Hi, I’m Mallory and today I am sharing my story for Time to Talk Day .
From the ages of 15 to 17 I didn’t speak very often, and when I did, my voice came out stifled. With the onset of a depressive episode, one of the first things to go is my ability to speak. I find it difficult to form sentences, and utterly draining to have to speak out loud. Even writing becomes increasingly more difficult. My illness robs me of words, the tool I most often turn to when attempting to write and claim my story. I’m quick to shut down when I feel the rumbling of inner turmoil.
It makes it awfully difficult to communicate with me; friends and family often feel left on the outskirts, unsure of what to say or do. And even with improved coping mechanisms, and countless therapy sessions under my belt, I find that even a whiff of depression causes a knee-jerk reaction to shut the blinds, so nobody can see through me.
When I was in my first diagnosed year of depression, my brother started sending me a “song of the day”. He would email me a link to a YouTube video, with a song he hoped would tap into my inner workings. He believed that even muted by hopelessness and despair, there was one language that would break down my emotional barriers: music.
Each day I looked forward to the songs he would send, always carefully selected to reflect my struggle. We had created an emotional connection through lyrics and the kick of a bass.
Music has always been something that speaks to me on a level that feels deeper than some of my peers. I’m one of those people who wants you to be quiet when I’m showing you a new song, so as to fully appreciate its beauty. I’m one of those people who can feel goosebumps prick the surface of their skin, when the perfect note is sung. And I’m most certainly one of those people who can be propelled out of bed with a beat that you can actually feel in your veins. Music has always made sense to me, and I loved how my brother was able to tap into that piece of my identity, and speak to me when I didn’t have any words of my own to offer.
Fast forward to the present day, and I still find myself trapped in the thick brick walls that I have painstakingly built around myself. Knocking down walls that thick requires effort, and even if I want to let a person in, I can barely push the walls open wide enough for them to slip in. It has put a strain on many friendships, but one in particular really struggled from a lack of open communication. We came to what felt like a dead end in our discussion to improve communication. And that’s when I looked back and found a detour that would lead straight into my heart and mind. Music.
Most people have songs that spark an emotional reaction within. For me, music is strongly intertwined with memory and emotional energy. If I could pick one song each day to send to my friend, perhaps it would shed some light on my state of being. If she sent one back, maybe I would better understand where her mind was in that moment. It was a way to have intimate communication when words were difficult to find. I texted her my idea, hoping this would be enough to show her I was committed to growing, without having to emerge from my fortress too quickly.
We have sent each other songs back and forth, learning about one another from every track selected and played. We ask each other questions about what the song means to us in general, or at that specific point in time. We talk about how it may be the beat or the lyrics that drive that particular song home for us. We discuss topics we wouldn’t breath otherwise. It’s an invitation that says, “Hey, I want you to come closer. I want you to hear me and know me”. And there aren’t any rules. You can send multiple songs if that better captures your day. It’s an open process that lacks structure, empowering us to communicate freely, with love and understanding.
My walls still remain intact, but their structure is starting to weaken a bit. Some days I’ll still add more bricks, and others days I’ll knock a whole bunch loose. When robbed of my ability to use words, I lose all sense of connection to the world around me. Music throws a line of connection my way, and it’s helping me find healthy communication in my every day. If you ever meet me someday, I’d love to exchange songs, so we can really get to know one another.
Mallory told us: ‘I have had a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder for 9 years. I was given both diagnoses at the age of 15. I have also more recently been given tentative diagnoses of disordered eating and OCD tendencies. I currently take medication for my anxiety, but no longer take antidepressants after years of painful side effects. I currently engage in therapy once a week, and follow a treatment plan that focuses on nutrition, exercise, meditation, DBT skills, and creative coping. I also want to acknowledge that I do not see anything wrong with medication, and it absolutely has a wonderful place in treating mental illness.’
Mallory Gothelf is a mental health advocate in recovery, a blogger at https://www.theinfiniteproject-mallorysfight.com/ .
She can be found online @mallorysfight