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Mental Health Matters: “My depression was a part of me, and it needed to be heard.”

I’m a writer – or at least, that’s what my parents always said.

And so I write a lot (on paper and to keyboard melodies) to try and make sense of the way my brain interprets the world around me.

I wrote a story once that framed my depression as a really bad friend who enjoys manipulating you and seeing you fall apart into tiny little pieces. And while that’s a nice thing to imagine – simplifying depression as just some textbook plastic mean girl you can tell to go take a hike – I don’t think that way anymore.

For a long time disassociation has been my drink of choice when it came to dealing with things that live inside my brain. I was afraid to say it out loud, to ask for help, to have anybody know that I wasn’t exactly how I made myself seem everyday.

When I graduated university, I did just what they do in all the memoirs and movies and drove to Toronto with no real plan other than being a rock star. I lived in an old house crammed with lots of rooms and people (and eventually, mice) but it all seemed beautiful, being in the creative center of the big city. I was steps away from where they filmed the concert scene in Scott Pilgrim or where Nirvana played their first Canadian show. The first day in my new home, I walked to a nearby Home Hardware and bought a can of chalkboard paint. I put on Rumors by Fleetwood Mac and covered my walls in the erasable coat of black. And I painted them in dreams and aspirations of every venue I wanted to sing my songs at in Toronto.

But something really funny happens when you remove yourself from the safety net of your usual environment and dive into the big wide world of adulthood all alone – you can’t hide from yourself anymore.

Having to sit in the same room as my depression day-in and day out made me realize this wasn’t just a phase or some other manifestation of a girl that would eventually get bored and leave. With no distractions but the sound of the Bathurst streetcars rolling by my window every few minutes, I knew it wasn’t something I could just self-remedy forever.

My depression was a part of me, at least for that time, and it needed to be heard.

After abandoning the idea of reading library self-help books in between crafting bookings emails and playing shows, I began searching for a therapist that didn’t cost a month’s rent. Fortunately, there’s something called the Toronto Institute for Relational Psychotherapy and they offer counseling services from $20- 80/session.

And that was the best decision I ever made, both as a human and an artist.

I learned a lot about myself and it was nice to have someone validate the way I felt and assure me that I wasn’t a defective person because of it.

As a creative person, I think it’s easy to feel like you’re fighting a fight that might only ever lead to holding a day job you hate and having a lot of awkward empty conversations over Thanksgiving dinner with traditional professionals. I know I’ve questioned that a lot. In university, I tried so hard to find something else I loved just as much as staring out into the blackness of an audience, the lights streaming over your face, and pouring out your heart at the top of your lungs to the beat. I considered: pediatrics, medicine, anthropology, law, journalism, social work, and a bunch more things I won’t say.

But one day, in the cream-coloured organized room of my therapist, I realized that as hard as this creative road is, I need it. The times when I feel most alive, most myself, and most confident, are when I’m on stage. When we got to talking about it, I started to study myself every show, and I noticed it was true – down to the way I held my presence and spoke to people – I was the most honest version of myself.

On stage I can talk about these things, tell people the real meaning behind words I wrote alone in my bedroom, words that I might even be embarrassed or ashamed of. I can tell complete strangers my hopes and dreams, my fears, insecurities, and desires. And often, my songwriting discovers these hopes, dreams, and fears before my brain has time to work them out.

I hope everyone can find that thing – the place where they don’t have to edit or filter or slap a happy caption beneath the way the really feel. A place where they can digest complex emotions and thoughts and break them into beautiful simplicities. A place where they can seek help and not be ashamed.

I’m glad the stage is that place for me. I’m glad the stage is a place where my depression and I can stand, hand in hand, without reservation, and express ourselves. But most of all, I’m glad she hardly ever follows me back into the crowd afterward.

Musical inspiration came to Sarah Botelho at only 9 years old when she wrote her first song about how heartbroken she was when she found out Santa wasn’t real. Since then, she’s come a long way, eventually settling up in the alternative indie world of music under the name POESY – an archaic word for poetry and callback to her time as an English + Creative Writing major at Western University. Her influences are widespread, including the likes of Freddie Mercury, Katy Perry, Florence Welch, Kurt Cobain, and Stevie Nicks. With her piano skills in her pocket, she dabbles with anything she can get her hands on – guitar, ukulele, you name it – in order to make the cathartic music she does.

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Angela Mastrogiacomo

Founder of Infectious Magazine & Muddy Paw Public Relations. Lover of passion, ice cream, and books.

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