(Okay, so I wrote this just before Christmas, but my blogging habit has been atrocious this month - that is to say: I should have blogged, but I haven't. Sorry all.)
Last year, for my final year of my undergraduate degree, my doctor advised I go on the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor Sertraline. Whilst I’d always been aware of my persistent low moods, only when October 2015 hit did I realise that I'd lost my motivation and love of learning – something that had kept me pushing to achieve high grades my entire life.
I won't say that the meds made an astounding difference and there were times I considered asking to up my dosage (despite having always been a staunchly anti-medication, for both mind *and* body, type of girl). But I stopped crossing roads to get away from people and I developed a genuine confidence for social situations, rather than the fake cloud I'd covered myself with the last few years. Indeed, the biggest improvement, though the slowest-growing, was one I'd never counted on the meds helping: my confidence when choral singing.
The chamber choir I was in was asked to sing out one of the BBC evening shows, filmed weeks in advance in our rehearsal space, but to be shown on the last show before the Christmas break, a task that we were all looking forward to. For me, I had never been explicitly filmed for tv in such a small group. Of those instances one comes into, one is always a member of the group, or a passing smile or word. Particularly when at school.
I’d not given it much thought, I’ll admit, until the day. Then we were positioned into place by the director, two cameras and their operators roaming behind him to get the best angles, and it hit me. I was anxious, nervous, worried. Whatever. I was not feeling so peppy.
I remember trembling to begin with, wondering why I'd been shoved into the front row (because of my tiny height), wondering if my voice would crack. Pre-meds, I would have expected it to, followed by the drum of negative thoughts, of the internalisation of what others would think of me if my voice cracked, if I bummed a note.
But it didn't happen. Not then, not throughout the entire performance. And, by the tenth or so take – with our conductor yelling excitedly from the back of the hall "let's make this the best yet" – I was no longer afraid. That was the great thing: I was singing with as much joy and melodic pleasure as I could muster; and it was working.
You see: as a child of divorce, Christmas and the association is not something I expect to go away easily. I don't want to be anybody's negative Nancy, and sometimes the easiest way to get through the Christmas season is to grin and bear it. Like the unexpected triggering of a lump in my throat when hearing a Christmas song in a coffeeshop that should make me grin not want to cry.
Of course, I don't want to forever feel negative about the Christmas season, and I think that's where I am blessed to have found and kept my choral confidence. Choral singing is part of me, and when I sing, it's as if my depression hasn't hung over me.
I don't talk much about mental illness on my writing blog, but if you like quirky fantasies with 20-something book-smart heroines, do give me a visit some time.
Published by Alexandrina Brant