I’ll let you into a little secret. There was this one time, Orkney Festival 2010 while I was on stage with The Shee. I could not wish to be anywhere else more. That’s it. Didn’t wanna be there. I couldn’t do it anymore, I don’t know where I’d gone and who was left there standing in my space. It wasn’t nerves, I mentally and emotionally retreated, I didn’t want to been seen or looked at, I wanted to vanish. It was incredibly uncomfortable. For a whole hour. It’s happened since, not very often, and I expect it will happen again.
This is a short story about my mental health as a musician.
My musical confidence isn’t the same as my personal confidence. In fact in that sense, me as a person is far far behind me as a artist.
I have conflated the two for an incredibly long time, since puberty at least.
The thing that I believed was saving me for the last 25 years is in fact both the crutch and the gatekeeper of my mental health and wellbeing.
For creators, this is about the facade that you’ve held in front of you accidentally becoming the real you. The Black Swan.
Taking it off
It’s the perfect cocktail dress for someone who wants to get away with avoiding themselves and doesn’t ever want to be really seen. But the chasm and division between your chosen facade and the person only gets worse the further you go into your career. Of course, over and over it will keep proving untenable. You’ll hit yet another road block and again can’t fathom why. You will consistently need to rely on yourself to make music into a business, to pick yourself up where the music falls down. So, if you’re reading something familiar here, there’s something you need to address and work on.
It eventually takes a lot of soul searching to figure out what (or who) is standing in your way. Taking off the artist is hard to do, it isn’t comfortable or even something you thought of trying. For those with a creative mind, anxiety can very easily turn into paranoia. For those with a knack for performance, anxiety can very easily be used as fuel and turned into adrenaline. Anyone looking for kicks? Beware of only using narcotics to define kicks. (And yes, please read that both ways) In what ways have you used your mind to cause chaos in your life? Was it real or were you simply craving the fun you thought you felt satisfied with on stage? Sometimes the questions are too scary.
I’ve found many things in there, now that I’ve had the courage to look. Things I am, things I’m not, previously too afraid to look at. I’m not fine, I’m avoidant, I’m afraid, I’m angry, I have very low self esteem. There are also some great things – I’m queer, I’m opinionated, I’m passionate, I have many interests outside of music, I enjoy writing, I enjoy helping people, I’m angry (again).
It’s important to separate what you do from your identity. Particularly for creators, you can use both of those places to speak and think for yourself. Don’t hide behind your creativity because that place alone isn’t enough. 10,000 hours practicing one, not nearly enough hours practicing the other. For someone who knows how rewarding hard work can be, surely we can give that gift to the one person left who needs it most. Our true selves.