Education, Health & Wellbeing, Music

Ode to Choral Joy: Choir Tours and Hauora

I owe a huge part of my music education to the choir I was involved in at high school – in the opportunities it gave me, the self-confidence it instilled in my musical abilities, the plethora of technical and theoretical knowledge, as well as the musical diversity it exposed me to and the friendship I gained from it. We learned music from different cultural contexts, music periods, countries, and in many different languages and dialects. If I am honest, reflecting on it is kind of a mixed bag for me, but I still feel grounded in the knowledge that being a part of that choir was something immensely special to me, and in many ways, helped to shape me not only as a vocalist and as a musician, but also as a person. What a wonderful world it is; somewhere over the rainbow, way up high 😉

Self-Fulfilled Prophecy


I know exactly what I want and who I wanna be
I know exactly why I walk and talk like a machine
I’m now becoming my own self-fulfilled prophecy
Oh
Oh no
Oh no
Oh no

Oh No!, Marina and the Diamonds

Mvt 3: (Re)Awakening

At the beginning of my symbolic playlist movement 3, I use this song as a motif to signify the emergence of my lesbian awakening, and how gut-wrenching it was. But upon further inspection, the lyrics also perfectly summarise Asperger’s I feel? The analogy of walking and talking like a machine is gold. Last year I wrote a spoken word where I used the metaphor of my brain being an algorithm. I’m sure I’ll post that up here sometime, but in a nutshell it’s like: in social situations, I am always running a code, that for the most part works fine. This code has been a lifetime project of debugging, rewrites and reworks and fixing parse errors, but every time I make a significant social faux pas, I:

1. learn from it, and
2. attempt to ‘fix’ it

In doing so, the code gets more sophisticated, and it gets stronger and better equipped to handle subsequent socialisations. I won’t go into it more than that hahahaha but that’s the gist.


China Tour

TW: depression, anxiety, insomnia, suicidal thoughts
(please skip over this paragraph if any of that is triggering to you)

Pretext: My high school choir had been preparing for an international combined choir tour to China. At the last minute, I couldn’t go. The reasons why were not disclosed to my choir friends or the wider tour group at the time.

I have for the most part made peace with this, but I do consider it to have been a trauma. I don’t really know how else to describe it. Other people go through waaaaay worse (obvs), and I don’t pretend that this doesn’t read as privileged (bc I recognise it totally does in many respects) but a hurt is a hurt all the same.

I remember being a walking corpse during those two weeks. I got addicted to Zopiclone as my insomnia hit an all time high, and I barely talked, barely ate. I tortured myself wondering why my none of choir friends had contacted me*, and figured they must be too busy having fun without me. I don’t mean to tarnish that time for anyone – I’m sure it was an incredible and exciting experience, and you all worked so hard for it over the last few years. The thing is though, so did I – yet my mental health at the time was the one thing that barred me from going.

It goes without saying, but I acknowledge that I put all the educators and senior management around me in an extremely high risk and potentially dangerous situation, and I fully understand why they made the call that they did, when they did. They had absolutely zero time to react, as we were due to fly out the next day – and I know there would have been huge repercussions if I had been allowed to attend still, and subsequently anything had actually happened. I also know in myself now, and I also knew at the time but could never have articulated it how I wanted to (and tbh nobody was going to listen to a teenager who had just confessed suicidal thoughts now backtracking about how she wasn’t going to actually kill herself, she was just telling you that she had been thinking about it). But that was literally the truth. I know I would never act on a suicidal thought, and I know where to find help when I need it.

*I only learned recently that they had been specifically told not to contact me, which made me quite mad. Apparently it was for my own privacy or ‘wellbeing’ or something?

