Depression and various mental illnesses and composing music

Discussion in 'Composition, Orchestration & Technique' started by EgM, Jul 11, 2018.

  1. Kyle Preston

    Kyle Preston I accidentally do things on purpose

    Aug 11, 2016
    Seattle, WA
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  2. Massimo

    Massimo Senior Member

    Dec 10, 2006
    I am still going through the effects of a severe burnout that happens eleven years ago... life has never been the same again but managed through professional and otherwise help to get back to some kind of a 'normal' life. Forgive me for saying this, this is not the right place to ask for help, even though a community feedback may help to comfort you momentarily.

    EgM if you like some advices and recommendations don't hesitate to PM.

    Kind regards and blessings to all,

    Max T.
  3. AllanH

    AllanH Senior Member

    Oct 11, 2015
    Central Coast California
    Sometimes a shift in perspective can be useful: Einstein played his violin to relax and release his creative mind.

    There is, imo, nothing wrong with simply noodling on the keyboard for an hour to relax after a stressful days. The moment you set performance expectations, such as 5 tracks per night, you might be taking the joy out of it.

    Many days I put on the headphones and just improvise for long while. Sometimes it turns into a new track but mostly it is just relaxing.
  4. CoffeeLover

    CoffeeLover Active Member

    Apr 1, 2018
    have you ever given it any thought to quit completly?
    im a raging alcoholic and drug abuser
    i quit everything
    12 steps of AA and the whole 9 yards
    my life took a drastic turn for the better
    id say from the streets and up to the ivory tower
    im not very active in AA today as i was but now im focusing on me and comunication and relationships through codependancy
    and ofcourse i see a phsycologist
    all this self work has given me all the mental tools i need in order to go and take what i dream of
    went and finished computerscience and also managed to tour completly sane and sober
    discovered crossfit and olympic weighlifting
    mountainclimbing and hiking,lessons in piano and discovering film music and orchestration but i got no desire to make any music for films or games i just love the creative proscess and the ZEN of being creative.
    also got a dayjob.i could quit and still be able to pay bills with music but i dont want to get bored,yeah i get bored so i dont want music to be a normal working routine like a dayjob
    i managed to own my own home in a fucked up housing market.
    but what gets me stressed and depressed ar these long tours in autumn and winter and festival seasons during the summer. not that i dislike playing but the traveling and the environment is difficult.
    as i write this i look back on who i was and where i was and jesus fucking christ i would never had guessed or even dreamt that id reached that level of personality comparing what sort of crumbled soul i was.
    id say i put alot of work in getting here but i never felt the change nor did i focus on how dificult it was. all i felt is that i did not want to be in that pit of despair ever again and i have not felt a slight longing for beer or little line if coke cos i cant forget the misery of my past. the weigh of it just dominates my thought when i think of glamour.

    i sincerly wish that everybody who are suffering could find their true beat and rythm and overcome their fears and shadows.

    sorry i wasnt gonna write all this but for those if you are here and are battling addiction along with all the mental illness that comes with it i hope you may find some sort of stimulation cos you can do it too.
  5. SBK

    SBK Senior Member

    Aug 24, 2016

    Hope so man! Your message is inspiring . I want to do many stuff but alcohol makes you stand still! Hope I completely quit it
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  6. Nao Gam

    Nao Gam Dirty little gearslut

    Apr 1, 2018
    Internet addict here. At least I cut down on porn.
    I've never been addicted to the hardcore stuff like you, congrats on the improvement btw, but holy hell I've had full blown addictions to softer stuff like the internet and it really is a black hole. Takes a lot of momentum to get out. Anyway I feel confident I'll beat this now tho I'm still struggling a bit.
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  7. Tice

    Tice Senior Member

    Jun 10, 2018
    You can do it! But you have to know what your drinking habbit is intended to do, and replace that method with another. Drinking is never without function. It can be the ability to relax, or to stop thinking about something, or a plethora of other things. Once you know what you're drinking for, you can replace it with something else that does the same thing but without any of the unwanted side-effects.
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  8. JohnG

    JohnG Senior Member

    Nov 13, 2007
    Sorry for those having a hard time. Life can be very difficult, and some have better luck than others. Quoting @charlieclouser below:

