Dealing with mid-FAWM burnout / depression?

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  • @mikedebenham  Mar 8

    I noticed a lot of depression around this year, both in terms of songs discussing it and FAWMers dealing with it. One of my FAWM buddies outright declared they were dropping out due to crippling depression. It's got me wondering about all the others who drop out mid-FAWM without a word. Sure, a lot of the time it's just life getting in the way, but some may be in a bad place.

    Anyway, I've been thinking about what we can do to make things easier. I love FAWM, but in many ways it's a pretty extreme thing to do to yourself, and a lot of common FAWM behaviour can create risks for those dealing with mental health issues. We sleep and exercise less, maybe eat poorly. We cut down our social activity to focus on songwriting. If you fall behind on your songwriting or get little response to your songs you can feel down on yourself. And if you do start having problems, February's probably the worst time for it - FAWM can be a lonely place, with everyone else too busy to notice or guess that you've fallen in a hole.

    If you've struggled with depression during FAWM, are there aspects of FAWM that made it worse (or better)? What can other FAWMers do to help? Or maybe broaden this beyond depression - if you've been too demoralised to finish FAWM, what helped/hindered? What coping techniques have you learned? Are there any changes here you'd like to see?

  • @mikedebenham  Mar 8

    Some interesting stuff in this thread @frenchcricket started:

  • @leomozi  Mar 8

    Thanks for starting this thread, @mikedebenham.

    One helpful thing I did was integrate songwriting into exercise. I came up with several of the melodies and lyrics in my FAWM songs while running.

    The amount of sleep I’ve lost this year was detrimental, though. I was dozing off during my workday pretty much daily. I struggle very hard trying to find time for music in my day without compromising sleep, which is not good for anyone. I don’t know the answer to the time problem.

  • @pearlmanhattan  Mar 8

    This year, I scheduled time for fawm into my day, as well as my self care. When time was up, the song was posted. I also reached out to friends for support. In past FAWMs, I put too much pressure on myself for quantity and quality, as well add others opinions (mostly assumed, doggone negative self talk) my daughter wrote three songs for fawm ...and was very content in that.

    I don't think we had more depression, I think more people are speaking up, reaching out, and expressing themselves in what is (to me, at least) a very safe environment. I'm sorry your friend dropped out, however, if it is not fun, (any activity), then that time is better spent somewhere that is positive. Hugs to all who experience depression, mood disorders, and mental heath issues. Therapy is helping me.

  • @tcelliott  Mar 8

    Being a part of FAWMTalk helped me immensely. Interacting with other Fawmers gave me a social aspect that I'd not realized I liked. I especially loved the shows with guests. I hope that the live chatters and those who listened to the recordings after the live stream felt similarly.

  • @nancyrost  Mar 8

    When I've been in slumps, I've found the collaborative games and challenges help me lighten up and feel connected to fellow fawmers.

    I'll be thinking about how we can update the FAQ to incorporate some of FAWM's semi-unofficial social/creative supports. Please keep them coming, with links when possible.

  • @sw1n3flu  Mar 8

    @tcelliott totally, you know I’m a FAWMtalk fan 😀

  • @leomozi  Mar 8

    @pearlmanhattan, I think you’re right. There’s been a successful effort to reduce some of the stigma around mental health and get people talking about it in society as a whole, and that’s felt here in FAWM too.

  • @donna  Mar 8

    @leomozi I agree. I've always been a 'put on a happy face' kind of person, though in fact I've battled depression all my life (though few of my friends know). But from the time I joined FAWM and 50-90 (10/11 years ago), it's become easier to express myself in lyrics and to 'own' my personal feelings, though I have to say - in this FAWM, in a few of the lyrics I've really bared my soul. One reaches a certain point. 😉

  • @ustaknow Mar 8

    I agree with what folks say in general. And in general it is, or can be a safe environment - but only if it's worked at. Otherwise, we can do better?

