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Deeper Than Bones: A Chat With Charity On Mental Health and Music

Deeper Than Bones: A Chat With Charity On Mental Health and Music

Fans of Third Eye Blind often say that their love for the band and the music goes “deeper than bones,” because it hits us at our core. For some fans, those words can mean so much more...

 CHARITY’S TATTOO 

CHARITY’S TATTOO 

I first heard about Charity and her story while talking with some fellow experts about upcoming 3eb Ink releases they had in the works.

Charity has a gorgeous tattoo that was featured recently. In that article, she touches on her struggles with mental health. She has also written about mental health and music for an article with The Mighty. As someone with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Charity experiences the world much more intensely than most of us can relate to. Because of this, music is a particularly strong force when it hits her. The phrase “deeper than bones” isn’t just heartfelt here. It’s how she is physically programmed to experience things.

“BLEED” ARTWORK BY CHARITY BIXLER - "A copper plate print I did in college, focusing on self-injury and the idea of an artist bleeding out their creativity."

We all know that mental health issues are a problem in our society. They have been stigmatized as something so negative, but also overlooked as something requiring attention to get people the help they need. I strongly believe that the only way to find solutions to our problems is to get the word out, to talk about things (even when it makes people uncomfortable), and to educate people. Given her openness to talk about her mental health, I contacted Charity to expand on her experience with BPD. It is both of our hopes that reading this will influence people, create dialogue, open minds, and somehow help those who need help with their mental health.

Charity, first and foremost, I want to thank you for being so open with your mental health struggles. You have been sharing some very personal aspects of your struggle with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Mental health issues are often stigmatized and people don't want to discuss them. A huge portion of our society faces some sort of mental health issue, though - nearly 1 in 5 adults in America has mental health struggles each year. This is really something that needs to be talked about, that people need to be educated on, and those barriers need to be broken down. So, what you are doing is really important. I'd like to start off with a little bit of that education here for our readers. While they could go look up a technical definition for BPD, people don't often relate or fully understand disorders when they read them in technical terms. For someone who doesn't know what BPD is, how would you explain it in a relatable way?

I think the best way to describe it from my experience is a perpetual feeling of being lost. BPD is very isolating. It makes you feel like you are alone even when you have a great husband and parents and genuine friends who really care about you. Unfortunately, it can make you isolate yourself. I often wait for someone to reach out to me and, if I don't hear from a friend for a while, I start to assume they no longer like me, even if that isn't true. You kind of talk yourself into believing that no one likes you and you're worthless. It makes you feel like you don't know who you are. I look back at things that I've done in my life and think, "why did I ever do that? That's not even me.” It's not regretting something I've done, it's something I've done that I don't believe in, at all. I get sucked into other people's idea of who I am very easily. It's like you're a chameleon, which sounds cool, but it gets super confusing after a while. You become your own worst enemy.

 “WOUNDED” ARTWORK BY CHARITY BIXLER

“WOUNDED” ARTWORK BY CHARITY BIXLER

In your 3eb Ink interview, you stated that you have been a Third Eye Blind fan since you were 9. In your article on The Mighty, you stated that you were diagnosed with BPD at the age of 29. So, doing simple math, you've only had this diagnosis for about a year. It has been a lifelong issue for you, though. Getting proper diagnosis and help for mental health can be tremendously difficult. I have family members and friends who have had long struggles with mental health, jumping through hoops to get the help they need, having been misdiagnosed, etc. What was your experience like before your diagnosis vs. after your diagnosis? What sort of barriers did you face in getting to the point where you got an accurate diagnosis and how has that changed your life?

Yeah, it wasn't an easy road. To start, I have been in and out of therapy for about 15 years. I started self-injuring when my parents got divorced, when I was 14 yo, and so I started therapy then. I think at that point they thought I was depressed from my life situation, and I was, but it never really went away, even years later. So when I was in college, I ended up back in therapy for a while, and then again at 27. Getting to a therapist is fairly easy, as long as you can pay for it, but I was being recommended to see a psychiatrist and that's where it gets tricky. I think it ultimately took me a year to get in to see a psychiatrist, and only after my family doctor called and somehow got me an appointment.

