Tuesday, August 19, 2014

12 things I learned from Christina Perri's Head or Heart show

In honor of Christina Perri's 28th birthday today, I wanted to share some things I learned/experienced from attending her Head or Heart show in Atlanta on April 30th with my mom. And if you are befuddled as to why this was a big deal for me, then you haven't read my eBook yet. I AM ON TO YOU.  

Anyway, I feel obligated to share the following monstrosity of a photo before I begin. (We were only allowed to take one photo, so I didn't have an opportunity to manipulate my face into a more attractive expression. Oh well.)

The following are things I learned both from the trip to Atlanta, the meet and greet, and the concert. I am writing this because I want to commemorate this event somehow. So if you're not a Christina Perri fan, I'm sorry. And go away. Just kidding. You can stay if you want. You might learn something.

1. It's okay to ask for help. 

After driving up and down the same road about 67 times, my mom and I finally stopped to ask a security guard for directions. He looked lost in thought and the task at hand, so we were afraid he would wave us along and not help, but that was not the case. He pointed us in the right direction, and we arrived at the venue in time. Speaking of the venue, we also had to call and ask THEM if it would be a problem if we were running a few minutes late for the meet and greet (which we were), but it was not. Had we not asked for guidance in those instances, we probably would have gotten hopelessly lost and missed the meet and greet altogether. Most people will be more than willing to help you as long as you are willing to ask them to. 

2. Hugs are important.

I love hugs, but often feel weird about giving or requesting them. But Christina hugged every single person that went through that meet and greet line, whether they asked/wanted her to or not. If you want to give somebody a hug, I say go for it unless the circumstances are completely inappropriate or creepy.   

3. All good things are worth waiting for.

My mom and I got to the venue a pretty good while before the show was set to start, which was a good thing and a bad thing. It was a good thing because we got an awesome spot (front row!) and a bad thing because we had to wait and wait and wait for the show to start. Being in a standing room only venue while not feeling super well (lady problems) can be a tedious experience. But Christina (and her opening act Birdy) put on an amazing show, so the standing and waiting was worth it. But it WAS nice to sit down when it was over...   

4. Lighten up, even if it's your job to be super serious.

A downside to being in the very front row at a concert is the Hitler-y security people that banish you to shame when you try to take photos. Because of this, my mom and I only got one photo and it was of the back of Birdy's head. I know that guy's job was to prevent people from filming/taking pictures of the concert, but I don't think it would have killed him to lighten up a bit and "pretend" he didn't see a few camera flashes. People are going to take pictures at concerts anyway, amiright? The next time you want to reprimand someone for doing something that isn't really that big of a deal, be cool and cut them a break instead. If nothing else, consider it an act of kindness.   

5. Put your entire heart into the things you're passionate about. 

I think you can tell when someone is truly passionate about something and not just going through the motions or doing what they're doing out of a sense of obligation. Christina was incredibly enthusiastic throughout her entire show and never once looked like she wasn't enjoying herself or wanted to get it over with. There was a powerful sense of abandon in her performances. She just let go, had a good time, and did the best she could. That's how we all should treat the things we love---and not just career related things.  

6. Don't be afraid to share your stories.

I love when artists share the stories behind some of their songs before they sing them at concerts. Christina did this with several of her songs, and some of the stories were pretty personal. But people paid attention, and people were moved because she told them in a way that people could relate to. I think we all have similar stories because we all sort of go through the same things. Sharing your stories (like I do through this blog) bridges the gap between you and "other people." Because believe it or not, those "other people" are actually a lot like you.   

7. Know that you are never alone. Ever. 

One of my favorite moments from the show was when Christina sang "I Believe," one of my favorite songs by her. It's a song about not being alone in what you're struggling with, and she cut the audience into three groups and made each group sing a certain lyric/mantra towards the end. And if you've heard the song, you know those lyrics/mantras are:

"This is not the end of me, this is the beginning."
"Hold on."
"I am still alive."

