The moment seems to move in slow motion. My chest tightens out of fear. An ocean of warmth floods my face. My hands begin to shake, slowly at first, but my brain presses the gas pedal to my extremities as my mind rapidly wanders to what could be happening to me. A heart attack? Am I going to pass out? My vision blurs and all I can focus on is the impending doom of what's to come. The feeling lasts for an hour, maybe two, I've lost track of time. I sit down on the floor beneath me and practice my breathing exercises. In through the nose, out through the mouth. You're okay, I try to convince myself. It's the second time this week, and the fourth time this month. This is nothing new. This is my anxiety.
I remember the very day that my life changed. I came running home from school with the paper of my future excitedly gripped in my hands. My parents were sitting by the pool, and I nervously approached them with the question burning a hole through my nimble mind. I wanted to play the violin. At first, they did everything they possibly could to try to talk me out of it. They told me that it would take hours upon hours of practicing, and that I wouldn’t be able to treat it like a toy. I nodded, quickly telling them I know, I know over and over again. This is the one thing that I wanted to do in life. At that very moment, my future was delicately placed before my fresh eyes, at the time unaware of what this instrument was going to do to me.
I have been playing for around seven and a half years now. I have been through everything with the violin; from two trips to europe, a concert in front of 20,000 people (yes, you read that right, four 0’s), to endless youth orchestra auditions, competition wins, solo recitals, and enough concerts to supply the world with music for a year. All of this sounds lovely in concept, but in reality, these past seven years have withered me down.
From the moment I started playing, the stress and anxiety hit me like a brick wall. I wasn’t aware of the emotional and mental impact that this instrument was going to have on me. The competition has made me constantly doubt myself and I have lived these seven and a half years wondering if I would ever be an advanced enough player to make it into a top music school. I have put myself through hell and back just to ensure my career is set in stone. It took me a while to realize that this instrument was turning my body into a tired, worn out soul with little energy left to focus on anything but my music career. The second that this idea sunk into my head, I decided it was time for a change.
Living with anxiety from something that I have shaped my entire life around is far from easy. I have needed to make some major adjustments to both the way I approach my music and the way that I spend my time. I know I have made it sound like the violin has killed me emotionally, but the truth is, it has helped me heal. Now at an older age, I have realized what I was doing to myself and I now channel my anxiety and stress into my playing. I pour my heart out into my concertos and reflect my internal emotions and pain into the beautiful melodies that dance upon my fingertips. I make sure to spend time for myself and not over practice myself. Music is the most inexpensive therapy I have ever had access to.
Fortunately, I am able to say that my anxiety has begun to better itself. It is something that I am always going to have to deal with no matter where I end up. It’s part of the fabric of my being and I have learned to use the one thing in life I love the most to stitch the patches of healing into my body. The panic attacks happen less, and I have started to love myself for my abilities and I have faith that my abilities will take me very far in life, wherever I end up. The body can heal, if you find the right medicine for it. For me, it is letting my pain dance through my fingertips and out into the world to change others lives for the better. And with every life I change, mine will change with them.
About the Author:
Matilde Heckler is an iced latte obsessed highschool sophmore who enjoys spending her time doing anything and everything creative. She currently plays (A LOT of) violin and hopes to one day attend college in California for music education (and own a pet pig). She writes for Free To Dream with a goal to show that anything is possible, no matter what life throws in the way. When she isn’t busy curating ideas to change the world, she enjoys creating captivating YouTube videos, styling totally extra outfits, living life to the fullest, and occasionally knitting.
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Instagram, Twitter, YouTube: @matildeheckler