Depression and anxiety: two of the most experienced mental health issues reported today. Ever since I was young, I personally have struggled with feelings of inadequacy and quite simply not feeling wanted. For the majority of my childhood, I had the on-and-off belief that the only reason my parents tolerated me was because I helped to care for my younger siblings. Once in high school, alongside the pains of puberty, I fell into full-fledged depression that lasted through my first year or two of college.  Also with getting older and becoming more responsible came the realization that I struggled with social anxiety, which often fed into my depression mindset. I credit music for helping me manage these struggles for I was able to use music as a self-therapy, and I also found the social support I needed through my musical peers. These two particular difficulties in mental health also plagued some of the greatest composers to have ever lived, so for me it is no wonder that I found solace in music that could speak the emotions that mere words could not describe. In fact, the one who wrote the 1812 Overture, as well as some of the ballets known round the world, was one who struggled with depression and anxiety.

This composer was born in 1840 as the second eldest of six children. Although he started having lessons in piano at the age of five and showed passion for music, his parents wanted him to work in civil service. He attended boarding school at the age of ten, endured his mother’s passing at the age of fourteen, and by the age of nineteen was working in civil service as his parents had wished. He remained working in civil service for four years, although he never gave up his interest in music. He started taking music lessons when he was twenty-one, and a few months later enrolled in a newly founded conservatory as one of the first composition students. He moved to Moscow in 1863 and became a professor at the conservatory there until 1878 when he was able to resign due to gaining a benefactor. This allowed him to focus solely on composing until his death in 1893, at which time his collective body of works totaled one hundred and sixty-nine pieces.

Multiple times in his life, he suffered from severe mental distress and even contemplated suicide a time or two, but he kept on living. As an occupational therapy student, I know that engagement in occupations, or the things you need or want to do, can improve wellbeing and I’d like to believe this is so with this composer. Regardless of his “nervous breakdowns” he ended up dedicating himself to his work, and is now widely accepted as the most popular Russian composer. The ballet he may be arguably most known for was completed just prior to his death; a great reminder for all to wait and see what life may have in store. – Painted Brain Intern

Music and Mental Health: Guess Who (III)

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