Stop the Silence, Stop the Stigma


Stop the Silence, Stop the Stigma - Musicians and other creative people talk about Mental Health through interviews and personal essays.

Interviews


VANCOUVER SLEEP CLINIC

I’ve been following Vancouver Sleep Clinic for a few months now, and I reached out to them before they embarked on their first tour in America, opening for Daughter. They were kind enough to respond, and I was lucky enough to speak with lead singer Tim Bettinson before seeing them at Terminal 5 in New York City with my friend Iyra, and they were absolutely INCREDIBLE. Vancouver Sleep Clinic’s music is absolutely incredible, and they are so kind! You can check out their music here: https://open.spotify.com/artist/77BznF1Dr1k5KyEZ6Nn3jB. They will have a new record coming out soon!

Katelin: Hi, Tim! Thank you so much for doing this – and happy Halloween!


Tim: Hey! Oh, yeah, this is our first proper Halloween! We don’t really have it in Australia, so we’re super excited.


K: Oh, yeah, welcome to the States!


T: Oh, where are you from?


K: New York! I’m coming tomorrow. I’m so excited!


T: Yeah, we haven’t been here before! This is our first time in New York, so it’s really good to be here!

K: Really? Oh, wow, that’s so exciting!


T: Yeah, we’re absolutely pumped! It’s such a cool city.


K: Okay, so we had a couple of questions for you! For you, what is the most powerful thing about songwriting?


T: For me, it’s the ability to connect with someone you’ve never met on such a real level. When I write music, it’s really crazy because I can write about something that’s really personal to me, and is part of my journey, but someone on the other side of the world can take their own part of the song and bring it into their own life. It’s like this unspoken truth.  I can’t really describe it properly, but there’s this power and energy in music that I don’t think we can find anywhere else in this world.  It’s really the only place where we can translate our feelings across different lives and cultures. I think that’s the coolest thing about being an artist; being able to write and share music with people. That ability to connect is so incredible.


K: Oh, yeah! I think it’s almost an out of body experience for me. It transcends so many boundaries in day-to-day life.


T: Yeah, it’s definitely a strange thing.


K: It totally is! For you, is it difficult to write and perform music that puts you in an uncomfortable or vulnerable place?


T: Yeah, definitely, when it’s something personal, it’s definitely intimidating. You hope people like it and people can be a part of it, but you just don’t know. But for me, performing is where I get really nervous. It’s so different from recording; you’re trying to make a live experience for people, and you’re looking into their faces, seeing all of the people that listen to and appreciate your music. That’s where I really start to freak out, but at the same time, it’s also absolutely incredible.  I love it because it’s real. I feel those emotions and those rushes, and I get to hang out with people after the show. It’s really an incredible experience; it’s very human.


K: I think that’s a really good way to explain it. Sharing music live is such an overwhelming thing, especially because music is such a big part of our lives, and we don’t realize how impactful it actually is.


T: Yeah, definitely!


K: Do you think that there is a significant stigma against mental illness in the music industry?


T: I personally haven’t had a whole lot of experience with that. I think the thing with our project is that we make kind of nice music, and all of the fans and people we’ve been able to work with have been absolutely lovely, so we haven’t had a whole lot of negativity thrown around at all, but we know it exists.  I think especially when people make darker music, it can cause them to be misrepresented. The other thing about making darker, emotional music is that it can definitely be emotionally taxing on the artists and the other people involved. I’ve definitely met people who become so invested in their music that it’s hard to separate mentally from it – me included, especially when I was writing some of the darker Vancouver songs. There are definitely points where you start to get lost within what you’re doing.  I think it’s important that you stay fragile around that. For us, we’ve found a really nice support system and everyone has been so lovely and accepting of our creative process, but we know not everyone is that lucky. Just a few weeks ago, a guy from a band we knew in Brisbane committed suicide because he had been struggling with depression, and was having a hard time with things. It’s really sad, everyone should be able to have a support system. But music is also powerful because there’s such a community to it, and we need to get that community stronger and support each other.


K: Yeah, I definitely think the community aspect of music is hugely powerful! I mean, I’m only 16, and I live in a small town, so I’m not part of like a huge community of musicians, but the small community I’m in is incredible, and I think that’s such an important part of music and being a musician.


