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Stories from Backstage

Taking Care of My Mental Health With SIMS

Being a freelance music journalist is hard. Being a freelance music journalist with mental health problems is so much harder. When I was living as a freelancer a few years ago, I was always hunting for new work and overcommitting myself, but I still lacked financial security. At one point I calculated that I relied on six different income streams — including writing, Favor driving, tutoring and AirBnb hosting — to make rent, but none of them provided good insurance or affordable access to mental health care.

And that sucked. Because for close to a decade now, I’ve been slowly coming to terms with how my life is impacted by an anxiety disorder and major clinical depression. When I didn’t know that those mental health struggles were what I was experiencing, I just thought I was a scared, miserable and absolutely terrible person. Without the right tools to deal with these things, I ended up inviting more illness into my life, developing an eating disorder that numbed the bad feelings (most of the time) and gave me a sense of control but ate away at my life and body. And I was trying to deal with it all on my own. I thought, I can fix this. I can get better. I can do my own research and teach myself recovery.

But one of the main reasons I relied so much on that narrative was because I simply didn’t think there was any real option for me to get affordable, accessible, real committed help from anyone professional.

Enter SIMS

When I found out that SIMS Foundation not only provided help to musicians but also people in other parts of the music industry, like me, I was excited to recommend the organization to my friends and acquaintances. But I didn’t actually pursue help for myself until I was hit with a particularly bad depressive episode and just wanted someone to take me seriously and tell me what to do. SIMS was amazing for that. The organization was designed to be accessible to people who are really struggling, who can’t make decisions and who are tired or angry all the time. My SIMS clinician talked to me in a very gentle and understanding way, and she recommended a therapist and psychiatrist that she thought I would really get along with. And I was allowed to pay only what I could afford. Two years later, I still see both those providers. I’ve built trusting relationships with them, which is exactly what I needed.

When another deep depressive period hit earlier this year, I spoke with Lily at SIMS again, and she introduced me to an intensive outpatient program at the Seton Mind Institute that I could attend even though I was working a lot. I would never have known about it otherwise, and even if I did, I would never have been able to afford it. The price was normally in the four to five figure range. With SIMS, the fee I paid was two figures.

I try to be as open as I can about my therapy, because I have felt embarrassed so many times and I don’t want to let myself feel that way. I want to be proud of myself instead, and I try to do that by normalizing my experiences with therapy, psychiatric medication and IOP programs.

When I don’t feel “sick enough,” I worry I don’t deserve treatment. But when I’m not struggling as much, it’s because I’m actually following my treatment plan. And thanks to SIMS, I don’t have to worry that the important support structures in my life will disappear if I have a financial crisis.

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