This happens now and then in the life of every freelance musician.
Someone will reach out to you in person or via your social media. You connect, communicate and it comes out they want to hire you to play (or teach, or whatever). Planning discussions begin, some quite involved; and everything seems super-great.
Then, suddenly, there's a note that says they're sorry but the funding fell through and now they can't bring you to their venue. Thanks anyway, cheers.
And that's that.
Before I continue, let me say that in the end this is not about losing the gig.
It's about how different people handle everyday disappointments.
For someone who has a normal brain chemistry, they're disappointed, they're bummed out.
By tomorrow, they'll be fine, back on the trail in pursuit of more opportunities to create and perform.
For someone whose brain chemistry is awry -- because of depression, for example -- this loss can take on proportions that are out of proportion to the reality of the situation at hand.
I decided to come clean about this because living out loud is my life's work and this is part of my life.
So let's be clear: I live with depression.
I have lived with it probably since childhood. There is no clear, single reason for this, though there are lots of guesses that include everything from peer abuse and parental mistakes to inherited trauma in the DNA of my family, my ancestry and who knows how far back this all goes.
I live with depression and it makes things hard sometimes. At the very least, it makes things very interesting, more than sometimes.
I decided some time ago that I would not treat my depression like a hair shirt, or like a dark family secret (though it seems a LOT of my relatives have also lived with it, none of us keeps a portrait locked in a room upstairs, as far as I know).
I would be as honest about depression as I am about breaking my collarbone. Both hurt. Both have kept me down and incapacitated. Both have been treatable; the collarbone with immobilization and rest, depression with medication and counseling.
Neither can be cured to the point where I'm good as new.
My collarbone healed slightly unevenly, and if I were to wear a tank top the difference in height and length between my two collarbones would be visible. The depression I live with has, as yet, no known cure. it has up and downs and I have to use the tools available to learn how to better roll with them -- and when to ask for help when I cannot.
Depression is not a character flaw.
It is not a sign of laziness, malice or demonic possession.
It's caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. It can be connected to hormonal shifts in women. It can often be inherited. And it can be lived with as long as it's not shoved under the table and denied.
Some days my brain chemistry goes wonky and I find myself utterly exhausted, unable to do much at all.
Other days it recedes to the background as a dull hum, quiet enough that I can function quite well, but never completely totally gone for long.
Depression often appears in conjunction with other medical issues, especially of the auto-immune type (lupus, Crohn's, ulcerative colitis and more) because chemical issues are systemic in nature.
The medication I take helps me manage the the worst extremes of depression on a chemical level.
Counseling helps me to learn how to tell when the depression is talking instead of me, and how to avoid overreacting when something annoying pops up unexpectedly. Like losing this gig, for example.
At first, the bottom fell out of my stomach. That's still a standard gut response for me, learned over a lifetime.
I sat with that feeling and felt it, and named it without trying to judge it in any way (a counseling-acquired technique that takes practice to become regular).
Then, I thought about how bad it really was, or wasn't. I put the event into perspective.
Sure, I'd miss the income, and being canceled is always a bummer. But it doesn't happen often.
And when something like this happens, I know well enough to know that it's not about me, or caused by something I did or said. (And if it is about me, I hope the booking agent will be honest with me; but s/he's not, there's nothing I can really do about that.)
So in the end, it's just a bummer, and not an utter catastrophe.
I've come a very long way from when every unexpected disappointment was a catastrophe and the bottom fell out of my stomach all the time, every time.
I was probably living with depression as a child. But it was not properly diagnosed until later in adulthood. We know a lot more about depression now than we used to, and that means people can seek help and treatment sooner so they can live with it more functionally (and even happily!) than was possible before.
That's why I've decided to be up front about it.
I live with depression.
So do a lot of other people, including some you probably know.
It doesn't make them scary -- just differently-wired.
If and when they're ready to talk about it with you, they will.
Until then, don't press. Just be present.
Be a good friend or family member by simply being there and loving them as you already do.
Having loved ones in my life has made all the difference, and continues to do so today.
If you or someone you care about seems to be struggling, there is help available.
Talk to your doctor. Life does not have to be one massively endless downer!
And if the depression is serious enough to make you or your loved think they'd be better off dead, call the:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Available 24 hours everyday
-- because this isn't anything to fart around with.
I may write a song about depression someday.
Or I may not, since all of my stuff -- good, bad and in-between -- already comes through in much of my songwriting.
Thanks for supporting me and my music, and thanks for taking the time to read this.