    However, when someone brings up a point they'd like to inject concerning how things are going, now, I can actually pretty much time who and when a contrarian "argument" will be injected and then dissected as I have a write to comment my opinion too - which is true. However, how is it so predictable as to what I often see is coming? Same people in the center of "it"?

    In "group formation", what this is - it takes very little, as folks not new here have seen, that can send things sideways. I think the value of FAWM and not our indeed "right" to express our opinion has to be weighed as to the value "here". There are unlimited venues to express our opinions.

    I've gotten these knee jerk "wtf" responses as anyone who reads what I write knows I comment, to the point that I - FIRST track down whatever other links the FAWMer provides to see who, what, where, why and how they are and THEN comment 😝 indeed. I'm a bit surprised what I find, and always glad I checked, then risked the new to me FAWMer comment.

    On the other hand this year I did see more of, "hey I don't agree with your politics, but do love your work", - that's someone who values FAWM above us all knowing exactly what they "think" every minute of the day (not why I am here).

    I know from conversations I've had, some feel offended and provoked but, due to the blanket "this is the safest, most friendly..." indeed it is! So they just stop.

    My Watch-list this year, I had to clear out; so many have not returned since I've joined. One, who monitored their profile it seems 😀 - well, someone was able to post something negative and got a reaction from - one not here 😀 and 0 tracks... that's talented 😀 passive aggressive stuff if seeing it right?

    So I speak up like here now - asked, answered.

    The wonderful thing about opinions, they're opinions so can't be wrong? 😝

  • @leomozi  Mar 8

    @ustaknow, good insight about needing to consider the value of a comment before posting it. I try— and fail often— not to post comments that express my thoughts but don’t add to the conversation.

    As for your politics, you seem hard to box in so I’ve not commented on some of your intriguing lyrics because I can’t tell how much we agree and disagree. 😆

  • @darcistrutt  Mar 9

    I had a hard February from a mental health perspective. My biggest aide was my adult son who decided to come and let me create music for a couple hours each Tuesday. My hubby has Alzheimer’s and I’m struggling as I attempt to balance life. FAWMily has been supportive and comments were comforting. It’s hard because I’m an overwhelming extrovert and now mostly home bound. This virtual world helps me more than I can say!

  • @darcistrutt  Mar 9

    P.S. I am sad February is over...

  • @guatecoop  Mar 9

    Ok, I know that this may be taking a bit of a risk, but I think that it is worthwhile..... fawm is an activity that is creative, collaborative (if chosen), and chosen by oneself. It can be supportive and mostly is. It is comprised of creative and curious types. There are some who have shared their struggles and many who have related. However, I find the forums to be getting dangerously close to risky. I have noticed a slight trend about sharing about and seeking help for more serious mental health issues. This is not a mental health support group. It is not moderated by mental health professionals. There is a real risk of someone acting out in a self-injurious way or worse because they did not seek the proper avenues or use a safety plan. What responsibility would those here have or feel for these consequences? Did they not say the right thing? Did they not say enough? This is a supportive and caring group of people, but it is not sufficient for more serious mental

  • @guatecoop  Mar 9

    issues. I almost think that we need to have a statement about seeking real mental health assistance if it is needed, rather than posting here about cutting and suicidal ideation (and the like). Those are too serious for this place, regardless of each person’s good intentions. There. I said what I’ve been thinking for a month and a half. I hope that you hear my concern. Btw, I’ve worked in mental health for more than 20 years, so it is an important topic for me that I don’t mention much around here.

  • @pearlmanhattan  Mar 9

    @guatecoop I do appreciate that most label their songs and forum posts well enough that I can avoid those things that trouble me, but I do feel that some language and subjects (specifically: self harm, suicide ideation, criminal activity, derogatory and hate speech, etc) don't belong here in FAWM, but, it's a fine line that requires manpower to enforce it as well as someone to define where the line is. Thank you for speaking up.