Just from me to you, my beautiful readers, here’s some advice: please try your best to involve your friends who live with mental illness or are experiencing mental distress. I know it’s exhausting, I know it can feel like you’re walking on eggshells, I know it can feel like you’re talking to a brick wall. But hear me when I say that isolation is the silent killer. Feeling like nobody cares, or nobody understands – those are the most dangerous things to dwell on. The reality is that there is always help out there, no matter how dark it gets. It is not your responsibility to save them, but even just listening can move mountains.

Europe Tour

Kinda funny parallel also that just before the Europe tour (which I did get to attend) at age 14, I had my first real bout of depression and anxiety: over the course of six weeks, I thought I was literally going crazy, barely ate or slept, and had dark and troubling thoughts. I didn’t have the vocabulary or the diagnosis of depression or anxiety to match up these feelings, and I was convinced nobody had ever felt like I had. I felt intense loneliness, numbness and despair to the Nth degree. Yet in not voicing these feelings to anyone, I was still able to attend.

I should have learned something entirely different there, based on those two contrasting experiences – but I reject the idea that I should bottle up my feelings in the way that I used to. It is unhealthy, unsustainable and utterly debilitating. Hiding parts of yourself only hurts you in the long run.

Counsellors vs Psychologists

Since China, I just don’t fuck with counsellors: a Bachelor of Counselling is not nearly enough to deal with certain complex experiences. That particular counsellor was also freshly graduated I’m pretty sure, new to their job at the school, and likely had very minimal practical experience. There should be a robust referral process when a counsellor considers their knowledge base to be too limited to counsel a person.*

My psychologist is where it’s at! I have been seeing him for nearly 2 years and he is exceptional. It really helps finding someone you gel with and feel comfortable around. Bonus that he specialises in sleep disorders ❤ ❤

*I don’t blame this counsellor. They did what most would probably do given the limited information they had, and the potential risks in that specific situation.

The Real MVPs

My parents are the real MVPs in this story. They fought tooth and nail to get me to still be able to go, and I swear they were even more heartbroken about it than I was. They had planned a trip to parallel my own – my parents and sisters would be in Australia while I was on the China tour. When it was confirmed I’d been barred from the trip, they dropped everything and scrounged a super expensive last minute ticket for me to Aussie so I could be with my family. In my vulnerable state, I couldn’t have been in better hands: I got to catch up with my great aunt, who is my person. I feel like she understands me in a way that nobody else ever could. My uncle was also an extraordinarily healing person to be around during that time. While I felt completely dead inside, I was also in an extremely nurturing and safe environment to just live through the shock and to grieve it.


Catharsis

Also, shout out to my friends. They’re awesome, and they all did things to help me through. Particular honourable mention to one in particular – she knows exactly who she is, and understood in a way that the ones who attended the choir trip never could have. I nearly gave up choir after the tour, because every time someone made an in joke or a trip reference during rehearsal, it just brought up the trauma again. In hindsight, I am really glad I didn’t. I feel proud of myself for sticking with it. That, and the last few weeks of my high school career were some of the most unforgettable, cathartic and beautiful times when I look back: I finally came out as a lesbian. I specifically remember that I couldn’t even bring myself to say the word ‘lesbian’ at the time. So I stuck with ‘gay’. Just the one syllable; rolls off the tongue a lot easier.

Also, I just want to end on a positive note – because I know a lot of this stuff is really heavy. Being part of a choir is awesome. The endorphins are insane, the people you meet are brilliant, and the musical bond you share as a group is utterly fantastico. I’m not crying, you’re crying… ❤ ❤

If you, or someone you know needs to talk/support/help:

Most of these services are NZ specific, but the websites should allow for worldwide access

Depression/Anxiety

  • https://thelowdown.co.nz/
  • TXT 5626
  • 0800 111 757
  • Textline 1737
  • Depression and Anxiety Helpline – 0800 111 757 or free text 4202
  • Lifeline 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357

For Rangatahi/Youth:

If You’re in Crisis:

Rainbow/LGBTQ+ Specific Support:

Cool Websites for Hauora/Wellbeing:

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