My Struggle With Depression

One of the things I had in mind when I started this blog was to share my life experiences with other (mostly younger) musicians in such a way that they can learn from them and be better. Today, I will be sharing my struggle with depression. Last week I apologized for my inability to publish any article for three consecutive weeks. That was partly because I was really depressed.

I know as musicians, we give hope to people with our songs, we encourage, teach, create mind shifts, entertain, and even uplift people’s spirits. We do all these and, many times, people don’t realise we have our own problems, that we are human too, that we ourselves need to be uplifted. I guess that’s why we’ve had several cases of musicians (even famous ones) who committed suicide.

Now, back to my story. A few weeks ago, I started being dissatisfied with my life. Nothing made sense to me. I lost my sense of worth and purpose; no drive, no zeal, no excitement about anything, I was just ‘going through the motions’. I would say the prevailing circumstances in Nigeria at the time, especially the state I reside in triggered it, but then a whole lot of things added to it. There were things I needed to do that had lingered for so long, then there was the thought of how my music career seemed to have been stagnant. It grew to the point that I started to doubt if any of the things I currently do is relevant at all, to anyone. I’m sure many of you reading this right now can relate because you probably had been there before.

So, how did I overcome? At least that’s the main point of this article, right? Well, my Christian faith played a big role in helping me get back to my feet.

First, I prayed to God earnestly. And I’m not talking about routine prayers here. I mean that kind of prayer where you just bare your heart out to God. I told Him if He doesn’t send help quickly, I don’t know how much longer I can hold on. Then I told my wife and two of my very close friends who started praying for me.

But one very helpful thing I did was that I went to see one of my mentors. And I think we all need people in our lives whom we can always go to seek advice from. It doesn’t even matter whether they know anything about music or not; just the fact that they have more knowledge and experience in life and they care about you is enough. It was talking to my mentor that began the process of healing for me. And here I am telling you the story today.

So, I just shared my struggle with depression and how I overcame. But I know quite a number of you have struggled with depression too and have gotten over it. I would also like to hear from you. As a matter of fact, I’m carrying out a very short survey on ‘Depression among Musicians’ and I would need you to help out by answering these questions. I would publish the results of the survey here when I’m done. Thanks in advance for your help and contributions.

Once again, here is the link to answer the survey questions on Depression among musicians.

I look forward to having your contributions.

Find The Balance

musician finding the balance between music and family

Today, I’m going to conclude the series on Essential qualities you need as a musician, with this very important advice; find the balance.

I started this series two weeks ago. In the first part of the series, I told you that you need to be patient, original and persistent as a musician in the 21st century. In the second part, I told you that you need genuine care for your audience, focus and consistency. However, I feel this last one is so important that it deserves to be a topic of its own and that’s why I saved it for last.

Passion is good

As musicians, we are usually very passionate about our art. And that is a good thing. You that passion to keep you going even when things aren’t going smoothly. It’s passion that makes you go hungry, or eat once a day so you could save money to buy that guitar. It’s passion that makes you walk for an hour to get to the venue you were invited to perform.

But you need to strike a balance

Sometimes, we could be so passionate about our music that we neglect family responsibilities. We feel succeeding in our music career is all that matters. This could be very dangerous. Many musicians have wrecked their families because of this. Some have had to quit music to save their family. Some others find they can’t cope with family so they divorce. I believe the main reason we find many musicians afraid to get married, is that they don’t know how to strike a balance between the time they give their music and loved ones.

You need to start now

I started learning this after I got married. In my case, both my wife and I are musicians. We had to consciously, though painfully, begin to adjust our lives so as to make time for family as well as music. But you don’t have to wait till you get married before you start finding a balance. In fact, I think it is best you do that before marriage. If you do, it wouldn’t be a big deal when you get married.

First, you have to recognize that family is as important as your music. And then, you need to consciously create time for family. Create time to visit, especially if you live somewhere else. Spend some time with your family together. Do some things around the house for them. Remember you are still a member of that family and so you have responsibilities. Join them for special occasions like weddings or burials, etc. If you have some money, no matter how little, contribute to the payment of bills in the house. Be responsible. You will find that gradually, this becomes a part of you. And when you eventually get married, maintaining such balance wouldn’t be a struggle.

It’s not too late

Even if you are already married, this is still something you can achieve. You can set rules for yourself so you could have time for your spouse and kids. For instance, you could set a rule that you have to home before family dinner every week day and that you all must eat together. And let everyone know about this rule, so they can keep you accountable. You could mark days in your calendar strictly for family and reject any invitations that fall on that day, no matter what. Learn to say “No” when it is necessary.

Success in your career as a musician is very important, but it doesn’t have to come at the detriment of your family. It’s possible to grow your music career and still keep up with your family responsibilities; find the balance.

People are not ‘just people’.

treat people nicely

Last week I wrote on the need to ‘Plant Your Own Mango Tree’. Today, I’m going to emphasize something we all know already; that people are not ‘just people’ and so we ought to value them.

Why am I writing this?

Two days ago, I was talking with a very good friend of mine and it was that discussion that inspired me to write this. He talked about his former place of work, the experience he gained, the exposure he got and the lessons he learnt, but he lamented about his former boss’ attitude towards his creative ideas. Well, he left there and established his own company. Today, his former place of work seeks and pays for professional services from him. Towards the end of our discussion, he said to me, “Spirit, treat others nicely. If my former boss had treated me well, I would most likely still be working there, today.”

Case study of Hans Zimmer

Now, I know this is not the first time you have heard that statement or something similar, but I would like you to know that it is true. To succeed in your career (and I dare to say in life generally), you need others. The most successful musicians have always been the most collaborative ones. Recently, I watched a documentary on the great film composer, Hans Zimmer. Hans Zimmer has composed music for over 150 films, including ‘The Lion King’, ‘The Pirates Of The Caribbean series’, The Dark Knight Trilogy, ‘Mission Impossible 2’, ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and many more. The Daily Telegraph ranks him in the list of Top 100 living Genuises. I could go on about his accomplishments, but that’s not what this article is about (you can google his name to find out more about him). I learnt from the documentary that Hans Zimmer has collaborated with a whole lot of  other musicians and composers in his musical compositions, some of them he met during the early years of his career and had maintained relationships with them for over 40 years.

You can’t do everything yourself

Sometimes, we tend to only treat people nicely when we are currently benefitting from them, and we tend to forget people who we think we don’t need anymore. As musicians, especially, upcoming musicians, we are tempted to see other musicians as competition and then try to do everything ourselves rather than collaborate. But this kind of thinking/ attitude would not do anyone good in their career and certainly not in life. We all need other people to succeed in our careers and to work with people for a long time, we need to learn to value them more.

Learn from Hans Zimmer

Hans Zimmer’s relationship with his music buddies for over four decades is a popular and contemporary example of the importance of valuing relationships with people around. Working with a variety of musicians (with different skills) over a long period of time and maintaining such relationships is one of his secrets of great success. He knew he could not do everything, so he collaborated with people who could do what he couldn’t in order to get things done. This is exactly what you should be doing as an upcoming musician. Find people who can do what you can’t and work with them. Collaboration is the key to moving forward as a musician in this competitive industry. If you rap, for example, and can’t sing, don’t try to sing the choruses in your songs by yourself, collaborate with a singer.

And while you collaborate with other people, treat them well. Don’t treat people as if they are tools to achieve your goals. They are not ‘just people’, you need them as much as they need you, so value them. Treat them with respect and as much as possible, maintain good relationship with them. You might need their help again in the future, so don’t just cut relationships for no reason. Remember, people are not ‘just people’; value them.