One evening when I was about 14 years old I swallowed a handful of
psychiatric medication called "Mellaril" and lay down in my basement
room. No music was playing, no lights were on, I could hear my Mom and
Dad talking upstairs on an otherwise perfectly still early winter
evening. The depression that had taken up residence in my mind almost a
year earlier had been joined by another, darker presence that day and I
couldn't resist the impulse to follow it's urging to end my life.
I was nearly asleep when I staggered to the phone and dialed 911. The
dark impulse had drifted away and what was left of my own mind cleared
slightly and drove me to seek help. I don't remember much more, I woke
up in the state mental hospital days later with an astounding headache
and a severe case of cottonmouth. For the next few months I was kept on
"suicide watch" and then suddenly discharged to an early spring day and
my Dad driving me back home, struggling to find the words to talk to me
about what I'd done.
My trouble with anxiety and depression had only just begun. I would
avoid professional help and medications from then on, drop out of high
school, drift around the country, drink too much and get put in jail.
Music turned out to be the only thing that gave me relief from what
felt like fog covering the inside of my head.
Eventually I learned to live with depression, and developed my own
strategies for dealing with anxiety. Music and an attitude of
mindfulness has kept me alert and grateful for the day ahead instead of
waking up feeling either dread or absolutely nothing at all. And there
we were together for many years. I had many episodes of depression,
mostly in the middle of the night, waking me up when I was tired and
couldn't fight back. I would succumb to tales of how much of a failure
I am, what a horrible person/husband/son/father/friend/ fill in the
blank I am. And I'd believe it but eventually sleep would come and
rescue me. There was a lot to distract me, with a house and kids and
playing music full time I could push back on depression. Anyway, people
who are as fortunate as I am shouldn't be depressed, I thought, it's
shameful and ungrateful ... so I rarely mentioned it to anyone, even
after my Dad died and the grief completely filled in every nook and
cranny in my mind.
I'll be 50 in 2017. During the past few years the fog of depression and
anxiety has found a strong foothold in my life again, to the extent
that I've even been visited by that third, darker presence a few times
but thankfully I've developed a little more strength to fight that
sinister impulse. My lifelong companion has been instrumental in
destroying my marriage, ruining several friendships, straining many
other relationships, threatening my career, and nearly taking my life.
I've decided to start afresh on a journey towards recovery, which
includes getting professional help and improving my physical health
with more exercise and mindfulness about my eating and drinking habits.
There will be at least one new record coming this year, maybe 2, and
I'm looking forward to touring around the country and maybe even
getting to visit Canada and Alaska this year. I'm grateful for
everything, all the dark moments too, that has all brought me to this
moment. I want to embrace it, accept it into the moment of my life, and
regard it as part of my strength rather than my primary weakness.
Playing music is a cooperative activity. The creative process of
writing songs or reinterpreting songs is ongoing and it benefits from
the feedback and friendships that come from performing. Participating
in the musical river has given me a community and I want to share back
some of the trust that folks have given me over the years. Depression
and anxiety expects you to be alone, at the very least it wants you to
feel alone, and it exploits those lonely moments into an illusion of
absolute solitude. I've felt alone in every situation, and it's
terrifying, even though I know I'm not alone. I feel compelled to say
this publicly, even though at this precise moment I feel like quitting
and going away to hide, I feel compelled to overcome this darkness,
even though it makes me feel weak and small, I've been sustained by
music and the people who participate in it, and I want to repay what I
owe. I am not weak, and I am not alone.