Something strange happens when you’re an adolescent who has had brain trauma, and suddenly find yourself going from an all-A student to someone who finds it difficult to remember what happened at the beginning of a TV show when you’re only 10minutes in.
Self esteem issues.
These are all issues that are surprisingly linked – and can be resolved in some pretty creative, effective and nifty ways, but – by far – one of the most successful tools I discovered as a teenager and as someone who suddenly found schooling difficult as a result of brain trauma, depression and various other traumas has been songwriting.
Because music stimulates the hippocampus, which is related to memory, songwriting gives us the ability to tap into our subconscious in a way that helps us to both remember and retain information. Even now, looking back on the songs I wrote as a teenager: I can use my songs as bookmarks for each page that I have lived – even the yucky bits that I wish I could forget. The hard bits – the wonderful bits – and the traumatic bits. Each song we write serves as a placeholder for our memories, experiences, and – most importantly – our growth. Even better: music helps us to recall those dark spaces we want to avoid, thus allowing us to really heal, if given the safety and opportunity to do so.
When it comes to social anxiety, feeling like an outsider, or finding it difficult to connect with peers: music can almost serve as a superhero cape – giving the songwriter superhuman abilities to express themselves honestly and authentically under the guise of a song. Singing is far less confrontational [read: scary] than a conversation about one’s innermost feelings and fears.
Academic achievement is a whole other level of the magic that music can bring a young person, however. Firstly, by giving a young person permission to express themselves fully through songwriting allows your teenager the ability to unclutter their mind and heartspace, so that they can regain focus on academic achievement. When I was a teenager, I loved school, but it became very difficult to balance my grades and juggling with various abuses, my friends harming themselves [some even committing suicide], and my still-healing brain from the various brain surgeries I had had as a child. Songwriting helped me to get out and onto paper [and into melody] my overwhelming feelings so that I could start to process everything in a way that gave me enough energy, time and space to focus on my education as well.
But the biggest hurdle I had as a young person was around self esteem. Getting called Frankenstein and a freak due to my brain surgery is one thing, but with the advent of social media and cell phones: body image issues were huge for me. I never felt good enough, pretty enough,worthy enough, though I would often fool the world into thinking I was confident. Now, with TikTok and Instagram being the top of every teenagers to-do list: we see the highlight reel is more prevalent than ever – providing little opportunity for young people to express their darkness healthily and safely. Being able to channel my true inner-badass through music and songwriting built my self confidence and my self-worth in ways that social media never could. Why? Because every song I wrote came from ME, and MY thoughts. My beliefs. My ideas. And it’s the same for every young person. Sometimes we just need permission, and a roadmap to help us step into those authentic, honest and empowering parts of ourselves.
I’ve put together some really simple madlib style lyric sheets for you or your teenager to try out.
Click here to download!