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  9. JohnG

    JohnG Senior Member

    Nov 13, 2007
    well that didn't really work. Here's Charlie's post:

    Yeah, when I first saw that post from RK I had to restrain myself from dropping bombs directly into that FB group - that would have been a little too much of a direct attack, and I don't actually participate in that FB group so it didn't feel appropriate. Plus, he's sort of preaching to the choir over there - they seem to lap that stuff up - but to someone who wasn't raised in the culture of Hollywood aspiration it all feels a bit.... icky. My point was more about how the online echo chamber of "#ComposerLife #TheHustleIsReal #LivingTheDream", like any echo chamber, unwittingly creates a self-reinforcing feedback loop in which the participants try to one-up each other. Like,

    "Oh, you think your last gig was hard? Rookie. On my last gig I had to compose a love theme on clarinet while playing the drums while mastering an album, all in ten minutes. I work 28 hours a day, nine days a week. You don't know real struggle, kid! Get on my level! #Hustle #ComposerLife #IwelcomeTheAbuse"

    All I want to point out is that it's not the only way.

    Most of my favorite artists / composers / writers / filmmakers / musicians are not really all that prolific - they're not "on that grind, son". Kubrick, Eno, Gilliam - they don't crank out product while working on four things at once.

    Their work feels as if it's been fertilized in the rich soil of the human experience, of a life well-lived.

    But how does any of this apply to someone trying to gain a foothold in "the industry"? Not sure. Maybe it doesn't. Maybe I'm guilty of speaking from a position of unreasonable and unrealistic success, where my unusual position makes me think it's reasonable for me to tell people that they don't need to work 28-hour days because now that I'm old and coasting on past successes I don't need to do that anymore (spoiler alert, I do). I realize that. But I'm trying to speak to the issue of maintaining mental health in the creative fields. To that point, my central argument is this:

    If you sacrifice your life / health / sanity to your music (or any) career, then you run the risk of feeling like you need to be repaid, by that career, for your sacrifice. If it doesn't work out, the career can become that thing that's done you wrong - and that's a wrong that can never be righted, a debt that can never be repaid.

    For everyone, there will eventually be that "last gig". The last score you compose, the last record you release, the last house you build, the last ditch you dig. And then it will be over. And you'll think, what shall we use to fill the empty spaces? If the career contains your identity, there might be a big empty space after that last gig. But if your identity contains your career then hopefully the loss will feel less total.

    Even the true greats have self-doubt and some level of disappointment with their work. HZ once said his favorite piece of his music is the one that hasn't been written yet. JW famously said that Schindler's List deserved a better composer than he (and Spielberg famously replied, "I agree - but they're all dead!"). What I take from that is that satisfaction and success are always relative. My mental analogy has always been that even as you climb a ladder, that ladder is constantly sinking into the mud, so you're always standing on the bottom rung and your shoes will always be an inch away from getting muddy. If you're climbing because you want a better view, and don't actually enjoy the act of climbing just for the exercise, then you're gonna have a bad time. (Insert South Park ski instructor meme here). But if you actually, genuinely enjoy the process of moving your arms and legs, and inspecting the interesting wood grain on each new rung you grab, then the simple act of climbing will be satisfying, even if you never get more than a few inches above the mud.

    Okay, yeah, I have been known to "go further" (too far?) in many aspects of music or tech, whether it's permanently wiring up 48 guitar pedals to patch bays or spending endless weeks converting stuff from Kontakt to EXS or whatever - but I enjoy that stuff. It's like having a backyard garden or something. I love sitting cross-legged behind the racks with the cable ties and label printer, getting everything nice and tidy while Robot Chicken plays on the tv. It's a break from the "challenges" of creativity - it's exactly like weeding a garden. When my sample folders are in perfect order, with everything correctly named and organized, I feel the same sort of satisfaction that a gardener feels when the weeding is done and all the irrigation is working as it should. Sure, those weeds will grow back (just like the "samples to be edited" folder!), but that's life. So that stuff never really feels like work. If it did, I probably wouldn't bother!