 "BEDROOM" ARTWORK BY CHARITY BIXLER -  "A kind of fantastical version of my bedroom in high school, done in college."

"BEDROOM" ARTWORK BY CHARITY BIXLER - "A kind of fantastical version of my bedroom in high school, done in college."

So, you don't really get a diagnosis until you see the psychiatrist. Up until then I was getting medication for anxiety/depression from my family doctor, but they can only do so much. Before I got the official BPD diagnosis I started meds geared towards a mood disorder (something like Bipolar II) and anxiety. It took a little while, but when I got the BPD diagnosis it was like my whole life made sense all of a sudden, even my extreme love of 3eb. It really opened my eyes to why I had felt the way I felt for so long and, since then, has helped me separate who I really am from the disorder that's afflicting me.

Unfortunately BPD cannot be treated with medication so, for me, just being aware of when I'm experiencing emotions brought on by BPD and practicing mindfulness has been a great help. That and getting my anxiety under control (for the most part) with medication.

Now, you have shared personal stories of how BPD has affected you with us and with The Mighty, as mentioned above. At what point did you decide you wanted to start sharing your personal experience with mental healthy publicly? How did you start? What sort of responses have you received in being so open about having BPD and what you go through because of it?

I decided that I wanted to start telling my story once I started to feel better. I wanted to share that with people who weren't here yet. I had been reading articles on The Mighty for a while at that point and I have always enjoyed writing, so I thought maybe it would be a good way to sort of vent and connect with other people who are or have experienced the same things I have. Then my articles started being published and it was just this great freeing feeling.

 "ELEPHANT" ARTWORK BY CHARITY BIXLER

"ELEPHANT" ARTWORK BY CHARITY BIXLER

The best thing is getting those comments that are like, "hey, thank you for saying this. I feel the same way," or, "holy crap! I thought I was the only person who felt this way!" Even just, "thanks for having the courage to share."

The stigma that comes with mental illness makes me angry... so I'm trying to do what I can to break it.

I still get some odd looks from people when I drop BPD into a conversation, and it's frustrating, but if they learn something from being around me about people with BPD, then it's worth it.

In your writing, there has been a lot of focus on music being a really compelling factor for you. You feel things intensely as a symptom of your BPD, and so music really hits deep with you. In addition to Third Eye Blind, what are some other bands that have really helped you over the years?

There are a few other bands that stand out in my mind but few hold the longevity that 3eb has for me. Probably the band closest to 3eb would have to be Red Hot Chili Peppers. Anthony Kiedis was a writer before he was a lyricist, like SJ, and so a lot of his lyrics have been super relatable for me also. I've always been a big Nirvana fan. I listened to them pretty heavily when I was in high school and related to Kurt's feeling of becoming someone he didn't really want to be. My Chemical Romance was my strong hold at my most angsty point, with their vampire like aura. Jimmy Eat World is one that I like, but I can't even listen to them anymore. There's just too much pain in their albums for me now. Pearl Jam has always been a good uplifting band for me, believe it or not, haha! I love - seriously love - grunge music. The newest band whose music I've connected with is Highly Suspect. They're like the best "new" band I've heard in while. Their lyrics are also just so real to me. Sometimes it's hard to listen.

Sometimes music can just bring on this flood of emotions for me and send me on what I call an "emotional bender," so I try to be cautious with what I listen to and when.

The thing that makes 3eb stand out above all of them, though, is that, at some point with a lot of these bands, it became too painful to listen to them save in special situations, when I'm in the right mood. Yet, 3eb has the ability to be sad with me if I need the music to be sad, and uplifting if I need it to be uplifting. RHCP is close to that. Pearl Jam is close, too, but none are quite the same [as 3eb].

