Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Coping

Some events have a long gestation period in your life. Things stay with you. It might be a riff, it might be an album, it might be the best god-damned performance of your life. It might be a blessing, it might be a church, it might be a funeral. It might be the first moment in your life you realise a family member is going to die.

A lot of people talk about the creative arts being outlets for people who are depressed. I don't want to jump on the bandwagon, claiming depression if I am not clinically depressed. However, I do genuinely believe that poetry and music are a valid outlet for dealing with sadness, and that rather than taking a newspaper's claim that creativity stems from depression or similar at face value, we should attempt to understand the coping mechanism. Perhaps then we can have greater understanding for those with depression and related conditions and can help them and be helped by them.

A couple of years ago, I was in a metal band called Unnatural Selection. We performed at a benefit gig for Macmillan Cancer Relief. In between songs I made jokes and bantered with the guitarist and tried to make the audience laugh. When I attempted to speak about Macmillan Cancer Relief however, I hit a nerve. I mentioned the time my grandfather was dying. I mentioned seeing the words "Needs: TLC" next to my grandfather's name on a board outside the ward. When I asked my mother what it meant, she said "Tender loving care", and I knew my grandfather's death was inevitable. It hurt. Relating the story, I almost burst into tears. I wasn't particularly close to him, but it still hurt. I fought the urge to cry. I managed not to. I went into a short comedy routine about my career as an analytical chemist (a career path initially defined by a desire to fight cancer) and we managed to finish the show.

Recently I wrote a short story about the hospital visit. Trying to make sense of the situation and reframe it. I almost cried writing that too. I didn't. I'm not sure how I managed this time either, but I feel that these creative endeavours have helped me to deal with such an awful situation. Comedy, music, fiction. It all helps. Every word, every note, every laugh like a plaster covering an old wound, keeping you safe while it heals. Maybe it never heals completely, but in that moment, while you're on stage, after all the shaking and the nerves. When that panic fades and you're under the lights? It might go well, it might not, but you went for it. You got up and did it. You faced the fear of the event, and you won. The more I hear of other people winning like this, the more I want to be a part of it. If I can help, if I can make one person smile, then that's enough.


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Heroes and Villains to return in next post.

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