    So enjoy work, but enjoy life also. Both can be fun. Both should be fun. -- Charlie Clouser
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  10. jhughes

    jhughes Senior Member

    May 12, 2017
    I will start by saying, most people go through what you're dealing with at one point or the other.
    It sounds job related and I can relate to that. My career before becoming a full-time musician was as a chemist. Without going into details my job drained me of any desire to come home and practice my instrument.
    You can only do so much man. Work 8+ hours and then when you come home you want to relax, makes PERFECT sense. I have no idea the details of your job and schedule. Is there a way you can change things there at all? Sometimes I know there is nothing you can do.

    Music isn't easy, sometimes it's not fun, sometimes you aren't making progress, sometimes we put super unrealistic expectations on ourselves, we compare/judge, and we work until we are blue in the face...and sometimes we do that all while pretending everything is wonderful.

    To share my own story-I felt kind of down about a month or two ago with my music for a week or so. A "funk" if you will. I go through this more than once a year that is for sure! To me-I try to put my mind in a different place. I try to have FUN with music, make it a game, try to remember what drew me to music in the first place....Often I do something I completely suck at just so I can have a laugh and not be so darn serious :)...It will be different for everyone, the one thing I always come back to is I focus on the journey, the studying, and less on the result and less on comparing it to what I want it to be until I'm in a better place mentally.
    Good luck in getting out of the funk!
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2018
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  11. jcrosby

    jcrosby Senior Member

    Nov 30, 2014
    Boston MA
    Not to mention poor diagnosis or being prescribed the wrong medication without check-ins from a pharmacologist with a sold background.

    Psychoactive drugs of any kind can be dangerous if prescribed incorrectly... If you give someone with legitimate bipolar disorder the wrong antidepressant there's a very real possibility they can become violent, suicidal, panicky, or any combination in between... Same in reverse...You don't prescribe lithium as a casual medication for social anxiety... That said, anyone who's known someone who genuinely benefitted from it knows the scoop... It's no joke, and legitimately bipolar people are capable of some pretty destructive shit without it if it helps... Medication can be a double edged-sword like that, but critical in the 'right' hands.

    Just as you wouldn't go to see a psychiatrist for a heart condition, I personally think a big part of the problem is that general physicians, (not all of course), are too casual with prescribing medications they don't necessarily have a proper background to prescribe. IMO psychiatric medications shouldn't be prescribed by anyone unless they have a seriously solid understanding of the negative outcomes if a medication is the wrong fit...

    Doctors should also be more aggressive about vetting and sending people to someone who specializes in mental health issues instead of casually filling out scripts for SSRIS, anit-anxiety medication etc... (The same can, and obviously should be said about pain meds and medication in general...) In the right hands with the right guidance they can keep people from making terrible and irreversible decisions. Unfortunately, in the wrong hands, they can wreak havoc... Unnecessary prescribing, overprescribing, or unsupervised prescription of the wrong combination is the flip side of the medication argument that often doesn't get enough consideration...

    Considering mental health issues have a higher incidence in creative people it's important this thread is here... No shame, no judgement, and never be afraid or shy to ask for help if you need it. <3
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2018
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  12. fiestared

    fiestared Senior Member

    Aug 18, 2013
    "griffonia" (ask your doctor...)
    I've put a link to Amazon, but for some reasons it doesn't appear ? Look for that :
    5-HTP 100 mg | 120 Vegan Capsules | Helps with Mood, Sleep, Relaxation, Calm and Appetite Control | Naturally Sourced Serotonin Booster | Anti Stress & Temporary Anxiety Relief Support Supplement
    Nested Natural
  13. SergeD

    SergeD Senior Member

    Nov 16, 2006
    That's a lot of work, don't you think?

    May I suggest you to checklist all your bills and evaluate the necessity of having each of service/device you pay for? Do you really need everything you pay for?

    If you can lower the pressure of payments it could help a lot to feel less trapped by the consumer system. “To pay, or not to pay, that is the question”

    Well, it's an option to consider, hope that helps :)
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  14. AlexRuger

    AlexRuger Senior Member

    I too have gone through the deep dark valley of depression and anxiety; the near-Sisyphean task of climbing out (in my case, with the help of a wonderful therapist who I can't imagine I'll ever stop seeing); the daily work required to stay out (meditation, a fantastic diet, and certain philosophies are key).

    But enough great stuff on the subject has been said, so allow me to throw in something extra: You never really know if there's a physical ailment adding to (or even causing! It can certainly be a chicken-egg thing) mental health issues.