T: Yeah, it’s awesome, right?


K: It’s really cool. You know, I was thinking, in a lot of your other interviews, people are so fast to compare you guys to bands and artists like Bon Iver and SOHN, who I love, but I think you guys have a super unique and distinctive sound! Is it frustrating to be compared to other artists and have others almost put you in a box when you are trying to be a unique band?


T: It really depends on what kind of box people are trying to put us in. I think when people almost write you off as a copier, that can be frustrating, but when you’re simply compared to artists like that, it’s an honor. That’s a big way that people start listening to your music, at least in my opinion. I’ve found some of my favorite bands by listening to artists that were compared to some of my other bands and artists!


K: Oh, I’m totally guilty of that! I actually found you guys through Spotify, so I definitely do the same thing. It is a really good way to find new bands and artists.


T: Yeah, it is! That’s why I’m not really mad about the comparisons, it can just be a little frustrating if people don’t look beyond that, but I’m not really phased. I’m just trying to make music I think is cool, and as long as people can access that music, I’m happy.


K: Oh, yeah, definitely. How has creating music and being a creator helped you in your life?


T: It’s definitely helped me get out a lot of things, especially emotionally. Creating art has provided a healthy way for me to express those emotions. For me, it’s the best way to do it. Everyone has different ways of doing it – whether you’re at a punching bag in a boxing gym or drawing, everyone has different ways of channeling their emotions. For me, it’s music. I love that I can go home after a tour or being overseas and just sit in my studio and make music. I think it’s really cool, it’s just how I get through life.


K: Awesome! I know you guys haven’t really toured in a while – how does it feel to be going back on the road? Are you guys excited, or is touring really taxing for you?


T: We’re absolutely psyched. It’s been so long! We can’t wait to get out again. We’ve been talking about this for ages, but we’ve been making this record for so long and it kept on getting pushed back. I guess that just makes us more hungry and psyched to be out here again! We’re really thankful to be out here doing what we love and meeting new people! It’s going to be great.


K: Yeah, I’m coming tomorrow and I’m so excited!


T: Yeah, it’s going to be so cool! I can’t wait either. 


K: Terminal 5 is supposed to be a really cool venue also! I haven’t been yet, but a lot of my friends have and they’ve really liked it! It’s going to be so different from the last time I saw Daughter. I saw them in this old movie theater right outside Boston, which was absolutely incredible, but this is going to be amazing also. I can’t wait!


T: That’s so cool! I’m jealous.


K: Another thing I’ve noticed abut your music is that at least with the EP, it’s one of those albums that really needs to be played in order. It very much tells a story, at least to me, so I was wondering if you wrote it with that intention or did it just end up being incredibly harmonious?


T: I wish I could say that it was intentional, but it actually took a long time to write. I started working on it at the end of high school, and it took me through the next few years to finish it up. I actually wrote loads of songs for that EP, and ended up hating half of it. I think it kind of came together nicely, and when I make records, they have to kind of match a whole idea and vision, and I want that entire record to come together and match that vision. So I can’t say that I wrote it all in order, but it all came together and I was really happy with it.  It was super low budget because I was just a kid in high school, but we did it and we got there. I’m really proud of it.


K: And your newer stuff too – I’ve been listening to “Lung” nonstop since it came out. It’s absolutely incredible. That song has such an incredible power to say so much with such sparse lyrics! It feels so incredibly real and honest to me: how was writing that song for you?


T: That was the first song I wrote for the album, and we were going on tour and only had five songs to play. We didn’t have an hour long set, so like two days before we went on tour, I wrote that song. It was kind of when Vancouver Sleep Clinic was breaking into the industry, and everything was really overwhelming. It was all kind of happening at once, and we were playing our first shows to sold-out crowds supporting London Grammar in Australia, and we hadn’t really played before. So it was a really high-pressure, overwhelming time, and that song was a way for me to kind of talk about that in a direct way.


K: Yeah, that absolutely sounds incredibly overwhelming. It can be so hard to cope when things are moving that fast.


T: Yeah, it was really hard. I like couldn’t even sing!