  • @mikedebenham  Mar 9

    @guatecoop I hear what you're saying. I haven't really followed the forums this year, so I'm sorry if I'm continuing a bad trend with this thread. I'd hope it's a given that people are seeking proper help, and anything here is just about making FAWM easier. But you're right, it's probably not a given, and opening up FAWM as a place to talk about these things may encourage people to use it as a substitute. I do think that destigmatising and being more open about mental health is generally a positive step, but you make a good point about the risks. I need to think about that. Thanks.

    But yeah, absolutely, FAWM isn't your doctor. Seek professional help if you need it.

  • @leomozi  Mar 9

    @guatecoop, thank you for voicing those concerns, especially since you bring professional experience. I regret that I’ve overshared a few times, and I really hope I didn’t say anything that had a negative effect. I’ll be more careful from now on. Unmoderated group therapy on a songwriting website is probably not the best supplement to professional care.

  • @leomozi  Mar 9

    To clarify: by “unmoderated” I mean not facilitated by a mental health professional. The website mods do a great job here. 😀

  • @wobbiewobbit  Mar 9

    @guatecoop thank you for your post. I am very squeamish about this stuff and whilst openness could be a good thing I have felt a bit of pressure to "come out" which I don't want to do here but suffice to say I have a lot of MH problems that FAWM is a safe haven away from. (I should say that the pressure is my own doing, not that people are being pressurizing but still it makes me feel I should speak up and confess). I agree with you that it is triggering and even in this post I feel like I may have said too much, I suppose the likes of Stephen Fry and Robin Williams and Spike Milligan have shown that MH problems aren't exclusive to humour but I feel a sense of them not "fitting" together and I want to nurture a side of myself that doesn't present those difficulties, while maintaining my genuineness of course. So despite my squeamishness and the paradox of feeling this in itself is a coming out, I wanted to back up what you said, especially as it is with your professional experience. I probably wouldn't have posted this back when the forums were more busy. (note to self: Cor bloody blimey mate, just right a funny song will ya.;) )

  • @timfatchen  Mar 9

    No, I'm not coming out either. But be it said, there are usually serious and often unhappy spurs to creativity--ignore popular music where it's the rule and just read a few Lives of the great composers and their personal demons where it is also the rule!--and what needs to count here is the creativity and nurturing of the creativity. I have always been more concerned with encouragement to songwriting/composition than with what is driving the compulsion to create (and it will be a compulsion of sorts). Especially given the course of my own disastrous musical career.. What is truly great about FAWM is the nurturing of songwriting, including the encouragement of raw beginners who might be gor-blimey now, in their first steps, but sublime in their eventual output. Sympathy and virtual hugs for those in stress (which, I would be willing to bet, is the majority of us) by all means, but the encouragement of >songwriting< is why people come here.

  • @donna  Mar 9

    @timfatchen Precisely! The creativity, inspiration, and charming zaniness of FAWM (and 50-90) have helped me to - so to speak - 'leap over my own shadow' more than any other factor I can think of over the past decade. (Other than spending time in Nature, of course. 😉 )

  • @guatecoop  Mar 9

    And just to piggyback on what others have said, I would hate to see someone misunderstanding that any part of fawm is a therapeutic environment by design. It can be and most often is very healthy. Fawm is a challenge and pushes many of us to the edges of our time, sleep, ability, responsibility, and such. All of these can be triggering on their own. Even more, those who are creative types often struggle with mental, emotional, and social challenges disproportionately to the general public. None of us want to have someone hurt themselves because they came here for help, rather than going to a case manager, therapist, or the like. Fawm should never be on someone’s safety plan.
    I think what I may do is to put a post up next year that is like what I have on the bottom of my email (because email is also inadequate for crisis) that says where to go if you are experiencing a crisis or emergency. We will always be supportive and some have even revealed their own struggles in

  • @guatecoop  Mar 9

    an effort to highlight progress or be supportive to others. I hope this continues and am sure that it will. Cheers to everyone here. I appreciate you.