    I just discovered that I am both allergic to wheat and have sleep apnea. I suspect that they only contributed to the mental health issues -- the causes for me were numerous, a bit of a perfect storm -- but I'm excited to see the difference treating all this will make, since while I'm certainly out of the worst of my mental health issues, I still have a long way to go. Maybe the years-long terrible sleep (and that's ignoring all the late nights working!) and systemic inflammation (which in the case of food allergies often affects the brain) made a potentially small mental health problem snowball? Time will tell.

    At the very least, it explains a lot of very weird health issues I've had over the years but could never find the cause of. I was starting to get diagnoses of MS, fibromyalgia, other dubious and catch-all conditions that are often the result of doctors throwing up their hands in frustration (not to discredit these conditions at all -- I'm just saying that it can be hard to know if your diagnosis is the real deal or if your doc is just trying to get you out the door).

    What's funny is that I had sort of suspected both of these issues for years, but didn't have any evidence or really any reason at all...maybe my subconscious was nudging me (if that's even a thing)? I remember scheduling a sleep study in I think 2010, but for some reason I bailed...all these years later, and I was right on both counts. So strange.

    My point being: Get checked out and make sure your health is your top priority. If you suspect something, definitely look into it (and don't wait years like me!) Who knows, maybe the root of all this is something as simple as sleep apnea?
  15. MartinH.

    MartinH. Senior Member

    Jun 16, 2018
    I have a few friends working in the medical field and I have a lot of sympathy for doctors, but I had to arrive at the conclusion that the whole system is flawed as fuck! I think everyone needs to invest seriously into medical knowledge and needs to be more actively engaged with their treatments. I don't mean internet-self-diagnose instead of seeing a doctor, I mean seeing a doctor and having done enough research to have a meaningful conversation with them, ask the right questions, offer more useful info about your symptoms than they'd ask for on their own, and connect the dots that you get from seeing different doctors accross different specializations that they wouldn't even be able to see, because they don't have that shared info, only you have. Also some doctors are just plain bad, how can you hope to spot one if you don't know anything about medicine yourself? And some make mistakes, like most humans do, if you know a thing or two, you've at least got a chance to intervene.

    Good thing you bring this up, it reminds me of a truely astonishing case of a young woman who had insane health problems that mostly went away on an all-meat diet:

    Her father - Jordan Peterson - seems to do quite well on a similar diet too, so it seems to be a genetic thing for them.

    My sleep is kinda fucked up for as long as I can think and I always feel terrible in the morning, but I am hesitant to do such a study because I have huge issues falling asleep in anything but my own bed. Like, it's not totally unrealistic that I'd just lie awake the whole night. When I'm in a hotel for a business trip I often sleep less than 3 hours the first night, and that's without cables attached and feeling like I'm being watched. Can't imagine any of that to help my sleep.
    My father has some kind of sleep apnea I think, but contrary to me he always slept like a rock, while I wake up easily and often.
    What would you do? Try it anyway?
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  16. fiestared

    fiestared Senior Member

    Aug 18, 2013
    As I wrote above "Griffonia" a natural treatment is perfect for that kind of situation...
  17. robgb

    robgb I Have Strong Opinions

    Apr 6, 2016
    The older I get, the lazier I get. It IS depressing.

    Regarding magic happy pills, I have a story about myself. My father died when he was 61. As I approached that age, I would joke to my family, "Only twenty years to go." "Only ten years to go." "Only five years..." But as I actually did get months away from my 61st birthday, I began to get very concerned about my health, and the joke was far less funny to me than it had been in the past, especially when I started having stomach problems.

    Anxiety over my health was becoming an issue, so I went to my general practitioner and asked for something to "take the edge off." She prescribed me an anti-anxiety pill called Lexapro. I hesitated taking it. Did I want to be dependent on a pill every day? But I finally broke down and started taking it.

    Within three days I was having SEVERE panic attacks. Jump out of your chair, unable to breathe panic attacks. I called my doctor and she casually said, "Oh, yeah, those pills can have some nasty side effects. You'll just have to ride it out. You'll be better in about six weeks."

