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My Mental Health Journey by Sarah Lightman

By Sarah Lightman, Singer-Songwriter & Mental Health Advocate

About Sarah

Recording artist and singer/songwriter Sarah Lightman, newly based in Nashville, Tennessee (originally from Central New Jersey) moved from an 8 year Los Angeles residency. She started in music as a street performer in Downtown Burbank, CA and climbed to having her music video featured on the jumbotron at Universal CityWalk, Los Angeles while performing at various residencies all over the city and touring on the East Coast - including the NAMM Mainstage and CityWalk. Sarah is also sponsored by Luna Guitars, Cleartone Strings, and Empire Ears. When the pandemic started and in person gigs were put on pause, she wanted to keep connecting with fans through live music on Twitch. Her main focus is advocating for mental health through the medium of her original songs. By sharing the adversity she has overcome, the resilience she has developed, and the wisdom she learns, she hopes to help others know they can face their fears and live beyond theirs too. Known for her uniquely soulful voice and smooth, clear tone that cuts like a knife, she aims to provide a refreshing outlet for pop listeners.

My journey began with my dad’s passing at 14

Oh man it’s been a saga for mental health. My first experience with mental health awareness was after my dad passed at 14. My mom took my brother and I to see a therapist that was a friend of my dad’s to make sure we were grieving ok. My brother and mom saw someone, but I didn’t think I needed help. I was really young, so I didn’t really understand everything going on. My dad was an art therapist when he was alive, so therapy wasn’t much of a taboo in my family, although his area of expertise was super fresh in the 90’s. It wasn’t till I was 19, where I had gone into a few sessions with that therapist to talk about frustrations I was having at home, and to address the possibility of having ADHD. All I know is for the life of me I could not focus, and I had to read the pages of books over and over while my mind wandered and thought about everything but what I was reading. After that I didn’t return to therapy until I was about 22, senior year of college.

What my period of low self-worth looked like

When I was in college I dated a guy who suggested I go to therapy because I was having a hard time. The guy wasn’t a good fit, but the therapy was somewhat helpful to see that I was putting others completely before myself. I had really low self worth, and could not make decisions for myself without the fear of displeasing family. I hadn’t any clue what it meant to stand up for myself, and I allowed myself to be hurt by the people who didn’t deserve my time. I was also afraid to feel confident and didn’t know what it meant to see my value. I was so taken over by the fear of letting people go who were causing hurt, afraid of what others thought, and I even thought I was a bad person if I did. It mattered more to me what others thought over my own wellbeing. I was pretty paralyzed by uncomfortable emotions, and wasn’t the healthiest with myself.

The case of codependency

After I left that relationship and did the therapy, and even left to move to Los Angeles post graduation I became aware that I had some deep wounds to heal, and I had become familiar with the term codependency -  when a person has a void inside themselves (created from childhood trauma, abuse, and neglect) and they look to fulfill and heal their worth with everything outside of themself. There are more definitions out in the world, but in a nutshell, it’s when a person looks to the outside (unconsciously) to fill their basic needs of self love and safety. Some people use substances such as sugar, alcohol, drugs, money, exercise, and anything outside their body trying to cope only to further avoid their pain. Mine were sweets, work, and people. Codependency is actually incredibly common. We live in a world where we’re told we need x, y, and z to be happy, to be enough, to love and accept ourselves. We learn to conditionally love, believing we are owed something in return for the love and kindness that we give - which is not authentic love. It’s no mystery as to why we have such a hard time connecting with others, when we barely know how to connect with ourselves and sit with all of our emotions. We’re all trying to survive our experiences, when most of the time, we’re safer and more loved than we believe.

Turning pain into a blessing; Using music to heal myself and others

About a year and a half, I was living on my own for the first time in LA and I found myself doing a lot of self discovery, self work, healing, and finding new ways to self soothe and see myself. Everyone hits a rock bottom, and it’s a huge blessing if the person is ready to see and do better. The pain I had experienced was enough to shift my perspective and wake me up from living life completely unconscious. The way each person suffers is so unique and beautiful to their identity, and each person decides when enough is enough. I began to see the world clearer than I had before, and got through the fear of healing from some pretty deep pain, having survived emotionally and sexually abusive relationships. This is also why I got inspired to do music and quit any other job, or dream I was pursuing. I felt that others like me needed to be heard through their hardship, and to remind myself with these songs I’m okay and I am living a better life. Even though I thought I was through attracting that life, little did I know there was more work to be done to heal from the past, and my attachment habits needed an upgrade.

Healing is not linear

I thought I just had relational trauma, but there was a lot I had blocked out from childhood not yet fully processed. My brain just didn’t know how to let it pass, so I forgot it was there. I remember some days having conversations and I couldn’t complete thoughts, sentences, and sometimes even listening was incredibly challenging, without losing focus. I fought like hell to stay present, and I just wanted to feel “normal” in the sense of being able to let things pass and connect deeply with others, but I felt incredibly low. I felt a lack of sense of belonging with myself and others. 

When Covid hit…

I had been striving so hard for my career, my physical, and mental health, and my romantic relationship at the time. I forgot about myself, but life forced me to stop and pause and see myself again. I saw a lot. I had a vocal injury, my grandfather passed away, I couldn’t work, I was recovering financially from a shady music scam while trying to promote an album with no budget, my national TV debut was canceled, I couldn’t see friends or family in person, and didn’t even go to the store in fear of not knowing how Covid might further injure my voice. I was living with an emotionally unavailable partner in a dead relationship, and not to mention digestive issues from all of the above and more. My boundaries were depleted from all of those things. I was at a low I hadn’t felt in a really long time, feeling incredibly alone, having suicidal thoughts the more isolated I felt having to stay home. It took a few more therapists to finally receive the proper care I was seeking to be happier from the inside, and it wasn’t until the pandemic where I finally had found the right fit who told me I’d be a great candidate for EMDR to heal from a condition called C-PTSD - Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. From there, the real battle then began.

Healing is an ongoing practice

Today I am on a journey of self training and healing to help me reconnect with myself as the majority of the past has been put to rest. I’ve been writing a lot of music about it too! Doing EMDR therapy the last three years, I came to realize I had a severe history of unfortunate past experiences, and healing is an ongoing practice as life keeps moving forward. The work we do to love ourselves does not stop, and we will fail a lot as we learn. We will get up again and again to do better. Each time maybe instead of just falling down, we’ll learn to catch ourselves before we hit the ground, then work our way to standing, walking, and then running. However, we will only succeed if we believe we are worthy of love and commit to ourselves 100% every day to love ourselves as best we can. We are all worthy of the work to get there, and little by little we absolutely can. 

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