Mental illness doesn’t politely walk up to your door and ask nicely to come in; it kicks the door down,throat punches you, and then laughs when you cry out in pain.
I’ve been dealing with anxiety and depression stemming from PTSD for about as far back as I can recall memories. As a child my mother was constantly stuck cleaning up vomit because I had worked myself into a panic attack in the middle of the night and had thrown up again.
Anxiety can cripple you in the moment if you let it, making you genuinely feel like every move you make is the wrong one and that those who love you probably just think you’re a bother. It’s making plans and canceling them because the idea of talking to people seems like one that will send the elephant back to sit on your chest for yet another time.
My depression can leave me feeling 100% disconnected from the people I’m around, and while my body is present, my spirit, my passion, my mind are all trapped in a box elsewhere and I can’t access them. Some days all I can really do is go through the motions of my normal routine because life doesn’t stop just because I’m anxious or depressed at that time. I still need to do my day job (preschool portrait photography), I still have a publication that I am managing editor of that I need to help run and write/take photos for, and I still have a band to manage. Countless times I’ve had panic attacks before or during shooting a show, my head floods with “you’re not good enough” and “you’re going to fail.” Anxiety wants you to succumb to those pressures and allow yourself to not live up to your full potential. For a very long time I became victim to my own thoughts and totally let my mental health control how I lived my life. But that’s not the way I wanted to spend my time here; photography and music are my two greatest passions and I refused to let my mental illness ruin something I hold so dear to me.
So I worked on my self-awareness. Every time I started to get anxious pre-show I gave myself a “you’ve got this” pep talk. Cheesy? Maybe, but it worked. I needed to actually remind myself that I am good at what I do and despite constantly fearing I’d fail, I hadn’t yet. I needed to simmer down the negative thoughts that would flood my head the second the stage lights came on.
Being involved in something as chaotic as the music industry can be just as stressful at times as it can be enjoyable and fulfilling. Having to force yourself out of the house to go into a packed venue to network and socialize can be such a daunting task some days. Seeing 17 more emails pile up in your inbox when you already feel like you’re buried. Deadlines. More deadlines. Did I mention socializing and networking? Seriously, it can sometimes completely overwhelm you.
But, over time if you have become aware of your thoughts/feelings/triggers/etc you can help combat some issues and save yourself some stress! I personally have found that taking time to detox from social media AND the news can be a blessing. While yes, it’s a part of my roll for some positions I hold, I can turn my personal stuff off for a bit and avoid checking news feeds.
But my biggest suggestion is to encourage you to talk to people about what’s going on!! I spent nearly 22 years trapped in my mind, never truly fully opening up to anyone about any issues or instabilities I may have had, and it wasn’t until I really communicated to others what was happening that I felt any sense of relief. Therapy is where I found most solace, but just saying the words out loud to anyone at all will help. Despite the constant voice in the back of your head saying it would burden your friends and family to discuss your illness with them, please remind yourself again and again and again that it won’t. Because you deserve to lead a beautiful, happy, successful, and stable life regardless of your mental illness.
May is Mental Health Awareness month, but no matter what time of year, I encourage you to tell your story to someone and listen to the story of a friend.
Sam Reed is a freelance music/portrait photographer for over 4 years, and resides in Buffalo, NY. She is the managing editor at Kill The Music, where she started out as a staff photographer three years ago. She also manages two talented local bands and has started booking shows under Sleep Later Bookings!
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