Former child music prodigy Amy Studt talks about her battle with rapid cycling bipolar disorder
Music has barely featured in my life for the most part of the last twenty years because depression and mixed state bipolar disorder crucified every interest and made appreciation of anything completely impossible.
However, now that I am finally well again, I am rediscovering some of my former passions like riding, reading and writing, and now music is beginning to spark my interest as well.
More recently, I've been rediscovering songs that I once loved and revisiting some of my favourite artists from the past.
Last week, I was out walking with my earphones in, listening to my iTunes on shuffle and the singer Amy Studt happened to come on. I used to be a fan of hers and loved her first album which she released when she was only sixteen.
With successful hits like ‘Just a Little Girl’ and ‘Under the Thumb’ she was catapulted to fame in the early 2000’s, with debut album ‘False Smiles’ reaching the top 20 in the U.K charts.
Having not heard anything about her over the last fifteen years, I began to wonder what had happened, so when I got home, I looked her up on the internet and was saddened to hear that she’s been suffering from both severe mental and physical illnesses.
At the age of 22 Amy had a breakdown and was subsequently hospitalised and diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar disorder. The parallels between the age of onset and what she says about it, are all too familiar, but I am so pleased to see that she has been open and honest about suffering from mental illness.
Amy lost all of her recording contracts to the devastation of bipolar disorder which must have been impossibly hard to cope with. Having lost my own career to the illness, I understand the heartbreak that comes with having the efforts of a promising profession ripped away, which is devastating and so difficult to come to terms with.
The last few years have been especially challenging for me, with the added complications of the psychiatric medications themselves which were prescribed to help me, but in fact did nothing but worsen my condition.
I am finally on the right combination of things, but the bipolar brain seems to be highly sensitive to any change whatsoever, with Amy having a similar problem when prescribed pregnancy hormones kick-started another bipolar episode. She tells us:
“What we didn’t realise was that injecting all those hormones day after day would trigger my bipolar and anxiety disorder and send me spiralling back to hospital. To say it was not a good time would be a incomprehensible understatement. It’s taken me a long time but week by week I’ve been slowly able to do basic things like: using the phone, seeing people, leaving the house, making decisions, noticing when I’m irrationally attaching my anxiety to things that I shouldn’t and disconnecting that fear. An exhausting amount of mental work. For a long time, I couldn’t look people in the face - too afraid they might look frightening and bring on another panic attack”.
While Amy was incarcerated in hospital, she continued to write music since she discovered that there was a piano on the ward for patients to use. She has now documented her 10-year bipolar journey through her music, producing an album called ‘Happiest Girl in the Universe’ which was released just over a year ago.
I’ve now downloaded the album and with songs entitled ‘Sleepwalker’, ‘Overdose’ and ‘Different Coloured Pills’ it’s very clear what ‘Happiest Girl in the Universe’ is all about!
The music is soul-baring rock-pop and the vocals are haunting but enticing and beautiful. It’s very different from the teen pop that she released as her first album in 2003, but refreshingly so, since I think as the years go by, traditional pop music gets less and less appealing!
The lyrics and references in the song ‘Different Couloured Pills’ are making me smile and I’m also enjoying the hints and nods to the effects of the disorder which I can relate to, and appreciate so completely. She sings:
“Too much, deliberation on each, situation
My head, begins to wobble loose
My brain it drowns in the cranial juice
Coloured pills, electric blue
Down the hatch. Down in one
Abracadabra, now life is fun
From the humdrum
Not so mean on Fluoxetine
Got to, meet a man for my Diazepam
Na na na na na na
Coloured pills, electric blue”
In a later song she sings with a simple piano accompaniment about how she’d like to learn to live her life ‘unrehearsed’. This also rings true because when you're in the grip of bipolar disorder you have to 'perform' daily with every action being deliberately forced, and contrived. She sings:
“I don’t wanna die, before I
Learn to live my life like I could, not how I wanna
Dancing in the rain, not hiding under covers
I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna die
Before I learn to live my life
I wanna live my life
Like the happiest girl in the Universe”
I’m loving the album and am incredibly grateful to Amy for not only creating such a beautiful collection of songs but for being so honest and open about mental illness through her lyrics and words. In an interview she finishes off by saying:
“Thank the f-ing world, I’m alive and all better again! I feel very grateful. It’s certainly an interesting road living with chronic illness. And everyone who has it and lives and thrives with it is a serious warrior. Shout out to all my warrior brothers and sisters x so much love to you all. ‘It’ll all be alright in the end. And if it isn’t alright? It isn’t the end.’”
I really couldn’t say it any better myself! Thank you to Amy for spreading hope and sending love to all those suffering with this very complicated, misunderstood and difficult disorder!
If you would like to listen to Amy Studt’s album ‘Happiest Girl in the Universe’ then you can find it on iTunes. ‘Different Coloured Pills’ can be found on YouTube and I have also added it here.
Thanks for reading,
Speak to you soon,