Letters, Numbers and Notes

Clea Knight writes for us about the power of music but also the power of games, one game in particular, a very famous words and numbers game which has helped her find her grounding through a very difficult period.

2018 was an absolutely awful year for me. It started with the break down of a long-term relationship, and ended with some difficult career-related news. Throughout the year I completed my masters in music therapy alongside starting and suddenly stopping anti-depressant medication, beginning and ending another very intense relationship, and discovering I had a chronic vitamin deficiency, causing severe dizziness and insomnia, and is likely to have been contributing to the anxiety and low mood that has affected my daily life for over 10 years.

I found myself facing quite significant judgement by medical professionals for the scars on my arms, for suddenly stopping my medication (which felt safer than the suicidal thoughts I was experiencing every day as a side effect) and even for asking for certain blood tests. I felt completely disempowered to get the support and care I needed for both my physical and my mental health.

Music has always been a way for me to process my feelings, reduce my anxiety and change my mood. I’ve found that working with people through playing and listening to music as a music therapist has helped me just as much as the benefits I’ve observed in the people I’ve worked with. But interestingly, when things were really terrible last year, there were many times when music was just too much.

As we all know, music can be very emotionally charged, and bring back a lot of memories. At times when I am very low, or very anxious, such strong emotions elicited through music can make me feel even worse, and I know it’s important for me to practise self care to ensure I don’t use music in a self-destructive way. And in those times it’s important for me to find different ways to cope.

I’ve always been a big fan of the TV show Countdown, and last year I found that the structure of the game and the slight pressure to get words and numbers in each 30 second round was a wonderful distraction from the chaos in my mind. I started watching every episode, and rediscovered that I was actually alright at it – often beating the winners when I played against them at home. In November 2018, I decided that I needed to do more to create joy in my life. I applied to be a contestant.

I went up to the Countdown studios to film my episode in March. It was such a fun experience, meeting the other contestants, chatting to Susie Dent and Rachel Riley, and just getting to play my favourite game while being put up in a hotel and being fed pizza! At one point, Nick told me that I remained surprisingly calm through each game, and that it must be all the music therapy – but really, I think it was playing Countdown that truly grounded me.

If you’re facing similar challenges, I would urge you to find the things that help you and make time for them. It’s hard to do when it feels like everything is on top of you, but even small things can make a big difference. Take care of yourselves.

If you want to see me on Countdown, my episodes will be airing on channel 4 on 29th, 30th, 31st May and 3rd June, and available through the channel 4 on demand service.

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