My name is Louise Parker. I am a 26-year old singer/songwriter from Essex, U.K., who has played shows all over the world and I struggle with my mental health.
To meet me you would never guess I suffer with stage fright and am crippled with anxiety and self-doubt. Fans and supporters meet ‘Louise Parker, the professional’ who, with years of experience and practice, has learned how to mask these feelings. But they don’t see the shaking mess prior to getting on stage or the low moods between amazing gigs and releases.
There’s no one experience I can pinpoint to blame for when my struggles started, just a collection of tough times that have accumulated, not helped by pursuing a career in music.
During my second year at university, I was involved in a mentally abusive relationship. If anyone has listened to my song ‘Gold’ or seen me perform it live, you will know I talk about this experience as my turning point. I ended the relationship after a year together but the damage had been done. It took me a further year, another year I can never get back, to recover.
As I’ve grown up I have developed this self-deprecating humour; if I’m already laughing at myself no one else can, right? A coping mechanism, because after years of being brought down, a simple joke can still make me feel helpless and isolated. My struggles also stem from my want to be accepted by everyone, no matter how hard I try or how cool I play it.
Being in the music industry taught me to roll with the punches and I knew if I didn’t toughen up I would never make it. I have been told I would ‘need to sleep with a man’ if I wanted to be famous and I should ‘hire a male band’ if I want to book more shows, among many other things and I’m only just scratching the surface of this industry in my career.
Regardless of the issues I have faced and am still facing, I love music, I love performing and I will never give it up without a fight. However, at the end of the day, I put my trousers on the same as you, one leg at a time.
My story is only one of many and it needs to be more widely accepted and spoken about. A new study, published April 30th 2019, showed 73% of independent musicians suffer from symptoms of mental illness (based on a survey of nearly 1,500 people). Music is good for our health, so why are musicians suffering so much? In the wrong hands musicians receive bad advice and are exploited leading to decisions that bring about rejection and failure triggering self-doubt and stress. Did you know scientific evidence shows the “fight or flight” response, which kicks in during high pressure situations, has been linked to the pressure musicians feel when performing a live show? For some, this works in their favour but for others it can lead to long term anxiety about live shows, panic attacks and even memory loss.
My struggles are far from over but accepting that and taking each day as it comes is more productive than shutting myself off from the world and hiding away, although I will admit to giving in to those days sometimes!
My message to you, the people who have taken the time to read this and got this far, is take a deep breath. No, really! Take a deep breath. You got this, and on the days you don’t I will always be here for you.
Links to two leading UK Music and Mental Health Charities: