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How Classical Music Helps Me Cope with Depression

“Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can’t take it, and my heart is just going to cave in.” Ricky Fitts’ declaration in American Beauty resonated so deeply with me — I almost fell out of my chair. I feel Ricky’s “breed” of overwhelmed during any number of moments. Maybe I’m on a hike and spot moss collecting on a fallen tree. But it doesn’t have to be so poetic. Maybe I’m sitting in my apartment with a group of friends, still talking at one in the morning. Maybe I watch an act of empathy on the Diag. These random, beautiful incidents just strike me.

This also means that I am overwhelmed by sadness during any number of moments. I’m generally bad at balancing things, but this is a whole different animal. It’s something that sits deep in my hindbrain which I just can’t control. And it is what it is – I’m sure many other people are blessed/cursed with an emotionally-charged mind. For me, it has been a source of great joy and has also played a role in my depression.

I don’t know how long my depression has been hanging around, but I finally reached out about it during my junior year of high school. And then I started therapy and got a prescription from a psychiatrist. However, one of the things that medication can’t give you and that therapy can’t teach you is resourcefulness. It’s just something that I eventually came to understand as necessary. Something that I needed to cultivate on my own in order to cope with my mental illness. That meant exploring different avenues through which to release my energy or my distress — finding ways to displace my irrational sadness.

Classical music has provided one such outlet for me. I’ve been playing piano since I was five. At the beginning, I hated it. My mom did me a real solid by pushing me to stick with it – after gaining a familiarity with sight-reading, I grew to love playing.

I’m the type of person who sways manically on the piano bench. I reach some impossible angles with my body while I’m playing. I just get incredibly into the music and become overwhelmed by the beauty to the same degree as Ricky Fitts. Composers like Chopin have left me with some incredible fodder for the keys (thanks guys). It’s often hard to express my emotions through words, but the piano allows me to throw everything out into the universe.

The same thing goes with listening to classical music. I don’t have much time to sit down and really appreciate symphonies, but I tend to study with classical music in the background. Recently, my friend caught me swaying around while I was working through genetics homework. I know that I tend to shake my head and sweep my body while my headphones are in, it was just funny to hear it from an outside source – to have this habit noticed. I didn’t stop. I can’t help it; I just need to project my emotions somewhere outside of me.

I’m lucky to have found such an effective coping mechanism, and a natural one at that. It has always been a part of my life, I’ve just learned to use classical music in a practical way to promote my personal well-being. And, for that, I am grateful to myself.

Classical Recommendations (in no particular order):

  1. Fantasie-Impromptu in C Sharp Minor, Op.66 (Chopin)

  2. Ständchen (Liszt)

  3. Canzone Africana IV (Einaudi)

  4. Symphonie fantastique, Op.14: I. Rêveries- Passions (Berlioz)

  5. Piano Concerto No.2 in C Minor, Op.18: I. Moderato (Rachmaninov)

  6. Piano Concerto in F Minor, Op.21 (Chopin)

  7. Melodia Africana III (Einaudi)

  8. Liebesträume No.3 (Liszt)

  9. Prelude in C-Sharp Minor, Op.3 No.2 (Rachmaninov)

  10. Waterways (Einaudi)

 

Images courtesy of Daily Mail and visitfranklin.com. 

Lauren is a spiritual, sarcastic science-geek from just outside of Philadelphia, PA. She studies cellular & molecular biology with a minor in writing at the University of Michigan. She's been labeled an "old soul" but can also demonstrate a lack of adult-like qualities. When she's not furiously taking notes in a lecture hall or blogging, you might find her practicing yoga, being unproductive with her roommates, reading, drawing, or meditating. Or watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer with a big bag of popcorn in her lap. Or looking at pictures of her dogs and wishing that her parents would ship them to Ann Arbor.
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