Thank you so much, everyone for all of your well-thought out responses, that alone has calmed me down and cleared my mind a bit.
QUOTE(violincjj @ May 11 2012, 11:23 PM)
I think that exam pressure for you might be really unhelpful...use the music to help if the test does not?
This could be the case, although I like having the deadline to learn something as I would put it off even more. I managed to get some practice in yesterday in a much better environment and I just belted it out and soaked it up, not thinking about the exam.
QUOTE(anacrusis @ May 11 2012, 11:42 PM)
"There is also often that feeling of overload, isn't there -where it feels like there are a hundred important jobs, and which to do first....? In that situation, I'd let the lot go hang, on the basis that I wasn't going to do any of them that well, and use my music as the ideal procrastination tool,
The issue of dented confidence is also troublesome, I know, but again, when the rest of life is so bleh, you can find yourself shedding that "I must do my best, I must, I will let myself down if I don't....." vicious circle of thought, in return for, "well, what's going to be, will be, and is it really such a big deal?" .
Depression is a condition most get better from - not always forever, and sometimes recovery is frustratingly slow, but the treatments do work.
I might try that, lately I've learned that I can't always get everything done in a day that I want to, so I shouldn't let it bother me, and just go at my own pace. I've always been "over-sensitive" and wished I was more like my brother who could let anything wash off his back. I read recently that this is part of my condition, when I find something upsetting, it's really upsetting, if something is funny, it's really funny. This made so much sense! I feel like I'm recovering (25 years - slowly) and I'm so glad I have acknowledged it and seeked help, that alone seems to have halved my problem.
QUOTE(Tixylix @ May 12 2012, 03:20 AM)
I have bipolar disorder and both the illness and the medication have an effect. Some days I feel like I am dragging myself with all my energy towards the piano and then not getting anything 'productive' done so it feels like there's no point.
When I'm having a bad day I try to find something really easy to play and this can help with the confidence as it makes me feel like I can at least play something even if it isn't whatever the current major project is. Break the exam stuff down into little chunks - for my Grade 8 I did this literally. I photocopied each piece and cut out the bars I was struggling with which I glued onto flashcards, shuffled them up and picked out a couple from my stack each day. It was a lot less intimidating than looking at pages and pages of music sitting in front of me and I got a lot more useful practice done. I've cut new pieces (again photocopied) into strips and put one line at a time on the piano and then built it up, or put a sheet of blank paper over the rest of the page so I can only see the bit I'm working on.
I generally find when I'm practising that it blocks everything else out from my mind, though putting those things aside long enough to actually start can be hard work. 10 minute chunks are better than nothing, part of the problem with depression is black-and-white thinking so it can feel like there's no point in doing something small and doing something big is too overwhelming. I agree with anacrusis that you should find when in the day you have most energy and not try to push yourself to practise when you're tired or losing concentration. I nearly pulled out when I found out my G8 exam was at 9.30am and it took me 5 days before the exam to artifically alter my sleep and meds schedule so I could get there and be in a fit state to play on time, and it completely drained me for about another week. I was over the moon when I passed and didn't care about not getting a merit or distinction because I knew how much effort I'd put in to pull it off.
Depression is treatable, although it definitely doesn't feel like it at the time, and for some people it needs to be managed long-term but it can be done. The side-effects of the medication, particularly tiredness get on my nerves too but if you need them it's because the benefits outweigh the costs - and heaven help anyone who suggests I would somehow miraculously get better if I stopped taking them. (*cough*Mum*uncough*
This sounds EXACTLY like me!! What a great idea about the flashcards and covering up the rest of the music, I must try this.
QUOTE(Misterioso @ May 12 2012, 09:17 AM)
I really feel for you as I suffer from cyclical depression for around 4 months every year.
I would endorse what others say about practising in short bursts: promise yourself that you will do even just 5 minutes, and the chances are once you have begun that you will do more than that. Try to have an aim when you sit down to practise: to just work on 4 bars from a piece that you find tricky (as Tixlix suggests) or some other small aim. When you achieve that, it might actually make you feel more motivated.
I'm so sorry to hear about your recent performing disaster; that kind of thing can be very hard to deal with, but remember that was just one incident, and try to concentrate on other times when you've played / performed well.
I would also endorse what anacrusis says about getting better. It really does happen; but in the meantime, please be kind to yourself! You can only do what you can do, and work for your piano exam does need to be tempered by other things that you enjoy doing.
Thank you so much, I think I aim too high and think that I'll do an hour, but I get so tired I won't do any more that day. I have performed well other times, so I need to remember this.
QUOTE(anacrusis @ May 12 2012, 10:27 AM)
That's the other thing: mental illness and the social stigma, both of the illness itself and of the medication: having made that first huge step of being able to acknowledge the illness to yourself, you're already well placed for recovery. The medication tends to be subject to so much hype and ignorant conclusion-jumping: it does work, it's not a crutch.
