I had everything under control until I had massive panic attack while driving 70 mph down a crowded morning highway in May of 2004. A half hour later, my wife had gotten me into a nearby emergency room where I was brought in screaming at full throttle, “I am DYING! My NECK is going to EXPLODE!”
An hour later both the Klonopin I’d received and the mortification at my own behavior had finally kicked in. I’d had sporadic episodes of anxiety since my late teens, almost as long as I’d been playing in bands, but never anything like a full-fledged panic attack. I was assigned a therapist and a psychiatrist in addition to my general practitioner and was diagnosed with Panic Disorder and Depression.
I wasn’t playing in a band at the time, and my head was as far from music as any time I can remember since childhood.
I had always been in bands.
I always had song ideas swimming through my head.
Was I just going to shut this down?
Turns out I did. All those musical thoughts were submerged, discarded or ignored until I was no longer aware I was even doing it anymore.
My panic issues increased in frequency and became largely triggered by driving fast down the highway. I know, so rock and roll – I literally could not drive 55 one, sometimes two days every week. I had to file for FML protection for my “disability” to avoid losing a job that would lose me for some unrelated reason a year later.
By 2014, I was unemployed, my father had recently passed away, and I was missing up to six days a month due to my panic disorder.
From this low place began a three-year journey, a journey out of despair and back into rock and roll. Over the years, I’d acquired the necessary components for a home recording studio except for one – hardware to tie it all together. In 2014, I realized I could use my iPad and music apps to complete my studio. Then I had an epiphany – I would create a concept album about what I was going through. I would address the stigma of mental health, song by song. I would address the common themes that bind us all, themes of defeat, despair, isolation, and loss.
Slowly, the album took shape, and my band, Sturgeon’s Law was born: myself as songwriter/composer/guitarist/vocalist, assisted by my ever-supportive and talented wife on bass and vocals. I captured the sudden, random dark transition from feeling fine into a full-on panic attack. I had ownership now. I wrote another about difficulty parenting through periods of depression. Now I owned, and could improve that issue as well. I imagined what it must feel like to be my wife and my mother watching my decline, and how frustrating that had to be. Three years on, the album is nearly complete, the many issues and thoughts that plagued me have been put to song – and things are finally looking up.
I can honestly say music got me through the darkest years of my life, and the payoff for sticking with it has been so rewarding. Along the way, I’ve discovered new ways to manage my Depression and Panic Disorder. One is to keep moving forward even if it’s only a little bit, every day I can. I find that keeping a schedule with short and long-term goals helps. And don’t get down on yourself if when you do come up short, when it’s all too much, and nothing gets done. Recognize it’s your illness, not your choice, and be nice to yourself. Tomorrow will be better.
I now practice playing and singing daily, to remind myself I have mastery over something special: the ability to make music for myself and others to enjoy. I’m back in control. Now matter how dark your day becomes, never forget the gift of music. Wherever you are, you still can sing.
Sturgeon’s Law is a band that uses modern technology mixed with traditional rock and roll instruments to create a unique sound that would rather explore genres than live trapped within one. We are a rock band. Our music has a beat, our lyrics invite rumination, and some of the genres we play with on our forthcoming debut album “No Loss” include synth rock, folk rock, EDM, heavy metal, pop, and ballads. We hope you enjoy our music. Please visit our unofficial blog at https://eustressor.wordpress.com for news about our upcoming release, as well as new social/web channels and content!
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