Health

Music and Mental Health

I’ve mentioned in a previous post that I really get along with my work colleagues- that I like them all enough to be able to spend more than a few hours with them without having to plaster on a huge fake smile and talk about things I have no interest in.

And there is an added bonus. I work alongside a rock star. That’s right, my mate Tom is the frontman of a band called the Phosphenes, who are based in Glasgow, and I was lucky enough to go and see them live in May the day I finished my finals at University.

Listen to cracking music and also be able to support my friend in doing what he loves to do best? Winner winner chicken dinner I think.

So yes, my mate is in a band, and I’m bloody proud of him for it. Not just because I know how much skill is involved with being able to sing and play musical instruments and write your own songs, but also the sheer amount of courage it takes to get up on a stage in front of hundreds of strangers and do your thing.

And what makes the Phosphenes even more special? Every song they write and every lyric they sing comes from the heart. Cliche I know, but, one quiet day at work, I was able to chat to Tom about the beginnings of the band, and what inspires them to do what they do.

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The answer? A myriad of mental health issues that members of the group have either gone through already or are still battling.

Because of my eating disorder and experience with disordered thinking and depression, this struck me hard, as I realised that people suffering from diseases that don’t necessarily attack your body physically but consume you from you mind outwards, can find ways to channel their thoughts and their disorientation into something that ultimately become something others can appreciate. Some like to draw or paint, my friend L likes to go climbing, I run (granted, what L and I do can only be appreciated by ourselves but thats what happens when you aren’t good at drawing okay?) and Tom writes beautiful alternative music that people pay to listen to.

I was able to give him a mini non-interview when I was asking him about the band, just out of curiosity, and with his permission, am lucky enough to share with you all the Phosphenes.

C: How did you guys come to be in a band? Did you know each other from when you were young? or did you meet randomly one day?

T: Phosphenes began last year when we were studying music together at Motherwell College and were randomly put in a band together. There were another couple of guys with us to begin with, but the four of us (myself, Elliot, Ryan and Jip) who remain in the band now seemed to get along best and just gel together really well.

C: Bearing in mind you work full time in the restaurant and you’re never out of this place, when do you even get to rehearse?

T: If we have a gig coming up we do tend to try and get three or four rehearsals in. We all lead totally different lives out of the band, which can be stressful, but when we jam together it’s like we forget that we have these different lives and it’s just us.

C: What are your bandmates like? 

T: It sounds like such an overused phrase, but we do have a brotherly relationship. When you’re in a band, you’re exposed to one another- your innermost thoughts and feelings are laid out on the table and there’s no hiding behind a mask or a facade. There is no denying we have each other’s back, and, musically, we come together perfectly. Jip, our lead guitarist, has magic fingers and can play anything with strings beautifully, as if it were simply an extension of his own body. I write songs when I can, and take them to the guys, and if we groove on a tune, I know I can finish writing it, we’ll get our heads down and rehearse the s*** out of it until it’s perfect to play in front of people.

C: And of course I have to ask because this is what intrigued me in the first place… what inspires your music?

T: It’s difficult to write music if you aren’t passionate or feel the things you’re writing about. Our music comes from our own personal experiences with mental health issues, or how we’ve handled dealing with these illnesses if someone we’re close to has suffered from them. You see, some members of the band have indeed suffered from a mental illness, whether it be an eating disorder, or depression, but it’s imperative to not forget about those who aren’t suffering first hand from these issues, but are witnessing a close friend or relative going through it all. We’ve seen our friends hit rock bottom, hell, some of us have hit bottom more than once, but when we write our songs, we can express these confused and distorted thoughts and create something that is incredibly beautiful. Something that is a complete contrast to the problems we face in our daily lives outside the band.

C: Is knowing you can be honest in your songs important for you to be able to express what you’ve been through?

T: It’s like you and your blogging or your journalling I guess. There’s no judgement, I put my heart and soul into it, and music has always been such a huge part of my life it would be weird not to use it as an outlet for creativity.

C: Eh, can I please get a ticket to your next gig and I’ll sweep the restaurant floors tonight? 

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Yes, that is how I ended our conversation, and I did indeed sweep the floors that night.

The thing is, mental health is such a dark thing to have to discuss. People shy away from it like it’s taboo, and I know for a fact my own dad would rather talk to me about anything else in the world than have to talk about my bulimia and how I am recovering.

And when we do realise someone we now is suffering from a mental illness, it’s so easy to focus on that one person. It sounds horrid to say, but we forget about their close friends and loved ones who also have to go through it with them.

My boyfriend is so supportive and I know I’m so lucky to have him, but I also know that when I have my bad days, it hurts him to see me go through the pain and torture of having to talk myself out of doing something I’ll regret, or having to physically stay away from going on a night out because I can’t stand the thought of eating in front of other people.

This pain that we feel, whether we are the sufferers of mental health problems, or trying to be a comfort and a rock to someone we know is enduring the effects of these disorders, can be expressed and released in so many different ways, and once you find how to do that, how to be honest and open through creativity (or any activity you feel good doing because, let’s face it, not everyone can write amazing music) something absolutely stunning can be created.

C x

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