On DBT, Art and Healing: A Joy That’s Mine Alone: Guest post by Violette Kay

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When I was little I wanted to become a violinist when I grew up. And I could have done it, I was actually really good, but unfortunately mental illness robbed me of that dream. I had my first bipolar episodes right when I started studying music in college, failed a bunch of classes, wronged a bunch of people, and watched my music career crash and burn before it had even begun.
It’s been almost a decade now, and I have a whole new life in which I’m stable and happy, yet I still can’t help but wonder if I could have done it. If I wasn’t bipolar, would I be a professional musician? This question haunts me, it follows me wherever I go, and no matter how far I run it always brings me back. A few years ago I bought a music school in a hypomania-fueled delusion that it would bring me closer to my childhood dream. It did not.
I’ve also written a play about violin teachers and nostalgia/regret, it was very therapeutic, but it didn’t fully heal the wound of my failed music career. Perhaps nothing ever will.
The first thing they teach you in Dialectical Behavioural Therapy is called the “Wise Mind”. It’s supposed to be this balance between your reasonable mind and your emotional mind, and that’s the place you want to be making decisions from. You want to consider both the facts and your emotions, and not ignore one or the other. For example, let’s say you have coworker who is making you angry, and you want to yell at them, throw things and storm out, that’s just what your emotional mind wants. So if you bring in a bit of reason and use your wise mind, you can probably come up with a better solution.
When I was learning this in DBT group I noticed that all the examples we were given involved using the Wise Mind to avoid acting on our emotional mind, so I asked the instructors if they could give me a situation where it’s the other way around, an example where your reasonable mind is what’s leading you astray. They gave some roundabout unclear speech about… something, I don’t remember. Basically they didn’t have an answer for me.
Well, it’s been over a year now and I think I finally found one: I should quit music. I should completely cut it out of my life, sell my violin, recycle all my sheet music, unfollow/unfriend everyone I met through music, and stop self-identifying as a musician. Music has caused me so much pain, and landed me in some impossible situations. So logically, if I want to stop feeling that pain I should just quit, right?
That’s my reasonable mind talking. But if I did quit music I would be ignoring my emotional mind, who likes music and has a lot of very meaningful music-related memories both good and bad, memories I wouldn’t want to lose.
So what’s the middle ground? I still play sometimes. I’ve gone busking during periods of unemployment. I record backing tracks for my singer friends. I take on background music gigs sometimes. And I bring music into my theatre and writing practice all the time.
I’m still shocked every time I get paid to play music, and though I do on occasion mourn the violinist I could have been, I’m also incredibly grateful that I still get to live out my childhood dream in small ways. It’s not what I wanted, but it’s still a good life.
My latest project is a film inspired by my experience of having bipolar disorder and buying a music school, and a first for me: a project born entirely out of self-love, rather than pain. I am so grateful I got the opportunity to make it and to share it with others.
I’ll always have bipolar disorder, it will always be a part of me, but it’s just one part. And I’ll always be a musician. That’s also just one part of me. Maybe they’re the same part.

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This guest blog was written by film maker and musician Violette Kay. Her film the Joy thats Mine Alone about life with art and bipolar disorder, can be viewed at : 

Mental Health Tips to get you through Coronavirus Lockdown: Guest blog by Chantal Shaw

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(image: Self Care Pursuit)

If you’re stuck at home during the Coronavirus outbreak and need some tips to help with your mental health, you have come to the right place.

Being on lockdown can make us all feel depressed and more anxious. Self care for ourselves and our families are more important than ever.

Here are some suggestions of things to do to help your mental health and self care at the moment:

– Follow an exercise video- Listen to guided relaxation (I recommend channels ‘Relax for a while’ and ‘Michael Sealey’ on Youtube).

– Write down your thoughts and feelings in a journal- this helps to clear your mind.

– Nourish your body with healthy food and stay hydrated, so important to get help with groceries if possible and drink lots of water.

– Have a bath to help relax you and keep you feeling good.

– Watch stand up comedy on Netflix, Amazon Prime or on TV. 

– Do a puzzle, if you enjoy them.

– Play a board or card game.

– Limit your exposure to the news to once a day if you are able to stop anxious thoughts. 

– Bake/ cook – good for being mindful and creating something delicious, with a sense of achievement.

– Read a book and let your mind imagine.

– Go for a walk in nature (responsibly and if your country’s guidelines allow you to!).

– When you get up- make your bed and don’t stay in pyjamas all day, to get you into a good routine and positive mindset.

– Have a phone or zoom chat with positive influences in your life.

– Tidy your home as best you can.

– Play upbeat music (and dance or sing).

– A few drops of pure lavender oil in your bath or a lavender pillow spray to help you fall off to sleep and help reduce anxiety.

– Learn a new skill- many online courses are being offered.

– Break down the tasks that are overwhelming you in to small achievable chunks.

 

If you are having persistent overwhelming negative thoughts or feelings please tell someone- speak to a trusted friend or family member, your GP, the Samaritans on 116 123 (UK- you can also email them if you prefer), a counsellor.

