My connection to music and mental health is really dynamically intertwined and is probably the healthiest thing in my life. Both have such a deep impact on the other. Music has pulled me out of difficult times, especially with mental illness, and has helped me process my pain into power through writing and has allowed me to turn my experiences into art. I can share this art and my story to help inspire others and let them know healing is attainable for them too. Additionally, my experiences with mental health— psychosis in particular—have provided such creative inspiration that has impacted the direction that I’ve taken my music in topically and sonically.
TURNING PAIN INTO POWER…
Using my project as a vehicle to spread mental health awareness has been one of the most helpful healing processes for me. When I was first diagnosed with psychosis and bipolar (some of many diagnoses I’ve had), I wanted to run away and pretend like it wasn’t part of my story. I rejected it so much that it caused severe depression and shame. However, once I was able to literally flip it on it’s head and find my power by owning it and standing strongly in front of my mental illness, I was able to accept and integrate it not only as my story, but as a newfound purpose in life that has provided me more meaning than I ever anticipated.
“It’s really amazing what you can do when you decide to proudly share your experiences for the purpose of healing and helping others instead of cowering behind them and wishing they would disappear.”
My second EP Dis-Order was dedicated to mental health awareness and as part of my Pain Into Power campaign I released the record with a self care line (journals, candles, and amethyst bracelets) with partial proceeds to Jack.org, an amazing youth mental health network in Canada. I created a Self Care Tips page on my site to serve as a cheat sheet with resources to getting well for anyone who doesn’t have the energy to do the research. It’s really amazing what you can do when you decide to proudly share your experiences for the purpose of healing and helping others instead of cowering behind them and wishing they would disappear.
The first time I had psychosis (November, 2016), I lost my identity completely. I wasn’t sure if I was a man or woman. I felt like three people: myself as a girl, myself as X. ARI, and myself as a man. Similarly the second time I had psychosis I also had confusion surrounding my identity and it took time to find myself again. It was a strange experience to not know who I was, but I believe it could have been an embellishment on what I was already feeling internally regarding gender. I’ve always felt on a spectrum with respect to gender and I would classify myself as a demi female if I had to label it. I feel part male and part female, but I present as a woman. Creating my alter ego drag king character IRA X. allowed me to include creative inspiration once again, this time from delusions I had, into my project. In addition, it also allows me to explore my masculine side, the yang to my yin. Through having him as an opposing character in my project I can express a different energy, which is on the darker side, in addition to the love and light I try to spread as X. ARI. It feels like the more I connect my music with mental health the more healing, acceptance, integration, and empowerment I feel.
The second time I went through psychosis (May, 2018), I stayed with my mom before I was hospitalized. At that time I was scheduled to film a music video for my song “Stay v Go.” Unfortunately, I had to cancel the video, but while I was ill and still under the impression I was doing the shoot, I put together the most hilarious costume. I looked ridiculous, but it made me so happy. To me it expressed the kooky crazy uncontrollable side of me. If I could turn my psychosis into a costume, this was it. That being said, after I recovered I still felt the need to incorporate the costume into the wardrobe for the shoot once it was rescheduled. To justify the look I created a character based on Carl Yung’s Shadow Self Theory and I wore the outfit to represent my wild wacky side in the video. On set it felt really rewarding to be able to execute an idea that was inspired during psychosis. Instead of allowing psychosis to defeat me, I allowed it to add creative value to my life by including it in my music, which was so healing.
“Instead of allowing psychosis to defeat me, I allowed it to add creative value to my life by including it in my music, which was so healing.”
HOW TO UNI-FI…?
My Uni-Fi EP (out June 27, 2019) is a duality themed concept record that features IRA X. on three out of six tracks. Each song ties into mental health in some shape or form and to reflect the dichotomy many contrasting elements were used throughout the instrumentation and production. The first single “Break-Point” is about PTSD, the second single “Uni-Fi” is the title track that explains the story of X. ARI and IRA X., which is ultimately about the internal struggle of being two people at once and learning how to harmonize and unify them so peace is possible. The third single “La La La” is about owning who you are and not caring what people think and the last and fourth single “Yin Yang” (out May 24, 2019) is about Bipolar. The release party is being hosted by NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) on June 27th. I am so grateful to be celebrating the release alongside NAMI, I hope to see you there and to connect with you. Reach out anytime @xARIofficial.