Posted on May 29, 2020
The ‘Sounds Like Hope’ music video is officially out!
I’d always imagined this video animated and I really, really wanted to have Lois – Lois de Silva, who animated the ‘Clarity’ music video – do it because I love her animation style. As I said when we released the ‘Clarity’ video, I’ve known her for a long time, she’s one of the loveliest people I’ve ever met, and I have always wanted to collaborate with her. So the fact that that was possible was absolutely amazing and the plan to have animation in this video is actually what sparked the idea for having animation in the previous video. I’m so, so grateful to Lois for saying yes and for all the hard work she put into the two videos, but especially this one. Me, Richard (my co-pilot on this whole project), and Lois spent a lot of time discussing how we wanted it to look and I just love how it came out. Lois, you are incredible and it’s an honour to have your art as part of a project that means everything to me.
I love this music video so much and I hope you guys love it too. And if you haven’t heard the song yet, you can buy/stream it here.
Posted on May 18, 2020
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. Originally, this year’s theme was going to be sleep but with the impact of the pandemic on the world’s mental health, the Mental Health Foundation changed the theme to kindness:
“We think it could be the most important week we’ve hosted, not least because our own research shows that protecting our mental health is going to be central to us coping with and recovering from the coronavirus pandemic – with the psychological and social impacts likely to outlast the physical symptoms of the virus.”
Their website offers some really powerful insight into the importance of kindness:
“We have chosen kindness because of its singular ability to unlock our shared humanity. Kindness strengthens relationships, develops community and deepens solidarity. It is a cornerstone of our individual and collective mental health. Wisdom from every culture across history recognises that kindness is something that all human beings need to experience and practise to be fully alive.”
We all know about Captain Tom Moore’s incredible fundraiser and Dolly Parton’s massive donation towards researching a cure, as well as other wealthy and/or famous people giving money to various charities that support all kinds of people struggling during this time. These are all amazing acts of kindness but the foundation are encouraging people to share acts of kindness they’ve experienced so I thought I’d list some of mine:
- My street’s WhatsApp group – As many streets or communities do, my street has a WhatsApp group and the generosity displayed in it is really heartwarming. People are offering the use of various equipment, like ladders or gardening tools; people are offering to help those less able than themselves; people are giving things away for free, like packets of seeds, cooking ingredients, unwanted furniture, art that they’ve made, and so on. The sense of community has grown so much since the lockdown and that’s really nice to see.
- My neighbour helping us to rescue my cat – When one of the kittens went missing, the WhatsApp group helped locate her (which has caused her to become somewhat of a local celebrity) and the owner of the garden with the tree she was stuck in was so lovely about letting us in to retrieve her (we were social distancing, of course). When I tried to get her and couldn’t, my amazing neighbour climbed all the way to the top of the ladder, got his shirt off while perched up there, and used it to drag her off the branch she was clinging too. He handed her straight over to me for a cuddle but asked for a quick cuddle with her himself to apologise for squishing her a bit while getting her down. He told my Mum later that he’s actually terrified of heights but didn’t even think about it while helping us. That actually made me cry. I’m so, so grateful to him – especially with a fear of heights – for getting Sooty down because even with us standing below her, she seemed absolutely paralysed and unable to get down.
- The generosity of my neighbours – The family next door to us (the father was the guy who rescued Sooty) are just so lovely and have an allotment that they work super hard at. Whenever they bring vegetables back, they give us some and they often share cake or other gorgeous food that they’ve made. They’re honestly some of the most generous people I’ve ever met and I feel so lucky to have them as neighbours.
- The trumpet player on my street – There’s a guy who lives in the street who has offered, via the WhatsApp group, to come and play ‘Happy Birthday’ on his trumpet for anyone who has a birthday while we’re in lockdown. It’s kind of bizarre but then the world is truly bizarre right now and it’s a lovely, special gesture for a birthday that could otherwise feel very un-special.
- The handful of people helping my Granny – There are several people who have been helping my Mum’s Mum with her shopping and computer and series of electrical problems, as well as checking in with her (safely) to make sure she’s doing okay, and I’m so grateful. We speak frequently but we’re too far away to be helpful in the practical sense so I’m really thankful for the people making her life easier and safer.
