Before reading ahead, if anyone is in a low point with their mental health struggles and could be easily triggered, please, save this article for brighter day. And as always, if you need resources, please check out the SEEK HELP tab of our website.
I am 23 years old (24 a few days from publishing this) and I am the president and founder of the Mind Over Music Movement. In the six year journey I've had with my own personal mental health, I have experienced some of the highest highs, as well as some of the lowest lows, as cliche as it is to say. Though I am not shy about sharing at our events, I felt it was finally time to join all of the other brave #IAmNotMyLabel writers and share my story for the world to read.
My personal journey can be traced back to 2007. I was a week out from starting my freshman year of highschool when I was in a horrible car accident. (Ironically enough, the first time I was allowed to ride with a driver who WASN'T a parent, and subsequently the last time for a while) The car rolled multiple times, and I received a double concussion as well as tissue damage to the right side of my brain. I can vividly remember laying in the grass next to the car, as the other passengers checked on one another, and as an ambulance pulled up, I remember thinking this was where my life ends, and it never got the chance to start. I was told there was no feasible way I should've survived that night. Recovery was a long road, but I bounced back.
Fast forward to 2011 and I am going into my senior year of highschool. I had a pretty comfortable highschool existence up until that point. I was fairly well known (arguably popular), I had quite a few quality friends and some who were not as quality, as well as a pretty awesome relationship with who at the time, was the first real love of my life. I had seldom dealt with depression up until that point, which I wrote off as teenage angst. Growing up in a rural area makes for little to no discussion about mental health. As my year progressed I started to notice things were not right. I didn't know what words to put to it, but there were days that felt as if 50LB weights were tied to both arms and legs. Getting out of bed was excruciating and I began to lose drive to maintain myself. I slowly started experiencing auditory hallucinations, or in simple terms, hearing things. It was nothing more than a voice calling my name. I could be at home completely alone, wandering from room to room looking for this unrecognizable voice calling for me. As time progressed without mentioning this to anyone, or seeking help, so to did the hallucinations progress. I began to hear things like "hurt others", or "hurt yourself." I can't really describe the feeling of standing behind someone you love helping them hang artwork with a hammer, and shaking as you hear voices yelling in your ear to attack them. The closest imagery I can use is that it feels like a bomb inside of you. No one knows its there. There is no timer and there is no detonator. One day it will go off and you know that, so you push away every single person that you love. You make sure they're far away from you so that you don't hurt them. And so I did.
I spent the years following highschool berating the people around me, desperately isolating myself. I lost friends, loved ones, relationships, and eventually myself. After being pleaded with to seek help via therapy and medication, someone finally was able to put words to the afflictions I had been feeling. Again, growing up knowing that hearing voices is considered "crazy", suicidal thoughts are considered "weak", and depression is just "being sad" this was the first time I had spoken out. And it was by far the most liberating experience of my life. I learned there were communities of people going through the same things, and while it was such a morbid thought, I felt safe because of it.
I continued to have my good times and bads as usual, but this time, I was equipped to make it through the bad. I hit a record low point in 2015, at which point my boss at the time, Jennifer Hennessey, pulled me aside at work and gave me a pep talk that changed the course of my life. To be honest, I can't remember specifically what was said word for word, but I do remember that I left that day thinking "I never want to feel this way again, but I never want others to feel this way. I never want others to feel the way I felt before I sought help."
And so here we are. The Mind Over Music Movement was born. What began as an idea for a music festival to raise money, with the help of two amazing partners, became a movement. Actually, no. It became THE movement. We may have had our trials and tribulations over the last few years, but its not without its rewards. For every organization that has shot me down to work together, I've met an amazing member of the community with a story to share. For every band that has written us off as a joke, I've met and worked with people who I was listening to on the radio in middle school, and can now comfortably call them friends. For the time that I sat with a stranger who tragically passed from a heroine overdose and said his final words to me, I've sat with strangers as the have cried as they felt the same liberation I felt as they came out about their mental health struggles for the first time.
This may be biased because I am the president, but I feel like Mind Over Music Movement carries so much importance for one main reason. Yes, mental health effects a vast majority of our population, and yes, other organizations geared towards awareness for diseases like cancer or aids are equally as important. However, building acceptance for mental health awareness, breaking down stigma, and spreading the notion that we are a community of people who are here for each other can only be achieved by spreading the ideals of compassion, love, and acceptance. Society is so fractured as it is, and seeing Mind Over Music Movement bring people together with a common goal is something I never would've fathomed laying in the grass in 2007.
Stephanie, if you're reading this. You have been the inspiration for it all. I could not, and would not have been able to make this journey if I didn't have you every step of the way. I love you with my entire existence, and I can't wait to see where this takes us.
Krissy, I couldn't be more proud of you. The time we've spent together through this I have seen you grow and evolve and you change the world every single time. Always remember that YOU made this for yourself. Not myself, not Steph, and not MOMMinc. YOU.
Andrew and Shawn, both of you may not be with us anymore for personal reasons, but this would've never had the strength to get off the ground without either of you. Our staff may change periodically, but us original three were the starters of something that you both should be proud of.