I once had someone come up to me and tell me to, ‘stop being so ungrateful and be thankful for the life I have’ after they had heard that I was struggling with depression. Rather than shoot back at her with the venomous words my brain scrambled together through a million thoughts a minute, I stood there in shock and quietly walked away, feeling my heart sink with every step I took. As a teenager I felt so alone in my struggle, believing that I was the only person that was facing these inner demons, fighting alone in silence. There were moments that I felt so burdened by my own problems that I fought back thoughts to end my life. Why is it that I was so afraid to speak up and get the help I truly needed?
Looking back at my past I realize now that it wasn’t naivete as I had initially thought but instead, fear—fear of being judged, mocked, isolated. There has always been such a stigma on mental illness. It was such an ugly word, a yucky topic to talk about. It was so easy for others to tell me that it was ‘just a phase,” simply just “a part of growing up,” or that my problems were “too small to be worried about.” But to me, these issues were not small but rather, mountainous, crippling me from doing things that my peers were doing, holding me back from enjoying my teenage years.
Something that truly stuck with me was one night I had sat down with an elderly neighbor of mine, a cancer survivor. As she stroked my hair and I poured out my emotions to her, she lifted my chin up for my eyes to meet hers and told me that I was one of the strongest people she knows because of how big of a battle I was fighting. As I argued that she had fought through countless treatments and hospital visits, she chuckled, “Well, depression or cancer, either one could kill you… You just can’t give it the power to.”
As time passed, I learned to allow the power of my favorite songs to carry me through obstacles during high school and college, allowing me to take everything day-by-day and move forward one step at a time Despite the obstacles I had faced, I persevered, all thanks to my passion for music. While the term ‘persevered’ itself may sound harsh, those struggling with mental illness deal with the harshness of the world around them who just don’t understand their battles. Music was the escape from everyday judgment and ignorant comments from those around me who simply did not understand my mental illness. Concerts allowed me, even for just a few hours, to feel like everything was okay.
My mission in life, after graduating college, became more than just about an A-List celebrity falling in love with me or buying the newest BMW on the market. I knew that I wanted to help youth struggling the way I once did. Having felt so isolated growing up, I never wanted anyone to feel like they had to fight in silence. In 2014, I founded Superbands, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to raise global awareness for mental illness in teens and to empower those struggling through music. I wanted to create the community of music lovers that I had yearned to find for so long. While I have big dreams for the organization one day, the daily goal stands strong. To never, for a moment, allow anyone to feel like they have to do it all alone. To remind people to always ‘stay strong and keep rockin’ on.”
For more information about Superbands, please visit our website at superbands.org as we prepare for the launches of new campaigns and online resources.