Anxiety Erica // Self Love Jamz

For the past few weeks, I’ve come to realize how important music is to my healing. To growing, and to emotionally exploring.

Wherever I am, I’m usually listening to music. Whether it’s in the car, in my apartment, or at work, I’m tuning into some sweet jams that speak to my soul.

Life is full of different – albeit unpredictable – chapters and we tend to listen to different music based on what stage of life we are in. For example, post-breakup I tend to listen to a lot of empowering, emotional and inspiring music to build myself up. As a rule, I do tend to listen to that music a lot, but during times like this it’s more frequent.

That doesn’t mean you can’t listen to an incredibly sad song when you’re happy as fuck, or a really angsty song when you have nothing to be angsty about. You do you. 

I’ve always said that you can tell how a person thinks by what they focus on when hearing a song. For me, I focus on the words. Sometimes, I can get addicted to a sick beat – I realize I’m not cool enough to say phrases like that but also I don’t care – but mostly, it’s the lyrics that get me going.

For others, it might be the melody or instruments, but I find that my heart seeks out certain words, lines or refrains in a great, emotional song.

In the past, I created an Anxiety Playlist, which has a healthy combination of lyrics and just music. From time to time, I do go back and listen when my anxiety spikes. More recently, I’ve been creating another playlist.

What’s funny is that it started out as a post-breakup playlist to get me past all of the anger I have, but it’s morphed into more. I entitled it Self-Love Jamz because that’s exactly what they are. They are a wide range – I like all kinds of music, man – and each one has a purpose.

I thought I would share a few of my favorites, and the specific lines that mean the most to me. Here we go.

Free to Fly, Betty Who

I lost my identity, I was wrapped in you, it was absolute
Now I’m finally seeing, yeah
That I’m a brand new queen, I don’t have to ask, I’m the quarterback
Of my own damn team, yeah

When I hear this song, I will forever be brought straight back to discovering it with my best friend. We had just jumped back into my car from being out in the pouring rain, and I randomly tapped on this song. Just so everyone is clear, Betty Who is a goddess. Listen to her everyday, all the time. I do.

That one moment hearing her empowering words of self-discovery was everything. Realizing that I have my own identity outside of a relationship, and it’s time to get back to that was much needed. Plus, jamming in the car with my very best friend while she came to visit was a major plus.

Best Thing I Never Had, Beyoncé

I wanted you bad
I’m so through with that
‘Cause honestly you turned out to be the
Best thing I never had
You turned out to be the
Best thing I never had
And I’m gon’ always be the best thing you never had

Without fail, this song seems to pop up when I’ve had my heart broken. And every time, it changes my perspective. It always reaches into the depths of my soul, and pulls out the confidence I always keep locked up.

I have been through three breakups, and all of them have certainly been the best thing I never had. Every time I get some space from the hurt, I realize just how much I wanted them at the time – and how much I benefited from not having them around anymore.

Dear No One, Tori Kelly

So if you’re out there I swear to be good to you
But I’m done lookin’, for my future someone (oooh)
Cause when the time is right
You’ll be here, but for now
Dear no one, this is your love song

This one took me awhile to understand, but I think I finally get it. Everyone always says, “the right person comes when you aren’t looking for it.” Commence the eyeroll. But, they are right in a sense.

For me, I’ve learned that I’m done searching for someone. It’s time to work on trusting myself, and being the best Erica. That’s more important and like the song says, when the time is right, they will be here. Dear no one, I’ll be ready for you when I’m ready. 

Dancing On My Own, Robyn 

I’m in the corner, watching you kiss her, oh oh oh
I’m right over here, why can’t you see me, oh oh oh
And I’m giving it my all, but I’m not the guy you’re taking home, ooh
I keep dancing on my own

Okay, so the lyrics of this song don’t exactly apply to me, but it’s the feeling that I connect with most. When I hear this song, it feels like being young, 20-something, and lost when it comes to love. I also think of the scene in Girls where Hannah and Marnie just dance in Hannah’s room to this song, no fears. Nothing stopping them. I’m even getting emotional thinking of the scene, because the first time I watched it, I really understood it.

