Art, Grief, Grad School, and Mental Health

Art, Grief, Grad School, and Mental Health

So today’s post is going to be just a little bit different—well, actually it’s going to be very different. Last month I didn’t post a blog due to something very personal that happened…

On November 20, I was notified my father had been involved in an accident and had passed away. I remember sitting at my desk working on projects, getting excited for the end of the semester, and just like that my world was flipped on its head. My dad was always a driving force of support in my family, including with everything I do. He was always curious about what I was doing and what new projects I was working on. He would check in periodically throughout the semester to make sure I was doing okay and let me know that he loves me and is proud of me. Losing my father is by far the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with. This event has opened me up to realizing just how important seeking help is when you’re in trying or stressful times. So rather than talking about the music department today, I wanted to talk about mental health and all of the options out there, as well as things that have helped me.

First off, I want to thank the staff at Columbia College Chicago, my colleagues, and my family for all helping me through this. The Graduate Studies staff were very understanding and helpful during this whole period and offered any help they could give me. But I knew that wasn’t enough; a lot of it was up to me to work on and fix, which I have and am continuing to do. When it comes to life and mental health in general, let me tell you that it is worth it to work with a therapist. This doesn’t come down to just losing someone. Graduate school can be very physically and emotionally taxing, so it is always nice to have someone there to listen to you and help however they can. When it comes to therapy, there are a few options.

First off is the Counseling Services right here at Columbia. While I personally don’t utilize this as I have a private therapist, it’s a great option for someone trying to get their footing when they start up graduate school. Next are the websites Psychology and Psychology Today. Both of these sites have the ability to search for therapists in your area, including some who have a sliding scale, which means they work with you to make sure you can get cost-affective therapy. This was something that was a life saver for me during my transition into graduate school.

Next: be open and talk about what may be bothering you. The staff at school and the people in your life are there for a reason. Most (if not all) want to help you in some way, shape, or form. If you are stressed, or feel like you’re falling behind, or like there is just no hope, people are there, they are listening, and your professors and cohort are there for you. They have either been in, or are in, your shoes with a lot of the stress that can happen in life and work. My cohort has been a huge help, from getting me notes from classes I missed, or filling me in on homework, to even texting me to check in and make sure I’m doing okay. When you are here, your cohort becomes a family of sorts, so lean on them and realize the good that can come from it.

Lastly, fall into your work. Let your emotions show themselves, use the feelings you have to fuel your artwork. It’s hard to do that in a time of grief or stress, but once I did, I realized how helpful and healthy it was for me. I worked on music to be paired with my father’s slideshow, I worked on my homework, I wrote down little tunes or melodies that were in my head, I sat and played piano before class, I played my guitar and sang at home. My music, my art, became one of the first things to help me. I cried when I needed to, I laughed, I just took in any emotion that wanted to be shown and I didn’t fight it. Music is what is helping me heal, but like I said above, it’s not the only thing. I talk with my wife, my friends, and my therapist as well. Communication is very important when you are stressed, upset, or need help. Don’t be afraid to ask for it—ever.

I hope this blog was of some sort of help to those of you reading it. We can’t control what is going to happen each and every day, but we can control how we deal with it. Until next time my friends, best wishes, and happy composing.