Music is My Escape – using music as a coping strategy

Music is my Escape……..I posted this image on Facebook some time ago. However, I only recently took some time to really think about what this means to me. Mainly in terms of music being one of my “strategies” to deal with anxiety/depression.

I know there are many people who have different ways of dealing with their own mental health. Music isn’t something that helps everyone, but for me it is important.

I’m in a good place thanks to strategies I have in place. That includes using this blog as kind of a therapy. I have dealt with anxiety and depression for some time. Music has been a constant as a crutch/fall-back option for me. Music soundtracks my life.

If I think back to when I was a teenager, I remember sitting in my room listening to music and getting totally caught up in it. Just as the quote in the picture states, I was escaping into another world where it was just me and the music. I know for sure that I’m not the only person to have done this. I listened, analysed lyrics and studied album sleeves for hours on end. Depending on my mood, some songs seemed to have been written especially for me. Different songs took me to different places.

Now, all those years later, music can still have the same effect on me. I can be at a crowded gig and completely lose myself. Even at a gig in a massive venue, I can forget I’m surrounded by thousands of people. I can happily go to a gig on my own and blend in to the background just enjoying the music. Feeling the bass go through my whole body. Taking in the whole experience – the lighting, what the band are up to on stage. Even closing my eyes and just listening and feeling the music. For that hour or 2 nothing else matters. There is no outside world, everything that matters is in that one time and place.

As I’m sure others can relate to, there are different songs or bands I go to in certain situations. Just listening to these particular songs or bands can take me to a specific time or place in my past. These memories can be really vivid and I can remember the intricate details.  What I remember seeing, the sounds and even smells and I’m right back there in the situation. I also have music I listen to for when I’m angry. Music for when I’m sad. Music for when I’m happy……

Yes, music is my escape.

Music is my escape – am I running away?

But are there any drawbacks to that statement too? Could there be any negative connotations of escaping into music?

Well, the point I just made above for a start. There is a potential danger in me dwelling on times past rather than the present. Yes, it is good for me to use music and memories as an anchor to bring my mood back. I do understand I need to ensure that is exactly what I do. If I was to get constantly drawn back to these memories, there is the possibility of getting fooled into thinking that the grass was greener then. That can have the impact of worsening any current situation.

Then there is the very definition of escape – running away. Escaping into music could be me running away from issues and not confronting them. The old fight or flight adage. Do I face my anxieties and deal with them or do I “run”? Do I try to block them out with music, to some extent almost wallowing in them and let the anxiety win? Fortunately, I know I have the ability to face my anxieties and deal with them. Using music is one of the tools that helps me to level the playing field. Getting me in the right mind-set to deal with them and take the right actions.

I am still confronted by my social anxiety from time to time. I mentioned earlier that I don’t mind going to see bands on my own as I can get “lost” in the music anyway. On occasion though, I can get dragged into overthinking situations. That can spoil my enjoyment of the whole gig (or other social situation).

I’ve known me to be at gigs and see someone I know, but instead of rushing over to say hello, I’ll try to avoid them. I’ll worry overly about what I’ll say to them if they come and talk to me. I convince myself that I’ve lost the ability to be spontaneous or converse. Instead of relaxing and enjoying the gig, I can almost forget that there is even a band on. I can end up analysing the situation in my head and trying to plan what any potential conversation will be like. I can also convince myself that I don’t need to talk to them as they are deep in conversation with someone else and won’t want to talk to me. In extreme circumstances, I’ll make excuses not to go to an event at all.

It is not that I don’t want to speak to people. I’m a sociable person and I love being in company and having a good night out. However, in the situations I described, I have got to the stage where I’ve told myself I’m going to open my mouth and say something stupid. Then I’d beat myself up for hours having convinced myself that whoever I’ve spoken to thinks I’m a complete arse. I can say with some confidence now, that is totally irrational and I know it comes from a perspective built from core beliefs that were developed years ago. These are often mostly dormant, but then when the right (or should I say wrong) set of circumstances arise from time to time, they can reveal themselves and shade my view of things.

Plato – Music gives soul to the universe

To end on a positive note, I know that personally I am in a good place to deal with these circumstances & anxieties. I believe over time and with the right support, I have currently built up better self-awareness and a tool box of strategies. I’m able to see the warning signs of these situations happening and use the right tools to turn things around and confront what is going on.

I may have made that sound too simple but I know from experience it isn’t. One of that the hardest things is to realise when you need help and to find the right person to talk to. To open up to about how you are feeling. I know that the people closest to you are often the hardest to talk to as you may feeling you are letting them down (you’re not). Or you don’t want to burden them with your issues (you aren’t).