Oh - final thought, I came across this quotation some time back: depression is not a sign of weakness, it's a sign of having had to be too strong for too long.
I am so glad I finally decided to do something about it, I was so sick of randomly crying or panicking for no reason, now I am on the road to recovery, and apart from the odd relapse, I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. (Shall I use a few more metaphors there??
QUOTE(limh @ May 12 2012, 11:18 AM)
So much good sense in one thread. Depression seems to me very personal, surprisingly common, and utterly horrible (that was how I felt about it a few years back anyway). But it is "just" an illness, not a reflection on your personality or value as a human, and in some ways it's not desperately different to appendicitis or a broken leg: it doesn't last for ever (honestly!), but both it and the treatment do make it impossible to live and work at the normal flat-out rate while they're going on. You are so sensible to accept that the medication is affecting you. We have to work with what we have, and if 10 minutes practice is all that works, I think you're doing pretty wonderfully to identify that fact, and go with it. I just thought I should carry on as normal, and got myself more and more messed up.
Another thing I realise now: many of us work in fairly pressurised environments where achievement matters, and tend to let that demand escape into the rest of our lives. I don't know whether you're a professional musician or whether it's "just" a strong passion or interest? Good luck with your exam, but if you decide at the last minute you're not feeling up to it, or if you don't do as well as you'd like, please don't feel you're letting anyone down, and please keep playing. I'm sure you will - you sound too level-headed. Easy to say, hard to do. I still struggle to get the balance right between desire to aim high and achieve, versus the need to accept myself at the level I am, and realise that not being the best all the time doesn't actually matter. I shouldn't write this on an abrsm site, but exams really are very much a double-edged sword: a hurdle can encourage me to leap to new heights, but when I hit a hurdle at a bad time in life, it can just encourage me to stop in my tracks and stay on the wrong side of it (but that's a very personal view of mine and not one that necessarily fits anyone else on this site!). Good luck, anyway, anyone reading this thread and dealing with depression and difficulties in life.
This response nearly made me cry! I am only approaching grade 8, but teach beginners, I feel I really need these next few qualifications to progress as a teacher as well as for myself as a pianist. So I think I'm putting pressure on myself, thinking I need to get through it as soon as possible.
I used to wonder why people got so worked up about music exams, no one is forcing them to do it. It is overwhelming though, all that work over a year or two is boiled down to about 20 minutes! I think I shall read this thread over and over again until it is engraved on my brain.
QUOTE(pianophrase @ May 12 2012, 04:11 PM)
Having cared for someone with this condition and gone through 3 periods of extreme crisis with them, I realize how it takes over evey waking moment of your life.
Hope you have people in your life who love and care for you and can just be there when you need them.
Thank you, it's nice to have an outside view that isn't "just snap out of it"
My family are the best, that's for sure!
QUOTE(katemorrisviolin @ May 12 2012, 06:18 PM)
Thankyou OP for starting this thread. I suffered horrendous anxiety disorder a few years ago which had built up slowly over several years, probably rooted originally in undiagnosed mild postnatal depression, and eventually ended up on medication, having to leave my job and unable to talk to my loved ones or face any social situation, I completely isolated myself. My music practice became obsessive and another way of avoiding social interaction, an excuse to shut myself away and avoid facing real life. I'm well now, having learnt over the years how to manage myself if it creeps back in, but always practice with a clock in full view, and force myself to stop after an hour if others are in the house. I don't know whether music practice helped or hindered my recovery. It less unhealthy than drink or drugs anyway.
artstar I have no answer to your problem, but suggest you try enjoying some listening/music appreciation if you can't face practicing. Exhaustion is a symptom of depression, and anxiety is absolutely exhausting too.
This is definitely true, nervous exhaustion is the cause of it all, but then I feel lazy for having to sleep so much! I've now learned you have to rest, or it just gets worse. So ###### to what anyone else thinks, I know I'm not lazy. (Plus it then makes me do all the housework till 11 o'clock at night?!)
QUOTE(corenfa @ May 12 2012, 06:51 PM)
I think that music has saved me from becoming depressed -
I did have to be conscious of not practising when I wasn't in the mood, rather just playing music. I was prone to frustrating myself if I tried to practise when already stressed about other things, however I am lucky that music is just a pastime. I do not take exams and my living does not depend upon it.
I don't know why playing music helped - I didn't want to talk to anyone about the work nonsense but I did spend hours just playing the piano to myself and expressing what I could. It wasn't even always pounding the keyboard (quite physical) or playing sad stuff, just playing *anything* at all seemed to help, emotionally.
All the best to the OP and others dealing with this. I know it takes a while to recover.
I used to be like this when I was little, I would wake up about 6am and play my keyboard then after school, play into the evening. Now I look at my piano and think, 'Eurgh what shall I start with?!' I decided to look back at my grade 6 pieces as I did really well in this exam, and I think I might need to accept this is just my comfortable level of playing and that's that.
Thank you again to everyone who has posted. It just shows how common this is and I'm so glad I spoke up now.