- The support of my module leader and tutor during the assessment period – This was a while back but still in the lockdown period so I think it counts. I found this assessment really stressful and difficult, whether that’s because I’m still not used to the Masters standard of essay writing or my mental health I don’t know, but my tutor, Dan – who is also the leader of this module – was so helpful. He helped me with sourcing material and gave me really useful feedback. The Masters course is the first time in education where, as an autistic person, I’ve felt truly, 100% supported in my learning, rather than being made to feel like a hindrance, a hitch in the otherwise smoothly running classes. This means so much to me, more than I can possibly articulate. While no autistic person should ever be made to feel this way, it still happens far too often so to have tutors be so accommodating (in such a non-judgemental way) has meant the world to me and made the course possible.
- Kalie Shorr playing a song I’d requested during one of her livestreams – I said this multiple times but Kalie is one of my favourite musicians, Nashvillians, and people. I wouldn’t call us friends but we’ve met several times during my trips to the US and gotten on well (maybe one day we will be friends – that would be really nice). Since the lockdown began, she’s been playing a lot of livestreams, which has been really cool, and during one of those livestreams, she played a song that I’d requested. It’s an unreleased song, one that she posted a snippet of on her Instagram stories ages ago but I fell in love with it and had been desperate to hear more. So the fact that she actually played it meant a lot to me. And by some good fortune, that livestream took place when I was having a really hard week and it really lifted my spirits so I’m really grateful to Kalie for that.
- My friend sending me a Sara Bareilles CD – I’m not sure now whether this was just before the lockdown or just after the lockdown started (anyone else having major issues with judging the passing of time?), but a friend of mine was passing on some CDs, knew how much I love Sara Bareilles, and sent me a copy of Little Voice. As I have the money, I’m slowly collecting my favourite albums on CD or even vinyl, so I really appreciated him gifting it to me.
Another one of the focuses of this week is to think about how to build a kinder future. I can’t explain it any better than they do so, again, I’m gonna post what they’ve said:
“We have a once in a generation opportunity not only during but also following this pandemic for a reset and re-think about what kind of society we want to emerge from this crisis.
Our own reports and others such as Sir Michael Marmot’s 10 years On report reveal how inequality is rising in our society and its harmful effects on our health. Life expectancy is falling for the poorest for the first time in 100 years. As child poverty rises, children and young people in the poorest parts of our country are two to three times more likely to experience poor mental health than those in the richest. After the 2008 credit crunch it was the most vulnerable in our communities who experienced the severest consequences of austerity, with devastating effects on their mental and physical health. This not the hallmark of a kind society. We must not make the same mistakes after this pandemic.
Applied kindness could have a transformative impact on our schools, places of work, communities and families. As the former Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has said, now is a time to put values above valuations. We must seize this time to shape a society that tips the balance in favour of good mental health, for all of us, but especially for those who are most vulnerable.”
I have to hope that the kindness I’ve been seeing, the general community focussed behaviour and mindset will only continue after the lockdown ends, even though our lives will be busier, with work and school and so on. We’ll go back to our normal lives but that normal doesn’t have to be the same as the old normal. Hopefully we can build a new normal, one that’s kinder, more connected, more neighbourly, and more flexible, because of this experience with the pandemic and the lockdown. How beautiful would it be if we could create something so good out of such a difficult, distressing time? It won’t, of course, bring back the people who’ve died but perhaps it could be a tribute to all those who have suffered during this time. Maybe it’s naïve but I have to have hope.
I couldn’t make this post without acknowledging the incredible courage and strength and… kindness isn’t a big enough word by far… of the all the NHS staff, care workers, key workers, teachers (fuck the Daily Mail), and all those working unimaginably hard to protect us, keep us safe and healthy and moving forward despite everything going on. We can’t thank them enough. We’ll probably never be able to thank them enough. Someday, somehow, I’ll figure out a way to say a proper thank you, a way to give back and help people in their honour.
But coming back to Mental Health Awareness Week, the Mental Health Foundation are, as I said, encouraging people to share the acts of kindness they’ve experienced or witnessed, using the hashtags, #KindnessMatters and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek on social media. You can find out more and access further resources through their website. And to quote them once more:
“No act of kindness is ever wasted.”
Posted on May 16, 2020
I’ve spent the past several weeks trying to write a post for today, about coping with a grief anniversary, about whether you can turn the day into a positive experience. I thought that talking about grief in a more objective capacity would make it easier to write about my own grief. I tried and tried and tried, intent on completing my plan, and it wasn’t until I actually considered the idea that I didn’t HAVE to do it – actually considered that it might be too difficult emotionally, especially with all the emotions surrounding the pandemic – that I realised how hard I was finding it. So, after a lot of thought, I decided to defer the post. I can always finish it for next year. But that left me emotionally depleted without a post for today.
