When I was 18 and a few weeks into my second semester of college, I had a bit of a mental breakdown. I say “a bit” because I’ve had breakdowns that, on the surface, were much worse, but in relation to my career in music, this one is significant.
I had chosen my college- Case Western Reserve University- partially because their Biomedical Engineering program was one of the best in the country. I excelled in my classes, earning straight As my first semester. I had a campus job as a lifeguard, and I was on the cheerleading squad. I went to meetings for all sorts of pre-med clubs but never found one that fit. No sweat; I had time to build my resume.
Just as I was beginning to get my footing and make friends on campus, I tore my ACL and lateral meniscus in my right knee at cheerleading practice. I was in pain and hobbling around campus on crutches was hard; I didn’t go out much. I had surgery over winter break.
I got back to campus and all of a sudden, I didn’t know what to do with my life. I signed up for a psychology class, thinking maybe I’d be a psychiatrist instead of an orthopedic surgeon or biomedical engineering researcher. But the thought of applying to medical school- something that once sounded exciting- now felt overwhelming. I didn’t feel like my qualifications would ever match up to my classmates’ and I suddenly felt like all of the stress wasn’t worth it.
My heart wasn’t in it… but what the hell was I going to do with my life? I had always loved music, but I never felt like I was “cool enough” to actually work in the music industry. I didn’t know what I wanted to major in or what I wanted to do- what I could do, and depression was starting to rear its head again. I felt lost and without purpose, and despite having just joined a sorority, I felt like I was completely alone.
When sophomore year started, without cheerleading to fill up my evenings, I joined the programming board on campus and started booking shows. Then I took a class called History of Rock & Roll, and fell in love with writing about music. When the class finished, I wasn’t done, and decided to create my own blog. At first, it was just something I was doing to get involved in music over summer break, but I kept doing it because I loved it, and because it finally felt like I had a purpose.
There have certainly been hiccups, and I’d be lying if I said my mental health hasn’t, at times, made it hard to keep up with everything. There’s a lot of pressure in the music industry to “work harder”, to be working longer hours without a day off, and this stress can add up. Many of us are balancing the music industry with school or a “day job”, or balancing multiple music-related projects with the realities of being a human- there are only so many hours in a day.
As someone who never really felt like I fit in, being involved in the music industry has been incredibly rewarding. I’ve met so many wonderful people and something as simple as someone saying, “It’s so good to see you!” when I get to a show makes me feel like I belong. I still deal with depression and anxiety, and more than once I’ve had a panic attack/ breakdown while at a show, but I get through it.
I’m currently recovering from another knee surgery (my previous ACL graft had “failed”, so I needed a revision of the reconstruction, and I had another meniscus tear), so life has felt in flux for the past few months. I don’t know if mental illness ever gets easier to deal with, but I do know that past experiences have made me stronger. Being open about my life can be incredibly terrifying, but also incredibly rewarding as I realize that I’m not alone, and that it’s absolutely possible to get through whatever it is I’m going through.
Molly Hudelson is a photographer, writer, and Founder / Editor-in-Chief of Circles & Soundwaves. She currently works for HIP Video Promo, a music video promotion company. She loves vegan pizza, her dog and cat, and really strong coffee. Follow her on Twitter @mhudelson and Instagram @mhudelson