Living in the In Between

Written anonymously by a musician wishing to share their story and experience with anxiety and depression as part of the Breaking the Silence series.

CW: mental illness, descriptions of self-harm, drug use.

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Skye. Photo: Claire Motyer.

I really want to be able to lead a normal, healthy life.

I don’t like living with an inner dialogue of hate and dissatisfaction. But at the same time, I don’t feel ready to let my mind release itself of the depression and anxiety. I suppose that I’ve lived with it for so long that I don’t know how to live without it; it’s become a disturbing security blanket that brings me comfort and a part of me doesn’t want to let it go.

Anxiety makes me feel as though terrible things will happen and that there’s nothing I can do to stop it; I wake up with a sense of unwavering guilt. The constant worrying over nothing causes my chest to tighten so that I cannot take deep breaths, which induces more panic, as you can imagine.

Depression reminds me, repeatedly, that I shouldn’t tell anyone of my worries because it wouldn’t be fair to put such a burden on their shoulders. Who am I to cause such discomfort? How selfish could I possibly be to draw such attention to myself, when there are unspeakable horrors manifesting themselves all over the world? My problems are not important enough to spend any amount of time solving, and in the grand scheme of things, I don’t matter.

I’ve used a lot of terrible methods to cope with my anxiety and subsequent depression. Self-harm became a tool that brought me a strange kind of comfort. It’s hugely difficult to explain, but imagine the feeling that you might get from peeling the plastic off a brand-new item, straight out of the package. It might fill you with indescribable warmth and it might make you want to do it again and again.

This is the same feeling I got from scratching small shapes into my skin. It quieted all the junk that was in my mind for a short while, gave me an opportunity to externalize my feelings. I’m happy to say that it’s been many months since the last incident and I honestly can’t explain what caused me to stop. I think a large part of it was the shame that comes with carrying the scars.

During the worst point in my bout of depression, I stopped doing a lot of things. I stopped seeing friends, I barely went to any of my classes, I took a lot of time off practicing my instrument. I wasn’t feeding myself properly, and consequently lost a lot of weight in a very short amount of time. I found that weed was a great tool to numb the feeling of constant panic and impending doom, but as I later learned, drowning out your problems is different from fixing them.

After several months of contacting the McGill Mental Health Services and being repeatedly canceled on, I finally managed to meet with a therapist and was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder. I was relieved to know that I wasn’t just “bad at life”, or lazy or not tenacious enough. It was helpful to know that someone else realized that I needed help and was willing to help me, no matter how much I told myself that I was undeserving of such assistance.

On the other hand, I had to learn that no one could fix my problems except for myself. Medication can be helpful so don’t knock the idea until you’ve tried it, but I haven’t found one that works for me. As much as it feels strange, and frankly scary, to learn to live without such destructive inner dialogue, it’s crucial. Even though I only had the chance to meet with this Angel-Therapist a few times, she gave me great tips for getting through the days that are deeply, profoundly troubling. Here are three that I live by and that help me survive “those days”:

  • Drink water and eat a meal. You need energy to LIVE.
  • Take a shower—if you feel the urge to self-harm in any way, take a very cold shower for a short amount of time. This will shock your system and help you to feel something.
  • Spend at least 10 minutes outside. You don’t have to walk, you can just sit. Sometimes a change of perspective can be immensely useful.

Even if one ounce of your being feels that you need help of some kind, please try your hardest to seek it out. While you might feel functional on most days, your mental illness does not want you to have a sustainable and fruitful life unless you know how to manage it.

No matter what you might lead yourself to believe, you deserve all the help you can get.

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Les Îles. Photo: Claire Motyer.

You can find an online database with information for dealing with many kinds of mental illness hereHere is a list of help lines for all countries—please use them if you feel the need. 

C Natural’s Breaking the Silence series is a collection of musicians’ health experiences from musicians, music educators and researchers. With over 80% of professional musicians facing health issues related to their career throughout their lifetime, this series aims to provide strength in numbers and to initiate transparent dialogue surrounding musician’s health issues in our community. If you are interested in contributing your story, anonymously or publicly, contact Claire Motyer here.

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