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Depression VS. Violin
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (37 votes) 
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Daniel_Shaped_Object
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April 10, 2015 - 11:03 pm
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As someone who lives with chronic cyclical depression, I just wanted to throw this out into the internet and see what happens. This is not a request for help with depression, as I think we all know that is outside the scope of an online forum pertaining to the violin. I am being treated for my depression, but it's more of an attempt to manage it than to "cure" it (which is unlikely). More than anything, I think I just want to share my experience to see if anyone else can relate, and so that people who haven't experienced this can perhaps better understand. Now, on to the actual topic:

I've been avoiding playing my violin for a few weeks. It's been sitting there in the corner, patiently waiting for me to pick it up, but I've been pretending not to notice it. The thing is, playing the violin was really bringing me a lot of joy. Just hearing (and even physically feeling) the vibrations when I move the bow over the strings can be an uplifting experience. 

But as many people know, depression squashes joy like an anvil dropped onto a fresh egg, and that lack of joy is an unsettling -- borderline frightening -- experience. About 10 minutes ago, I decided to pick up my violin and try to play something, hoping against hope that it wouldn't feel as bad as I'd been imagining for the past few weeks.

No such luck.

I tried playing "Hector the Hero", a tune that I really love, and I felt nothing. Those happy vibrations I can usually feel practically resonating in my chest were simply not there. It's as if someone had taken the strings off my violin and stuffed cotton in my ears. It was a short-lived exercise in frustration. After a few minutes, I simply had to stop. It wasn't really something I could just "push through". I was uncomfortable on every level (I couldn't even find a position to stand or sit in that didn't make me feel sore and fidgety). 

Anyone else want to weigh in with similar experiences or observations? As I said, I'm not asking for advice on how to treat depression, but if anyone has points to make in regards to how it affects your musicianship and/or ways to attempt to progress on the violin in spite of it, by all means feel free to contribute. At the moment, I suspect I'm just simply going to have to wait until this particular depressive cycle lifts before I can bear to play again, but who knows? I really hate the waiting game, but it's something I've grown accustomed to over the years.

Thanks in advance for listening/reading, and for any contributions made. 

-Daniel

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Fiddlestix
Michigan, USA
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April 11, 2015 - 1:48 am
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I can hear your plea, Daniel. I'd never heard that song before, "Hector The Hero" until I found it on YouTube.

When reading it's title you wrote about, I simply thought it was maybe a song from a cartoon series. But after listening to it, I can see where one may fall into a depressive state. It's not a very joyful / happy tune for sure and for one who is plagued with clinical depression (as in your case) you may want to find a happier tune to play.

As far as feeling depressed about picking up and playing violin, I think that most of us go through a time like this. "Oh damn, what's wrong with me, I practice and practice and I don't seem to be getting any better". I myself go through the same thing at times, I'm going on 72, live alone and have recently been diagnosed with,"Myelofibrosis", it's a disease of the bodies bone marrow. I just recently bought a new violin and was wondering why I bought it knowing what I have. There are times in my life that I get depressed now, but I move on.

Do you have anyone around who you can "jam" with or play for? You may even want to find a "Skype" buddy / partner to practice with. I've done this a couple times with another "FM" member and I really look forward to "Skyping" with that person, it gives a reason to get in the mood and practice.

I wish you the best of luck and please don't give up on the violin.

BTW, it is a beautiful but sad sounding song.

 

Ken.

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Daniel_Shaped_Object
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April 11, 2015 - 4:13 am
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Thanks for the reply, Fiddlestix. I'm so sorry to hear about your Myelofibrosis diagnosis. I was unfamiliar with it, so I Googled it, and I definitely do not envy what you're going through. 

It's interesting that you mention "Hector the Hero" being such a sad song. I mean, it most certainly is a sad song, but I hadn't really thought of that until you pointed it out. I just thought of it as a beautiful song that would provoke an emotional reaction out of me, and it's disconcerting to play it and feel absolutely nothing. But you make a good point about trying to find something happier to play. Of course there's no guarantee that I'll feel an emotional connection to a happier tune either, but it's certainly worth a try.

I don't have anyone to jam with in real life (I live alone as well), but I never considered using Skype or something similar to find a practice buddy on the internet. That's something to think about as well. In any case, I certainly won't give up on the violin. 

Oh and thanks for posting that video. That's a version I hadn't heard before.  Take care, and I hope you continue to enjoy your new violin. Be well!

-Daniel

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coolpinkone
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April 11, 2015 - 1:35 pm
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@Daniel_Shaped_Object - sending good vibes to you. Thank you for sharing your story. Many times by sharing your story it helps others to connect or it simply helps others to know that they are not alone.  