Doing this was a fun way to connect all the strangers in that audience to one another, and I'm willing to bet that every single person in that room was moved by that song because they could relate to it. If you've never heard it, I encourage you to go listen to it because I'm sure you will relate to it too. But the bottom line is that regardless of what you're feeling right now, somebody somewhere is feeling the exact same way. I can guaranteed it.      

8. Love openly and fearlessly.

If you're familiar with Christina Perri's music, you know she writes a lot of songs about love and relationships. As I wrote earlier, she shared some of her love (and heartbreak) stories during the show, and it became very clear to me that she falls hard, fast and fearlessly into love. Call me a hopeless romantic or an idealist, but I think that's the way it should be. It may mean having your heart broken more easily, but love is one of the most extraordinary things a person can experience, whether it lasts ten days or ten years. So love the people you love with your entire heart, and maybe one day you will find someone who loves you the exact same way.      

9. Fear is all in your head.

This is something I am constantly learning and relearning. One of the stories Christina shared during her show was about how she absolutely would NOT sing in front of a crowd when she was first starting out as a musician. She literally felt like she couldn't do it and would (and still does) get incredibly nervous before going on stage. She went on and on and on about how afraid she used to be and how much she held herself back, but just look at where she is today. She said she realized that her own head was the only thing standing between her and success. Once you get your own thoughts and beliefs under control (which is easier said than done, but totally possible), you will become a force to be reckoned with.  

10. The people you look up to struggle with the same things you do.  

One of the reasons I feel so drawn to Christina Perri is because she is unafraid to wear her heart on her sleeve and be open about her struggles, both past and present. Even her tweets are honest and authentic! I feel like she and I have shared (and continue to share) similar struggles because we're both very emotional people. Not only do I look up to her, I feel like I can genuinely relate to her. It's important to remind yourself that even if someone seems to have a glamorous life, they still have fears and insecurities just like the rest of us.  

11. Music brings people together. 

As cliche as it may sound, music is a huge connecting factor. Sometimes a single song can lift a weight off your shoulders in a way that nothing or nobody else can. And there's something really special about standing in a big venue with people you don't know, and yet they are people who are there for the same reasons you are. I definitely recommend listening to music daily and attending more concerts. Music is good for the soul.   

12. Enjoy the simple things.

I get really excited about the simplest of things, which is probably one of my favorite things about myself. As my mom and I were driving back from Atlanta, we got wonderful views of the Atlanta skyline. I LOVE city skylines, so this made me really happy (even though the traffic was a nightmare and gives my mom anxiety every time she thinks about it). Even if you live in a big city and see the skyline all the time, try to see it from a tourist perspective every now and then. Try to see EVERYTHING from the perspective of someone seeing it for the first time. You live in a beautiful world, so pay attention to it.

Thanks for reading!

<3 Madison     

Friday, August 15, 2014

Joining the depression/mental illness defense bandwagon

In the aftermath of Robin Williams' death (I AM SO SAD), I've seen a lot of people speaking out once again about the horrible stigmas associated with mental illnesses. I've heard about people lashing out at Robin Williams and referring to him as "selfish" and "a coward," among many other things I'm sure.

There are a lot of issues that need attention in this world, but I must say that this is one I am especially passionate about. People with mental illnesses get stereotyped and discriminated against like nobody's business, and I'm so tired of it. I guess I just wanted to join the bandwagon of people speaking out against this issue by briefly writing a few words to:

a) people suffering from mental illness
b) people who know/love someone suffering from mental illness

I also want to provide some resources that might be helpful and inspiring if you fall into either or both of those two categories.

If you are suffering from mental illness...

~ You are NOT a fundamentally flawed piece of insignificance and shame, which is probably what most people will lead you to believe with their thoughtless comments and actions. You are struggling with a very real, very valid issue. Your struggle is just as significant as someone with a terrible flu or a body that is broken in nine places. The status of your mental health is NOT YOUR FAULT and I understand that you can't just wake up in the morning and will yourself out of it. You matter. Your story matters. You are doing the best you can.

