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Singing Out: Music and Mental Health

I was first introduced to musical theatre when I was about 8 by my Papa — he had the Les Misérables soundtrack and after finding myself singing along to most of the songs, enjoying the melody, it was on repeat. I remember singing along to them in the car on the way to school when he would take me, especially Castle on a Cloud, being a child too. I mean what young girl who was just getting into musical theatre didn’t? A classic.

From then on, my love for musical theatre only grew, I’ve loved a fair few musicals over the years — all different styles and musical messages throughout but Les Mis remains my firm favourite. Musical theatre isn’t just about enjoyment for me but also seeing the smiles from my family’s faces, enjoying it just as much as me. Being in the moment, surrounded by song and stage, it’s beautiful.

I have Cerebral Palsy and I’m a full-time wheelchair user. As part of my disability, a have a slight stammer, when speaking this is very frustrating on a daily basis. My escape for this is singing — an outlet for me as I can be myself, and it’s a freeing feeling to not have to worry about the words. Fascinating how the other side of the brain differs and is a positive light for me. I’m glad I have this hobby which encourages me to continue my passion.

I’m grateful that my family support me with anything that I want to achieve in life and I never let my disability hold me back as you only get one chance in life, so make it count.

The joy of musical theatre for me is having the chance to show my emotions through the character and really connect with the song; in those moments my own thoughts don’t play a factor and I focus completely the role. There’s nothing more uplifting than having the audience enjoy your performance and feeling like you’ve done your best.

Currently with the pandemic, like for many others, my mental health has taken a hit. Our sense of normality will forever be changed now from what was but I feel there are still positives for artists: having the capability to showcase their work online, making new connections from various platforms. Yes, social media is a vicious world but it can also be a handy tool for gaining any form of exposure.

Since finding my love for music, it’s what I’m studying now and when you study what you love, it feels right. Music is something that means a lot to me as I have a stammer and not being able to talk fluently at times is very frustrating. I’m a singer and so when I sing my stammer leaves me and I can really be myself and not have to worry about the lyrics — it’s a wonderful feeling.

I’m my own person when I sing, putting my own spin on songs — removing the pressure of others telling you how things should be done — your song your way, is always the mindset I have. However, it’s certainly hard knowing if your own portrayal is to everyone’s liking. It’s said that the first three takes of a song will be your best and as I’ve gotten older I’ve realised that’s true. Overthinking certainly plays a big factor with singing, always thinking you can do better but it’s also really tiring and frustrating, going over a song numerous times when really the best version has already been done. I’m still learning that.

Yes, I have my good and bad days with my mental health. As I’ve gotten older, mental health has definitely played its part, especially anxiety. Mixed with my stammer, my disability, the stresses that come with being a wheelchair user, and making sure everything is accessible as possible, I’m glad I’ve found music and music’s found me, my escape. I wouldn’t change who I am, all my ‘quirks’ make me the person I am today.

Not only am I doing music because I enjoy it, but I’m also doing it because I want to raise awareness of disabled musicians in the industry, using my platform for good. So many disabled musicians like myself get pushed away due to inaccessibility. Have you ever seen a singer who’s in a wheelchair live on stage? It’s time to change the narrative for the better. Anything is possible, don’t have anyone tell you otherwise, do what you love and make the most of it!

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