So Violin is in the corner,  and you  are pretending not to notice or remember that you get joy from it. You gave it a shot and it didn't work.  I can only say keep trying and be kind to yourself.  

I have had times that I could not pick up the violin because of being "sad."  There are other times I forced myself to do it.  Funny thing people could tell me to do it.. and I knew I should do it.  But only if I forced hard ... I am not sure where that inner strength came from but sometimes in bleak times I have found bits of hope and strength.  That is all I can relate to your story.    

So sometimes I write emails to friends, and then they write back to me. Or messages to my buddies. No one knows what to say  or do but they send a smile or a good vibe.

And then I think wow, I wrote out and got back, so now I am going to show my gratitude for getting some love back.  And to show the universe how much I care for myself I push  and it is like I am doing something for someone else, but it is really for me.  Positive talk in my head...even if I have to read it off paper and read it aloud.

I am not clinically depressed, and I know that it might seems that I don't know what I am talking about.  (that is actually true)  exactly

I send big vibes...Do you have a camera?  Maybe you could do some artful photography with your violin.  Or a scrapbook of online violin pictures.  Keep listening to music.. All kinds.. you know.. find what makes you tap a foot, smile, or even cry. 

All my best fellow fiddler.

Toni

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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coolpinkone
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April 11, 2015 - 1:40 pm
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@Fiddlestix 

Sending good vibes.   I am glad you got that new gorgeous violin.  You bought it because you are a musician and it fills your soul and your heart.  I hope to see you play it someday soon.

I like Skyping with FM friends also.  It provides a nice bonding between players and yes, it makes for a lot of fun. 

I hope that you feel well and I send all my friendship to you Dear Ken.  You've always been so kind, helpful, and violin-1267 wonderful here on the forum.

Love Toni

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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ElisaDalViolin
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April 11, 2015 - 3:39 pm
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I already described my experience that end up becoming an one year violin hiatus in other topic some months ago. It was a very complicated situation where frustration spoke higher. My advice is don't disconnect completely from violin/music and take it easy. Take a break if you need but don't cut the bounds entirely. Listen and share music like Toni said, read something related to it, try to go to concerts in your area, talk to others, write, research violins for its aesthetics( I spend wayy too much time doing this last one XD),... 

The skype ideia is a good one, I wish I had a better internet signal on my other pc to do that. Besides getting to know FM members better, it would be a way of getting better at speaking english since I only get to speak it with very few erasmus students in my college.

I hope I helped you somehow, wish you all the best!

 
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Schaick
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April 11, 2015 - 5:10 pm
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@Daniel_Shaped_Object I have no experience of suffering from depression but I do suffer from severe self loathing.  One seemingly simple task I can't seem to complete for my friends here at the forum is taking a video of myself playing the violin.  I believe it is a symptom.  I have very few pictures of myself for my descendants because I have ripped them up.  Pictures of me have been taken without me knowing and result in my complete disgust which I have become very adept at hiding. 

OK!! Talking too much about myself!!

Here is what I do know. So much of learning an instrument includes listening to music so while you are away from the violin would you be able to continue to listen to the tunes you are learning?  Also what about trying all the different exercises that have been posted on the forum?

Violinist start date -  May 2013  

Fiddler start date - May 2014

FIDDLE- Gift from a dear friend. A 1930-40 german copy, of a french copy of a Stradivarius.  BOW - $50 carbon fiber. Strings - Dominants with E Pirastro Gold string.

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DanielB
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April 11, 2015 - 11:48 pm
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@Daniel_Shaped_Object: Yes, I can relate.  So can some other folks here.

The past year I have been getting some therapy for "stage fright", but most of it has settled more on the core issues causing it, depression and self-esteem issues.  It helps, and the past year has gone better.  I've always had some issues with "stage jitters", but it had gotten worse to the point where even playing in front of family and close friends was becoming difficult.  Not being ready to give up on performing yet, I had to do something, so it was time to get counselling and go into some therapy.

It doesn't "cure" it, as you already mentioned, but sort of learning to cope with it more effectively.

Playing itself is still a comfort, even on the bad days.  Or at least as much as anything can be.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Fiddlerman
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April 12, 2015 - 12:05 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 11706

Very interesting and yes, Hector The Hero is a sad (minor) piece. I love the fact that you are sharing your experience with depression so that others with similar feelings can hopefully benefit from this discussion.