~ You are not alone. One in four people struggle with mental illness, and there is help available if you're one of those people. I will provide some resources below, but nothing beats professional consultations. Just remember that the first step is usually the hardest, but it's also the most important. For the longest time, I did not discuss my own struggles with mental health. To be honest, I STILL don't discuss them very much because we've been conditioned to believe that struggling with mental health makes us weak and that our problems aren't valid because they can't be seen with the naked eye. The fact of the matter is that some people may very well judge or misunderstand you. But for every person who does that, there are probably ten more who won't. So try to speak up (and I will too). Find people who understand. Find people who can help. But whatever you do, don't go at it alone. Don't be the next shocking suicide story because everyone thought you were totally fine and dandy when you were actually living in a mental hell.

~ It really does get better. I know that probably sounds like an annoying and infuriating cliche if you're depressed or mentally ill, but if you stop reminding yourself that things will get better (even if you don't always believe it), you will sink even further into that black void. You will not be like this forever. Your condition will improve, and I strongly believe in the hope and promise of a better, more fulfilled future. You do not have to give up. You do not have to kill yourself. There are so many ways out of your mental prison. They might be more tedious to get through, but they're there. I promise.      

If you know/love someone who is suffering from mental illness...

~ Do not try to "fix" them. Trying to fix someone with a mental health issue is the equivalent of giving someone with a gaping wound a band-aid. "THIS OUGHTA DO THE TRICK." No. It won't do the trick. If anything, it will make matters worse. Sure, some mental health issues are less serious than others and can probably be alleviated (or even cured) with some good old-fashioned self-help or other forms of self-therapy. I once dealt with some minor mental issues by myself and turned out okay. (See my eBook.) But most mental health issues are too great to be dealt with by non-professionals. Be there for your loved ones in any possible way that you can, but don't discourage professional therapy---ESPECIALLY if you suspect their life could be in danger.

~ Do not judge, stereotype or belittle them. Dealing with a mental health issue is hard enough as it is. It's even harder to talk about. If someone takes the brave step of opening up to you about an issue they are having only to be met with a barrage of cruel or ignorant comments, that is as detrimental to the personal growth process as someone pushing a baby who is trying to take his/her first steps. They will never want to open up to you (and probably anyone else) again. They will keep it all bottled up. And when they keep it all bottled up, tragic shit starts happening. When a loved one is trying to talk to you about something like this, you listen. You don't offer meaningless advice. You don't blame them or their life habits. You don't attack them. You don't make assumptions or ignorant comments based on a small amount of knowledge. You listen and be there for them unconditionally. You let them know that you love them just as they are and that you're willing to see them through their struggle. Anything less than that could be a tragic mistake.

~ Educate yourself. There are oodles upon oodles of resources about depression and mental health out there, so if you have little knowledge of these issues or think they're not that big of a deal, I suggest you get busy. Do some Googling. Crack open some books. Talk to some mental health professionals. The more you understand, the better you can deal when someone you know or love is struggling to maintain their mental well-being. Knowledge is power in this case, so suck up as much of it as you can.

Helpful and inspiring resources

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

TWLOHA (my favorite organization): http://twloha.com/home

Another great organization: http://www.bringchange2mind.org/

Awesome blog post #1: http://keltiecolleen.buzznet.com/photos/strugglingwithdepres/

Awesome blog post #2: http://sarahbessey.com/depression-fault/

Awesome blog post #3: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2011/10/adventures-in-depression.html

Awesome blog post #4: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2013/05/depression-part-two.html

One of my favorite movies ever is "Silver Linings Playbook," and it sheds a thought-provoking light on mental illness. I recommend buying the DVD and watching the special feature titled "Silver Linings Playbook: The Movie That Became a Movement." I couldn't find it online, but it's definitely worth watching if you struggle with depression (of any kind, of any severity) or any other mental health issue that makes you feel as if you're not an important part of the world. http://www.amazon.com/Silver-Linings-Playbook-Bradley-Cooper/dp/B00A81MV3U/

An online hub for all things mental health: http://psychcentral.com/

Please take care of yourself. You are so important.

<3 Madison

p.s. I am not a mental health expert, and nothing I say on this blog should substitute professional guidance. These are simply my views and opinions on the subject.