It’s difficult enough to explain depression & anxiety to someone who doesn’t suffer from it. Add in the element of having an artist’s mind, and that explanation gets even blurrier. With the, seemingly unnatural, marriage of business & creativity, the triggers that can set off an episode can be odd & infinitely varied. However, the tools that an anxious songwriter, like me, have at their disposal are powerful & unique.
For instance, in October of 2016, with the soundtrack of Weather Channel meteorologist Jim Cantore’s voice in the background, I had a breakdown. In a rare and unprecedented move, Hurricane Matthew was projected to hit the East Coast of Florida as a potential Category 5 storm. It just so happened that my wife and I (as the touring, harmonic alternative folk duo Flagship Romance) had planned on leaving on our self-booked Florida tour the next morning. Conversations about our gear/merchandise manifest quickly turned into intense talks, centering around our evacuation checklists.
Despite the stinging disappointment of canceling the tour, I should have been thankful. “Our most beloved belongings, our cat, our families… we are going to be safe,” I could’ve told myself.
Instead, the belligerent DJ that has plagued too many of my moments reared his obtrusive head to start spinning his greatest hits: “You’re Not Cut Out For This,” “You’re Not Talented Enough For This,” “You Don’t Work Hard Enough,” “You Don’t Deserve To Do What You Love.” Oh, and who could forget the number one single “No One Cares About You.”
What that voice wasn’t prepared for, however, was for me to strike back. In an empty beachside apartment, dressed in a Deadpool onezie, brandishing an acoustic guitar tuned to Open-G with a capo on the 4th fret, I launched into airing my own grievances about myself. What began as a cathartic experiment quickly turned into one of our newest songs, titled “Nemesis.” The fight was dangerous & dirty, but what came out of that war was a reminder that I can distil my anxieties into creative energy. I can take that voice of doubt & turn it into a voice of strength & solidarity.
By using the creative process as a mechanism to cope with the heavy moments of depression, I am able to move past the daunting wall of worry that seems so tall from a distance. When I am knee deep in the sticky mud of creation, I am in control of my mental playlist. When I am weaving together the booming thoughts of my subconscious, I can look at my situation from an entirely different perspective. Out of thin air, I can craft & gift myself the messages I need to hear in order to keep going, when wearing the countless other hats of a DIY artist.
Taking the approach of letting art be thy medicine has ripple effects beyond what we can see in album sales & Spotify streams. Your words & melodies become the sword that one of your listeners can fight their own demons off with. Your song becomes a literally amplified sounding board of solidarity for subjects that are surrounded by stigmas & assumptions. As a friend of mine once said, you essentially become a weapon of mass connection.
Those flashes of creativity are what get me through my lowest periods. I must admit though, that when I do come down from those inventive highs, that DJ is patiently waiting with his sound system turned up to 11; yes, it does go all the way to 11.
Flagship Romance has learned that what we all need now, more than ever, is to know that we are not alone in our doubts and fears. It is with this ethos that they are launching an awareness movement alongside their upcoming album release, called the “Scare Yourself” campaign. Through a variety of physical and digital social media challenges, they will be encouraging their listeners to be open about their struggles and worries, in hopes to create a conduit of connection and understanding on a large scale.
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