Things can and will get better.

Our mental health is just as important as our physical health, look after it.

 

Chantal Shaw is a guest writer from the UK and the sister of our founder Eleanor.

Expressing Social Anxiety through Songwriting: Alive: Guest blog by Rachel Leycroft

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(image: Rachel Leycroft)

Rachel experienced severe social anxiety in many forms for the majority of her life. Like many others, she felt it was crucial to hide this at all costs, despite the paralysing pain it often caused. Her therapeutic form of expression was always through songwriting, & she wrote “Alive” at 19-years-old while in college.

It was a time when she went to extremes to uphold an image of fearless confidence, regardless of the toll it took on her well-being. Rachel didn’t realize how many others suffered from similar experiences until a number of years later. With this realisation, she started a project called #lovethroughlyrics where she shares her songs in hopes of reminding others that they are not alone in their struggles.

“Alive” is a metaphorical view of the wish to escape social anxiety. In the song, Rachel relates social anxiety to the feeling of being weighted down and asks to give up aspects of herself that are not being represented with authenticity. Ultimately, she asks to give enough away to free herself & escape the burdensome fear of others’ judgments. “Falling into the horizon” represents the weights of our insecurities being lifted; it’s a moment that lights our souls alive, reminding us that our authentic selves are timeless. They have always been within us, but are often masked by our fears and our desire to be accepted.

Rachel hopes to encourage others to reconnect with their true selves again, no matter how many years they have been hidden. Her greatest wish is to evoke compassion toward ourselves & one another by giving mental health a voice through music.

You can read the lyrics to “Alive” below & listen to the song (original & acoustic) on any music platform by going here: https://fanlink.to/rachelleycroft_alive-acoustic 

Rachel would be happy to connect with you via Instagram as well: https://www.instagram.com/rachelleycroft/

 

5 Amazing Facts about Music for Stress Relief: Guest blog by Curtis Dean

5 Amazing Facts About Music For Stress Relief

(Image: C Dean)

Stress has become a normal thing for almost everyone. In fact, only a few people today would say that they are not stressed. And this speaks a lot about the lifestyle of each individual. But did you know that music is a great and effective stress reliever?

Some people would even attend music lessons to fully obtain the benefits of music when it comes relieving stress. And here are the reasons why:

  • Music Benefits Memory

Having a good memory, focus, and concentration is very helpful for everyone. It eliminates the huge risks of experiencing stress on a daily basis. Whether you are a student or a working individual, an effective and fully-functional memory is beneficial. And music can largely benefit your memory. 

This is one of the many reasons why parents send their kids to guitar lessons or piano lessons at a young age. It is also worth noting that music does not only benefit one’s memory. As it happens, it can also improve other aspects of the brain. And based on studies, it has been already established that music can dramatically improve cognitive functions. 

  •  Music Helps You Heal

Another reason why music is an effective stress reliever is because it can help you heal. The truth is – music is very therapeutic and it can heal almost all concerns that you may have with your mind and body. And the better you would feel about yourself holistically, the lesser the stress that you would feel on a daily basis.

Music therapy has become a huge thing in recent times. And many experts would incorporate the utilisation of this therapy for further healing. Whether you have concerns with physical or mental health, music can help you in these areas of your health.

  • Listening To Music on Headphones Reduces Stress and Anxiety

Immersing and indulging yourself in music via headphones naturally reduces stress and anxiety. This is because music can decrease the production of your body’s stress hormones. And you would want this to relieve your stress and even prevent it from superseding your happy hormones. 

While listening to music, in general, can naturally relieve stress and anxiety, focusing on music with the use of your headphones is found to be much more effective. And so much more when the music you are listening to is the one that truly uplifts your spirit, mood, and emotion.

  •  Including Music in Your Morning Routine Will Help You to Stay Fresh 

Keep in mind that the fresher, calmer, and more relaxed you feel, the difficult it is for you to experience stress. This is why when most people get stressed due to some reasons, they would naturally opt for activities that can make them feel relaxed, fresh, and energized. 

Thankfully, you no longer have to find such activities in order to keep you fresh, calm, and relax. As it appears, you only need to include music in your routines to achieve this kind of state. And per studies, starting your day with music can already revolutionize your perspectives, emotions, and mood for the day. 

  • Music Improves Sleep Quality

Rest is one of the most effective stress relievers. This is why when people are stressed and tired, the number one thing that you would want to do is to rest and sleep. 

Quite amusingly, though, this will not be very effective when you have a poor quality of sleep. But thanks to the powers and wonders of music, it can highly improve the quality of your sleep. According to the actual people who utilize music for their sleep improvements claim that they feel more rested and energized when they listen to music before sleeping. 

Now, these are only some of the apparent benefits, wonders, and powers of music. If you are to apply and incorporate these in your daily living, you would surely experience how powerful music is. And if you really want to relieve the stress that has become recurring on your end, then try to help it with the use of music.

This guest blog was written by Curtis Dean, writer.