It would be interesting to experiment with types of music, minor, major, and get feedback as to the effect if any and differences depending on what is being played. Also, perhaps playing major keyed pieces with backing track (as though you are playing with friends :)) could help as well. Kind of like getting a music prescription geared to help you feel better.

How about some suggestions from members on what actually makes us feel better to play?

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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meowcat
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April 12, 2015 - 8:43 pm
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I've been watching your site now for a few months now, I did not expect to see this. Thank you for having a voice not just for yourself, but for others. I am learning to deal with it now. I've been in a wheelchair now for 3 1/2 years. Where I have not done well in other places music helps me.

I am officially one of your students, and very happy for it. Thank you Daniel, I am an adult who is excited to learn to play.

I understand the fiddle in the corner. I don't know what it will be that will make you reach for it, but you will.

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Fiddlerman
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April 12, 2015 - 11:02 pm
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meowcat said
I've been watching your site now for a few months now, I did not expect to see this. Thank you for having a voice not just for yourself, but for others. I am learning to deal with it now. I've been in a wheelchair now for 3 1/2 years. Where I have not done well in other places music helps me.

I am officially one of your students, and very happy for it. Thank you Daniel, I am an adult who is excited to learn to play.

I understand the fiddle in the corner. I don't know what it will be that will make you reach for it, but you will.

I'm happy to hear from you. Anytime you want to share the reason that you are in the wheelchair, we are here to listen. In the meanwhile, hope that music and the violin continues to help. :)

Learning as an adult is challenging but also rewarding. I love it when adults take up the challenge and begin the journey. It takes a special type of person to tough it out regardless of the hurdles.  Congratulations for your commitment!!!

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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1stimestar
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April 13, 2015 - 4:33 am
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I started playing as a tribute to my late husband who died unexpectedly at age 53.  When he died, Social Security paid me a one time payment of $253.  That could have been spent in 5 minutes paying bills because I was as broke as I had ever been in my life.  But there were still a lot of things my husband wanted to do in life that he never got a chance to do and I learned my lesson well.  I always wanted to play something so used that money to buy a fiddle and my first few lessons.  

I am very familiar with depression as I went through it as part of my grief.  I still get depressed occasionally but it is not the type you are dealing with.  When I am having a bad day, I really do force myself to play.  I try to play every day but some days, especially as a single parent, I am too tired or don't have enough time or just don't feel like it.  I play anyways.  Sometime when I can't get in that groove, I find it helpful to just take it back to the basics.  I go back through my beginner's book and play the little tunes that I liked.  I allow myself to play pieces that don't need work.  Pieces that are well remembered and well loved.  Sometime it is as you have said, I can't get into the groove.  The sound is not there.  My timing is off.  I play anyways, even if just for a few minutes.  Sometimes it's just a couple of little tunes.  But sometimes I am able to play through that unsettled feeling and those times, it really helps me.  For those days that I just can't get into it, I at least feel good that I played a bit anyways.  Good luck and keep picking it up.       

 

Opportunity is often missed because it wears suspenders and looks like hard work.

 

Alaska, the Madness; Bloggity Stories of the North Country

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coolpinkone
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April 13, 2015 - 1:20 pm
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Sending good vibes out to everyone... 

It helps me to know that I am not alone.   Thanks for sharing your stories.  

We are real people, in real life, with real problems, making real music.

Together we are a great team of musicians and friends.

:)

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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Daniel_Shaped_Object
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April 13, 2015 - 6:06 pm
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Wow,

Just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has posted here. Though it isn't nice to know that people here on the forums are going through some rough times, it is nice to know that none of us should feel alone in that, and that there is a caring group of people on this forum who will listen and offer advice, encouragement, and assorted bits of wisdom.

Sorry I didn't reply earlier. I was most definitely reading everyone's comments, but didn't quite have enough mental/emotional fortitude to formulate a reply until now. My original post was on Friday, and I continued to spiral down throughout the weekend until I hit bottom on Sunday, which was a day of Netflix, pizza, and all-day pajamas. Still wasn't feeling that great when I got up for work this morning, but I seemed to have burned off some of the dark clouds during my shift. I'm now home from work and though I'm not doing cartwheels, I am functioning within relatively normal parameters. Who knows, I may clean something, wash a dish, or even try playing the violin before the evening is through (crazy-talk, I know!).

CoolPinkOne, You may not know exactly what clinical depression feels like, but I have gleaned from your posts on this forum that you are an extremely empathic type of person. I seems like your first instinct is always to try to understand where someone else is coming from and to offer encouragement. Thanks for your positive energy!

ElisaDalViolin, thank you for your perspective. A one-year violin hiatus is most definitely not something I want! I will keep searching for ways to connect with my inner fiddler.

