I’ve read a few articles around similar themes as the above, but often substituting ‘music’ for another activity, and then explaining why such a past time has been a real life changer- for me that has always been music. As extreme as it sounds- it’s true, in more ways than I actually believe myself half the time, but there you go.
When I was eight years old in primary school, I was depressed, lonely, going through the most unimaginable bullying, I self harmed and was suicidal. Feeling that you don’t want to be here any more and wishing that you could just go under your duvet and disappear forever is awful for anyone, but in a child as young as I was it was so hard to explain and something, that quite frankly should only happen to other (possibly older) people- not me. This was also the year when I started playing the fiddle, a decision that I believe was instrumental in saving my life (or at least changing it for the better.) I attribute some of my low mood, to being utterly confused about myself, as a Dyspraxic girl, at an age when I was becoming increasingly aware that I was ‘different’ and that I didn’t ‘fit in’- no matter how hard I tried to be ‘normal.’ A process that so many disabled children and young people go through, and a time that I wouldn’t even wish on my worst enemy- waking up and realising that your life and body just works differently to your peers, is like going to another planet and expecting to make a cheese sandwich- you can try, but without a supply of cheese, you’re not going to get very far.
I remember the day I got my first fiddle so vividly, my parents ticked a box on a letter to say that they wanted me to have music lessons, and a few days later I appeared at the school gates with a new fiddle in hand- I was so proud and finally had a focus in life once more, something to give me hope and act as therapy during dark times. I turned into a happier eight year old, and cherished this new addition to my life as much as my new baby sister a few years later. I didn’t know then, how much those moments would contribute to making me who I am today, as cliché as it sounds- music did in fact, not only save my life but it gave me a life- a purpose, a meaning and above all freedom to express myself. As a child and through to becoming a teenager, I struggled to express myself or understand my feelings – as I was so confused and tied up with trying to work out who I was- but I could now express myself through music, something that alongside writing got me through some of the most hideous times in my short life. I can’t really describe what it feels like to be a suicidal child, and for the purpose of this blog I don’t really want to- mainly because that would defeat the object of making this a positive and uplifting read. I apologise for that, but I do feel that this is an important issue and one that is rarely talked about. Music was a welcome discovery, that as I got older became a part of defining who I was, rather than my disability.
In secondary school, still having music lessons- despite struggling so much compared to other violinists in the school, I persevered and never gave up- that is the important thing, I was so determined- when I set out to do something I was going to do it. When I was twelve I joined the school ceilidh band, and for the first time in my life I was accepted. We were all there to play music, and there wasn’t any worry about my abilities or whether I fitted in- because for those short hours of the school day, I belonged, I was normal and I was happy. After school, I would eagerly come home and practice a new tune that we’d learned- finally developing enough confidence when I was fourteen to play at my Grandads funeral (something that I would never have dreamed of doing in younger years.) This moment helped me to comprehend events and to express myself, in a way that was wonderful.
As few years later, I started going to Folkworks Summer School- here I’d be able to spend a whole week with people like me, I’d fit in and wouldn’t feel different. This also terrified me. I remember the first day, my parents dropped me off armed with a suitcase of what seemed like my whole wardrobe and a fiddle, but as I neared the building in beautiful Durham city, I escaped back to the car and refused to go back in for half an hour. I was scared, worried how people would react towards me and riddled with anxiety. I didn’t see how summer school could be any different to the way people behaved towards me at school. After some gentle persuasion from one of the nicest men on the planet who coordinated the summer school at the time, I left the safety of the car to attempt to walk through the doors again. Since I made that brave move- I have never looked back. For the first time in my life I made real friends, many that I am still in contact with years later, friends that didn’t use me, those that weren’t just friends with me out of pity and friends who weren’t just there due to fascination, as if I was some kind of museum exhibit- they were my friends because they actually liked me. Music brought me towards these people, those who helped me to find happiness and acceptance of myself. As I began to become a lot less confused than when I was eight, I saw myself as Alice for the first time, and this is what everyone at summer school saw too. Finally discovering that music made me happy, gave me something to focus on and a group of friends to live for. I literally, and by no exaggeration- wouldn’t be sat here, where I am today, writing this- without Music, the friends who I met (and kept) along the way and my innate determination to push through towards better times. It can be so so powerful, in more ways than I realised as a depressed, suicidal and very lost eight year old girl, just looking for happiness and acceptance. I finally found it, and it is wonderful.