Depression Toolkit #6: Music

Lily came in to see me late this morning while I was still in bed, and cheered me up by dancing in her own unique way to music on the radio. I think it was Radio 1.

Music can certainly help. Having a child interpret the music by circling with floaty arms and closed eyes adds humour which can lift me too.

In the past I learnt to play a number of instruments, but none particularly competently. I got grade 4 piano when I was quite young, but needed to stop learning as it was stressful racing through grades and not something I could enjoy. Later I learned a couple of brass instruments briefly at high school before settling on percussion and drums. I enjoyed the drums and it was helpful for me in the past to be able to release my mood through music when I felt rough. I also took saxophone lessons for a couple of years when the children were tiny which was very satisfying, but didn’t get further than around grade 4.

Recently a church family lent us a digital piano so that I can practise and also see whether the children are going to want to learn. Then another church friend (a near neighbour) gave me lots of basic sheet music. It has helped me to find tunes I can play, even with two hands and chords. I am doing exercises when I feel like it and learning things most days. The children are taking an interest and perhaps in the future will want to learn music when they are ready.

I also like listening to classical music and usually find Radio 3 comforting, although when my mood changes I will try any station. And in the car I put on CDs a lot, especially Christian music for speaking truth and love into whatever situation I’m in. Some friends from university, Nick and Becky Drake, have produced some excellent family-friendly albums, and we also like Steven Curtis Chapman, TobyMac, The Rend Collective and many others. If you get as excited about Lego as I do and know TobyMac’s work you may find the following amusing (see 2:20 onwards especially).

This last few days has been particularly heavy. I did not make it out to the church weekend at all in the end. Just way too anxious. I am resisting the anger and guilt that are knocking on my door. Today I could not go out with the family. I know the medication is affecting me a lot and that this is temporary. I also understand that there will be an end to the anxiety and depression, which is spurring me to keep looking forward.

Saul, first king of Israel, suffered with depression. Interestingly, when David played music it calmed him (usually). There is a passage about this:

“And whenever the harmful spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand. So Saul was refreshed and was well, and the harmful spirit departed from him.”

1 Samuel 16:23, English Standard Version

The translation of ruwach-ra’a as ‘harmful spirit’ in this translation sits more neatly in my theology of God as one who loves, but also disciplines and has the power to harm. More interesting thoughts about this passage can be found here.


One response to “Depression Toolkit #6: Music

  1. I know it’s easy to say, and much harder to really do, but don’t feel guilty. There’s a season for everything, and right now your priority is simply doing what you feel able to do. Knowing your own limitations isn’t a reason for guilt, it’s healthy and sensible. I’m glad to hear that music is helping you – I’ve often found the same thing. Music seems like a direct line to God sometimes. You’ll make it through this, I know that.

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