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#IAmAMogul:HappinessTakesWork,ByLindseyStirling

Lindsey Stirling
Lindsey Stirling Violinist, Dancer, Performance Artist, and Composer
3y Story
#IAmAMogul: Happiness Takes Work, By Lindsey Stirling

Why are we so afraid to talk about mental health? Words like depression, anorexia, anxiety, and PTSD to name a few are linked with negative social stigmas and judgment.  However whether it is genetic or situational, I feel that most people at some point in their life will struggle with mental health. I think one of the most important and consistent battles we will fight in our life is the fight for happiness.  Happiness takes work but I believe it is achievable for everyone.

The people who follow me on my social media often post comments such as, “Lindsey makes me happy” or “It’s so great that Lindsey isn’t afraid to be herself.” My followers revere me as an icon of happiness; however, just a few years ago, I was a very different person than I am today. In my college years, for no particular reason, I slowly sunk into depression and anorexia. The change took over my life so slowly that I never detected its intrusion into my personality. When I saw people who exuded genuine happiness, I looked at them longingly, wishing I could be like them. All the while, I assumed that some people were just lucky; I thought that some people were happy and some people just were not.

In my mind, I knew I was ugly, I knew I was worthless, I had no purpose and I frequently hid in my room, crying for no reason while my roommates laughed in the living room. It was ludicrous to think that what I was feeling was normal. I share this with you not to call for your pity, but for two reasons: first, some people may strongly relate to these feelings but not realize that what they are feeling is not normal and more importantly, that they can change. Secondly, I never could have become a successful, world-traveling violinist if I had remained in this self-destructive state. I am delighted to report now that I am full of happiness. I better understand my mental health battles so I can combat them when I see them sneaking back into my life. What I am saying is that if I could go from having no motivation and hating myself, to being driven and full of positivity, so can you and so can your friend, daughter, or son.

A study from 2014 shows that depression affects 350 million people worldwide and less than half will seek help. In order to solve this world epidemic, I feel the first hurdle to cross is the stigma surrounding mental health. People are ashamed to admit to themselves, let alone their families and friends that they could be suffering from an actual problem. If they do admit they have depression, anxiety, or multiple personality disorder, they feel broken or tainted by an irreversible label. So rather than confronting the inner issues, most people are coursed into shame and silence. To this point, Oprah Winfrey stated, “The only real shame is on us for not being willing to speak openly. We need to start talking, and we need to start now.” Covering up or hiding is the worst remedy for mental disorders. It is impossible for someone to change if they do not realize that they have a problem and if they are too scared to seek help.

The truth is that 26% of adults are living with diagnosable mental disorders. Even many people we admire have overcome or currently deal with their own mental health issues: Lady Gaga, Lilly Singh, and Emma Thompson, just to name a few, battled with depression and/or anxiety. Elton John struggled with bulimia, and Carrie Fisher shared that she is bipolar. These brave individuals are not the exception, but rather they represent a rising surge of awareness.

I have been asked countless times how I came out of my mental disorders. In my own story, thankfully, I woke up to the fact that I had a problem; that something was wrong in my mind. In my case, it was anorexia and depression. I hated the names and the fact that I was diagnosable, but I realized that if could pin point a problem, then I could change it; I knew how to solve problems. It was suddenly so clear. I had practiced my entire life to turn the unnatural and painful process of scratching away at my violin into second nature movements, that results in beautiful music. If I could train my physical body, why was my mind any different? When we see a ballerina who spins perfectly on point, we know that she has worked her entire life to master this skill; however, when we see a mother of five patiently chasing after toddlers while holding a crying baby, we just assume she has the gift of patience. Attributes are learned the same way any skill is acquired - through practice.

Throughout our lives, we develop beliefs about ourselves as a result of life’s situations.  We develop these beliefs to protect ourselves from pain, to find the consistency, and to give us meaning and connection. These beliefs manifest themselves through patterns in our behavior and form how we define ourselves: “I am shy,” “I am depressed,” “I am awkward,” or “I have nothing to add so I should stay quiet.” Once we have developed beliefs about ourselves, even if they are negative and destructive, the human personality will cling to them. Our mind attaches meanings to life, which allows us to make both conscious and unconscious decisions.  The hardest definition to redefine is the subconscious definition we’ve given our own identity.