I do find it easier to talk to someone who is disassociated from your own situation and you know won’t judge you. Once you have made that initial step and you allow yourself to accept that you aren’t stupid, you aren’t weak and you aren’t letting people down, you can then work on taking the next steps to help you deal with whatever the situation happens to be.

So, YES, music is a great form of escape for me. It is one of the ways I can positively change my mood to help me deal with the situations life throws at you.

Can you think too much?

Can you think too much?

Is that a bad thing? And anyway, not thinking, how hard can it be?

Well to someone with anxiety, it can be nigh on impossible and also totally exhausting. Just not being able to switch off!

I’m not saying thinking is a bad thing, where would we be if inventors and entrepreneurs didn’t constantly come up with new ideas? What would happen if we didn’t think seriously about things and mull things over? Nothing obviously.

But what isn’t healthy is when you just can’t stop thinking, and the thoughts you have are totally unhelpful. They don’t even need to be about earth shattering events, hundreds of silly little thoughts about seemingly insignificant things can overwhelm and when unchecked can have a massive impact.

I am an overthinker, I overthink EVERYTHING!

  • I have what I should see as a successful day at work – but do I see it as a successful day at work? No! I pick apart the one line email that someone sent 5 minutes before I leave the office, or that call when someone said something that threw me off track – What did they mean by that? Have I done something wrong? What was that tone for? Do they not trust me? How should I respond? What are they saying about me to other people? Why do they not like me…… the list goes on.
  • I meet someone I haven’t met before, when I leave them, do I think “That was really nice to meet them”. Well maybe, but not before I’ve thought Why did I say that? They must think I’m an idiot! I wish I’d said that. That’ll be the least time I hear from them. What a bloody idiot I am……
  • I’ve just decorating the hall, do I get satisfaction from a job well done? Well maybe, but not until I’ve picked apart all the things I believe I’ve arsed up – there is paint on the carpet, there is a drip up there, that needs another coat, should I repaint the skirting board….. or right whats next, the bathroom, the kitchen? How much will that cost?, when will I get a chance to do it?……
  • I’m home from work – can I sit down and relax? Of course I can, I can sit on my arse and do nothing! I’ll enjoy this programme I’ve been looking forward to for ages……..or will I? I might be sitting on my backside, and I may not switch my laptop on and do work – but what is going on in my head? Rewind to all the questions about what that email was all about! Fast forward – what is happening tomorrow – What calls have I got? What will I say? How will I react if that happens? What if they say that? How will I deal with this? Maybe I should write some notes down now. I’ll just put a reminder in my diary to do that or say tis…..Wait a minute, are there dishes in the sink? I’ll do them later. Hmm, maybe I should go and do them now. What about ironing a shirt for tomorrow I better do that. While I’m at it should I check my account balance? The kids need new school uniforms – how much is that going to cost? The grass needs cut – when will I get that done? I’ve still not decorated the bathroom – when the hell am I going to do that? How much will it cost? I know, I’ll do a budget for it now! Maybe I should write a list of what we’ve got in the freezer while I’m at it……………My wife – “that was a great episode wasn’t it!” Me – “Aye – brilliant!” (to self – oh, is it finished, what the hell happened I don’t remember……)

I’m sure many will recognise this, and similarly many will think – there is nothing wrong with that, its keeping your mind active and making sure you get things done! Yes, to an extent it is. Its when those thoughts become so much they overwhelm and take over and you just can’t switch them off that it becomes a problem, because the thoughts become all consuming and nothing gets done, which exacerbates the negative thoughts further and your beliefs become your own self-fulfilling reality……..”see I have failed again”! But you haven’t though, you’ve just not switched off for too long!

I regret how it impacts my family, how I’ve shouted at my kids when they’ve done nothing wrong, how I try to hide it as I don’t want my kids to know or I don’t want to burden my wife, but knowing it has the opposite effect when she is frustrated by my sitting in silence when she wants to talk or when I can’t sit still because I have to be doing something.

It doesn’t have to be that way! However, often the hardest thing is to recognise that it is happening, to realise the impact its having on the people you love the most, and to admit it to yourself!

Anxiety sucks, but it doesn’t need to define you unless you let it.  I admit, I have nearly let it define me on too many occasions for my liking, but that doesn’t mean it is who I am and you can beat it. It is hard and it manifests itself in many ways, but with the right support and strategies you can beat it.

Fortunately, I have the support network – a great family, friends & colleagues but I know not everybody does. Lets just say, its good to talk, and I know that isn’t easy either, sometimes its easier to talk to someone who doesn’t know you or isn’t close to you.

In future posts I intend to continue to share some of my other experiences and some of the things that are working for me in dealing with my anxieties. If you want to – drop me a line, I’d like to hear from you.