This is a topic that still isn’t talked about as much as it should be, especially within the music business. Depression is real, and I suffered with it for a few years before finally pulling myself out of it. I feel that a lot of people still don’t see depression as a real affliction, and that those of us who suffer with this mental illness are afraid to seek help. We don’t want others to know, or think less of us, because there are those people who feign certain illnesses and issues all the time. It’s not fair. There are plenty of people who died too young and/or ruined their career by trying to live and deal with depression on their own. Too many people have tried to drown their sorrows with alcohol or illegal drugs. Thankfully, I was not one of those people, but it happens.
I’m not a medical doctor, therapist, or psychologist, but if you think you have depression or a serious problem with anxiety, please go seek professional help. I did not seek professional help for my depression, so it took longer than I expected to get better. I have been taking medication for my anxiety for several years, and I do think that medication saved me from myself; however, I should have sought help and things could have played out differently. Now, I hope that I can at least use my experience to help others.
There are many different forms of depression, but clinical depression or major depressive disorder is defined as follows by the National Institute of Mental Health:
It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. To be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms must be present for at least two weeks.
It’s a vague description, but I really think that depression can manifest in different ways depending on the person. For me, I didn’t notice this at the time, but I became a completely different person. I didn’t sleep well at all, I gained about 80 pounds, which I still haven’t been able to lose yet, and my personality changed as well. I became agitated/irritated very easily, and I just had a lot of anger for no reason. I was angry about everything. My road rage was awful, and I’m surprised that someone didn’t hurt me for some of the stupid things that I did. I also began to lie a lot. I’m the type of person that is pretty reliable and is always truthful, but I started telling little lies here and there, and then it steamrolled into something bigger. I didn’t want anyone to know what was going on, so I just made stuff up when I needed to get out of doing something. It’s a wonder that I didn’t get lost in all of the lies.
Aside from those things, I also became kind of lazy. Like I’ve mentioned before, I’m a hard worker, and I always did what I needed to do and more to attain a goal. After the depression really hit, I just started to give up on things very easily. Any negative thing would affect me so much that I would shut down for a little while. It was a horrible feeling, and I know that I wasn’t the most pleasant person to be around through all of this stuff. I should have reached out for help, but like I said, I was afraid, ashamed, and a whole bunch of other feelings that I can’t count.
That being said, the big question is this: How do you deal with depression? Like I keep saying the best way to deal with it is with a professional. Also, you can talk to other people within the profession who have gone through similar circumstances, like myself or anyone else. It’s important to realize that you are not alone and that your mental and physical health is more important than worrying about what other people might think of you. Life is bigger than that and if someone can’t be understanding and supportive, then maybe they don’t need to be in your life. This is a tough profession, primarily because there are too many highly qualified individuals and not enough jobs. The system is broken and it unfortunately looks like it won’t be fixed anytime soon. It also means that universities and conservatories will need to change the way that they prepare us for what’s to come after graduation. I received a great education, but I was prepared to play in an orchestra, teach horn players, teach at the collegiate level. I was not prepared to be denied jobs because I am over qualified. I was not prepared for that crushing sense of despair that I felt when I realized that I could not find a job to support my newborn child.
I don’t say all of this to depress anyone or to try and deter them from pursuing a career in music. I’m still fighting the good fight, but we need to be ready to evolve very quickly. Plus, everyone needs to know how brutal it is out there. Once you graduate, you are on your own, and you better have a plan. I have a plan now, but it took me longer than I expected to get there.
So, back to the original question: How do you deal with depression? I don’t have an easy answer. It’s been a tough road, but I know that I overcame my depression, because I decided that it was time. I realized that I was the only one that could change myself. I had to decide what I wanted, and I had to make myself get to work. Once I did this, I really did start to feel normal again.
For me, I don’t like to talk to people, so this blog has been very therapeutic; however, that still doesn’t mean that you can refuse to get help and be fine. I’m lucky, but you or someone else may not be as lucky. If you are suffering from depression, seek help. If you know someone who is suffering, give them support in any way that you can. Every little bit helps.