Schaick, I completely understand what you mean about the self-loathing thing, especially where pictures are concerned. I always cringe when I see someone break out a camera. I usually tell them that they can take as many pictures of me as they want...as long as I don't have to see them! :-P Also, listening to recordings of the music I'm trying to learn is a good idea. I also discovered that even just practicing my fingerings and plucking the strings instead of bowing seems tolerable, so in that way perhaps I can keep my intonation intact.

DanielB, good for you for seeking therapy to help you overcome stage fright! It certainly shows your commitment to your musicianship. It doesn't surprise me that depression and self-esteem issues are at the core of your problem. Though it does get tricky sometimes sorting out "cause" and "effect" when it comes to issues like these. I'm glad it's helping.

Fiddlerman, I do have a couple of violin book/CD sets with backing tracks. Many of the pieces in the books are still slightly advanced for me, but there are a few that I'm sure I could manage if I was able to put the work into it. Perhaps I should find some backing tracks to some simpler songs. Might be worth looking into.

Meowcat, thank you for sharing your your situation, and I'm glad that music is helping you. Most importanly, I'm glad that your situation isn't stopping you from pursuing the violin with such excitement. Go, you!

1stimestar, I loved that you shared your story of how you spent that $253 on a violin to learn to play as a tribute to your husband. I'm so sorry for your loss, but I cant think of a more beautiful and positive way of responding to a tragedy like that loss of a loved one.

Okay, I guess that about wraps it up. Thanks again for all the encouragement. It really helped me through a tough weekend. Stay well, everyone!

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KindaScratchy
Massachusetts
April 13, 2015 - 8:27 pm
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I'm late to the conversation here, but wanted to chime in. I'm very sorry to hear about everyone's troubles. I've never experienced clinical depression myself, but I know people who have, so I have an idea of how difficult it can be to manage. And, I guess it's not surprising that as adults, most of us have experienced life's challenges in various forms.

Although there have been times when I've been too worried or upset to pick up my fiddle, many more times playing is exactly what I need to take my mind off stressful or depressing things. In fact, I don't know how I could have gotten through recent family health issues and loss with out music and this community.

exactly

When the work's all done and the sun's settin' low,

I pull out my fiddle and I rosin up the bow.

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Ripton
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April 13, 2015 - 11:48 pm
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I consider myself a survivor, but as Daniel said, never cured. I feel for you brother. I had (re)started playing a number of years ago and then abruptly stopped, leaving the viola/violin on the wall for a good three years. Looking at me every time I walked out of the den. One major struggle I have is any form or teasing or even eye rolling at me when I play (My girls are notorious of doing that). It may be in fun or in jest, but I really don;t have the strength to shrug it off as just good fun. I tend to lose my ambition and desire real quick. You'd think I'd have some answers for you, but even for myself they elude me. It sort of just happened. Not sure if it was the SSRIs kicking in or just the right time. Finding and listening to good fiddle music that I enjoy is a good practice for me. I may not always play, but eventually, once that tune gets stuck in my head I just have to scratch it out myself. (That is unless it's the House of the Rising Sun tune, I can;t get my brain to stop, and I really have not been able to get past the first few bars... drats!) Stay connect, here on Fiddlerman, on Facebook, what ever it takes. Feed the bug a little at a time and YES, it will rouse from it's slumber and once again fly like a butterfly...

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DanielB
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April 14, 2015 - 6:26 am
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When I look at this thread, I do not see "complaining" or even "problems".  I see people talking about the courage that they seek and find to be able to go on.  It is good stuff.

I think some folks may be a bit surprised to find out that a percentage of this community does have to work every day through depression and other problems just to be here and just to try and learn this instrument and do music.  But it is a fact, and it is good to see it being discussed.  

It is a fact and not just in this forum/community.  Did you know that one of the biggest health problems in symphony/orchestral music these days is "antidepressant abuse"?  That's what they call it, anyway.  But what they are actually talking about is people sharing their prescription medications like SSRI and Beta Blocker type anti-depressant or anti-anxiety meds with musicians that haven't been officially diagnosed.  At least not yet.  Depression and anxiety issues are no strangers even in the highly trained and formal types of music like the symphony/orchestral scene.  In some ways it may be worse in those highly competitive musical environments, since there are always plenty of other people at the auditions and such that would take their place and so some of them may not dare to admit to having "problems".  It could get them replaced by someone who says they don't have them.

I will admit to be (pleasantly) surprised to see it come up in a thread here.  It may be a fact of life, but it isn't one that is always comfortable to talk about in public.

