Rebecca Cullen Explores The Rehabilitative Power Of Creating Music.
The passing of World Mental Health Day this week brought a wonderful sense of ‘it’s OK to talk about this, let’s talk about it in depth and help each other out’. It’s important that we draw attention to these issues, albeit sad that it’s not more commonly accepted in every day life, though it certainly seems well on it’s way. We’re all experiencing this world at the very same time; there’s no way that anyone should have to feel alone in their struggles.
In the age of the internet, we can literally see the opinions and hear the voices of anyone and everyone. The fact is, far more of us suffer from mental health issues than was perhaps first suspected. I for one am grateful that so much light has been shed on this of late, but there’s still a stigma attached to talking about our feelings, and to combat this, rather than trouble someone with our thoughts, we work hard to keep them in; which, in turn, makes the problem much worse.
It’s important to keep the conversation going. There are numerous resources available online to help you throughout the year – please don’t suffer in silence.
For the moment, I have to look at mental health in a more general manner, which is to consider all of us at once. Speaking from personal experience, there are a number of ways in which we each help ourselves through times of difficulty; whether these are passing times or more longer term.
Finding the right people to talk to is a huge one, not the easiest, but the one that could help the most in lifting away those dark shadows and looking a little further forwards. In addition, something easily accessible and always there for us, regardless of how we’re feeling – music.
When we’re depressed, or submerged in a jittery swamp of anxiety, it’s difficult to enjoy the music that we used to. It doesn’t sound the same, it doesn’t feel the same. But, for the most part – we can still hear it. It’s still an alternative to our direct view of the world. Our favourite songs don’t mean the same to us in the many months that pass with this colossal cloud of isolation surrounding and swallowing our existence, but they still sound like something, and that something can often seem far more reasonable than the rest of world.
When I talk about music as therapy, I have to specify – it’s not merely the listening that helps, it’s the creating. To take a step back from reality, to sit and play guitar, to sit and write some music or lyrics, to exercise some sort of musical creativity, is to escape from the norm; it’s to meditate, to remove worry from your mind, to focus on something entirely outside of the regular rat-race of modern life.
Music works for people. Perhaps not for everyone, but it’s more than worth a try. Metallica’s Kirk Hamlett is just one of a number of musicians who have declared testament to the healing power* of making music; playing guitar, writing, singing, playing the piano, etc. To some, these pursuits are an unnecessary way to spend ones time; they contribute nothing to your financial prowess, they add nothing to the advancement of the human race, they simply make a racket.
In reality though, they are so very valuable. These activities are a part of the very essence of what makes life so beautiful. These things that we enjoy, these creative pursuits that calm us and calm those around us; these are the natural blessings of life. They are not the manic, fast paced elements of this world – the ones in which we all must take part. These things are our escape from those elements. These things are our shelter from the harsh downpour of modern life.
Music is an incredibly powerful tool for connecting with and even comforting our emotions and our fears. There’s something so accessible about certain songs or instrumental pieces that really reaches out and involves us in the core of their expression, particularly if it’s a direct reflection of our own thoughts – a song we have made, a riff we have played; a somewhat frozen image of our concerns at the height of their velocity.
In addition, the louder we play it, the more the noise of the rest of the world is drowned out for a while. We are safe in our bubble, with our songs that understand us, and we can escape here whenever we’re feeling overcome with anxiety. It’s not a permanent solution, but it works in the way that exercise might if we were enthusiastic enough to give that a try. It works in the way that a cuddle might, but it’s available at all times.
Music is something we can all just create, right here and now, with our voices and our hands and our minds. It’s always there for us, and it’s such a simple concept – a gathering of notes and sounds and moments, purely created for our ears to receive, to then pass on to our brain, to then share out to our entire body. Music is a beautiful drug. The safest and most reliable drug out there.
Music to the listener is often a means of escaping – from reality, from fear, from difficulty. Music to the creator, however, is more commonly a means of embracing and expressing those very same feelings. And if, in turn, you create something that helps other people feel better about their lives, even just for a few minutes, then you’ve done something incredible. You’ve made the world a slightly better place.
In any number of wonderful forms, music is something that most of us incorporate into our lives at some point during each and every day, and there’s a very clear reason for that. It makes us feel something. It makes us feel better, more energised, more understood; more enthusiastic, more confident, less afraid, less alone, less helpless. The strength of music can lift away even the darkest of feelings. And sure, it’s often temporary, but what is anything in this life if not temporary?
Perhaps now more than ever we need to enjoy the summer days as they pass us by – to revel in that warmth, that glow, and try to capture and remember the feeling of bliss for as long as our days may last. Make music, create art, simply because you can; because it feels great, and because, well – what else is there to do if we are done creating?