  • @audrey  Mar 9

    Well said @timfatchen ! I wanted to say something here in that same vein, but couldn't find the words. I'd like to add that I think the very act of creating a song, itself, may be healing to a certain degree. I'm guessing that many of us have been pleasantly surprised and maybe even amazed at what we've been able to create here. I don't know about other FAWMers, but I personally find it fulfilling. FAWM is not a replacement for professional therapy, but I can't help but think that the feeling of accomplishment we get here may strengthen us to help us get through whatever life is throwing at us at the moment.

  • @berni1954  Mar 9

    While I appreciate the very serious concerns expressed here, I do feel that allowing any form of censorship into the mix would kill FAWM stone dead. Artists by their very nature are iconoclasts and placing limits on what they can say so as not to upset or offend anyone would drive hundreds away. I know I won't be a part of a community that places limits on artistic freedom.

  • @guatecoop  Mar 9

    @berni1954 no one is suggesting censorship. Music is a great outlet. That is so important. It is a crucial part of many people’s self-care. There is a line of safety that I don’t want anyone to cross....when components of a self-care plan is insufficient for the state of mind and functioning. At that point, other measures are necessary. Censorship no. Safety yes. Encouraging each other to take the appropriate measures for the situation....yes.

  • @pearlmanhattan  Mar 9

    ...i'm not suggesting censoring anything, I feel I need to clarify. I, personally, have to avoid quite a bit of subjects because of my mental heath. Sometimes it's difficult for me because it's like tiptoeing through a minefield. I simply ask fawmers to tag their songs adequately so I can keep myself safe. Also, adding a list of local and international help and support numbers could be helpful.

  • @berni1954  Mar 9

    @guatecoop What sparked my concern was Pearlmanhatten's "I do feel that some language and subjects ..... don't belong here in FAWM,"

    Language? Does that mean naughty words? Shock horror? 😈

  • @pearlmanhattan  Mar 9

    @berni1954 , language of self harm, songs detailing self harm, harming others, derogatory language that is harmful. That is the language I'm talking about, and as I said above, ...i'm not asking for censorship, but to me, i have to be careful what things i allow into my head. It is better for me if people label their songs and posts in the tags with the subject line so I know to avoid them. That is part of my self care. I am a huge supporter of freedom of speech here, however, i do not choose to appreciate songs and posts that talk about self harm, or harming others, or domestic violence situations or political rants. That's the language I was referring to. Hope I've cleared up my stance. Again, i don't want external censorship, I see that as requiring too many man hours, and someone would have to decide what was inappropriate, and that varies by individual... it's not an option for fawm.

  • @guatecoop  Mar 9

    Yeah I hear you...there was someone a few years back who did pornographic (and was tagged by the creator as such) music and lyrics so I just steered clear of it because I don’t like to fill my brain with things that I don’t want in there. So, I didn’t listen or comment. Another topic that I steer clear of is violence because I have had too much experience with it. Those give me thoughts and feelings that I don’t want any more of. Others may find them perfectly fine, so that is perfectly fine for them to listen and comment about.

  • @pearlmanhattan  Mar 9

    @guatecoop. yes, what you said. Thank you!

  • @berni1954  Mar 9

    @pearlmanhatten Glad you cleared that up. I also think that rule should apply to everyone. If you are feeling offended then switch off or switch channels.

    I am no fan of violent movies, but I have to accept that some people get off on them. I prefer gentle movies in which you care for the protagonists and their predicament. However, I would never advocate banning something just because I am upset by it (with the exception of fascist and racist propaganda, of course. Nobody's perfect 😈 ).

