I joined New Note Orchestra in October 2016 as a supporter.
Throughout my adult life I’ve struggled with mental health difficulties. Depression would arrive unannounced; dulling my view of the world and keeping me house-bound; crippling anxiety proceeded any situation that put me in the spotlight; and I would stress about the most trivial matters.
After a particularly dark episode of anxiety and depression I decided I’d had enough, and looked for ways to get mentally fit. The NHS and the mental health charity Mind agree that the five pillars of mental wellbeing are: connecting with people, being active, continuous learning, giving to others, and being mindful.
When I discovered New Note Orchestra I felt the group could meet all these needs. I dusted off the clarinet case that I hadn’t opened for fifteen years and went along. When I first arrived I was extremely nervous, but I was immediately made to feel welcome. There’s no pressure to join in straight away, for the first rehearsal I just watched and listened. It took a few weeks of producing quiet ‘don’t notice me’ noises until one week, with the encouragement of our artistic director Conall, I played a solo that I didn’t know, or had forgotten, I was capable of.
When a jam sessions starts cautiously and then grows into a beautiful combined sound, the feeling is exhilarating. I still get waves of anxiety every now and again, but less frequently and severe, and I know it’ll pass. I’m hardly ever stressed these days and my depression seems to have left me alone recently. New Note Orchestra has put me on a very positive path and I am really looking forward to the rest of the journey.
Tuesday nights are now the highlight of my week, I’m learning to improvise – something I’d never been able to do before, and my clarinet playing is improving every week.