Sometimes you think you’ve totally nailed your recovery after your last big episode then something comes along to remind you that you’ve still got some way to go.
Last night was the band’s first gig in six months. No real pressure as it was for a friend’s birthday party. We’d been offered a couple of other gigs but I’d said no to them. I didn’t want any pressure on me about playing for the moment. The party would be a good place to test the waters to make sure everything was okay before we moved forward.
I’d struggled connecting with playing the guitar whilst I had my last bout with anxiety and depression. I normally found it therapeutic, I’ll happily sit and strum and finger pick chords whilst watching TV. We’ve got guitars scattered all over the house so there’s always one close by. But instead, I’d lost my connection to playing. I had no desire to play. I’d try picking the guitar in the living room up to play along with a song but I’d get nothing. I’d also pulled out of band practices too. I couldn’t face the journey to and from practice. I couldn’t face trying to fake my way through playing our songs and starting work on recording our album.
This worried me. I loved playing with my band and had really enjoyed playing acoustically at a friend’s wedding last year, something I was looking forward to exploring. I was quite excited about exploring adifferent musical avenue to run alongside the band. I’d sit for hours hoping that the desire to play would come back. I felt like I was letting people down. Nothing seemed to be there. I seriously considered my future in the band. The Dog was telling me to jack it all in,to tell the rest of the band to go on without me. Sell my guitars and amps and never think of playing again.
Thankfully, something inside me told me to wait. It saw through the Dog and got me to hold off turning my back on playing. I’m pleased it did. I know now that it would have been a rash decision and also the wrong one to make. The guitars might have gathered dust but at least they remained.
My first practice back felt good but wobbly, which is only natural. I had doubts about my ability to play, my ability to sing. Long held fears and worries came back (another story for another time) but we worked through it. In the down time we had we’d moved into our own practice space, so we could take our own time and work more around our schedule. It felt good to stand in front of an amp with the guitar plugged in and play a chord and then a riff. It was sloppy, but that was because I was just out of practice.
Fast forward a few weeks. I felt like I was back up to speed with pretty much everything else in my life. The last part of the jigsaw of my life was the band and playing. The gig was the last peice to be slipped into place to compete the picture. I had the right peice but last night I just didn’t know how to fit it into the hole.
Everything last night just felt that little bit off. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, but something wasn’t quite right. I’d become suddenly self conscious about myself, feeling incredibly overweight. A quiet PA made me feel like my voice was inadequate for the job. The quiet backline of amps made it hard to immerse myself in the music. I snapped a string on my main guitar during soundcheck. I found it near impossible to make eye contact with the audience, choosing instead it keep my eyes tightly closed and hide under the flat cap I was wearing, trying hard to keep my focus from wandering.
After our set I stood talking with Craig, the other guitarist in our band. I’ve known him a long time and we’ve played in the same bands as each other for most of that time. He’s pretty much the kid brother I never had and he can read me like a book. He could tell I felt a bit dejected about the performance. Craig pointed out that it was the first gig we’d played in six months and the first one was always going to be the hardest to get through. But we didn’t pull the gig and we made it through to the end. It was done, dusted and out of the way. We could put it behind us, move on and build from it.
That’s what I’m trying to do. Today is a different day. I still feel a bit down on it but it wasn’t the train wreck it could have been. Now, I’m just tired through lack of sleep but I don’t have to worry about doing that first gig back again. I can continue looking at the band’s future while I work on getting my confidence back to where it needs to be.
As always, you can drop me an email anytime at email@example.com. We’ve also created a closed support group on Facebook, also called The Order Of The Dog, where you can come and find kindred spirits. There’s plenty of help and support there for anyone going through or helping support anyone with mental health issues. Please feel free to share this blog around.
The next two blogs are going to be a little different. The first one, hopefully going up on Tuesday, is someone from The Order Of The Dog’s story based on some questions I emailed them. Later on in the week I’ll be putting up something about Mental Health First Aid, what it is and what it does.