K: The other question I have music-wise is about “Rebirth”. I think there is something incredibly powerful about that song and how it sort of gives you the idea of starting over. The Winter EP is obviously from a very transitional period in your life, so how was writing that song for you?


T: Yeah, that song is really special to me. I wanted kind of a breaking point between that EP and the album. I had just finished high school, and was kind of moving into the real world to play these songs, and “Rebirth” was really about forgetting all of the high school crap, kind of leaving that all behind me and embracing what I was about to do and who I was about to become! I think that it was a perfect way to close out that season of Vancouver Sleep Clinic. I was really happy with it.


K: Amazing! So these are kind of our closing questions, but what’s your current favorite album right now?


T: Ooooh. That’s hard. I would probably say Chance the Rapper’s “Coloring Book”, I’ve been listening to that a lot lately.


K: And what are you most excited about for this tour?


T: I’m super pumped to just meet everyone because we haven’t been to the States before and we have lots of friends and fans here! I can’t wait to see everyone who’s listened to our music for years and hang out with them! It’s also going to be awesome to see America – we’re so excited!


K: Yeah! I hope you guys have a really good time! I’m so excited for tomorrow! Thank you so much for talking with us!


T: Thank you! That was awesome, and we’re excited too!


Me, Tim, and my friend Iyra after the Terminal 5 Show!

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Jessie Kahnweiler

Jessie Kahnweiler is a filmmaker based in Los Angeles, California. She’s pretty amazing. I reached out to Jessie after watching her web series, The Skinny, which closely touches on her own experiences with bulimia, and she agreed to do an interview! The Skinny is absolutely fantastic, and available on YouTube, so you should check it out!


K:  Hey, Jessie! Thank you so much for talking to us!


J: No problem!


K:   Ok, so here’s my first question: do you think there is a significant and separate stigma against just eating disorders in the world of mental health?


J: Yeah, definitely! I don’t even think I initially knew eating disorders were a mental illness, because it deals with food, and the representation of eating disorders in the media is so one-sided, like a thin ballerina trying to lose weight. It’s very focused on the physical aspect of it. I think it gave me the message that it was just a silly thing, and that I just needed to get my weight under control and then I’d be fine. I never considered it a mental illness, or even anything of the mind, and to me, that’s pretty much why eating disorders are so shameful. They’re not given the regard that other mental illnesses are given – and even other addictions! I guess people just assume that it’s food and you should just be able to handle it. So that’s part of the reason why I was in denial for so long, because I didn’t know eating disorders were a problem.


K: Yeah, I definitely think that’s a huge problem, and part of the reason why eating disorders are so detrimental. Part of the reason I loved The Skinny so much was that it felt like the first real, raw representation of eating disorders that I had seen in the media. I feel like eating disorders are often romanticized, and the media only seems to represent a very small percentage of the community.  The way that eating disorders are represented in the media doesn’t even show relapse. I think that’s part of the reason why The Skinny is so powerful – it shows the full recovery process in an honest and genuine way. How did it feel to make something where you were really throwing yourself out there, especially with how The Skinny explored the underrepresented parts of having an eating disorder?


J: Well, it was really fucking terrifying, and I didn’t want to do it at first. But I saw those Lifetime movies too, and my friends and I would talk about them – and honestly, they did a better job of giving you tips on how to have an eating disorder than representing the issue at hand in an authentic way. That was part of the reason I wanted to make The Skinny. For me, the process was about how I could take this really personal thing and make it relatable for a wider audience. Life is all about trying to matter, trying to figure it out in the world, and trying to cope when you don’t have any resources. What do you do when you’re lonely and scared? What do you do when your heart is broken? Everyone experiences these things, but I used bulimia as coping mechanism. Of course, that caused so many more problems. That’s kind of the irony of eating disorders – you use them to escape your problems, and you wind up with even more problems. That’s what I really wanted to show – to heal and to start a larger conversation about eating disorders in general. I also didn’t want to make light of eating disorders in any way, but at least in my experience with recovery, there is so much humor in everything, and I get through my experiences in life by laughing at them, and that’s what I did with The Skinny. 


K: Oh, yeah! The Skinny had perfect levity. It was so funny without making light of eating disorders in any way.


J: Thank you!