After finding it so difficult and upsetting to put my own experiences into words, I found myself thinking about quotes, about how other people have put their grief into words. I’ve always found quotes to be a good way to make sense of what I’m feeling, especially the really complex emotions – and I think we can all agree that grief is one of the most complicated emotions a person can feel – so I’ve made a list of quotes that I have found helpful in describing my various experiences of grief. Of course, grieving is an ever changing state of being and it’s not linear or logical, just as these quotes prove, so hopefully everyone will find something in here that makes sense to them.
“Nothing on earth can make up for the loss of one who has loved you.” – Selma Lagerlöf
“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same, nor would you want to.” – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
“The dead aren’t the only ones who vanish: you, too, can disappear in plain sight if enough is taken from you. I was still missing, in many ways. And I wasn’t sure I wanted to be found.” – Sarah Dessen
“My sister will die over and over again for the rest of my life. Grief is forever. It doesn’t go away; it becomes a part of you, step for step, breath for breath. I will never stop grieving Bailey because I will never stop loving her.” – Jandy Nelson
“Sometimes you have to accept the fact that certain things will never go back to how they used to be.” – Unknown
“Grief is like glitter; no matter how much you try and tidy it up you’re never going to get rid of it all. You’re always going to find bits of it.” – George Shelley
“When someone you love dies, and you’re not expecting it, you don’t lose her all at once; you lose her in pieces over a long time — the way the mail stops coming, and her scent fades from the pillows and even from the clothes in her closet and drawers. Gradually, you accumulate the parts of her that are gone. Just when the day comes — when there’s a particular missing part that overwhelms you with the feeling that she’s gone, forever — there comes another day, and another specifically missing part.” – John Irving
“You were unsure which pain is worse — the shock of what happened or the ache for what never will.” – Unknown
“If you suppress grief too much, it can well redouble.” – Moliere
“Look closely and you will see
Almost everyone carrying bags
Of cement on their shoulders
That’s why it takes courage
To get out of bed in the morning
And climb into the day.” – Edward Hirsch
“‘You’ll get over it…’ It’s the clichés that cause the trouble. To lose someone you love is to alter your life for ever. You don’t get over it because ‘it’ is the person you loved. The pain stops, there are new people, but the gap never closes. How could it? The particularness of someone who mattered enough to grieve over is not made anodyne by death. This hole in my heart is in the shape of you and no-one else can fit it. Why would I want them to?” – Jeanette Winterson
“It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.” – Lemony Snicket
“There is not a reason for everything. Not every loss can be transformed into something useful. Things happen that do not have a silver lining.” – Megan Devine
“Grief lasts longer than sympathy, which is one of the tragedies of the grieving.” – Elizabeth McCracken
“Some things cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.” – Megan Devine
“When you lose someone very close to you, someone who makes up this essential part of your history and your future, your worldview shifts dramatically. You have a palpable feeling that everything and anything good can disappear at any time. I missed my dad a lot. I also felt like everyone I knew was going to start dying. I also hated that my dad wasn’t able to go on living. I wanted him to be alive; I wanted him to feel rain on his face, to eat a great meal, to read something funny, for HIS sake.” – Heather Havrilesky
“Grief is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” – Jamie Anderson
“Tell your friend that in his death, a part of you dies and goes with him. Wherever he goes, you also go. He will not be alone.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti
“Eventually something you love is going to be taken away. And then you will fall to the floor crying. And then, however much later, it is finally happening to you: you’re falling to the floor crying, thinking, “I am falling to the floor crying,” but there’s an element of the ridiculous to it — you knew it would happen and, even worse, while you’re on the floor crying you look at the place where the wall meets the floor and you realize you didn’t paint it very well.” – Richard Siken
“You can not die of grief, though it feels as if you can. A heart does not actually break, though sometimes your chest aches as if it is breaking. Grief dims with time. It is the way of things. There comes a day when you smile again, and you feel like a traitor. How dare I feel happy. How dare I be glad in a world where my father is no more. And then you cry fresh tears, because you do not miss him as much as you once did, and giving up your grief is another kind of death.” – Laurell K. Hamilton
