Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog

Training & insights for stage and studio singers, speakers, vocal coaches and producers from professional vocal coach and author of "Power, Path & Performance" vocal training method. Download All Things Vocal podcast on your fav app!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Blues: Musicians and Depression

Being highly creative is a double edged sword. Gifted musicians are prone to periods of depression and "the real blues". In fact, from my experience and observations, I would suggest that many if not most musicians go through a low period of life that they barely survive. We have to take the good with the bad and learn to turn the bad into good.

Good news: with insight comes power. What I mean is that when you become aware of something you can change it. With that in mind, I'm going to write a series of blogposts on the subject of musicians and depression. This first post will shed some light on defining the problem.

When we are depressed, it is most important to get to the source of the problem.
There are many reasons for it, from physical issues like
  • brain chemistry imbalances
  • other underlying health disorders and diseases
  • nutritional deficiencies
to mental and emotional issues like
  • stinking thinking
  • dysfunctional coping behavior habits
  • and real or perceived traumatic life events.
There are many levels of depression. The low feelings can be "acute"- a temporary condition tied to some life event- or "chronic", which is a pernicious, lasting condition that is sometimes triggered by a life event or an underlying physiological problem such as a simple thyroid imbalance. The condition can run from a little moping to clinical depression- a life threatening mental and emotional state. DO NOT IGNORE CLINICAL DEPRESSION. It can become a soul abscess, robbing you of the joy of your music... and of your life. If you think you could have it, get professional help, and don't wait one more day to do it.

On the other hand, learning how to deal with-- and not be afraid of-- temporary, natural mood swings can take their negative power over you away. Much like compost, crappy thoughts can be turned into fertilizer. It is my hope that this series will help people do just that. I look forward to your comments and suggestions along the way.

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  • At August 10, 2009 at 7:27 PM , Anonymous John Farndell said...

    Having just read your newsletter I felt that I could add just a little thought to “the doubled edge sword”, these are certainly gifts that we have been given and forces will come against the gifted musicians. I really loved the way you described it (double edged sword). Having nearly lost my life 9 weeks ago resulting from a tractor accident, made me realize when you have a “gift given to you” especially if your talent is “hot in its existence" meaning highly creative you will be attacked with all sorts of things of this world: depression, life threatening, “giving up singing” all these things.

    Today in the world recession, times are hard and probably going to get even harder, but we have to realize the talent we have been given is because we are worthy of it. It has been given to edify others. The evil one will always try to depress you to get you to leave your talent and gift and move on. This is because these gifts we all have as singers or musicians are given to “edify and build up” others.

    The gifts we have are given to share with others, these gifts can be used to soften the worldly blows that we face. Whether gifts are “spoken are through our instruments” or “spoken through words of song”, we must rise up and become highly creative, set ourselves amongst those who are of the positive creative mind. We as musicians and singers have to portray this through our talent. Music always controls minds and motivates people.

  • At August 10, 2009 at 7:29 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

    Thank you, John, for this insightful comment. I think you've hit upon a very important element in combating depression... that our talents are given us to "edify and build up others". A key to defeating depression lies in getting away from making everything about ourselves. Get other-directed and we feel so much better. Thanks again for your important input.

  • At August 12, 2009 at 10:30 PM , Blogger kylebrooksmusic said...

    I am so glad you are doing this series!

    It blows my mind that there are so many artistic (and non-artistic) people that have never addressed this issue. I'm sure you've heard from people, as I have, that many artists think being chemically/emotionally balanced would take away from their art. It is sad to watch so many gifted people crash and burn without being aware they may have an obstacle they cannot see. All I can say from where I am now is that I didn't know what I didn't know. Have you read Dr. Amen's book "Change Your Brain, Change Your Life"? I found it very helpful when educating myself on the chemical side of being human. I have since recommended it to many, who have found the book helpful in portraying chemical imbalance as what it is; chemical and not a personal deficiency or weakness.

    Since arriving in Nashville, it has become clear to me that music is not the only reason I am here. In overcoming the plethora of challenges/turned gifts that are my journey, I have used many modalities and collected a diverse set of tools in my box that worked for me and brought me to the life I have today. I am truly grateful for all I have been through and the gift of willingness to keep trying.

    I truly believe my experiences were for the purpose of being an example of what is possible and inspiring others to do whatever it takes to achieve balance and realize their dreams. I'm living beyond mine now and I'm just getting started! :-)

    I believe that being who we are and contributing to the greater good for all is our purpose. Discovering our gift and sharing it is our journey. Like you say, it is mental, spiritual and physical.

    You are a precious asset to this community, Judy.

    Thank you!

    Peace & hugs.....

  • At August 13, 2009 at 8:28 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

    Kyle, thank you so much for your thoughts... I'll have to look that book up. I love the fact that both you and John have come to the conclusion that, as you say, "being who we are and contributing to the greater good for all is our purpose. Discovering our gift and sharing it is our journey." Well said dear friend. I, too, believe when we can get to the place where we are "other directed" instead of navel gazing, we can move away from the danger zone of depression. I'm glad we're talking about how to do this.

  • At August 13, 2009 at 8:34 PM , Anonymous Kim Rushing said...

    right on, judy

    i found that my depression and fatigue related to low functioning thyroid and
    adrenal exhaustion in addition to the psycho/social factors...
    a Naturopathic Doctor can offer solutions other than SSRI anti depressant meds
    (though these are over prescribed, they are great for some people)

    living in a culture that doesn't honor it's artistic types --there is a sense of
    swimming "upstream" or against the current with the artists' temperament and professions

    I've noticed quite a few creative types also suffer from Bipolar Disorder. (manic depression)

    thanks for talking about this very important subject!

  • At August 13, 2009 at 8:58 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

    Kim, I know others whose depression stemmed from a thyroid issue. Amazing what correcting such an issue can do to help. And bi-polar.. it's almost epidemic, I think, among highly creative people. I'm going to talk more about these more severe causes and conditions of depression in my next post. Thank you! Your comments are always right on.


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