Music Therapy – I use my art to combat stigma against mental illness #MindfulAllies

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#MindfulAllies is a weeklong series that highlights real stories from people who experience mental illness. They are speaking out to educate people and end stigma around mental health.

by Briana Lynn Wolf

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My mom knew something wasn’t right when I was eight years old and crying in my room. She asked what was wrong. I said, “It’s like there’s this dark cloud over my head that won’t go away.”

This seemed like a level of sadness that an eight-year-old shouldn’t be experiencing. I was taken to therapy, but was held back from a diagnosis until I was 12 and started having suicidal thoughts.

I was originally misdiagnosed as depressed, at which point they put me on an antidepressant. All was well until I ended up in the hospital due to a reaction to the medication. Bipolar people can’t be on just antidepressants, my family would eventually find out.

I went to a new doctor and was correctly diagnosed. For the next seven-ish years I was in and out of hospitals, changing medications frequently, getting every bad reaction possible, until I finally landed on a dosage and combination where the side effects were manageable and my mental state was balanced enough.

My teachers and employers have never really understood mental illness, or the effect it would have on a student in a classroom setting.

Since then I’ve still had rough times. I developed an eating disorder when I was 21, and I still struggle with that when I am having a stressful day. My teachers and employers have never really understood mental illness, or the effect it would have on a student in a classroom setting. Throughout all this, I’ve lost friends, I’ve isolated myself from my family, but I’ve slowly regained their trust.

About the time I got my medication right, I started writing songs every day. I did this partly to remain sane, and also because I loved it. It’s gone hand in hand with my disease, because through songwriting, I learned that whenever I feel a strong emotion, I can sit down and write a song instead of taking it out on people I love.

There were two major shifts for me in the past year, when I realized that I didn’t have to do this alone.

 

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