Getting excited about my current live set up, seeing how my music is finally being realized. I have an album almost done, my live performance is getting very close to where I want it & confident with my creative choices.
I play fast acoustic guitar, with songs that rock out about internal struggle and powerful vocals from the depths of my soul. Ductape Halo.
I’m good with that. I don’t need to make excuses for not having a band or style or playing to what’s currently trending. I’m doubling down on myself. Whether it is currently apparent or not, I have absolute faith that the music is undeniable. My skills continue to improve as I practice every day. I see where it’s leading and it is making sense. I’m going down a path I know is the right one, confident I don’t need to rethink my approach.
There is no time limit. There is no comparison. It simply is. So grateful I came back to singing, playing guitar and sticking with practicing the songs over and over.
The practice has taught me so much about the arrangement, solving issues I didn’t realize were there, taking time with it daily. Technique has improved where I thought I had plateaued.
In closing, I was always second guessing myself and calling it critical thinking. At some point, choosing a lane was necessary, I was just uncertain to what it was that would make me happy, so I tried on many hats. Then I looked back at my life and recognized it was performing my own music that gave me the greatest joy, and I now believe putting effort into that with intense consistency has and will improve my quality of life. Grateful for so much. Thank you to those that support me and God for guiding me through some dark times.
It was 1999. I was laying in bed drunk, stoned and miserably depressed. I had lost my will to live, exhausted from the extreme effort it took to function. I just wanted to give up, I wanted to die, but didn’t have the courage to commit suicide. In a desperate moment, I asked God to give me a reason to live. I didn’t have any religion, so I didn’t expect a response, but i did get an answer. Music. It just popped in my head. I was a musician, so it made sense, but it gave me some purpose. It became my higher power. That was when I was 24 living in Philadelphia. I took it as a sign to make some changes.
I moved cross-country to San Diego, believing it to be seasonal depression and to pursue a career in music. I was riding high, drove the entire way in 4 days. When I got to the sunny paradise, my troubles followed me. I was arguing with friends and even more isolated and depressed than ever. I couldn’t enjoy the seemingly endless summer. I realized there was something wrong. I went to my first psychiatrist. It was the first step on a long journey to seek a diagnosis that finally came 5 years later. Bipolar Disorder.
During those first 5 years, I struggled with substance abuse that has lasted most of my life, a self-medication when the many medications I was tested with didn’t seem to help. Nothing felt quite right. But I continued to make art and music. Creating had been a constant while I endured what felt like I was being experimented on. I came to understand the stigma of mental illness, the lack of understanding medical professionals possess, the ridicule of family asking why I can’t just snap out of it. I just did my best and it was all I could ask of myself.
Even after my diagnosis and the mood stabilizer, that seemed to work with my lifestyle, it was difficult to stay balanced. I got to enjoy a life I felt I had missed out on in my 20’s, but I kept drinking and using drugs and didn’t want to go to therapy. It would eventually take its toll. But all the while I had been playing in bands, writing music, took part in numerous art scenes in Brooklyn, performing all over the Lower East Side. I was surviving for music, but it wasn’t enough.
I became the Editor in Chief of Popdust, a pop culture website, interviewed artists and musicians on a live stream show I produced and directed, and was a guest on Cheddar News. As my success grew, so did my addiction. I was on a manic wave that lasted over a year. I eventually lost my job, my friends, family and sanity as a result of not taking my illness seriously. Again, I was exhausted. It was twenty years later.
In April 2019, I wanted to commit suicide. The impulse had never been so strong. I was trying to talk myself into doing it after I made an angry post on Facebook about my brother abandoning me. The regret was so intense, I thought I had ruined any chance of a relationship with him after he unfriended me. I had no one to call. I stopped talking to my parents, believing they were all out to get me.
So I dialed 911 and begged them to admit me into a mental ward of Beth Israel, where my bipolar support group met. I had no health insurance and lacked the ability to take care of myself. I waited 17 hours in the psychiatric ER, during which I was punched by another patient. A doctor eventually came over and asked if I was ready to go home and mentioned I didn’t have health insurance. I said loudly, “Are you refusing to treat me because I don’t have health insurance?” They found me a bed soon after that.
While the story doesn’t end there, and my struggle with addiction would continue after a relapse, I began a new chapter of my journey of healing. While I was in-patient, I realized I needed to advocate for myself. The other patients needed help too, because the doctors and nurses couldn’t understand some of our needs. During my stay, I felt the healing power of music once more. A therapist was able to let me play a guitar, while under supervision. Strings, shoelaces and pens were monitored as closely as razors, considering all to be potential tools of self-harm for those under suicide watch. I cried while I played my song Hideaway, I had written about self-isolation and shared a song with an elderly woman who sang the Blues. It lifted our spirits, feeling hope, like our suffering had meaning. When we have a reason for living, a personal connection to something greater than ourselves, to something that connects us, it makes the struggle worth it.
At the end of 2020, I’m over nine months clean, still making music, and advocate for mental health through my website DanVictorDoes.com, sharing the healing power of art and music to manage mental distress. My story is not over because I decided my struggle gives me more than it takes. I remain grateful for the experience to understand myself better and I’m excited to see what gifts life has yet to offer.
I share my story because there are many misconceptions surrounding mental illness and how debilitating this disease can be. There needs to be more compassion for those of us that suffer. Many don’t know where to turn. Perhaps it seems overwhelming, but there is help within reach. You are not alone.
If you suspect you have a problem, find a doctor. Get recommendations by those you trust to find a reliable psychiatrist. Build a support network. Pier groups are wonderful, not just for those with mental illness, but loved ones. Find out as much information as you can. NAMI.org helped me discover resources in my area.