K: I also read another interview… I think it was with Refinery29, and you were talking about the importance of being honest, which I think is so important, especially with eating disorders. To you, what is the importance of being honest with yourself about your eating disorder beyond The Skinny?


J: Well, yeah, it’s kind of everything, right? How do I show up and live my life honestly? – That’s what being in recovery means to me. It’s a day-to-day thing. I also say that I will have an eating disorder forever, and I don’t mean this in a hopeless way. I say it in a way that keeps me honest. There are things I need to do everyday, to stay focused on recovery. There are big things, like finding healthier people to date, and there are little things, like getting enough sleep. It really affects every aspect of my life. For my art, right now I’m working on like seven projects at the same time, and I still have to figure out how to take care of myself. With The Skinny, this was what I really wanted to face. And the crazy thing is, once you stop vomiting, it’s like, “Well, what was I vomiting over? What was making me vomit?” And it was literally life.  It was my inability to cope with life! For me, I’m also not going to get over it in a day, or by making a web series, but it’s also like, “Oh, this is the beginning of a much longer journey,” and that journey is life. I don’t think it ever stops, and I don’t think it’s ever like, “You have arrived.” That’s such counterintuitive thinking for my eating disorder, which has always said “Once you’re thin, you’ll be perfect and happy,” and that is such an illusion. Recovery is like trying to live in reality. Even with The Skinny, it felt really good for people to tell me that they loved the show, but I also was like, “Ok, this isn’t going to fix me.”


K: What does being in recovery mean to you, and how do you maintain or support your recovery?


J: Well, there are a number of things I do to support my recovery. I go to a support group, and I’m friends with lots of other girls that have had experiences with eating disorders who I speak with on an almost daily basis. I think it’s all about finding community, because it’s so hard. It’s really impossible to do on your own. Now I recognize how horrible my mindset was! I literally thought I could handle it on my own, and there was just no way I could have done that.


K: Yeah! Eating disorders can also be so isolating, so I definitely agree that finding a supportive community is so important.


J: Totally! And for me, I think it really forced me to get honest and find friends that got me for me.


K: Definitely. Going off on that – when you were in a more severe stage of your eating disorder, did you find that your relationships with others were affected seriously?


J: Oh, yeah, it affected every relationship. I mean I have ADD now –


K: Oh, I have ADHD, so pretty much the same thing!


J: I have no attention span, I’m always distracted, always thinking of a million things, and I think it all got really affected because I was so deep in self-hatred and was always obsessing my body, so I wasn’t really present a lot. It’s not a black and white thing – I still had a lot of amazing relationships, and had a ton of great people in my life, but I wasn’t fully present for a lot of it. That’s something I still work on. So many people think eating disorders are all about you and hurting yourself, but you’re really also hurting others, because you’re not able to be fully present or honest. Bulimia is like a full time job – you’re lying about food, you’re lying about where you’re getting food, you’re lying about where you’re going, and it just creates these heart-breaking barriers with people you love.


K: Yeah, that’s such a big part of it too – being mindful and in the moment is so important for me. Since I have ADHD, everything always feels like it’s moving so, so quickly, so it’s easy to act impulsively and such until I can really slow things down.


J: Dude, I fucking hear that. I think everyone struggles with that to some degree!


K: Yeah, definitely! It’s so hard to be present when there are so many other things going on at the same time.


J: Absolutely!


K: Ok, here’s a question: what are the three things you truly want people to understand about having an eating disorder?


J: I guess it would be that it’s not about weight, it is in the mind, and the eating disorder can really be so incredibly powerful. I think when my parents and other people found out, they all felt really helpless. And it’s really heart-breaking – I get this question a lot, “What am I supposed to do?” So many times, it’s just offering support and empathy. What has really helped me the most is when people are like, “God, I get it.” or  “I don’t get it personally, but I empathize.” That is the opposite of secrets, shame, and lying. Offer people the space to feel! And I guess in a dream scenario, think. Especially before you comment on someone’s body. You need to think and be sensitive because you have no idea what people are going through. We tend to laugh at eating disorders, but they’re really serious. It’s life or death.  It’s a slow death, and it’s a mental death.


K: Absolutely! One last question: how has filmmaking been an outlet for you?