Changing our thoughts and inner identity is much more difficult than changing our physical body. It takes time and consistent efforts to change our beliefs. Here are some of the practices that I adopted:

  • The Inner Dialogue. I began to listen to my inner voice. Wow, I said terrible things to myself CONSTANTLY. Not only was I mean to myself, but also instead of saying statements like, “that was dumb,” I would say, “I am dumb.” I said things to myself that I would never ever say to anyone else. They were a never-ending string of criticisms and it was no wonder I felt worthless. I had been practicing and faking worthlessness till I made it.  So I worked to re-train my brain to think differently.  I would catch myself mid negative thought and I would turn it around and say something positive. After a while, the negativity began to weaken and the positivity became stronger.
  • Engaging the Physical. Standing in a power pose (imagine Superwoman: chest out, shoulders opened, fists on hips, feet shoulder width apart) can actually change your body chemistry. In her 2012 TED Talk, Amy Cuddy explains that testosterone will increase and cortisol (stress hormone) will decrease just by standing in a power pose. Similarly, there are 43 muscles in the human face and merely by smiling, your brain releases endorphins that make your mind think you are happy. It wasn’t enough just to say the words. I found it much more effective when I would also do physical actions.  I would smile as I complimented myself and I would stand with my head held high and shoulders back when I said empowering statements.
  • Prepping for the day. The same way people prime their bodies physically by working out, showering, and getting ready, we need to prep our minds. I personally found the practice of meditation to be extremely beneficial for me.  Visualization is another tool that has immensely helped me. The brain doesn’t actually know the difference between reality and imagination; if it sees it, it assumes it’s real.  Visualize the things you are grateful for. Visualize yourself being the kind of person you want to be: confident, funny, or driven.  When I was in high school, I was a runner. For the regional race, I wanted to decrease my best half-mile time by a significant amount. My coach recommended I visualize. Although I thought it was silly, I repeatedly imagined running a perfect race with my stopwatch in hand.  When I crossed the finish line of the regional race, they handed me my time card and I was shocked that I had finished with the exact time that I had visualized getting. Humans are programmed to move towards what they focus on. It is extremely impactful to visualize and focus on where and who you want to be. By doing so, you will naturally move towards it. Spend ten to twenty minutes at the beginning of each day visualizing or meditating.
  • Professional Help. I went to a personal therapist and I continue to speak to a therapist once every other month. There is no shame in therapy and there are many different types one can try.

We all have definitions that we feel are “our true self.” Who we think we are is who we are. But what if we could redefine ourselves? I am ________ and I am full of joy, confidence, or optimism. How would our lives be different?

As a recovering anorexic, I believe that happiness is achievable for anyone. I don’t pretend to be an expert and I am nowhere near perfect. The above comments merely stem from my experiences and my limited studies. But by using these ideas, I continue to work for my happiness on a daily basis. It has been the most important thing I have ever invested my time in and it has enabled me to choose and become who I want to be.


16 replies

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  • Jeff Smith 79
    3y ago

    Instead of saying that someone "is bipolar," could you instead say that they "have" or "struggle with" bipolar? We are not our disease. You wouldn't say that someone "is" depression, "is" anxiety, or "is" PTSD. Thanks for listening.

    Instead of saying that someone "is bipolar," could you instead say that they "have" or "struggle with" bipolar? We are not our disease. You wouldn't say that someone "is" depression, "is" anxiety, or "is" PTSD. Thanks for listening.

  • Luci Rojas Castillo 52

    I identify! Million thanks for sharing your story and experiences and what has helped you overcome this.

    I identify! Million thanks for sharing your story and experiences and what has helped you overcome this.

  • Uomo Zucca 41
    3y ago

    In my opinion, the responsibility of the sense of inadequacy that results in many young people in mental illness is largely generated by the needs induced by advertising! Besides, if you are at peace with themselves, the Iphone or Ferrari do not then all this meant!

    In my opinion, the responsibility of the sense of inadequacy that results in many young people in mental illness is largely generated by the needs induced by advertising! Besides, if you are at peace with themselves, the Iphone or Ferrari do not then all this meant!

