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!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Musicians and Depression: Triggers That Start The Downward Spiral

Depression, as I said in my first post, can be caused by multiple causes. In this post I'm going to talk about three types of triggers that can begin a downward spiral in the brain.

A high in your musical career.

Strange but true, just on the other side of a significant accomplishment in our musical career (our "baby" is metaphorically finally born) , we can experience a plunge in state of mind. I refer to it as artistic "post partum depression".

Typical scenarios:
  • A cd project you've been working very hard on is finally finished, to your great satisfaction. The following day you feel strangely let down, tired and even sad.
  • You win a talent award you've been deeply hoping for that will launch your career to another plateau. Soon after you wonder why you are feeling so down and scared.
  • You get a deal... on a label, with a publishing company, with a booking agency. You celebrate, then feel empty.
  • You conquer a difficult vocal issue such as chronic tension in your voice. You are elated at your voice lesson, but soon after become afraid that you can't really do that consistently. It becomes a self-fullfilled prophecy when your voice assumes the old nasty habits next time you sing. You feel like giving up.
How can you deal with a high-low cycle?

Know what it is. Just recognizing a post-high low can keep you from being afraid of it, and can take it's power away to hurt you. It's like a coat hanging on a coathook that looks like a monster in the dark... if you know it's a coat, even though the lights are out you stop being afraid of it. You can even use the lows to rest, reflect, pray and get back to the source of your strength and get ready for what you'll do next. Choose to see low is just a temporary balancing so the highs don't burn you out!

Too Much Sensory Input

  • Too much to do, too many people to be around, too many promotional events and phone calls, too many things happening at once, too many people talking, too tooo toooooo much! You find yourself on edge, unsatisfied, unhappy no matter what is "going right" and you don't understand it.
This happens a lot to highly creative people. Many times artists fall into the trap of substance abuse just to find some peace. Here's a better way... find some S P A C E! Silence and space can be restoring and healing. You don't have to have money for a big sabbatical, just tell everyone you're taking a break for an evening, day or week and then DO IT. Turn off phone, tv, limit talking, just chill. Ways I do this include my morning meditations and prayer, walks in the woods, time sitting on my deck outside, walks on any ocean shore.

Bitterness and Resentment

OK, if you say you have not fallen victim to these twin mindsets, you are lying, friend... or you are not from this planet! (I, by the way, am also from Earth) And those who don't admit their imperfect attitudes are in the most peril of all... because a stuffed resentment can fester and even create more internal havoc than a confessed one. For instance:
  • You notice someone's career moving faster than yours. (And there's always someone...)
  • Someone else wins an award you were competing for. (Competition monster strikes again.)
  • You think someone has stolen your gig. (A big nasty trigger... especially if it's true.)
  • Someone diss'ed you (critiqued or assessed your performance negatively).
  • You got hurt by an unfair music business reality or decision. (Radio won't play you anymore, the label folds, your point man left the organization, the venue gypped you, your songs/music/production are not chosen for ___ project).
  • You hate yourself for your mistakes, failures and inabilities. This is a big contributor to depression, which is also defined as anger turned inwards.
There are so many reasons a musician lets bitterness and resentment take hold because we as artists are often fragile. This can turn into the end game... unforgiveness, which is truly a happiness, joy and peace killer.

We MUST turn these thoughts around, and the sooner the better. It helps to have a sane circle of friends to whom we can be accountable, so we can say "I am having trouble letting this go. I admit it and I want to stop it." If this friend will help you NOT DIG THE HOLE of resentment deeper, but will instead agree with you that you need to forgive, forget, let go, wish the person well, that's the talk you need to have. Oh yes, and prayer works to. Someone told me one time when I was crying about some unfair insult I'd received that Jesus didn't have a party here, either. That did it for me, I couldn't top that so I was quickly able to let go. I was able to see this person as fearful and sick, and actually began to care about her. I also was able to admit and forgive myself for being foolish and manipulative. Then my own clouds lifted.

Now... here's where I need your help. What other triggers of depression have you experienced, and what did you find useful that you could share?

We'll talk about more severe forms of depression next post.

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  • At August 14, 2009 at 2:27 PM , Blogger LA said...

    I think this series is fantastic.

    Your examples strike me as true and honest. I hope many creative folks in all kinds of different fields--and those close to them--find this series. Just hearing that other people have felt similar things in similar situations will probably help, not to mention the advice itself.

    I look forward to the third installment and will be tweeting a link to this series.

  • At August 14, 2009 at 5:13 PM , Blogger Judy Rodman said...

    Thank you, Leigh Ann! I really appreciate you helping to spread the word... this seems to be an important conversation and I hope this series does "trigger" some help.

    Much obliged!!

  • At August 14, 2009 at 5:19 PM , Anonymous Hilary Canto said...