  • @pearlmanhattan  Mar 9

    @berni1954 from what you've just said, we are of similar positions here. Sorry if my post was unclear. Banning things is never an option. I was busy agreeing that FAWM wasn't a self help or counselling site, but a songwriting challenge. Censorship stifles creativity. I do believe we need to provide links to appropriate resources who can better help those experiencing crisis, while we're support each other deeply and wonderfully, sometimes one needs a qualified professional for help. Thanks for the dialogue and for asking me to clarify. Discussion is always positive. 😁

  • @zecoop  Mar 9

    @berni1954 - I think it's important to note the difference between the FAWMer who makes things that are offensive to some (no issue) and the FAWMer that either shoves that material in front of people to try to cause issues or hurls derogatory language at other FAWMers (absolutely big issues and should be taken care of by an admin). Both have happened here

  • @johnstaples  Mar 9

    @guatecoop makes excellent points. As do you all!

    FAWM is not a "safe" place per se nor is it a place to get help for mental health issues. Whenever I see a post where someone expresses their issues and gets several well-intentioned "we're here for you" responses I worry whether the OP is just sharing with a supportive group or crying out for help. If the former, fine. But if the latter, please seek professional help and/or contact emergency services immediately if need be!

    FAWM is a songwriting challenge that became a community. So I understand the desire to make it as accommodating as possible. But I especially agree with those who have said there should not be censorship. I have written songs about suicide, murder and the untimely death of a child. I have read even darker lyrics here that made me cringe. Everyone needs to know their limits as much as possible and learn to turn away from those topics that are upsetting to them. And I don't see additional song labeling/tagging as practical or even desirable. We already have automatic NSFW that covers curse words but should every sad song get that tag? I would say no. Furthermore, with art like ours, adding additional tags can "spoil the ending". If a grandmother passes away in my song should I tag it grandma-dies? That might be helpful to some who just lost their grandmother but I think it gets way too complicated.

    I guess I am saying I don't think FAWM needs to change. We are an artistic community but also an incredibly diverse community. And I have never belonged to a community online that is generally as caring and considerate as FAWM!

  • @pearlmanhattan  Mar 9

    @zecoop yes, I agree, and I'd like to thank the admins and mods for their hard work this year. I feel it's been a relatively calm year compared to previous years ...i've seen, and I appreciate the work that has gone into that.

  • @lemonstar Mar 9

    In "evolutionary biology" - there is an idea that there might be an evolutionary advantage to depression otherwise, why haven't we evolved to overcome it? The wiki page covers a lot of ideas
    I first heard of this in a study on a BBC Radio 4 broadcast - it must be more than 5-6 years ago - where a study comparing two groups of people that had been identified as suffering with severe and mild depression respectively. I will have a look for a link to this. The study, that followed over a decent period of time, concluded that those that experienced severe depression were more likely (that those with mild depression) to have made positive and practical changes to their outlook and life that had resulted in some alleviation of their problems - those in the mild depression group seemed to be more "stuck" in life - some support, perhaps, for the idea that there was an advantage to severe depre

  • @lemonstar Mar 9

    This seems to be covered by point 4 on the wiki page:-
    "Analytical rumination hypothesis"

  • @pearlmanhattan  Mar 9

    @johnstaples I agree with you completely. I was saying that for me, I appreciate general descriptive tags, and those who use them. While I don't expect descriptive tags, surprise endings to the negative aren't good for me, so some sort of head's up would ne helpful to me, but it's a voluntary thing, not a change I wish to implement. Also, it hinders my listening a bit, as I have to avoid a lot of writers in my personal self care.

  • @quork  Mar 9

    I appreciate the empathy and compassion FAWMers repeatedly demonstrate on here, as demonstrated by this thread. As Billy Joel said, I love you just the way you are.

  • @johnstaples  Mar 9

    @pearlmanhattan, yes I agree! There are a few folks here who I tend to avoid because their work generally gets too close to the edge for me. Then I end up feeling a bit guilty for avoiding them. ,':(

  • @darcistrutt  Mar 9

    Interesting turn this thread took. It’s made me more thoughtful about how I’ll tag in the future. My creations can funny or serious, children-friendly or borderline naughty. Tagging a bit more would let potential listeners know what they are opening.