J: It’s been like my life! It’s everything to me – my creative outlet has saved my life. I don’t know what I’d do without it. I call it learning in public, because I’m just trying to go on my journey, and figure out what the fuck it means to be me! So yeah, it’s literally everything to me.


K: Amazing! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us! You are incredible, and I can’t wait to see what comes next for you!


J: Yeah, thank you!

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Sitting Across the Table from Anxiety - an interview with Liza Anne By Katelin Penner There are some albums that just seem to stick with you, no matter what. Liza Anne’s sophomore record, Two, was definitely one of those records for me. It is somehow able to encompass a huge amount of raw emotion in only seven songs, and is just a beautiful record overall. I was lucky enough to meet with the ridiculously talented singer-songwriter before her second show at Rough Trade Records in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and talk about mental health, particularly Liza’s experience with anxiety. She has some incredible music coming out, and her first two albums, Two, and The Colder Months, are available on iTunes and other streaming services. Liza is absolutely fantastic, and it pretty incredible to talk with her. She’s one of the kindest and most talented people I’ve ever met!

K: One of my favorite things about you and your music is that I love the way that your songs, especially some of the really new ones, like Control, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhKJwekkpYA) are so unapologetically honest and real, especially about things like anxiety. Hearing Control for the first time really got me; it’s such an incredible song, and puts you in such a vulnerable situation! What does it feel like to write and perform things from a vulnerable place?

 

L: In the sense of how you were saying I don’t cover things up or try to censor myself, I spent a lot of time writing not being able to pinpoint where things were coming from, so I’d say things like “Oh, this boy made me really sad” or “I’m feeling really heavy about life today” – there was nothing specific to it, which I realized later on was just me not coming to terms with my anxiety and living with it, so I was pinning it onto everything but myself. With this new record I’ve been writing, I just decided to sit down, and write as if I’m sitting across the table from my anxiety: my anxiety that’s made me throw up in front of my friends, my anxiety that’s scared me out of relationships, my anxiety that’s made me not want to go on trips, my anxiety that’s made me get off airplanes –I sat down with it as if it was another person, and was like “Fuck you, you did this thing to me, and it wasn’t me.” I am not my anxiety.

It was so weird, because when I wrote Control, I was living in London, just playing some shows over there, and I was based there when I was doing that. While I was there, I had this terrifying realization that we are going through so much, but we put forward something totally different. Like think about how on Instagram, we put forward this idea that “Oh, we’re all doing great, and we’re all doing fine!” I had this really weird realization that someone needs to be saying that we’re not fine, because so much of music just says “We’re great, let’s party!” but really, isn’t life in of itself sad enough to bring you down? I wanted to speak into that, because when I started to talk about that, and started saying that my anxiety was making me sad, not life, it gave me this power over my anxiety. I’m still going to deal with it till the day I die, but it no longer runs my life as much as I was letting it for so long.

 

K: Have you found that people who have heard your music stigmatize you or try to put you in a box based on your lyrics and what you’re trying to say?

 

L: Yeah, I mean, I even do it with other artists! When I heard the new Daughter album for the first time, I automatically just put her on this pedestal, of all the sorrow in the world, she understood. Then, as I was writing more music, and getting more reviews on my music, I began to realize that people who love my music only know me through this narrow box of emotions. You know, it’s funny, because you do get put in a box; my 2014 bad year has become how I’m known because of TWO. With music, it’s like taking a three-week period of your life, or a six-month period of your life, and stamping it into existence forever. So what if someone comes across The Colder Months, which I wrote when I was 18, and I’m like, “That’s totally not who I am anymore, but I definitely felt those things.” So people definitely put me in a “sad girl” box, but that’s okay, because I am a sad girl. [laughter]

 

K: I can relate to that, when I was… Oh wait, that was last year! Shit, the writing on that EP is terrible, that’s so embarrassing.

 

L: That’s okay! Music is a growing thing, you have to have grace with yourself!

 

K: Yeah, when I was 15, I released this EP that just wasn’t me at all because it was so covered in metaphor and was about such trivial things. I just recently learned to break out of my metaphors, so I’ve been writing about things that I’ve held inside of me for like four years, which is such a crazy experience.