Just the single refrain, I keep dancing on my own, means something. It means that bad days will come. Breakups will happen, but I’ll keep dancing on my own. I’ll keep going. Unafraid of what’s to come.

Body Of My Own, Charli XCX

Lights out
On my own
Got my darkness
I’m into myself
Don’t need you

Not only does this have a catchy as fuck beat, Charli XCX has always pumped out songs that are all about claiming yourself. I just love the line she keeps repeating. I’ve got a body of my own. It’s a melodic, angsty reminder that I’m whole all by myself. I don’t need someone else to create happiness. To feel joy. To grow, learn, succeed.

Life in Pink, Kate Nash

Wish I could let my brain
Decide and stop the pain
I keep heart-shaped glasses close to me
For when it rains (life in pink)
Rip it up and start again

I’m always a sucker for songs that focus on mental health, and Kate Nash really nails it with this one. Not only does she get into the details of how mental illness makes us feel, she even has moments where she talks about not having the energy to clean her room, or take care of herself.

But no matter how bad it can get, she always has those heart-shaped glasses close to her for the good days. It’s a wonderful metaphor for being ready to stay present for those wonderful, magical days where you are so clear and the thoughts aren’t overwhelming.

Have A Nice Life, Murs

Give it time, let it work itself out
Meditate on the better things, never dwell in self-doubt

For the last song I’ll share, I figured it should be a deep one. I was introduced to Murs from an ex-boyfriend, and for so long after we broke up, I didn’t let myself listen to his music because it didn’t feel like it was mine. It felt like it was the dead relationships’ music. But guess what? They don’t own those songs, go ahead and listen to it. 

Sometimes, people tend to stray away from certain shows, music, art or whatever because it has a painful connotation, but there are times when you can push past that and just enjoy it for it is again. I’m so glad I did that with Murs.

He has such a way of speaking to vulnerability that is heartfelt and authentic. I love it. Lately, his new songs have been very mental health focused and it’s wonderful he’s given it a voice. For this song, I love this specific line because his tone feels very introspective, he has been through so much. The line, Give it time let it work itself out, is almost like an affirmation for me.

 

So, there you have it. Those are just a few – okay, maybe a little more than a few – songs that mean something to me. To me, the right lyrics can be transformed into affirmations for me to repeat, practice and act out in daily life. Believe. 

Here’s my full Self-Love Jamz playlist, give it a listen if you’d like:

 

What lyrics really speak to you? Share them in the comments below! 

Works in Progress // Sarah

Growing up in a family with mental illness, Sarah was no stranger to suffering. Living with anxiety, panic attacks and insomnia since she was just four years old, she didn’t reach out and get help until the intense hypomania of her undiagnosed bipolar disorder took a dark turn. 

Trading in her straight-A student role for an out of control musician, this creative soul eventually realized that medication would save her life. Not just surviving, Sarah is thriving through bipolar disorder. Writing music around mental health, performing at high schools to educate teens, and even practicing aerial yoga, these fantastic forms of self care have kept her going, while helping others heal as well.

 

Meet Sarah. 

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Name: Sarah Jickling

Age: 26

Explain the origin of your mental health issues i.e., what is your mental health issue, how did you realize what was happening, how was it affecting your everyday life at the time?

I’ve had anxiety, panic attacks and insomnia for as long as I can remember. I come from a family with mental illness on both sides, and I grew up watching grown ups struggle, panic, and lose control, so I thought my experiences were just par for the course. When I was four, I slept with a fisher price knife under my pillow because I was scared someone would crawl through my window. When I was eight, my parents gave up trying to find a way to help me sleep after exhausting all their resources. When I was fourteen, I had one of my panic attacks, the one where suddenly everything is in slow motion and I forget basic motor skills, during a french class and failed a test for the first time. No one seemed to think any of this was out of the ordinary, and I never went to the school counsellor because none of the teachers even knew my name. I was too quiet.