    I would add that depression as a word is not a disease..it means nothing...a depressed system is its total meaning...worthless and not helpful to anyone.

    Creatives and sensitives suffer most because of the difficulty in handling the density of social, community energy and mundane employment to earn a living. Depression is an energy disorder mainly of the endocrine system. Light and sound vibration are the key factors.

    Nutrition can help re-balance as can fresh air, light, nature etc. The other key is ACCEPTANCE..many go into this spiral through denial of their self too from many avenues of thought and experience.

    Bi-polar, schizophrenia, clinical depression.....truthfully there is very little difference...but varying degrees of actual physiological change. The brain split becomes out of balance and it is often due to an energetic misunderstanding from society and family, so the person locks into their own psyche to protect themselves and then depresses their whole being.

    Creativity has to be expressed......it is an essential life force - sexual and creative energy are the energies of creation......its is how we harness them that allows us wholeness and freedom.

  • At August 14, 2009 at 5:24 PM , Blogger Judy Rodman said...

    Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this. I know you are doing some great vocal training work with the "inner voice" (in fact I think you're almost finished with a book on it) which you have been researching for quite some time.

    I, too, believe there are many causes and many sources of help to find the joy and peace that elude so many creative people. Hopefully as we all explore and discuss the issue, illumination will come.

  • At August 15, 2009 at 5:39 PM , Anonymous Hilary Canto said...

    Hi...forgot to say also its normal to dip after peak creativity.....when creation is high...with brain wave activity..there has to be a balance to allow space again for new creative thought. Its how the singer/musician deals with the down that is important!

  • At October 31, 2009 at 6:20 PM , Anonymous Heidi said...

    Hi Judy,

    AHA! True true and more true. I associate with emerging muso's who live with diagnosed depression and they pretty much always spiral down deep after their first successful gig.

    I try to say that it's a natural 'coming down' off a high to a normal plateau, but if you're used to that awful feeling of subsidence, it's natural reaction to believe you're becoming unwell again.


  • At November 1, 2009 at 10:32 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

    Heidi- thanks for your comment, yes, it is quite common for what goes up to come down! And I think you've hit upon a great insight... Even if chronic depression is an abiding issue, it can stop a spiral to accept the "after-high lows" as a balance correction of the emotions, instead of a plunge into the chronic soup. The believing "this too shall pass" can help it to do so.

    Good luck to you; thanks for being a part of this community.

  • At October 31, 2010 at 10:07 AM , Anonymous kristen said...

    Thanks, this was helpful. You asked if there were any other trigger... for me the big one is this sense of lonliness / emptiness after a performance. It's similar to the first one you describe, but less about the music (which at least I can take with me) and more about the people. When I perform it seems like everyone I've ever met wants to be my best friend talking to me before and after the set, buying drinks. But then I dread going home because then I'm alone. Peopel who said they wanted to marry me one minute don't even want to go get coffee the next. Getting out of bed the next day is almost impossible because if there's no performance scheduled, I'm positive that no one in the world would know if I wasn't there. I start realizing that most of my relationships are just as much a performance as anything else i do up there. I even start doubting my friendships with my friends and bandmates. The littlest things, like wanting to cancell the next practice after a good show (because we don't "need" it, makes me feel like even they don't really want to be around me.
    I try to build real relationships that won't be impacted by this, but it seems like everyone I meet is either part of that same scene or I end up neglecting those relatoinships because I'm so busy with practicing, gigs, and the rest.

  • At October 31, 2010 at 10:56 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

    Hi Kristin... thank you so much for your addition here. You are not alone... we have all experienced similar disconnect between the love of our audiences and music contacts and the love we can count on to be NOT music related.

    I think it's a journey of discovery for us all... we have to know who we are as human beings, deeper than our talents or jobs. Then finding trustable relationships that can see us this way... that's a mark to shoot for.

    Check my posts here for some additional thoughts I hope you find helpful.



    Warmest wishes for your happiness... and thanks so much for your honesty.

  • At August 23, 2013 at 4:06 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Balance is key, listening to music constantly means constantly working those dopamine receptors, which can cause fatigue as those receptors deteriorate and thus then more and more dopamine is required, starting an insatiable spiral that can never be satisfied only momentarily pleased through through excessive dopamine stimuli. This excessiveness usually manifests through addiction to drugs, drink and rock and roll, or anything else that causes dopamine hit.. porn, losing oneself in music, social interaction, creative work, risk taking, etc. The cure would be to find a balance in life, in all things, this of course may require giving up on competitive music marketplace, fame, etc, allowing oneself to be below optimum, even slightly depressed, while receptors recover, which they will, but you also have to forge new neural pathways for pleasure by being committed to new balanced lifestyle.


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