 

L: Oh, yeah, totally! We spend so much time trying to apologize, in the sense that we think, “Oh, I don’t want to make people uncomfortable, so I’m going to say something that’s very popular, but it actually means something else that you might not know, but you’ll still like me in the end.”  I think the greatest artists are the ones that honestly some people don’t like because they’re being too bold.

 

K: Oh, yeah, like how if you read a Daughter album review, the main critique is almost always that their music is too sad, which is bullshit.

 

L: Or Keaton Henson, do you listen to him?

 

K: Oooh, yeah!

 

L: His new album’s coming out in two days, and I’m so excited.

 

K: So am I!

 

L: That’s probably all I’m going to listen to on this tour, so who knows how I’ll be in a month. Probably not okay. I just think it’s so important to have something that makes us feel! It’s like what you were saying about hiding behind metaphors for so long – and you create! What about the people who don’t write, and the people who only know pop music that’s telling them everything is okay – if people just had a space in the world where they could just share emotions, anything you’re feeling under any emotion: happy, sad, angry, depressed, grieving – whatever it is, it’s all legitimate. I feel like so many times, people feel like they need to validate whatever it is that they’re feeling, but everything is valid, even if it only lasts for a second.

 

K: I totally agree with that!

L: I feel like with anxiety as well, I became so used to saying, “Oh, this anxiety isn’t real, it’s from nothing” to calm myself down, but it is real, and invalidating it gives my anxiety more power. I just have to look it in the face and be like, “Hey, I know you’re here, but shut the fuck up.”

K: That’s so true! I was reading a bunch of your other interviews, and I saw that you were talking about how writing is a super cathartic experience for you – how has that helped you in your day to day life?

 

L: How has it not helped me? If I hadn’t started writing when I was 8, I don’t really know if I’d still be alive. I hope that’s not too dramatic. It’s just a way for me to get out of my own head, because I don’t know how to do that.  It’s so hard for me to break out of the emotional train wreck of thoughts that’s happening. When I set aside time to write at the beginning or end of each day, I’m having space to live, because I’m getting out of my own head. A lot of times I also just write for the practice of writing – I try to make it part of my daily routine. Sometimes I’ll look at a song that I wrote six months ago and say, “I needed this. How did this come out?” I think songwriting is such a transcendent experience. Who knows where it’s coming from? I actually have a tattoo of notebook paper lines on my arm to remind me to stay around and keep writing.

 

K: I love that!

 

L:  It’s a good thing to stay around for! People need to hear things.

 

K: People definitely need to hear important music – like yours!

 

L: Thank you so much! I can’t wait for you to hear the new songs! They’re all so emo, but that’s perfect.

 

K: Yeah! I’m so excited! I had this incredibly odd experience at a gig once, where I was playing in front of a ton of people I didn’t know, and afterwards, this older man came up to me and told me that my songs were too sad, and said I needed to write happy music. Have you experienced things like this in the industry?

 

L: That’s the same thing when guys tell you to smile more! I think I’ve always been a feminist, but especially in the past two years, I’ve become very self-aware of it because of things like that. When men tell you that you need to smile more, or write happier songs, it’s sort of like, okay, I’m an oppressed human being, and I know I’m a privileged white woman, but the emotions that I feel should not be pushed aside, because they’re valid! The space we create from those emotions is important. Important music needs to be around more! As well, I am happy. Even if I am anxious or depressed, that doesn’t take away from the fact that I can enjoy life.

 

K: Yeah! It’s definitely more difficult if I’m in a really rough spot with anxiety, but that’s when writing music becomes such an important part of my life because it literally lets me take whatever I’m feeling, and get it out of my body and onto a page. It’s almost an out of body experience. It’s also so powerful to listen to music that you relate to and just sums up everything you’re feeling!

 

L: Yeah, I think it’s necessary, because it’s hard to tap into those emotions ourselves! Whenever someone else can tap that spot for us, it’s kind of like “How did that happen?”

 

K: What’s a difficult part of having an anxiety disorder on tour?

L: Well, anxiety makes me such a mess that I feel the need to control everything, so whenever I go on tour, it’s like, “Where’s the nearest place I can have food that’s not going to make me sick? Where’s the nearest park I can go sit in? Where’s this and this? Will I have time to do yoga? Will I have time to meditate?” Everything is so micro-managed in my head.

