I thank my mental health every day for what it has made me.
I wouldn’t have stated that gratitude in so many words when in 2014 I had regular panic attacks that meant socialising, public eating, and creating meaningful emotional bonds went from regularities to rarities. I certainly didn’t agree with it when in 2017, one day, having fallen in love, made wonderful friends and felt settled in my new home of London, I found I couldn’t get myself out of bed. Soon I couldn’t get myself out of my own head, spending all my time suffering through endless doubt and emotional emptiness. First things got heavy, and then they got blurry. I felt the emotional gravity give way and my sense of self slowly start to drift off the ground, desperately trying to swim back down.
At the height of my depression, I had a pretty strong narrative in my head. I was in a dark basement that was so quiet I could hear my soul’s heartbeat trembling in self-awareness. I’d lift myself off the concrete floor, prepared to walk through the door and leave my prison cell, only for the floor to cave in and for me to fall into and through a darkness. Eventually, I landed hard on the ground beneath me, broken and defeated, in exactly the same space, the original place, exactly where I’d begun. Any attempt to lift myself out of this prison felt slowly hopeless as I kept getting repeatedly punished for it. Not my most hopeful mental image, but it captured my personal experience of depression well. Relentlessly unforgiving, mercilessly damaging, and frustratingly good at draining one’s capacity to fight.
I was salvaged by friends, family, and cognitive behavioural therapy. I was made a new man with medication, meditation, and regular runs. But without music, I wouldn’t have had the purpose, drive, or daily empowerment to stand up and overcome the gruelling that comes with depression. Probably like most people reading these words now, music has been the pulse of life when the lights exploded and my world went dark. Beyond being my daily companion and emotional haven, making music became my source of flourishment. Getting together with two wonderful souls, nothing was more motivating to get up and keep going than the simple joy of making noise.
Unarticulated and plainly improvisational at first, Being Human began to take shape out of a collective desire to make a record. I wrote melodies and formulated songs, and my extraordinary companions added beautiful arrangements, working together to make the record special to each one of us. Musically, I’m pretty chuffed about the record. Maybe you like studying to music, or you like good ‘vibes’ for smoking up to, or you personally like instrumental music. And if any of those things sound like you, maybe the jazz-tinged, art rock inspired, neoclassical undertones of our downtempo alternative songwriting will be right up your street. With the album now out in the world, after going through a process made matrimonial by both joy and heartache, I can only feel grateful to have made it this far, and with a heart desperate to keep walking forth at whatever pace I want.
What makes this post hard to write, besides the naked exposure of bearing my soul, is that I had never before needed the music I was making so profoundly, so intrinsically to my wellbeing. Not just to expand my horizons, or tell me a story, or compliment my daily routine. I needed music to be there for me, and not just as a means of expression, a hug to a broken heart. I needed it to stand in, as a pillar, to carry my weight when for the first time in my life I just couldn’t carry myself.
I thank my mental health a lot. It might just be how I’m hardwired (or the beginnings of Stockholm syndrome) but only through these experiences can I know exactly what matters to me. There’s a beauty in life that only became present from the depths of my periphery to the centre of my vision because of what it put me through. Without the darkness of 2017, I wouldn’t have valued life as profoundly as I do now, armed with a toolkit of safety nets to help when the days get dark again. Which they have, again and again. But those just remind me how crazy lucky I am x
To anyone who has fought, who will fight, or who is presently wrestling their own head, this record is for you. I hope you find what works for you, whether it’s physical exercise, writing your thoughts out, good hugs from people you love, or professionally supervised medication. Never ever give up. You are worth it.
Artwork Credit: Katie Peck https://katiepeck.myportfolio.com
To Life is a London based alternative instrumental trio rooted in art rock, jazz and downtempo minimalism. Drawing inspiration from Joe Hisaishi’s film scores to the UK Jazz scene, debut Being Human wonders from neoclassical chapters to melodic statements built on floating guitar lines and soaring string phrases. Looking at life through our each minute and step, a story of simple beliefs are told through the heartfelt chemistry of a classically trained cellist against two improvisational guitarists, creating equal parts soundtrack ambiance and delicate, upbeat indie. With sweet keys, soothing slide guitar and stunning cello lifted over a bed of smooth bass, To Life! creates comforting, warm and relaxing music to lift you up or ease you back down. Passionate, unpredictable and ultimately always hopeful, To Life! is a toast to being alive.