Written by X. ARI
When I was a kid, I didn’t realize how much singing eased my anxiety. I would sing just because it made me feel good. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I started to use creativity as a crutch to get me through my first episode of depression. I didn’t know how to get the help I needed when I was in high school, so writing lyrics and poetry became my safe haven. I turned to drugs as well, but luckily, music was what I became addicted to.
Writing and singing are very cathartic for me, and performing live is somewhat of an out of body experience that I can only relate to meditation. I am so grateful that I have found a healthy escape where I can also connect with others through my music and message.
This past year, music and mental health took on an entirely different meaning for me. I experienced the second mental breakdown of my life in November of 2016. I was horrified, embarrassed, and felt completely alone. I thought the first breakdown I had in university — while studying psychology oddly enough — was going to be the only one. It felt like my world was ending when it happened again. This breakdown began when I woke up from a surgery with a bad reaction to the anesthesia. When I woke up, I couldn’t stop crying. This marked the start of a deep depression, and much more. I lost my place and was couch surfing while healing from my surgery. My anxiety and PTSD flared up so badly that I became afraid to sleep. After not sleeping for days, I ended up in the hospital, which is an experience I am still haunted by. I was confused and mistreated there. I felt extremely unsafe and was too afraid to sleep, so I stayed awake in fear. Being awake for too long caused me to become delirious, and I fell into an acute psychosis. I was misdiagnosed as bipolar, and was overly and wrongly medicated. I spent two weeks in the hospital getting worse, and suffering from PTSD without the proper help. It felt like hell and I saw darkness. I wasn’t myself anymore. I was a shell of who I was before. Every part of my being thought this was the end. My life as I knew it felt like it was over.
It took a lot of support, therapy, and self-work to transition out of the hospital and into real life again. I was furious at the hospital, at the unfairness of what I had endured, and at the fact that other people like me were in there without the proper care that they needed. I couldn’t accept this experience or my mental health challenges as part of my life story. I wanted to reject it so badly so my depression continued and worsened. Luckily, my family and friends were very supportive through this time. My family helped me find an in-house patient program, where I spent a month in therapy and did my own self work to get back in touch with who I am. I was able to lessen my internal strife by learning how to accept my breakdowns as part of my story. I have so much more love, compassion, patience, and care for myself now.
Mental illness is something that I deal with and manage day by day, but I don’t allow it to define or limit me. I realized that what I thought was my worst weakness could actually be my biggest strength. By sharing my story with others, I can help someone like me, who felt alone, know that they are NOT alone. I can empower and encourage others to get the help that they need, to know that recovery is possible, and help end stigma by standing up proudly, instead of cowering. I call all of this: “Turning Pain Into Power.”
I turned my pain into power by creating my EP, “Dis-Order,” and short film, “Grace,” for mental health awareness. Advocating for mental health through music helps me heal by making meaning of my traumatic experiences, while inspiring others to do the same. My music and mission has taken on a purpose that is so much bigger than myself. My aim is to reach anyone who is struggling, and who needs to know that they aren’t alone.
I am working towards a day where I can fully accept,and even feel thankful for, all of my trauma and breakdowns. Without them I wouldn’t have found my true purpose in life.