To you who may need this,
It’s been an interesting day. My puppy escaped from her crate, shredded an entire box of magic erasers and peed in my bed three times while I was out of the house, I’m running on two hours of sleep and my washing machine just exploded. Also, it’s a full moon- in Aries, no less.
I have written and re-written this piece so many times it’s almost funny. Almost. Part of me is fantasizing about throwing my computer out the window, but another, cooler-headed part of me is smart and knows that then I’d have to go and get it. And then I would have to sit down in front of a bashed up, limping laptop and tap out the very same letter I am writing to you now, but with a jammed F key.
I want to say that it’s ironic that trying to write a piece about mental health should drive me so crazy, but my boyfriend is constantly reminding me that’s not the correct usage of the word. So what is it then?
It’s hard, I guess.
And vulnerable, very.
I have spent most of my life doing all I could to hide what now seems to be the only thing I want to talk about. I have filled pages and pages, trying to put into words what has been, for years, the silent, slow-motion killer of my spirit. I have wanted to be the most clever, the most impactful, the one whose story has the power to save lives and release all the caged unicorns into the wild. But I have also been stalling, because the release of this piece is about to cause a chain reaction- it will trigger the release of a song called Moon, which is the first single on the EP of the same name, and once that EP comes out, I’m going to have to start getting ready to get on stage again and sing.
And I am terrified to do that.
It’s been six years since I released a record, the same six since I last toured. I have been asked when I am coming back to music so many times— it means a great deal to me, by the way, that anyone still cares. I used to answer, soon, soon it will come. After a while, as I kept slyly nudging the release date further and further into the comfortably distant future, I started to feel like a liar with all my unrealized, untrue soons, and so I stopped saying anything at all.
The music was finished two years ago, but until this morning, I have not actually been certain I was going to let it out of my perfectionistic, freaked-out little paws. But now, I know I absolutely have to, or I am going to explode like my washing machine, music will pour out of my eyeballs and nose like soapy evil foam and it will be a mess that I could have prevented.
So in answer to that question of when am I coming back to music, the answer is not soon. It’s now. I’m here. And Moon comes out Friday. It’s happening.
The question I haven’t been asked, however, is why has it been so long?
Why did I disappear?
And the answer is, I’ve been disappearing for as long as I can remember.
Since I was little, I’ve felt a vast, wordless sadness that I couldn’t explain.
It separated me from everyone else, made me feel different,
I didn’t tell anyone about it. I didn’t really know how. It scared me.
For years, I kept trying to escape this black hole inside of me, which felt so old and unbeatable.
It took different shapes. It was vague, just formless feeling, so hard to pin down and yet unbearably palpable and real.
I spent so many years inside of it, too close to see what was wrong.
“What is it?” I asked myself again and again, “what’s wrong with me?”
I started doing everything I could to figure out how to drag this out of the darkness and fence it in with words. Finally, I started to see it.
It takes many shapes.
It is a damp, grey blanket of absence hanging across the landscape of my mind, sucking the color out of everything.
It is a fear that comes without warning and ties my stomach in knots.
It is sudden, cold dread, for no reason.
It is an unfathomable distance I can’t cross, from the cold dark where I am locked inside my head to the warmth of another human being.
It is one unsettling thought leading to another in quick succession, spiraling out of control, nearly impossible to stop once it begins.
It is fight-or-flight, all the time.
It is a heaviness, a tiredness so dense it becomes hard to think, let alone move. A constant running out of steam.
I learned young how to make my dead limbs move, and simultaneously how to ignore the signals of my body. This is a lesson I am actively trying to unlearn.
It is a voice in my head, a voice of “reason” which told me that no matter how many wonderful things happen to me, no matter how many friends I have or how in love I may be, I will always feel just a little bit empty, that life is ultimately just a little bit pointless.
I believe that some of these things come from being sensitive and empathic, too open to the world, with all its sorrow and heartbreak.
There is ecological grief, too. It can all be overwhelming.
But also, as I found out earlier this year, I have clinical depression and anxiety.
These were the words I needed to bring what I was battling with into the light, once and for all.
And it turns out, I’m very much not alone.
There are so many of us.
I have stayed away from music for so long because I have been afraid that I wouldn’t be able to handle it. In order to sing, in order to bare my soul to a sea of strangers, I needed to be strong, I needed to be willing to be seen, and I needed to be protected.
Six years ago, I wasn’t.
Now, life is very different. I am on a slow but rewarding journey towards cultivating a healthier mental landscape. I am approaching it from all sides, with therapy, both traditional and more spiritual in nature, energy healing and hot baths, as much time in nature as I can get, doing yoga and picking up dog poop. I am once again learning to meditate. I’m bad at it, but at some point I imagine it will get easier. I take medication. I need it. It’s changed my life. I do animal cards and I journal, I read about the planets and occasionally make a stab at cutting out sugar. I am trying to get better at accepting failure, and the messiness of being human.
I’m also learning to communicate honestly and knock it off with the hiding. Shame and depression both feed on silence, and they keep you small. There is still so much stigma around the subject of mental health, and I want to do my part to tackle it. We’re losing too many beautiful people to depression, the list just keeps growing and growing. If I had not asked for help… well, I don’t know where I would be right now, but I’m glad I’m not there.
I’ve started a company called Hearth with my longtime manager and dear friend, Adrienne Butcher, along with some of our smartest, most large-hearted friends. It’s a platform for sending creative things into the world in a way which is healthy for the artist, the audience and the planet. For the first time, I feel like I am in a truly safe place, where I can have a flourishing career and a life. Moon will be our first release- hopefully, the first of many. I’m very excited.
So, now here we are. I said this thing could be no more than three pages, and it looks like I’ve done it. Sort of. I must stop, and I’m going to. This feels like a tiny miracle.
I’m still slightly nervous about the road ahead, but I’m trying not to get too far ahead of myself. These days, I am working on taking things one step at a time. I get anxious. I put on my shoes, take the tiny terror for a walk. I watch her as she puts her face in every flower, runs with wild delight. I come home, make myself something simple to eat. I try to breathe, and remember it’s all going to be ok.
One little thing at a time.
Looking back, which feels like ages ago, to when I began “to you, who may need this,” because I had no idea how else to start, I now see I was probably just talking to myself. I do need this. I hope you found something in here that you can take with you, something you can use. If only to feel better about your life for not having a flooded washing machine (you lucky duck).
Thank you for reading. I look forward to seeing you, somewhere in the world, some day. I hope I’ll be singing for you. In the meantime, take care of yourself. You’re the only you we’ve got.
with love, Alison