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September 27, 2022

How songwriting helped me through postpartum depression and the pandemic.

Songwriting is my tonic for unprocessed pain. I started writing songs when I was a teenager struggling with an eating disorder, feeling sad and helpless, like a reed in the wind. Any accomplishments felt tenuous, and the smallest disappointment would shatter me like glass.

Songwriting gave me a voice. I went from feeling like a tourist in my own life to speaking the language. Carefully crafted lyrics, reinforced by music, expressed my tender emotions in a way that words alone never could. Performing my songs gave me an identity that was aligned with my inner world. I felt stronger and less susceptible to other people’s perceptions.

It took a long time and a lot of hard work for me to recover and develop a sturdy sense of self. Songwriting wasn’t always front and center on that path, but it stuck around – in private journals, late nights, and lonely moments. Then, one day, at the height of the pandemic, with a baby strapped to my body, I found myself, once again, needing to be heard.

Before the pandemic started, I felt like I had made it. I had the loving partner and child that I had longed for, and I was pregnant with our second. We bought a home in the suburbs, and I closed my New York City psychotherapy practice to move. I assumed I would take a maternity leave and then begin building a new practice. I was hopeful and excited.

When COVID shut the world down in March 2020, two weeks after our second baby was born, it changed everything for me. Like so many mothers and parents of young children at that time, I spent the next year as a full-time caregiver, parent, teacher, and friend to my babies. I was grateful, but profoundly depleted. I felt overwhelming sadness and burning rage that I hadn’t experienced since I was fourteen. It seemed like these emotions would eat me alive if I didn’t express them, so I started furiously writing songs.

I was hesitant at first, doubting myself, but gradually, I settled into a cathartic burst of creativity. The more I relaxed, the less it felt like effort, and the more it felt like letting go. I wrote fifty-five songs in 2021 and ultimately recorded my first full-length album, Invisible Woman.

My favorite way to use songwriting to withstand a difficult moment or emotion is to do a stream-of-consciousness free-write, letting go of structure, grammar, or any attempt to form coherent thoughts. I just put words down. Then, I go back and pick out images and words that resonate. I start to form phrases. Sometimes, they rhyme. Sometimes, a melody will come. I always feel a small amount better.

By making music during what I believe to be the most essentially creative time in a woman’s life, early motherhood, I discovered strength and resilience that I didn’t know was available to me. These songs examine a postpartum mother’s sense of self, her unconditional love for her children, and its impact on her relationships and worldview. Invisible Woman is an album about love, despair, anxiety, empathy, and ultimately, acceptance, reaffirming the difficult but universal truth that control is an illusion, even at the best of times.

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