An Open Letter to Lindsey Stirling

Hey Lindsey-

I have a bone to pick with you.

Last week you came to Boston and I was fortunate enough to see you at the Blue Hills Pavilion. I have been listening to your music for the last few years and I have been hooked ever since the first song I heard. Your show was beautiful. Sharing your music with some of my closest friends and my very musically-inclined boyfriend satisfied me in a way that not much else can. But the truth is that you said some things that truly marred the evening for me and I haven’t yet let it go.

Towards the end of your set you put down your violin for a heart to heart with the audience. You spoke of how you are often complimented on staying so true to yourself and not being afraid to do so. You confided that you have not always been this way and that you suffered a bout of depression. I wish you had stopped there.

You see, when you continued on to say you were self-absorbed as a depressed person and that you simply had to change your mind, you stopped being helpful. I could no longer identify with you because I was instead disappointed and somewhat insulted. I believe you when you say that you practiced changing your frame of mind the same way you practiced your arpeggios worked for you, and I am truly glad for you. But please don’t make the mistake of thinking that it is that simple for everyone.

I have now been aware of my depression for over a decade, though I suspect it was present even in my childhood. I am as well-versed as anybody could be in the routines of self-care. I try to sleep well, eat well, hydrate, do things that make me feel good, enjoy the sunshine, etc. But the fact of the matter is that sometimes none of these things work and sometimes I am simply not capable of doing any of them. I promise you that if I could think my way out of depression I would have done so many years ago. Instead, I am left hoping to be functional at best and proud of myself when I go a full two weeks without randomly considering suicide. This is an illness; it cannot always be walked off.

Please know that I do not intend to one up any experiences you have had; depression doesn’t behave the same for everybody. But this is the point that I am trying to make: your experience is not universal. As you must be aware, there is a certain stigma that people who are mentally ill must battle. It is a kind of illness that is not widely understood and often gets brushed off in ways that are harmful – frequently by people who are close to us. We are often misunderstood as lazy or flaky or self-absorbed when we are simply not as able as an average person. It is not about choice; it is about capability. 

Your music has become my go-to writing music and I have written countless blog posts and letters while listening to it. II believe I understand very clearly the emotional messages conveyed in your music that you described to us last Saturday. I understand the deep somber beginnings and the crescendos of hope. You have helped me and inspired me with the beauty of the pieces you have composed more than you could fathom. You have, in your own way, already saved me.

This is why I am asking you, Lindsey, not to insinuate that your experience is the same as mine or anybody else’s. Please do not speak as though you are the authority on depression and the way out. You have such a large audience to hear you; please do not reaffirm the stereotype that people with mental illness need only to think their way out of it and to try harder. Please do not blanket all of us with your statements while neglecting that we do not all feel the same things, we are not capable of the same things, and we do not all have the same resources.

I believe fully that your intentions are only good. When you are next on stage and sharing your struggle with your fans, tell them this:

“Depression is terrible.”

“It gets better.”

“You are worth it.”

Yours,

Marie Billiel

Here are some of my very, very favorite resources for helping people understand depression and its stigmas:

Adventures in Depression By Allie Brosh

What if People Treated Physical Illness Like Mental Illness? via HuffPost

Depression Quest By Zoe Quinn – This is about as real as it gets, folks

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13 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Lindsey Stirling

  1. Sarah

    I think you took what she was saying in a very wrong way.
    She was sharing her own message with how she overcame it – you decided to take it as she was making light of how depression can be overcome.

    That’s not her fault you decided to take that from it, rather than just take it as her own personal way of overcoming it.

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  2. Cuivre

    There are a few very successful people who went through some very difficult times in their childhood who worked through their depression on their own that I can certainly relate to. (Lindsey Stirling and Ronda Rousey being two of them) I relate to their stories because I conquered mine pretty much through my own devices as well through self achievement academically and professionally and being comfortable with myself. I do not believe Lindsey insinuates her story is possible for everyone, but there is a subset who she can help who may not meet the clinical and chemical definition of “depression” . Should she stop telling her story because it doesn’t help EVERYONE? I think not!

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    1. I certainly don’t think she should stop telling her story! Discussing depression is a very important part to dissipating some of the taboo culture surrounding it. However, I worry that people who are unfamiliar with depression and mental illness will take away the idea that this is THE way to “cure” oneself and that is harmful to the rest of us for whom that is not the case. 🙂

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  3. Aa

    My god. Get over yourself. In no way was she saying it is the same for everyone. She shared her experience and how she overcame it. She did say she understands that it isn’t easy and it wasn’t for her.

    You can’t make everyone happy, and this is just another example of that.

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    1. Not sure why you’re lashing out like this, but it isn’t helpful to this discussion. You are welcome to read my replies to the other comments if you’re interested in better understanding my point.

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  4. Jack

    How about you not delete comments that you do not agree with….

    You have reaffirmed that her story is similar just by saying “This is why I am asking you, Lindsey, not to insinuate that your experience is the same as mine or anybody else’s.”

    This is saying “You can’t know what I am going through and only I can know.” That is very self absorbed.