 

K: That’s the thing that makes anxiety weird for me, because I have an anxiety disorder and ADHD, so I want to control everything, but my thoughts are too all over the place. It’s sort of a mess.

 

L: That’s crazy!

 

K: Do you think there is significant stigma against mental illness in the music industry?

 

L: I’m not sure, because mental illness has a interesting place in the music industry, as there are a lot of artists who are incredibly vocal about it, and won’t take anyone’s shit, but at the same time, there is stigma against mental illness within the music industry just because there’s stigma against mental illness in general. I still have the fear of, “Do people take my mental illness seriously? Or are they just like “Oh, cool, it’s Liza’s little melodrama thing.” At least in my experience, there’s still stigma, but there’s also a lot of understanding of mental illness in the music industry. The people I work with are overly gracious, and make sure I’m not around any triggers and that everything is fine. Maybe in a year, I’ll have an awful story to tell you, but right now, everything feels fine. There’s a lot of us dealing with it, and even just the lifestyle of traveling and being away a lot – I personally thrive in that and I really enjoy it, but it creates a weird mental state, and if I’m having a bad month with my panics, touring can be the worst thing, but I’ve worked so hard to not let that happen?

 

K: How did panic attacks affect your touring?

 

L: I had never had any trigger related to music at all, like a panic attack would sort of come out of nowhere, it would last forty minutes, and then it would be done.  But then I had this tour last November where I would have two to three panic attacks a day. It was awful.  I lost a lot of weight, and I had no control over what was happening, and everything felt blurry, like I was underwater.  Everything I ate made me feel sick, but when I didn’t eat, it also made me feel sick. It was a very out of control scenario. That was the moment I realized I needed to know what was going on in my body in my head, because it had never really affected me in that way. But when I went to see a therapist for the first time, we talked about my life over the past four years, and I realized that my anxiety had done the same thing it did to me on tour in multiple friendships, which was really sickening and humbling at the same time. Like, anxiety’s been ruining a lot of things for me for a while, but it wasn’t until it touched my art that it became really clear to me. It’s just so easy to say “Oh yeah, you know, I’m not friends with that person anymore, that was weird!” or “Oh, I’ve been off the map for a few months, but it’s fine!!” But as soon as it touched my art, I realized that anxiety had been ruining my life for four years, and I had just realized it. But from there, I became a firm believer in meditation, acupuncture therapy, and massage therapy – basically anything that reminds your body that it’s alive! When I have panic attacks, I feel so beside myself.

 

K: It’s like an out of body experience!

 

L: Yeah! So I just try to constantly remind myself of what I can and cannot control, and do things that make me feel good, like eating three meals a day. I’m highly gluten intolerant, and I didn’t know that…

 

K: Wait – so am I! That’s so funny!

 

L: Whoa, that is funny!

 

K: We’re like oddly similar.

 

L: Yeah, very similar! Well, like for me, I didn’t know that I was gluten intolerant until I went to this holistic doctor, who told me that I was eating a lot of things that my body couldn’t handle, and this was after my November tour, so I guess listening to my body more was really helpful! Now I only have like one panic attack a month, unless I’m in a rough spot.

 

K: That’s amazing! Go you!

 

L: It’s great for now, but I could wake up tomorrow, and everything could go haywire. I’m just focusing on being present right now, because if I’m present and reminding myself that everything is okay, and I’m still alive, it’s going to be okay. If I’m present, I don’t have to worry about the next thing, and the next thing, and the next thing, which is so healing! I’m so bad at it though. I’m always thinking about what I’m going to do next.

 

K: Me too, but I think that’s mainly my anxiety and ADHD colliding again, because I’m always worrying about something, but then my thoughts are all over the place, so it’s a little messy. My mom always reminds me to do mindfulness, which is actually really helpful!

 

L: That has literally saved my life. Mindfulness is the most important thing we can do as human beings! It teaches us respect for other people out of a respect for ourselves. When I was younger, I was very much a people pleaser, so it’s so important that I have something that’s not the other way around.

 

K: Me too, but I still am way too much of a people pleaser.

 

L: Well, to be whole for other people, you have to love yourself in a way that’s personal to how you need to be loved.

