Depression: A Musician and (Former) Psychotherapist Rising From the Struggle

Russell James Pyle - Pyragraph
Photo by Amanda Flory.

I have lived with severe depression since I was a child. Depression has forced me to quit jobs, academic programs, as well as cancel practices and gigs. It has led me through a myriad of destructive relationships and lifestyles, and has left me suicidal and debilitated for much of my life. Although all my close friends know this about me, the fact that I’m going public is the end result of a lot of deliberation and soul searching. It is the product of the support and affinity I have found within my community. It is this support that has led me to realize something deep within my heart that I feel is worth sharing: I’m not alone and I don’t have to live as though I am.

Struggle is alive in every plant that breaks through the soil.

The fact is, there are many of us within the creative community who experience a deep struggle with mental health. The more I have opened up about living with depression the more people have opened up to me. The sad thing is that we are tricked, by both society and our depressed brains, that we have to cope with this on our own. We don’t and we shouldn’t. Prior to becoming a full-time musician, I worked as a psychotherapist and one of the most important understandings I came away with is that in order to survive and heal, we need people to be there with us through our pain and struggles. This means opening up to those with whom we feel safest, and letting them share our darkness for a time.

I quit my eighth job in mental health last June due to the severity of my depression. It was the last in a long string of burnouts and it finally became clear to me that I could no longer work within the traditional setting. After giving myself several months to heal and recover I began building my singer-songwriter career and immediately felt like it was the right direction. The depression is still a major factor in my life, but I don’t feel the pressure to succeed. The result is a collection of some of my favorite songs I’ve ever written. They’re introspective and a full reflection on my experiences with my mental health.

Russell James Pyle - Pyragraph
Photo by Russell Pyle.

I’ve always identified with struggle; I think it’s why I love living in the desert so much. Rising above struggle is such a powerful source of inspiration that happens all around us. If you look hard enough, you can see it in the eyes of everything that walks this earth. Struggle is alive in every plant that breaks through the soil to reach the sun and it is present in the very crust of the earth that is splitting and moving. As an artist, tapping into this type of nonduality can be a watershed moment. It brought me to a place where I could use my music to examine and heal my soul, and hopefully the product would be of the same benefit to others.

That’s where my new album Rise comes from. The lyrics showcase connecting with nature as a coping skill and tell stories of what it’s like to survive in a post-millennial world. The music is deliberately mellow, atmospheric and dreamy—inspired by the mood I wanted to create. My hope is that the result is uplifting and gives the listener the feeling that they are not alone in their struggle. I want the listener to realize the innate sense of strength needed to overcome adversity and that they can rise in spite of it.

Here are some great resources for support:




In our community we have to look out for one another. It’s much easier to rise together than alone. We have to feel open and safe discussing our pain. We artists open ourselves up to all aspects of life and this makes us prone to darkness. Stephen King once wrote that art can be a hedge against this darkness. We need not grow these hedges on our own.

Russell James Pyle - Pyragraph
Photo by Russell Pyle.

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