For years now, we’ve been interviewing musicians about how music connects to their mental health and personal experiences. The interviews are intended to be thought-provoking, helpful, and healing. On top of that, they’re intended to help remove the stigma around mental health issues.
We’ve talked quite a bit about dealing with depression, trauma, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) here at Of Music and Mind. I hope you take the time to look into some of the helpful information we’ve put together, specifically for musicians.
In this interview we learn about Bob Brinkman – bass player in Columbus, Ohio instrumental band Bridesmaid – and the role music plays in his ability to cope with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
If you or someone you know is experiencing depression or the effects of trauma (PTSD), please know there is help and support available. One of my favorite resources is HelpGuide.org. Their information on depression and PTSD & Trauma is rich with information, support, and resources. If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide – reach out to get help and information! Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (they’re available 365/24/7 at 1-800-273-8255 or go to their website to chat online). If you need help, please get it now. You deserve support.
Today we’re thankful to present this …
Of Music and Mind Interview: Bob Brinkman Talks About Music, Depression, and PTSD
Bob is one of two bass players (playing alongside two drummers) in the Columbus, Ohio instrumental band Bridesmaid. They have a heavy sound and a unique setup. Album names like International House of Mancakes and Breakfast at Riffany’s illustrate their knack for humor. Bridesmaid has been releasing music since 2011. Check out their music on Spotify, purchase it on Bandcamp, and keep up to date on Bridesmaid shows and happenings on their Facebook page.
I approached Bob to talk about heavy music and Descendants of Crom IV. He participated in an interview like many of the other DOC IV bands. I learned a lot about Bob and Bridesmaid that I didn’t know, even though I’ve been aware of the band a long time.
For example, Bob wrote a really cool piece for Bass Player magazine about the Darkglass ADAM pedal. You can read it here. Prior to that, Bob and Bridesmaid co-bassist Scott Hyatt were interviewed by the publication. You can read that one here.
Then, the topic of music and mental health came up. Bob shared that he’d be interested in doing a more pointed interview on the topic because he feels strongly there shouldn’t be a stigma around this kind of stuff. I couldn’t agree more.
Bob Talks about Being a Musician
We talked about Bob’s life as a musician.
What are your current projects?
What are your previous projects?
What instruments do you play?
Bass, I can fake guitar.
Which instrument do you consider to be your main instrument?
What does music mean to you?
I find it calming. I think creating it is an act of joy, and a good way to meet folks you wouldn’t have otherwise.
Tell me the story of how you got into music?
I started with the piano in kindergarten and didn’t like that, school band in fifth grade and quit after a week, then convinced my parents to buy me a Peavey Foundation Bass for my 14th birthday. Here we are about 28 years later and I am still playing bass.
So how long have you been a musician would you say?
I started playing in bands at 16 off and on, about 26 years.
What are some of the challenges you experience as a musician?
Making myself practice on my own.
What inspires you to keep playing music and performing?
My friends. I feel like there are still a few things I want to try to accomplish too. Touring Europe for example.
What do you have coming up?
Bob Talks About Depression and PTSD
We talked about Bob’s experience with depression and PTSD.
How long have you been experiencing depression and PTSD?
The first depressive episode I can remember happened when I was 15.
Tell me what your experience of depression and PTSD is like.
I tend to turn everything inwards on myself, my internal voice is overly harsh and critical of me. I have a very hard time accepting validation or any form of caring from the important people in my life, I tend to self-nullify by making a deprecating joke about myself when I get a compliment. I had to ask a therapist to stop complimenting me in group, and she had noticed it was bothering me before I said anything.
I have a very hard time telling people I care about how I am feeling. By very hard time I mean that I struggle to maintain eye contact and not cry in either situation, particularly when my depressive symptoms are bad.
In stressful situations I tend to go numb, and deal with whatever the problem is without much thought to how it is impacting me. If I created the stressful situation myself by making a mistake, I get really hard on myself.
Conversely, I can get triggered when others are dismissing me (or I feel like they are.) While I rarely engage in physical confrontations, there is an extremely angry part of me that has come out when pushed to that point. I try my best to regulate my anger and stress as a result.
Do you have any theories or ideas about why you experience depression?
From what I have read I have the genetic markers for it, which doesn’t guarantee I will have depression symptoms, but enough trauma will cause that to start manifesting itself. Most mental health conditions are this way. So, a combo of my brain chemistry and life experiences.
Bob Talks About the Connection Between Music, Depression, and PTSD
We talked about the role music plays in Bob’s experience of depression and PTSD.
What role – if any – has music or being a musician played in creating or strengthening your depression and PTSD?
Being in a band is a really good cover for partying too hard as long as you can still play while fucked up. I was definitely abusing every substance around me to the point of self harm instead of dealing with what I needed to for awhile.
How do you cope with your depression and PTSD? What keeps you going despite this challenge?
I have done DBT, EMDR, and CBT therapy. I continue to see a therapist that draws from multiple disciplines off and on. TMS treatments for depression are an absolute miracle as far as I am concerned. Microdosing, prescribed meds, and staying active regulate me day to day for the most part.
What role – if any – has music or being a musician played in fighting or alleviating your depression and PTSD?
I think being involved in a community of some sort and staying busy are both great for my mental health.
What advice do you have for other people – musicians in particular – who suffer from depression or PTSD?
You’re not bad or faulty. There’s no short answer though, you have to keep trying things and putting in the work until you see results. You have to continue that work as you can and accept that the lens you filter reality through might always be a little off and handle that in a way that is healthy for you.
What song from another artist best sums up the experience of depression or PTSD for you? Why?
The album The Thousandfold Epicentre is eerily like my experience with depression from start to finish. Selim Lemouchi wrote it with his sister performing the vocals and a full band helping record/tour. He later killed himself.
What songs of yours best sum up the experience of depression or PTSD for you? Why?
I make music to get away from that.
We are thankful to Bob for sharing this part of his life with us all. It really does help to shine light on these things; to let others know they’re not alone.
The point of these interviews – aside from being interesting – is to open up the conversation. We hope that they provide you with information, validation, a reminder that you are not alone, and a look into where the music comes from. Remember, if you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide – reach out to get help and information! Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (they’re available 365/24/7 at 1-800-273-8255 or go to their website to chat online). Be well!
Friendly reminder: Of Music and Mind content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the assistance of qualified providers (such as some of those found on the Resources page) with any questions you may have regarding any medical conditions.