 

K: Oh, definitely. What do you think we can do to reduce the stigma around mental illness?

 

L: I think with a lot of things that have stigma, the conversation is so important, as long as it’s serious conversation.  The more people that are open to having vulnerable conversations about their experiences, the better. I don’t know much about Demi Lovato, but she’s so open about her eating disorder and other mental illnesses, which is so cool.

 

K: It’s so cool, especially because there aren’t that many celebrities that are super open about eating disorders, and she’s done a good job of talking about them in a way that doesn’t glamorize them, which is awesome.

 

L: As well, it’s such an intense and terrifying thing. It took me four years of being in such a dark and deep hole for me to realize that this was what I was dealing with. Actually, even more than four years! I remember telling my parents in 7th grade that I thought I was having panic attacks, but I didn’t really know what they were.

 

K: It’s definitely difficult to be forward with yourself and others about what you’re dealing with. It’s so frightening.  Panic attacks are also so frightening. When the symptoms become physical, it’s so scary.

 

L: Oh, definitely. They’re horrible.

 

K: Do you have anything else you want to say on the topic?

 

L: It’s so cool that we’re having conversations about these things that we’re dealing with.

 

K: Yes! Also, if you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it! Help is important!

 

L: Help is important, and it also looks different for a lot of people! Some people do talk therapy, and some people do well with acupuncture, and really focusing in on the physical repercussions. I started by focusing on the physical repercussions, but I definitely should have started talk therapy earlier. Just take the time to realize what your mind and body are asking for.

 

K: Amazing! Thank you so much for having me! You are amazing.

 

L: Thank you so much!

You can listen to Liza’s new song, “Control,” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhKJwekkpYA Her first two records, “Two” and “The Colder Months,” are available on iTunes and most major streaming services. 

Thank you to Liza for such a lovely interview, and to Rough Trade NYC for having us!

- Katelin

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Resources


Here are some websites and other resources you can turn to if you or a loved one is in crisis, or in need of information about mental health and/or mental illness.

https://www.mentalhealth.gov/get-help/immediate-help/index.html (The government sponsored mental health website)
1-800-273-8255 - National Suicide Prevention Center Hotline (available 24/7)
866-488-7386 - The Trevor Project Hotline (24/7 suicide prevention hotline for LGBT+ and questioning youth)
1-800-273-8255 - Veterans Crisis Line
http://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referral-resources/ - Additional Mental Health Crisis hotlines
http://www.nami.org/ - National Alliance on Mental Health website
https://www.adaa.org/ Anxiety and Depression Association of America, has information about anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, PTSD, and OCD.
http://socialphobia.org/ - Website with information about social anxiety disorder
http://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=home - Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
https://moodnetwork.org/resources - Mood Disorders organization
http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/ - National Eating Disorders Association
http://www.anad.org/ Eating Disorders resource
http://www.sardaa.org/ Schizophrenia resource
https://iocdf.org/ International OCD Foundation
http://www.ptsd.va.gov/about/ptsd-awareness/working_together.asp National Center for PTSD
http://www.pdan.org/ Personality Disorder Awareness Network
http://www.chadd.org/ ADHD organization
http://www.bandbacktogether.com/somatoform-disorders-resources/ Somatoform Disorder Resource
http://brentshapiro.org/ Addiction resource
https://www.drugrehab.com/teens/ and https://www.drugrehab.com/ - DrugRehab.org, a website providing important resources to anyone dealing with substance abuse or addiction.

Resources

Team


Katelin Penner


President

Katelin Penner is the president of the New York Chapter of Stop the Silence. She is in charge of a majority of the management and interviewing that occurs through Stop the Silence. In addition, she is a singer-songwriter with a single, "Phases", on Spotify.

Emma Simon


Art Director

Emma Simon is our multifaceted art director/graphic designer extraordinaire. She is also an incredibly talented trombonist, and Katelin's sound engineer. Basically, she's fantastic.

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Contact


77 Burnside Drive, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, United States

Artists with original work preferred! We are now open to ALL forms of the arts, whether it be fine art, music, film, drama - anything.

FOR INTERVIEW INQUIRIES, EMAIL katelinpenner@gmail.com!