Music in all formats can be a comfort, Getintothis’ Amy Farnworth writes about how collecting vinyl aids her mental health.
Mental health sucks ass.
There, I’ve said it. Mental health sucks ass. Massively.
Suffering from mental health problems, whether it be stress, depression, anxiety, bi-polar, schizophrenia; or any number of other shitty, life-draining conditions, that eat and chew away at your very core, is a bloody big deal; and trying to navigate your way through modern-day social confinements, expectations and norms when you suffer from any kind of mental health problem can be a fucking minefield.
I’ve battled with mental health issues for as long as I can remember; not just my own (which on the surface are pretty fucking mild compared to some), but those of others too – my mum’s, my brother’s, my friends. I have had firstand second-hand experience of a range of different disorders, from severe to the not so severe, but as an individual, my personal issues are thankfully confined, and (most of the time) manageable.
I say ‘thankfully’ and ‘confined’, because in the grand scheme of things, my mental health could be much, much worse, and I am VERY grateful that it isn’t.
Over the last 17 years, I’ve suffered from depression, body dysmorphia and mild anxiety; and I do, consistently, suffer from hideous and horrific bouts stress and tension – the type that hammers away at your head like a pneumatic drill; the type that makes your brain feel like it’s gripped, tighter than the worst form of cramp, in a vice that can’t be loosened; the type that cannot be eased by simply popping a pill; the type that can some days, get so unbearably overwhelming you feel as if your head might literally explode at any given second.
It affects how I act; it affects how I communicate with my friends, how Itreat my family, how I sleep, how I work, how I relax (which is hardly ever); and it eats away at my soul, making me feel that sometimes, there’s got to be more to life than feeling the way I do.
I’ve spent nights crying myself to sleep; I’ve lashed out in anger; I’ve shouted, I’ve screamed; I’ve sobbed – uncontrollable raging sobbing that makes me lose my breath and leaves me resembling what I could only describe as the female version of the Elephant Man.
I’ve panicked; I’ve felt horrendous pangs of self-loathing and worthlessness; I’ve compared myself to others and have brought on headaches due to the fact I fear I’m losing at this game we call ‘life’. I’ve been depressed. I’ve been at rock bottom.
And it fucking sucks. And it’s fucking hard.
But what has all this got to do music? If you’re thinking you’ve accidentally stumbled across the wrong website here, re-directed from one that verbally spouts off about belting tunes and cool new bands, to one that verbally spouts off about the shittiness associated with mental health, then rest assured, you haven’t; I just like to take my sweet time in getting to the actual point, of anything.
Candidly discussing my mental health, here, on this website, has everything, and more, to do with music.
Music is, has been, and will continue to be one of the most constant reassurances – the comfort blanket, the most reliable, sturdy, steadfast of things that helps me through some of the toughest times in my battles with mental health.
And recently, I’ve been neglecting it. And recently, my mental health has taken a shallow nose-dive.
Music used to be at the very heart of my being; it was what I lived for, what I breathed for, and ultimately, it was what I loved. I enjoyed music – not playing, but merely consuming. And it made me happy. Whether it was going to a gig or listening to the radio. Whether it was berating my mum for being obsessed with David Essex and Donny Osmond or marvelling at the way my brother taught himself guitar and piano; whether it was trawling through the NME despairing at the superficial airs and graces of all its writers; or whether it was discovering that new artist that made my heart bleed and vibrate in the same way I would get butterflies when going on a first date with someone I really liked; music has always been an integral part of my life.
And it helped. It helped me through dark and sad times, through happy and elated times. When my beloved Nanna died, I listened to Stevie Wonder’s Heaven Help us All on repeat for about three weeks straight. When I felt lost, alone and exposed while backpacking across Australia and South East Asia, an outcast and a stranger, I listened to Oasis and The Courteeners through broken headphones and it reminded me of home. Whenever I felt like life wasn’t worth shit anymore, I remember my mum telling me my favourite tune as a kid was The Only Way is Up by Yazz.
