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Valerio Lysander

Let’s Talk About It?

The idea for my most successful song to date was born during a therapy session.

Pic by Karl mowbray

Some years ago I was having a very extenuating fight against my inner self, experiencing OCD, anxiety and paranoia every day. For three long years anxiety was the only emotion I could feel. Having to go back home when I was out with friends to check all my documents were in place, not being able to enjoy a movie because a constant thought would get fixed in my mind, washing my hands 100 times a day because I could get sick from using my own toilet (let’s not talk about public toilets), thinking I could be framed for crimes I hadn’t committed, being scared I could die for one reason or another. Just to name a few. That was my every day life. I felt like my life would have been a long path made of catastrophic thinking, floating among the worst possible future occurrences, never present in the here and now, always detached from my own self and the present moment, my head full of unnecessary negative, destructive thoughts. At the time I thought that it would never go away.

But luckily I was brave enough to seek help. I was lucky (after a couple of not-so-great experiences) to find a talented psychotherapist that understood what I needed and with whom I worked together to strengthen my structure and individuality and to make my anxious self a friend, rather than an enemy.
My therapy lasted three years, before I moved to London and I had to stop it, although sometimes I still meet my therapist when I go back home, like a regular check-up to see how things are going. And this is just because mental health should be treated exactly like physical health. When you get a cold, you most likely get paracetamol, if your back aches you go see a physician, if your throat is inflamed you go see an otolaryngologist. If the pain is in your head, what do you do?
Because of the stigma that still surrounds mental illness, some people might still feel ashamed to share the fact that they see a therapist, or might not get into therapy in the first place.
But if we pretend it’s not there, it’s not going to go away. Accepting that we suffer from any mental illness is the first step to a happier life. And mental illness doesn’t necessary mean being a psychopath killer. It could just mean that something just doesn’t feel right. Just as when something doesn’t feel right in your body and you go see a doctor, why not seeing a therapist or a counsellor when something doesn’t feel right in your mind? It could be nothing, or it could be something, better work on it sooner rather than later in any case.

In my own experience, getting into therapy really helped me re-structuring myself and it gave me the support I needed to get out of that dim world I had created in my mind and not only that. In the long run, I also realise that what I learned about myself and the world around me during my sessions with my therapist not only made me healthier, but also allowed me to become more structured and aware. It made me a braver, lighter, brighter, happier, clever person.
It was exactly during one of these sessions that the idea of my song Cotton came out.
One of my mental issues was that I was very rigid with myself and I didn’t allow me mental flexibility. My fear of not being enough, the shame of not being beautiful, clever, talented, strong enough had resulted in a very strong control issue, over other people and situations but also, and especially, over my own identity. Working with my therapist I learned that I could be more flexible, just like a cotton thread that, flexibly, changes its shape without changing its own essence. You probably know how the rest of the song goes.
But anyways, in addition to being a very useful inspiration for songwriting, my therapy (in my specific case it was a cognitive-behavioural approach) was definitely one of the best life choices I’ve taken. It was probably thanks to the human skills I acquired during my therapeutic journey that I grabbed my life back in my hands and decided to follow my career as a musician, then move to London, build a new life from scratch, create a whole new circle of friendships, restore relationships with old friends or relatives, re-define what I want and what I want to be, achieve career and life goals and ultimately live my life without being afraid of being joyful.

So actually, whether something is not ok in your mind or not, therapy is a very useful tool to gain skills that will help you have a better life in which you can be more centred, solid, structured, strong and happy.

And if you don’t feel like going to therapy yet, maybe opening up to a friend could be the first step on this healing path. Keeping your griefs inside is not going to make them go away. There is always someone out there willing to listen to you, and sometimes giving words to feelings helps making them smaller and lighter to carry.

Non-mental hugs. 🙂

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