“A reminder to remember: just because the sharpness of the sadness has faded does not mean that it was not, once, terrible. It means only that time and space, creatures of infinite girth and tenderness, have stepped between the two of you, and they are keeping you safe as they were once unable to.” – Carmen Maria Machado
“Until now I had been able only to grieve, not mourn. Grief was passive. Grief happened. Mourning, the act of dealing with grief, required attention.” – Joan Didion
“Life seems sometimes like nothing more than a series of losses, from beginning to end. That’s the given. How you respond to those losses, what you make of what’s left, that’s the part you have to make up as you go.” – Katharine Weber
“You never really stop missing someone – you just learn to live around the huge, gaping hole of their absence.” – Alyson Noel
“We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.” – Kenji Miyazawa
“We acquire the strength we have overcome.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The healing power of even the most microscopic exchange with someone who knows in a flash precisely what you’re talking about because she experienced that thing too cannot be overestimated.” – Cheryl Strayed
“When you meet someone who’s experienced loss as you have, there’s an unspoken understanding. Grief and tragedy are blood lines that turn strangers into kin.” – Unknown
So I hope this has been helpful, that at least one of these have perhaps made your emotions a little clearer for you. If you have any quotes that have helped you process grief, please comment and let me know. Quotes mean so much to me and are so helpful to me so I’m always on the look out for new, maybe even better ways to explain what I’m feeling when I’m unable to do it myself.
Posted on May 15, 2020
‘Sounds Like Hope’ has been out for a week now. It’s always so strange putting a new song out into the world. It makes you feel so vulnerable. Or that’s how it makes me feel, at least. But it’s also exciting because these are songs I’ve been waiting to share for such a long time. So it’s a weird mish-mash of feelings.
I’ve just posted a new video to my YouTube channel, telling the story behind the inspiration and the writing of the song. I think I’ve talked about this before but, while this is primarily a mental health (and Autism, obviously) focussed blog, music is a big part of my life so I will always post about that too. Having said that, my music is heavily influenced by my experiences with my mental health so it links the two biggest parts of my life together, mental health and music. So it actually kind of makes sense to post about it here.
Of course every artist wants people to hear their music, the work they’ve poured their heart and soul into. So, yes, obviously I want people to listen to my songs. But it’s more nuanced than that; I would think it’s the same for every songwriter – we all just have our own, personal reasons. For me, I spent a lot of time feeling like there wasn’t any music I related to because of what I was struggling with. Why would I care about a love song when just surviving each day was a struggle? So a big part of writing music for me is writing music for people who have struggled like me, who might struggle with music the way I did (and sometimes still do). I don’t want to exclude anyone – we’re all so layered and complicated that I’m sure most people can relate to these songs in one way or another – but I specifically wanted to write music that people who have struggled with their mental health could relate to (I think I’ve actually gotten better at this since writing these songs but you’ll have to wait for the next project to hear those…). So of course I want people to hear my music but I really, really want people like me to hear my music.
If you haven’t listened to the song yet, you can buy or stream it here and the music video will be out very soon.
Posted on May 13, 2020
On the 12th of May every year, the Mass Observation Archive asks people to keep a diary for a day in order to capture the everyday lives of people all over the UK. This year, 2020, is the 10th anniversary but we are also living in the midst of a global pandemic, making this year a unique one, to say the least.
I’m a dedicated diary writer and have been for years so this is the ideal project for me. I love the idea of so many people’s experiences in one place, the idea of collecting as many versions of one day as possible and trying to build the fullest picture of it. So I was very excited to take part in this day, even if I’ve recently been floored by one of the most awful periods of depression I’ve ever experienced.
Some important things to know before reading this: I am autistic, struggle with depression, anxiety, OCD, and Borderline Personality Disorder. All of the symptoms get worse under stress. I’m halfway through a Masters Degree in Songwriting. I’m really struggling with the Covid-19 pandemic (particularly when it comes to my anxiety, with the fear that my loved ones will get sick), self isolating with my Mum, separated from my three other parents, my brother and my friends.
I slept badly, waking up at eight with my alarm. I’ve been trying to keep to my pre-lockdown routines and on a normal day, I would’ve gotten up and got to work on something but I had a throbbing headache, probably due to the restless night. So I buried my head under my duvet and tried to hide from the light coming in through my curtains.