So I will mention that there is a PM (Private Message) function on this forum that works quite well.  I know some use it, others may not be familiar with it yet.  But for anyone who has posted in this thread (or maybe didn't have the nerve to post), if you need to talk about this sort of stuff sometime and prefer not to talk in public, please consider yourself cordially invited to drop me a PM and we can talk.  I am not "professional help", and I can pretty much guarantee I won't have the answers.  But I can listen, and sometimes it helps to talk it out.

I'm no stranger to this stuff.  The first time a doctor mentioned depression as a medical possibility was when I was 13 yrs old.  So I've been living with it for over 40 yrs, longer than I've even been a musician. LOL  That doctor had known me my whole life at that point, since he'd been my doctors since I was born and had been one of the doctors at my birth.  So it wasn't just some casual possibility mentioned by a doctor I'd just met.

Pretty much everybody deals with depression sometimes in life.  Sad bad things happen to us or times of high stress can bring on a bad mood swing.  So everybody tends to think they understand it.

But as a medical condition, it is a bit different.  You don't just "get over it", and just doing things to "cheer up" may not help long or even help at all.  Daniel_Shaped_Object put it well with:

"...depression squashes joy like an anvil dropped onto a fresh egg, and that lack of joy is an unsettling -- borderline frightening -- experience. "

The only place I would disagree is "borderline frightening".  It is frightening enough.  It can also be deadly.  At over half a century old, I can count the friends where depression was their main problem who committed suicide or just didn't take enough care of themselves to stay alive.  Which is a slow form of suicide.  Some of them were wonderful people, and the world is a bleaker place than it had to be now that they are gone.  If you have never lost anyone to it, I sincerely hope you never do.  There's nothing quite like hearing that an old friend that you shared problems, hopes, and dreams with is just gone now.  And it wasn't something like cancer or a car crash, that they did it themselves.

Anyway, enough heavy talk for the moment..

@Ripton:  One of my daughters used to be bad about that sort of thing.  Just sometimes.  LOL  My recommendation, is when they do that, stop for a moment and set down the violin and give them a hug.  Just to remind them and yourself that they were just kidding, and meant no harm, and that you do not hold that against them.  They may figure it out in time.

My own household, for the most part, I can't complain.  I am fortunate in that most of my household is or have been musicians, or trained in something related enough like sound engineering to understand practice and the learning curves. LOL 

Try the hug tactic, though.  I think it beats trying to just ignore it or shrug it off.  It worked with the one daughter back some years ago that had a similar way of kidding around. 

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Rob C
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April 16, 2015 - 1:24 am
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Hi Daniel. you are not alone. I am a disabled combat veteran and was diagnosed with PTSD years ago. It's taken me to severe depression requiring hospital stays. anxiety, OCD all sorts of scary things.

I am in a much more positive place now (thousands of hours talking therapy and trying dozens of medications to get the right combination. Not having any feelings of motivation I always tried to get involved in things to keep occupied. As far as the violin goes, I knew if I didn't have a little bit of teaching where I kind of felt accountable I to would have put the violin in the corner. I haven't been playing long, but I'm happier that I found it.

I made myself go to places for inspiration whether it be meet up groups, forums. Making myself go to places just to expeience some sort of stimulation. Seeing someone playing violin in person can help with connection. 

Unfortunately no two people are the same. It's a tough place to be. I've had quite the journey to find peace and wish you well on yours.

 

Anyway, thank you for your post.     

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Fiddlerman
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April 16, 2015 - 9:28 am
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Thanks for sharing Rob. I believe it's beneficial to talk about it and to share your thoughts. Have you found some fiddle connections in your area?

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Rob C
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April 16, 2015 - 4:42 pm
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Fiddlerman said
Thanks for sharing Rob. I believe it's beneficial to talk about it and to share your thoughts. Have you found some fiddle connections in your area?

Yes, I asked a local violin shop for reccomendations on teachers. They were nice enough to print me a list. I talked to several and met with the one i have now. It's been 4 months so far that I've been playing. I go for 1 hour a week. I don't always feel excited about practicing, but I know I have 7 days to try and make some progress. I feel better when I get to my lesson and I can move to new material.

He had been with the Phoenix symphony at one time and now plays with an Irish group. I've went and listened to them live and it does help pick me up and motivate me.  

I guess what I am getting at is when you get those moments of feeling better, the fact that you got out like it or not makes it all that much better. It doesn't have to cost anything really. People like to play music for others and it can be theraputic for sure. It's the forcing yourself to go part that is the hardest. 

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