Tonic Ska Choir member David Wilshaw writes about joining the ska choir and how it helped him back to work.
When I came across the choir I had been off work for nine months due to mental health issues. I spoke with Steph on the Tonic stand at Victorious Festival, and she encouraged me to join the choir. Singing ska sounded like fun, and I was eager for anything that would help me change things for the better. My first rehearsal was the following week.
Within the first few minutes I knew I was in the right place. The atmosphere was light and inclusive, the leaders enthusiastic and encouraging, and when the singing kicked in you couldn’t help but feel a lift both mentally and physically.
Upbeat tunes and the feeling of contributing to, and being carried along with, the sound of the choir were instant mood changers. It was a great relief to feel some positivity, and at the end of the session I knew I’d be back for more. Within a couple of weeks I was singing with the choir on stage at Fratton Family Festival, song lyrics in hand, the audience dancing in the sunshine.
Eight months later and I’m still attending every week. I am also back at work. Finding the choir when I did was so important to me. It gave me something genuinely good to hold on to during a very dark period. It bought me time to recover, whilst also boosting my self-esteem and speeding my recovery. I’m truly grateful to Tonic for that.
Like most people with mental health issues, it’s an ongoing thing that needs to be managed, and some days you manage it more successfully than others. On difficult days it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and isolated again, but belonging to something as positive as the choir, and representing such a great charity, is something to be proud of and a source of strength.
Fundamentally, it’s also a good laugh with a lovely bunch of people who are highly supportive of each other. Rehearsing, performing, and seeing others enjoy ska is a buzz.