  • @lemonstar Mar 9

    I agree @darcistrutt - thanks @mikedebenham it's been a reminder to me that with a little forethought I may be able to give more weight to the potential impact something I might say or do or write about might have on certain people in a susceptible state. I was more aware of thinking around the issues of triggering when my daughter was at her worst with anorexia - until you have lived with and really "supported" someone (whatever that really means!) with a mental health issue like anorexia(as one instance of many) - it's difficult to really embrace the idea of situations or thoughts about certain issues being "triggering" - I'm impressed with sensitivity that this community handles so many issues - this year the issue of personal pronouns seems to have been embraced effortlessly - that's heartening.

  • @leomozi  Mar 10

    @johnstaples, I agree with you on not wanting to spoil the ending. I wrote a narrative song that ended in a murder this year— it surprised me and I wanted it to surprise others too.

  • @judypie  Mar 10

    Interesting thread Mike! I find it hard to say whether Fawm has helped or hindered my mental state and would probably surmise that it has done both at varying stages of its run! I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds it somewhat of a rollercoaster. I am always hit by the initial boost of excitement at the thought of leaving the world’s distractions behind and doing nothing but music but I think (inevitably) this took its toll and I just ultimately missed being outdoors with the elements because I definitely remember slipping into a slightly darker space than normal mid-Fawm. Always miss my partner terribly too since we pretty much lock ourselves away in our rooms as soon as we get home from work! I can’t see any changes that Fawm could do to help me avoid the slump, I guess self-regulating is what’s needed but goddamn it’s so hard trying to keep up with the challenge and do normal life too... Maybe they should change it to 7 songs in 28 days..? Japes, I am not condoning..

  • @judypie  Mar 10

    that 😝
    I too became aware of the chats on here that were very personal and I did think it was an odd forum to ask for help but having said that, I would never want to discourage anyone from asking for help so I don’t know, I don’t wanna see any censorship or anything change really, I think I can just accept Feb is always gonna be an at-times tricky month for me, but always ultimately worth it with the sense of accomplishment and joy over interacting with fellow fawmsters. At least we picked the shortest month for it right!

  • @timfatchen  Mar 10

    "accept Feb is always gonna be an at-times tricky month "!!!! That can be taken as wise advice in a nutshell.

  • @mikedebenham  Mar 12

    Thanks for sharing, everyone, and apologies to anyone this thread made uncomfortable. I know it can be tricky to talk about these things. I've only had a minor brush with depression myself (which is plenty, thanks) but I have close friends who've spent a decent amount of time there. They find it helpful to be open about it, but one-on-one is a different dynamic to an internet community. And I can sympathise with those here who prefer to keep their FAWM free of all that. (I mean, I'm basically just here to make songs and dumb jokes.) There's probably always going to be a slightly awkward balance between those who find it helpful to sort through their experiences in song and those who want FAWM to be a holiday from that stuff, but the old FAWM ethos of being supportive and respectful seems to make it work.

    Anyway, thanks for your insights and best wishes to all of you.

  • @mikedebenham  Mar 12

    @pearlmanhattan Thanks for reminding me about tagging content. I can get a bit lazy about that. I remember someone last year or the year before arguing against putting warnings in the genre tags, saying it made browsing the song list troublesome, so I don't know what the best compromise is there. Maybe a generic 'Content Warning' at the start of the liner notes?

    I tend to slap a NSFW label on a song if it deals with things I feel those in a vulnerable frame of mind might want to avoid. It does lump them in with songs that just have a bit of cheerful swearing, but maybe that's useful shorthand for 'approach with caution'.

  • @sunnymae  Mar 12

    I appreciate this thread and having healthy dialogue. We could be talking about all kinds of illness or dire situations on any of these forums. I think our prime directive should always be for the care and concern of everyone's well being. Perhaps a simple mission statement about all being welcome to share freely along with an advisory to seek professional help if one is in crisis, would be compassionate and wise. I really appreciate the communication on this board.

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