Whenever I feel just a pang of sadness creeping in from too much time on social media; feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness tangling themselves round my brain in a despairing,sinking doubt that makes me feel I’ve achieved fuck all in my 33 years, I will turn on Fleetwood Mac’s Don’t Stop, or Meg Mac’s Roll up Your Sleeves.
Whenever I blame my tumultuous and chaotic upbringing on my inability to form lasting relationships, I switch on Space Cowboy by Jamiroquai and it transports me back to the times my dad would take me and my brother out on sunny Sunday afternoons, driving up to Blackpool on the M55, volume cranked up to eleven, the smell of cow shit blasting through the open windows.
But lately, I’ve noticed, that due to my neglect of music, my mood has shifted, and that ever-looming wave of depression has started to creep its way back into my brain. I caught myself struggling to sleep the other night. I was due to be in work at 7:30am, but there I was, still awake at 3am…crying, sobbing; my mind in manic, erratic overdrive.
And then, a few days later, out of nowhere, someone gifted me a retro turntable. Not one of those cool-as-fuck old-skool ones that your grandad used to own, a big ass old gramophone attached to the back, the ones that now sell for a tenner in the barely-visited charity shop at the end of your street; but a newly, boxed, still in its wrapper, ‘old-skool’ turntable, complete with USB drive and headphone sockets.
And it got me thinking; if music is that important to me, if it helps me to push those feelings of self-doubt and fear out of my mind, why am I not making a conscious effort to consume it anymore? I realised that by neglecting music, I was neglecting myself.
I suppose you could say I started neglecting music when life got hectic. And by hectic, I mean when it became too fast-paced – when Spotify and Deezer and YouTube et al began providing me with too much choice when it came to music (not necessarily a bad thing, but when you’re someone who struggles to make her mind up about the shade of apple she wants to buy, that’s when you have a problem), when the virtual replaced the physical, and the gratification I gained from looking at an ‘album cover on the web’ as opposed to having something real in my hands didn’t quite compare.
I started neglecting music when it slowly dawned on me that there aren’t even ENOUGH HOURS IN THE DAY to scratch my arse, let alone consciously search for and enjoy music. I hardly ever listen to the radio in the mornings anymore as they’re always a constant rush, and I barely find time to ram a bowl of porridge down my neck before I have to dash out of the house at 6:30am. There always seems to be something more important, pressing, or paramount to be doing; and come the evenings, well, I find I’m drained, devoid of all emotion, passion and drive, and the last thing I want to do is sit down and get excited about devising a new playlist; usually I just want to sleep.
But upon receiving that turntable I realised something had to give. I realised I needed to start making a conscious effort to consume music again; to do the one thing that keeps me sane, happy and in love with life.
I realised I needed to slow down and take some time for me, rediscover the things that I most enjoy in life. Music is this, and I know, deep down in my heart, that my relationship with music is one which feeds my mental health, in the best way possible.
I’ve never owned or used a turntable before. Ok, so, I might be a little late to the ‘vinyl revival’ party, but I don’t care. What I do care about is my mental health, and I fully intend to embrace my new acquisition by consciously taking the time to enjoy finding music again, which, in turn, will help me relax, keep me in tune with what I love, and will provide me with a new hobby that’s ironically grown from an old one.
I intend to visit the old record stores and spend my spare time browsing through the weird and wonderful vinyl collections; I intend to take the time to read the sleeves of each LP I buy; I intend to take the time to digest the songs I’m listening to and savour the moments, remembering the very reason I fell in love with music in the first place – because music, like time, is a healer; and if building up a vinyl collection helps me find space in my mind to relax then surely, that can only be a good thing.
Someone pretty famous once wrote, ‘If music be the food of love, play on.’ So yeah, that’s exactly what I intend to do. I intend to consume as much of it as I can and bloody well play on.