Anyone who has struggled with mental health issues can point to a moment when someone told them that what they’re feeling isn’t real. Aaron Gillespie—drummer and vocalist for the Grammy-nominated metal band Underoath, as well as the touring drummer for Paramore and founder of the band The Almost— recalls a time when the people around him said that his generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) could be addressed with something as simple as forgetting about the affliction. “My whole life the coping I received from anyone was, ‘If you feel it, ignore it because it isn’t real it’s in you mind,’” he says the latest installment of Sound Mind Unmasked, a video series featuring artists sharing their mental health journey and opening up about the toll touring and recording can take. Unmasked is focused on as shining a light on free mental health resources available to everyone, as well as fostering an open dialogue about mental health for artists and audiences alike.
But ignoring his anxiety only served to amplify the anxiety issues Aaron was dealing with. It came to a head a decade ago while he was on tour. Aaron had been missing meals, meetings, and sound checks, and struggling with the physical manifestations of anxiety like chest pains and shortness of breath. His tour mates came to him offering support, but they also—crucially—reminded him that the strains he’s feeling are real and that they need real solutions.
He found outlets that displaced the pressure he was feeling. Aaron started running, finding that it released some of the negative energy he had been holding in. But he also found a medication that worked for him, and advocates for finding a medical team that can help artists navigate their unique set of stress and struggles.
Aaron’s growth hasn’t been a panacea for his mental health, but it has helped him better navigate an industry that can be especially tumultuous and difficult. He’s hoping that by opening up a dialogue about his own struggles, other musicians will feel more comfortable asking for help when they need it. “On a daily basis I deal with feelings of being not enough, believe I’m being an imposter, and the only way through is with honesty and talk,” he told Billboard. “Everybody deals with some form of mental struggle, it’s a hard one to talk about, but if we can break the chain of stigma and of embarrassment, I truly believe we can be better, and more accepting”