I haven’t shared this story with many people before, but a few years ago I went through a long period of depression that I told almost nobody about – barely any friends or family (and especially not social media).
I was going through a family crisis and I didn’t really know how to talk about it. I’d been living in a terrible home environment for months (actually years), and soon after I finished university it reached its worst. I grew desperate, so without knowing what to do, I fled, and moved out into the first available place I could find. It was completely unplanned and I couldn’t afford it at the time, and I went into debt for a while to get by.
While dealing with feelings of trauma and living in isolation, I was deeply depressed, and started taking antidepressants for a while. It was an incredibly dark time, as I worked through a lot of issues.
But when things were at their worst, one day I discovered an outlet that kept the darkness of depression at bay. I started writing my own song lyrics and recording them over other songs.
I became totally obsessed; it was the only thing that got me out of bed in the morning, and the only thing that got me through the day. All of my emotions were dead except the desire to express my struggle. I remember night after night, sitting on the floor of my room with no furniture, with my notepad on the floor, pouring out my heart on page after page. Then I would walk for hours at night around the streets, listening to the recordings, and writing more.
I never want to go back to that time ever again. I don’t plan on digging up those songs again as I don’t want to hear them. But what I learned during that time was how powerfully music was stitched in my soul. It was a part of my DNA. To create something that expressed my pain gave me hope when I had none. It was a flicker of light in an all encompassing darkness.
When that season passed and my mental health improved over time through getting good counselling and having accountability, I decided to invest in this music, and do something I’d dreamt of doing for years; make my own weird music on my computer. While I was broke, I borrowed a friend’s old Macbook and started making stuff on GarageBand. Later on I saved up a bit of cash and spent a few bucks on a decent laptop, a MIDI keyboard, and some music writing software. I continued to get tonnes of satisfaction out of making weird sounds. Hip hop beats, weird cinematic tracks, cover songs, whatever – I had total power to make whatever kind of music I wanted, without any agenda.
Later, in early 2016, I entered another low point. All within the space of a few weeks, I became unemployed, ended a serious relationship, and was diagnosed with a chronic illness. I was unemployed and “on the dole” for about 3 months. And during that time I wrote music for usually about 3 hours a day. Once again, it gave me hope when I felt sad. It gave me structure in a life that was fractured and broken. Through that time, I wrote most of what later became my first EP, Out of Nothing.
It was a weird blend of moody cinematic and hip hop instrumentals, because that’s the music that I wanted to make at the time. It was the result of literally hundreds of hours of work and experimentation throughout 2016.
And now as I write this heading towards the end of 2017, I’ve come to accept that music will always be a part of my soul. It had always been precious to me throughout childhood and high school, and more so the older I’ve become. I’ve faced many challenges I never expected over the last few years, and music has always been there to help me through it.
And now, I’m still making music.* After thinking about why I am still doing this, I came up with a few reasons. Here are some:
- Creativity is an affirmation of my own personhood. Creating something that is uniquely mine reminds me of my own worth. It doesn’t create my worth, but it reinforces it. As I often wrestle with low self-esteem and feeling worthless, I can make an intentional decision to counter the negative thoughts through creating and constructing art.
- It is a creative expression of my very self – my soul. Music is an outpouring of my soul. It is an act of worship. It is capable of lifting me to heights that nothing else can, and taking me into depths and lengths of life’s mysteries like nothing else. And when I create something of my own, it is stamped with my very heart and soul.
- It is an opportunity to construct something beautiful that will stand as a memorial and inspiration for the rest of my life. If I ever have kids, one day I will be able to take them back to when their Dad was young, and show them what he was getting up to. I can inspire them to pursue their creative passions and dreams, and follow my example. And even if I never have kids, it will always inspire me whenever I lose creative inspiration. I have often gone back to my own music time and again as a memorial that I’m able to accomplish great things with the gifts God has given me, even if I doubt myself.
- It enables me to work towards constructive and achievable goals in a personal life that is often mad and chaotic. I have a great life and I am grateful for where I’m at now, but it is a rollercoaster. I am still going through a lot of struggle every week, as my physical and mental health is always very up and down. Sometimes it feels like I’m making no progress. But having these projects helps me to stay focussed on moving forward, one day at a time. It gives me something to hold on to when I lose hope and purpose.
I’m a very harsh critic, and I’m fully aware that my music could always be better. It is not as good as it could be, or even as good as I want it to be. I’m aware it probably won’t be heard by many, that most probably won’t dig it. But that’s OK, because I actually don’t create anything for other people’s approval. I do it for me, as an outpouring of faith and worship of God. It is my way of saying, “Here is my everything, God. Take my heart, my very self, and let it be yours. Take my emotions, my joy, my sadness, my brokenness, and let it be poured out for you.”
And to that end, I will keep creating.
Grace for Failures is the blog of Carlin Doyle, to encourage and inspire those who have gotten life wrong for a long time, and want to try and do things a little differently. Click here for more info, and here for more posts.
*Shameless plug – I have a new EP of weird instrumental music coming out on Friday 01 December, called Always Forward. It will be available as a free download at www.noisetrade.com/carlin, as well as on most digital retailers and streaming sites. Woohoo!