Being a part time Masters student means I have an empty semester from yesterday until the end of September and I had all of these plans: practice the songwriting skills I’ve learned this year, establish a recording space at home, and get back to swimming, to name a few. But then the pandemic happened and we went into lockdown and all of my plans went out the window. I’m terrified all the time. Everything feels pointless. I can’t focus on anything. And my creativity – my ability to write songs – feels completely blocked. I’m stuck in this frozen state and I just feel like I can’t breathe. I feel like screaming and crying and hyperventilating but I feel like if I start, I’ll never stop. But even distracting myself is hard. I just can’t make myself care about a TV show or whatever. It all feels too big, like there isn’t enough space in my brain for anything other than this howling fear. And this has only been made worse by the government’s most recent, incredibly unclear statement about easing the lockdown. The idea that the government think this is acceptable when hundreds of people are still dying every day makes me sick with fear. I didn’t vote for them but I at least thought they cared about the people they were governing.
The only thing that I’ve found actually helpful in distracting myself is reading fanfiction. It’s something I’ve found effective as a relaxation technique over the last year, dealing with my wildly fluctuating mental health, starting my Masters, and this pandemic. It’s easier than reading a book because I’m already familiar with the worlds and the characters, which is a relief when I’m constantly exhausted by all this fear. Escaping into a comforting world is just that… comforting. So I spent several hours doing that, reading through old favourites from my teenage years when I first discovered fanfiction. It just gave me a break from everything. As much as possible, anyway.
Eventually though I got up and went downstairs. I thought that maybe working on one of my anxieties would help my overall level of anxiety so me and Mum went out into the garden to do some filming for a music video. My original idea is now impossible with the lockdown, which has been very upsetting because I was really looking forward to it, so I’m having to come up with something new, something that’s been difficult and frustrating because the original idea felt so perfect. I’m not super happy with the current back up plan but I need something. So me and Mum spent several hours filming [I’m omitting some bits here because I don’t want to give away the video if this is what we end up using]. I have absolutely no energy at the moment so I was completely exhausted by the end of it, even though I don’t feel like I actually did that much. I ended up falling asleep in the comfy chair in the kitchen, sleeping for a couple of hours.
I woke up, stiff and uncomfortable and just as anxious. Apparently trying to work through an anxiety didn’t help. Maybe I didn’t solve that anxiety, maybe all of this is just too big.
I had a shower and then settled on the sofa in the living room. There are so many things that I could be doing with my time but I just don’t have the motivation, the emotional energy. I just can’t see the point – what does any of it matter when hundreds of people are dying everyday, when people are losing loved ones, drowning in unbearable grief? It’s in moments of quiet that these thoughts overwhelm me and I feel my throat start to close up.
I dived back into fanfiction until dinner snuck up on me. Me and Mum ate in front of a Lucifer rewatch – for some reason, it was the only show that didn’t make me want to scream. We watched until we were both falling asleep, until the cats were crawling all over us for their pre-bedtime snack (otherwise they do their level best to wake us up at five in the morning). So we fed them and headed for bed.
It’s hard to admit – maybe because I’m twenty five and feel I should be stronger than this – but I haven’t been able to sleep without my Mum with me for weeks now, possibly longer. All of my mental health stuff is worse at night, particularly my anxiety. It just builds and builds until I’m in a panic attack or worse, a full autistic meltdown. Having my Mum with me, feeling her heartbeat and hearing her breathe, makes things just okay enough to fall asleep, although sometimes it takes a sleeping pill too.
If you’ve been keeping a diary or still want to jot down some thoughts about yesterday, I really encourage you to do so and send it to the archive. The page is here, in case you’d like to submit or learn more about this and their other projects.
Posted on May 8, 2020
My new single, ‘Sounds Like Hope,’ the third single from my EP, Honest, is now available on all major music platforms!
laurenalexhooper: AND ‘SOUNDS LIKE HOPE’ IS OUT!
I wrote this song a while back with one of my favourite people, Richard Marc. I was in the middle of a really bad depressive episode and had been unable to write for months but somehow, we managed to coax this song out of the universe. And it turned out to be a song about hope.
Please, please buy/stream it. It would mean so much to me and all of the people who have worked so hard on it 💜
I’m kind of anxious about this one coming out, if I’m honest. It’s quite different to the previous two songs, both in pace and in mood, so I’m nervous (although cautiously curious) to see what the reaction is. I hope you like it. And, as always, I hope it makes you feel something.