist support will be available for the NHS staff, well after the COVID pandemic, so that no one who is struggling to cope at work will have to “man up” without the professional support.

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