Writing Music to Overcome Depression
One afternoon I had a moment of clarity and wrote all of the words, in one prolific sitting, to a song for my Dad.
He moved to America when I was four and I dragged a heavy anchor of anger and disappointment behind me most of my life as a result. I describe in the piano ballad how I was confused and missed him as a child, felt that he didn't know me as a teenager, as an adult I needed him and finally in the present day, I forgave him.
Along with a very long letter, I sent this song, which I called ’The Gift’, to my Dad in the mail. It was the closure that I needed and the beginning of a new found relationship, anchor-free.
Two years ago I had a bout of depression and a big part of the cure was writing music. I had almost given up on writing previous to that and when I took it back up, it was euphoric. I could physically feel the emotions flowing from my mind, through my veins and to my fingertips to release all of my pent up tension.
Sometimes I was shocked at how I actually felt, it was dark and at times disturbing but it felt like the unbridled truth that I needed to deal with.
When I sing these songs live, it does take me back but it also reminds me how far I’ve come. Last year, I had the hardest year of my life so far. My mind was like an overflowing bath tub, feelings and emotions spilling out. This time, instead of writing lyrics, I just hit record on my iPhone and sang whatever words came out. Sometimes I was shocked at how I actually felt, it was dark and at times disturbing but it felt like the unbridled truth that I needed to deal with. Song writing can be a form of articulating what you find hard to verbalise.
Not only can you use music as a release but you can also dissect your discoveries, like you would as part of CBT or journal writing. I wrote a song called ‘Vulture’ which helped me understand the context of a relationship I had with someone and how to move forward from it, “expressing your emotional distress through creative writing, journaling, painting or sketching, or making music can distract you from those destructive feelings and even help you find meaning in a painful event or situation”, explains, Dr Shelly Carson, author of Your Creative Brain: Seven Steps to Maximize Imagination, Productivity, and Innovation in Your Life.
A study conducted in Finland in 2011 showed that taking part in the process of creating music could be a successful component of therapy for adults with depression, “active music-making within the therapeutic frame offers the patient opportunities for new aesthetic, physical and relational experiences” (British Journal of Psychiatry) and in 2014, Queens University in Belfast, concluded a three year study which has gone on to suggest that music therapy be rolled out as a mainstream medium to aid young children and teens who have behavioural problems and those who are vulnerable to depression and mental health issues.
If you are trying to find new creative ways to express your fears and anxieties, try music. You don’t have to be Mozart, John Lennon or Adele. You’re not trying to write the next ‘Born to Run’ or ‘Rehab’.
Put aside any preconceived notions you have about what does or doesn't make a great song. This is for you to let go, be in tune with your emotions and feelings. Improvise, put pen to paper, record, pick up an instrument and be free. When you’ve finished the cathartic outpouring of your inner most thoughts, examine what you’ve written and learn from it.
If you are struggling with depression or low moods, it can be beneficial to seek professional help. Find a counsellor on our directory.