    SIX WEEKS? I would have been DEAD in six weeks if I had continued to take those pills. My wife told me to stop immediately, and I did, but then I began to have withdrawal symptoms called "brain sparks" that are hard to describe, but nearly impossible to live with. I also started having severe insomnia. So bad that I couldn't get more than an hour or two of sleep a night—and not very good sleep at that. My wife called the doctor (I was unable to in this state), and the doctor said, "Well, if he's still having symptoms, then it must be in his head."

    Yeah, fuck you, Doc, I've never felt anything like this before in my life, so why the hell would I be feeling this way now? Oh, I know, because of the fucking magic pill you gave me that fucked up my brain chemistry.

    I finally had to go to a new doctor—a psychiatrist—who was able to help me out. Psychiatrists don't psychoanalyze you anymore. That's old school. What they do now is medicate you, and they are experts at it. He gave me a pill to MAKE me sleep, and told me that my doctor's treatment of me was borderline criminal. She had prescribed me exactly the WRONG kind of medication, he said. In his experience, Lexapro is not really suitable for men. Works great for women, and SOME men, but there are other medications that would work much, much better.

    I declined, however, to take any more happy pills. I took the sleeping pills, started to get some sleep, and over the course of a year eventually got back to myself again, although I don't think I'll ever be 100%. The only medication I'm on now is for those stomach issues that started it all.

    I know other men who take Lexipro and it works fine for them. I know women who take Xanax, and they're happier than ever, calling it a miracle drug. I would never assume that all these drugs are bad. They do help people. But if you choose to take some, make sure you get them from a psychiatrist and not a GP. GP's are simply not trained to understand the intricacies of these medications. Go to a psychiatrist, who can guide you through the process in case things start to go wrong, and can prescribe additional or alternative medications until it's working correctly.

    And always be aware that every drug has potential side effects. If you're taking it and you don't feel right, get help. Quickly.
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  18. AlexRuger

    AlexRuger Senior Member

    MartinH, I did my sleep study at home. As far as I understand, that's the default nowadays since it's so much less expensive.

    They gave me the test device, showed me how to use it in the office, then I wore it for two nights and recorded some info the following morning. Totally painless!
  19. MartinH.

    MartinH. Senior Member

    Jun 16, 2018
    Thanks for the suggestion, I appreciate it. I briefly looked into it but that seems to mainly contain 5-Hydroxytryptophan - a serotonin precurser. I have no reason to believe that would help me, because I have tried L-Tryptophan in the past (precursor of 5-HTP it seems) and that didn't help at all, only gave me nightmares. Also I know how it feels when I accidentally fuck up my serotonin levels with avoiding daylight for too long, and that goes away rather quickly when I up the light exposure again.

    Yikes! Sorry you had to go through that!

    But that sounds like an excellent example where "do your own research" might have helped you a great deal. You're absolutely not supposed to suddenly stop that kind of medication. You're supposed to slowly reduce the dosage over a longer time to get off of it without having the discontinuation symptoms. It's right there on the wikipedia page:

    Also you seem not to have been aware that almost every anti-depressant is supposed to show first positive effects only after weeks or months of taking them. If you're not commited to muscle through the side effects for 2 months, there isn't much point in even starting imho. You'll get side effects much sooner than the proper positive effects. I don't want to downplay what you've gone through because I have no idea how that felt, I'm sure it was a nightmare! But maybe that too could have been much smoother by not starting with the prescribed dosage and instead "easing it in slowly" over the course of some weeks?

    Thanks for the info! That's interesting, but I guess for finding out if you stop breathing a portable device is fine. I'd be interested in EEG readings too though, but I doubt that is possible with such a device? Maybe I should call a sleep lab in the area and ask, and see what my insurance covers.

    Though... shouldn't it be fairly easy to find out if I stop breathing at night by running my portable audio recorder a whole night aimed at my head, and parse the intervals between sounds with some audio analysis tool, and if it finds pauses past a threshold, I can listen to the raw audio recording at that timecode and see if it sounds unusual? Might be an interesting experiment.

    The reason I'd be interested in the EEG readings too is that afaik there are some conditions where you don't enter REM sleep the same way normal people would, and that makes your sleep much lower quality than it should be. Not sure that can be measured on metrics like breating rate, movement rate and heartbeat alone. Could be, but I don't know.
  20. robgb

    robgb I Have Strong Opinions

    Apr 6, 2016
    I'd only been taking it a few days and there was no way I was going to put that caustic shit in my body again.
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