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.

Song of the Day: How I learnt to manage my Depression: Guest post by Mallory Gothelf for Time to Talk Day

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(image: BrainyQuote)

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

 

Dark nights and Brighter Days: Music and Writing

It feels like ages since I just sat down and wrote my heart out about my own life, which is how Be Ur Own Light started. In fact this blog was a diary and once called Diary of a Nearly Thirty Year Old (as I am 28!) The level of interest in mental health writing and my blog is growing which is wonderful and I love sharing everyone’s stories and featuring guest posts from brave mental health warriors. Today though I want to update you on my story.

Thank fully, I am not depressed or too anxious these days. I have been able to go out more, see friends and family and just enjoy myself. This week my Dad and I ran two charity events at Jazz after Dark, a teeny little club in Soho, Central London. Jazz after Dark is where Amy Winehouse walked in and began her career and where she wrote part of Back to Black. Our event was in aid of a young girl who passed away this year aged just 20. Many professional singers and musicians gave their time for free for us to raise money for an ambulance , which was the dying wish of the girl who passed away.

We managed to raise £3,500 for the charity supplying the ambulance through ticket sales, a raffle and auction. My Dad put so much of it together and on the nights we worked so hard. It was a thoroughly enjoyable 2 nights and I had the chance to watch live music and meet acquaintances and see old friends. I was so thankful to feel comfortable doing this and for feeling so happy at what we all achieved.

Additionally, my cousin got engaged last weekend which was lovely, we had a family party for him.

I am also contemplating a new career in writing professionally. I have always written, journalled, wrote poetry and did English at university.. I always have used writing as an outlet. However, I want to share my story in overcoming adversity and living with mental health issues. I have been so lucky to already have collaborated with people and 2 big mental health charities. So this journey is new and exciting and rewarding. I thank you for reading here in my little corner of the internet and for following the journey together.