    Try looking through the EXACT words spoken. You say you understand the meaning, that is all that should be needed. Instead, you seem to feel the need to argue with someone giving a positive message.

    I think we have found the problem here.

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    1. Sorry, what comments have I deleted? All comments get queued for approval before being posted and I don’t always get to them right away.

      Pointing out that someone’s experience is not universal is not actually self-absorbed. Asking them to be aware of that is fair.

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  5. Even though this letter was well said, there are many that would also say that just saying “depression is terrible, it gets better, and you are worth it” wouldn’t help at all as well, as everyone’s experiences will vary, as you just said.

    Depression is complicated. Everyone knows this. Anyway.

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  6. So, let me get this straight.

    You’re basically saying that Lindsey is doing something wrong by opening up about her past, and your solution for this is to be less genuine and more generic when doing a heart-to-heart to others.

    How is being less genuine and more vague a good thing? It isn’t. It really isn’t.

    Lindsey is not trying to be THE authority on depression, nor is she trying to sit there and imply that her experience is the same as others. In other words, she is trying to make a connection with others, and convey a message that is unique and not nondescript. The hope to doing this is to imply:

    “Depression is terrible.”

    “It gets better.”

    “You are worth it.”

    You know, the nondescript statement that you closed with.
    Anyway, that’s my bone to pick with what you said.

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    1. Totally a fair point!

      And to be clear, I don’t think there is ANYthing wrong with her opening up about her past. My thought process on the more generalized statements was this:

      Because everyone’s experiences of depression can vary so much, maybe it’s better to really speak to the common denominators of the struggle. The fact of the matter is that not everyone can think their way out of it and I think the bunch of us who can’t would appreciate something more inclusive, which (I imagine) is something that Lindsey Stirling probably meant to be doing. 🙂

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  7. Steven Van Bogaert

    Hello Marie,

    Serious letter you wrote…

    Talking about it, is a part of the solution to find a balance in life. We all have those ‘mood-swings’ and yes it’s officially called ‘depression’. I can very much relate to what Lindsey says and tells the audience during her shows. It made me think my life over again, even back to my childhood too… Yes, I’m not a generally ‘happy’ person either, but it doesn’t need an ‘illness’ label either. I see it as being a perfect normal human being with feelings and emotions! If we would be happy all the time, that would be even disturbing, I guess, not? There are happy moments of course too (even lots of them actually) and you have to concentrate on those. Cherish the ‘good times’ makes you laugh more and worry less… Loneliness can happen even when you are surrounded by (the) people (you love) and it is hard to trust someone with your feelings. But talking really helps, even if it contains ‘offending’ and ‘agressive’ lines… It is a good start!

    A while ago I did post a message myself in the fan group about me feeling sad and depressed and how Lindsey’s music uplifts and helps me. I took it off again later on, just because I was afraid of it. Bringing it out in the ‘open’… you know, a scary moment for me :). Even when I got lots of positive comments on it. But it’s actually OK to start a conversation about it! It really helps! So your open letter took some courage! That is also good!

    I’ve had it all my life, a bit ‘less’ during my childhood actually. “Nothing is a 100% perfect”. That’s what my father always said, when I was not satisfied with life and things! I went through a very dark period the past 4 years. Divorce, then my father died and I lost my two dogs (these were my actual friends I could trust and tell everything, a bit sad but true). Things went a little black on me and there is no real cure for it. There are no ‘pills’ for it that can solve it and all the problems that come along with it… Doctors like to prescribe ‘solutions’, but they don’t have or bring the answers. So be careful when offered these. I was once, but I didn’t accept because I’ve seen two people committing suicide after quitting those ‘pills’. It is you yourself who will have to find a solution. Taking the ‘exit’ in life just scatters your problems onto the persons who really love you and who really care about you. So that’s not the solution!

    Try to find something/someone that calms you down and where you can get a hold on when necessary! Something you love to do! Something that makes you happy! A hobby, a sport or a even a pet animal! Maybe playing your favorite videogames, learning a new language, I don’t know! Like listening to Lindsey’s music ;)! It comes straight from the heart and I don’t know how she does it, but it really helped and still helps me! To me she is a real angel! Just look at the new video from ‘Take a Flight’. Bring the nice things back (in)to (your) life, like that blue flower (Hortensia)! Find peace in the little things! Calm down your soul!
    And that is also the message that Lindsey brings! She doesn’t say overcome it, she just says try to find a grip on things. For her it is her music! And it sounds like heaven to me! I believe in her and the things she does! So please don’t criticize her! Don’t confuse love and hate! No undertones of jealousy please, leave that to the haters… You are personalizing her message to much onto your own self… she is not authorizing, nor generalizing…

    All we can do is listen to you and talk about it. I don’t offer any solutions, only understanding…! KSLL ❤

    So my only advice for you is: "When loneliness tries to bite you again, don't let that ugly beast get to you!" You are not alone in this! Always remember that!

    Greetings from Belgium!
    Best wishes,
    Steven

    IK HOU VAN BLAUWE KORENBLOEMEN!

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