  • Miss Southeast Florida
    3y ago

    It is an epidemic in Our industry Lindsey, We must defy beauty standards because the cliche is true: " true happiness can only come from within "

    It is an epidemic in Our industry Lindsey, We must defy beauty standards because the cliche is true: " true happiness can only come from within "

  • Lucy Chen
    3y ago Chicago, IL, United States

    Hero!

    Hero!

  • Lorean Ledesma 55

    Thank you so much for being so candid about this! I suffer from OCD and depression myself. I just started a blog to help others with OCD and depression if you're interested. https://loreanledesma.wordpress.com/2016/03/31/thoughts/

    Thank you so much for being so candid about this! I suffer from OCD and depression myself. I just started a blog to help others with OCD and depression if you're interested. https://loreanledesma.wordpress.com/2016/03/31/thoughts/

  • Michael Jacobson 91

    Lindsey, thank you for speaking out on this issue. I, although a high functioning person, have ptsd and schizoaffective disorder. I take medications and go to counseling and thankfully am not having as many bad days as I used too. I was surprised by the reaction of part of the medical staff who were nervous around me and one of my family members who told me things that he thought would happen to me if I disclosed fully about what happened to me recently when I got angry and cried about something that I thought was attacking my character. Often there is a stigma that goes on if you're mentally impaired, ill or distraught. For example, if people think that you are mentally ill they will often label you as crazy, psycho, killer or even stupid. And I personally think that is brought on by the Media. Stuff like horror movies or even in the news they'll ask "did that person have a history of mental illness" after something seriously bad happens... Happiness is something I hope to achieve and I'm glad you've opened up so much to become the person Heavenly Father wants you to be in this moment in time. Never give up! Anyway thank you Lindsey that made my day :-)

    Lindsey, thank you for speaking out on this issue. I, although a high functioning person, have ptsd and schizoaffective disorder. I take medications and go to counseling and thankfully am not having as many bad days as I used too. I was surprised by the reaction of part of the medical staff who were nervous around me and one of my family members who told me things that he thought would happen to me if I disclosed fully about what happened to me recently when I got angry and cried about something that I thought was attacking my character. Often there is a stigma that goes on if you're mentally impaired, ill or distraught. For example, if people think that you are mentally ill they will often label you as crazy, psycho, killer or even stupid. And I personally think that is brought on by the Media. Stuff like horror movies or even in the news they'll ask "did that person have a history of mental illness" after something seriously bad happens... Happiness is something I hope to achieve and I'm glad you've opened up so much to become the person Heavenly Father wants you to be in this moment in time. Never give up! Anyway thank you Lindsey that made my day :-)

  • arunbupathy
    3y ago

    Very well penned Lindsey! Let me add a few more things that have helped me personally. Making lots of friends, not hesitating to take their help at difficult times, to see everything as a learning experience, never letting ourselves turn sour irrespective of how bad those experiences were, and the most importantly to learn to forgive ourselves so that we can find inner peace.

    Very well penned Lindsey! Let me add a few more things that have helped me personally. Making lots of friends, not hesitating to take their help at difficult times, to see everything as a learning experience, never letting ourselves turn sour irrespective of how bad those experiences were, and the most importantly to learn to forgive ourselves so that we can find inner peace.

  • Dakota Valles 95

    As someone with bipolar disorder, I actively try to promote mental health awareness daily to try and destigmitize mental illnesses. It's also amazing to see someone as incredible as you, Lindsey, be so outspoken in your advocacy. You're an inspiration to myself and millions. Your work has helped me through some rough times, and I look forward to seeing what you achieve!

    As someone with bipolar disorder, I actively try to promote mental health awareness daily to try and destigmitize mental illnesses. It's also amazing to see someone as incredible as you, Lindsey, be so outspoken in your advocacy. You're an inspiration to myself and millions. Your work has helped me through some rough times, and I look forward to seeing what you achieve!

  • Naturegirl
    3y ago

    Loved this. Thank you very much. This meant a lot to me right now.

    Loved this. Thank you very much. This meant a lot to me right now.

  • Lisa Ladrido
    Lisa Ladrido R.N. HOOKED on Travel/Social Media/Writing/Health & to Inspire!
    3y ago Seattle, WA, United States

    Thank you for sharing. I currently battle with it as well. My son came back from serving in Afghanistan and had to be medically retired due to PTSD/Bipolar Disorders. Awareness has to be spread so the stigma will be eventually removed. Thanks again for raising awareness.