But the quiet was about to end. In my late teens and early twenties, I went from a shy straight A student with an artistic side to a university-drop out musician who drank wine on the bus and had screaming matches in the streets. I felt completely out of control. One day I would feel excited, and feel sure that I was in the right place at the right time and it was only a matter of time before I would be opening for Feist on the big stage at a festival, and then I would wake up a few days later feeling heavy, feeling empty, and for the first time, suicidal. I would go to band practice and lie on the floor in tears. Everyone realized something was happening before I did. My behaviour pushed away my best friend, every boyfriend I had, my bandmates, and my roommates. People begged me to get help. People told me that I was broken and I needed to be fixed or no one would ever want anything to do with me. This was bipolar disorder, a new beast that was harder to ignore than anxiety and panic attacks. 

What was the resounding moment when you decided to get help? What made you do it?

The thing about bipolar disorder is that it can seem like so many different illnesses depending on when you go to the doctor. The first time I decided to get help was when my best friend told me she wouldn’t be my friend unless I went on medication. I went to my family doctor who promptly diagnosed me with depression and put me on a waitlist to see a psychiatrist. But of course, soon I felt better, I felt like I didn’t need a doctor and I couldn’t imagine why I thought I ever did, and I would cancel the appointment. The second time I went to the doctor, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 2. I rejected this diagnosis because I knew I was “crazy,” and I really didn’t want my ex-boyfriend to be right. Bipolar was something people had been teasing me about for quite some time.

The third time I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I found myself at the hospital on boxing day, a week after my soulmate told me he couldn’t watch me suffer anymore. The doctor spent some time tracking my moods and finally asked me if I had ever “heard of bipolar disorder before,” worried she would scare me away with that big word. By that time, I had done enough research and read enough books to know that I had bipolar disorder. I accepted the diagnosis without a second thought. The doctor said that treating the bipolar might take away my ability to write songs, and that a lot of people miss the creativity of hypomania when they go on medication. I didn’t care about being a musician anymore. I didn’t care about anything but getting better.

How does it affect your everyday life now? Challenges? What skills have you learned to cope?

It’s true that medication changes the creative process for people with bipolar disorder. Before my recovery, I would black out and wake up with a song. It was the only easy thing in my life. But bipolar doesn’t provide me with my creativity. Hypomania provides artists with a chance to write without our inner critic. I’m now learning to write songs thoughtfully, with extreme focus. It’s harder, but not impossible. 

My medication has completely stabilized me, but it does have it’s unfortunate side effects. I sleep a lot. I am constantly dehydrated. I can’t drink alcohol anymore. And of course, the unexplained ecstasy of hypomania is gone from my life forever.  But I can have a steady job, a real relationship and a working memory, so I think it’s worth it. My life is still all about coping with bipolar, anxiety and panic attacks though. I exercise every single day, I take mindfulness classes, I go to DBT groups, I see my therapist and my psychiatrist often. I put my mental health before any job or other responsibility. I think back to a time not so long ago when I was overdosing, praying I would never wake up, and I remember that vigilant self care is the only thing that has kept me from returning to those life or death situations. 

I also write music about my mental illness and share them with others. I’m lucky to have an outlet, and I’ve found a community of artists also dealing with mental illness who help inspire me to keep going.

How has living with this mental illness benefited your life? What has it given you? 

Living with anxiety has forced me to learn how to rationally face my fears. When your fears are every where, you can’t help but bump into them at every turn. Now I feel as though I can do almost anything, whether that be travel to a different country or play on a stage to thousands of people. Learning to treat my anxiety has introduced me to all sorts of fantastic coping mechanisms… from mindfulness to aerial yoga to pole dancing! 

Living with bipolar disorder, on the other hand, has given me an ability to help other people. I have learned to live with a severe mental illness and now I get to help others, whether that’s through releasing my new album “When I Get Better,” or performing at high schools with the BC Schizophrenia Society’s musical/educational show “Reach Out Psychosis.” It’s also a great way to weed out fickle friends. If you have friends who will stick with you through bipolar treatment, you have very good friends.

What is one piece of advice you would give yourself when you were struggling the most with your mental illness? 

You are worth loving, even with your mental illnesses. Anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong and should be forgotten immediately. 

 

 

 

 

Are you a work in progress? Share your story in the comments below and you may be featured on the blog!