In discussing your Wounded/Persephone tattoo, you said that you drew an initial design that you ended up not using. I know that, for myself and many other artists that I've met, the practice of making art is very therapeutic. Do you draw or practice any other arts as a means of working through your emotions? I'd love to see some examples of what you've made and hear about what creating art does for you, how it helps.

I'm a full time graphic designer so, for me, a lot of the 'art' that I'm creating falls under the blanket of work. I do sit and draw on occasion. I like playing with hand lettering. I'm fairly good a drawing, I'm just too impatient to sit and work on something for a long period of time, haha! That means I typically end up unsatisfied with the outcome, because I rush. That's just a whole other issue.

  "LEAVES" ARTWORK BY CHARITY BIXLER

 "LEAVES" ARTWORK BY CHARITY BIXLER

I think for me, because I'm making art all day (which I really do love), writing is kind of my extracurricular art, and it has become very therapeutic for me. I enjoy writing blogs. I've also written and semi-recorded a few songs that I'm pretty proud of. Even if no one ever hears them, they were a great way for me to process emotions.

I also help teach a high school drumline, which is something I did in high school and college. Going back to teach has helped me with solidifying my identity. I love being able to pass on my love of music to the next generation.

Luckily, I get paid to do design and music, which is why I think writing, especially about mental health, has been a great way to help me express myself and also give me a strong sense of self and purpose.

Within the 3eb fan base, there are a lot of us who have had personal struggles with mental health. I know you are deeply connected with the music, but have you found strong connections within the fan base, too? What is it like having a group of peers that not only understands your struggle but also can bond with you over these songs and lyrics that have had such a profound impact on your life and identity?

Outside of my best friend, I had a few friends in high school that listened to 3eb... I did make a friend in college because she wore a 3eb sweatshirt to class one day so, naturally, I had to talk to her. She ended up taking me to my first 3eb show in 2009!

 Charity and Best Friend, Bethlehem, PA, October 2017

Charity and Best Friend, Bethlehem, PA, October 2017

 COLLAGE - “ZIGGY STARDUST” / “DALVA BAR” / “WHY CAN’T YOU BE” ARTWORK BY CHARITY BIXLER -  “I like playing with hand lettering.”  Center:  “[This is] an illustration where I plugged myself into the song “Wounded,” watching the singer from afar.”

COLLAGE - “ZIGGY STARDUST” / “DALVA BAR” / “WHY CAN’T YOU BE” ARTWORK BY CHARITY BIXLER - “I like playing with hand lettering.” Center: “[This is] an illustration where I plugged myself into the song “Wounded,” watching the singer from afar.”

SJ always points out this crazy amount of energy at the shows and that I have definitely experienced. You can just feel the connection people have to the music in the air. It's like everyone there could be your best friend, even though you don't know them. My best friend has made a few "concert friends," but none that have lasted past the end of the show.

Other than that, I have not made a lot of connection with other 3eb fans. Typically, I just end up being like the token "3eb fan" to my friends. Like, "oh, Charity. You know, the 3eb girl?" That's pretty much me.

I'm not saying I wouldn't love to have that community, but, up until this point, it has not happened for me, so being included in this blog space is a pretty great experience for me.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers and the band? Anything you'd like people to know or understand?

First off, if you are reading this and you struggle with depression or anxiety or BPD or some other type of mental health issue that maybe you don't even understand yet, just keep going. Look into getting a therapist or a psychiatrist. Don't let the stigma of mental illness cause you to not get help that will ultimately make you feel better! Take it from someone who has been there and has pushed through. It's worth it.

To the band, I just want to say thank you. You have helped me immeasurably over the years. I woke up with Queen of Daydreams stuck in my head this morning and it got me thinking about those lyrics. "You said can you know me now from our songs, I don't know but you can sing along," and it just really resonated with me. I feel like you have been that friend that has been there for me, time and time again, for so long, and I just want you to know how much I truly appreciate that.

ROZES

ROZES

Get Me Out Of Here

Get Me Out Of Here

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