    Thank you for sharing. I currently battle with it as well. My son came back from serving in Afghanistan and had to be medically retired due to PTSD/Bipolar Disorders. Awareness has to be spread so the stigma will be eventually removed. Thanks again for raising awareness.

  • John Marsh 11
    3y ago

    Thank you for speaking so openly about your experience with mental illness. While not completely applicable to schizo affective . disorder (That's basically schizophrenia with bi polar). Your observations and advisories are helpful. having lots of voices just means training SOME of them to be friendly and positive while learning to ignore the negative hostile ones. I'm just going to have to keep reminding myself that my primary personal voice is ultimately in control and work at and visualize it as having the power to orchestrate the others. and tune them out at my will. I need to be serious about being positive about myself and not expect medication to do all of the work. Thank you.

    Thank you for speaking so openly about your experience with mental illness. While not completely applicable to schizo affective . disorder (That's basically schizophrenia with bi polar). Your observations and advisories are helpful. having lots of voices just means training SOME of them to be friendly and positive while learning to ignore the negative hostile ones. I'm just going to have to keep reminding myself that my primary personal voice is ultimately in control and work at and visualize it as having the power to orchestrate the others. and tune them out at my will. I need to be serious about being positive about myself and not expect medication to do all of the work. Thank you.

    • Michael Jacobson 91

      John... I wish you the best bud. I know that music helps me to tune out voices and medications are a must for me as they lower the volume on my voices. Isolating too often isn't good for me either as it will only make my situation worse.

      John... I wish you the best bud. I know that music helps me to tune out voices and medications are a must for me as they lower the volume on my voices. Isolating too often isn't good for me either as it will only make my situation worse.

  • Jonathan Hannibal

    Lindsey, I cannot thank you enough with words. You have influenced my life to an indescribable degree. Your music and your words helped me realize things about myself I was struggling to see. Dealing with my own depression and not seeing a positive future you showed me the purpose of my life and gave me meaning again. Thank you for sharing your story to the world to show there is always good in someone's life, you just need to look for it and work toward it.

    Lindsey, I cannot thank you enough with words. You have influenced my life to an indescribable degree. Your music and your words helped me realize things about myself I was struggling to see. Dealing with my own depression and not seeing a positive future you showed me the purpose of my life and gave me meaning again. Thank you for sharing your story to the world to show there is always good in someone's life, you just need to look for it and work toward it.

  • Coach Brian5Kelly
    Coach Brian5Kelly President, Brian Kelly Leadership Coaching
    3y ago Sterling, VA, United States

    Lindsey, thank you for sharing your story. So inspiring to think in terms of what if. What if I could redefine myself? As you elegantly point out, we can. Happiness takes work and is achievable for everyone. It takes the vulnerability to acknowledge you may need help, and that this is ok. As a professional coach focused on strengths-based development, I regularly see the need for people to accept themselves without judgment. From this place, and some intentional work and belief you are worth it (you are!), anything is possible. Thank you again!

    Lindsey, thank you for sharing your story. So inspiring to think in terms of what if. What if I could redefine myself? As you elegantly point out, we can. Happiness takes work and is achievable for everyone. It takes the vulnerability to acknowledge you may need help, and that this is ok. As a professional coach focused on strengths-based development, I regularly see the need for people to accept themselves without judgment. From this place, and some intentional work and belief you are worth it (you are!), anything is possible. Thank you again!

  • Coach Brian5Kelly
    [deleted]
    3y ago Sterling, VA, United States

    [deleted]

    [deleted]

  • Maddy Bernstein

    As someone who has battled with depression, I can't thank you enough for writing about this. It's so powerful to hear this from someone like you who is a leader in the world as an artist, and I so wish someone would have told me these tips when I was entering into college. This means so much to me, so thank you a million.

    As someone who has battled with depression, I can't thank you enough for writing about this. It's so powerful to hear this from someone like you who is a leader in the world as an artist, and I so wish someone would have told me these tips when I was entering into college. This means so much to me, so thank you a million.


Lindsey Stirling
Violinist, Dancer, Performance Artist, and Composer

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