How I ‘Stay Okay’ through songwriting

July 8, 2020

Ben Teeny, singer-songwriter at the George and Dragon, just before lockdown. © Photograph by Craig Malone

Ben Teeny explores some difficult feelings and collaborates creatively with his friends in lockdown

Have you ever lied and said you were okay when you really weren’t? If you say no, I don’t believe you.

Throughout my life there have been periods where I’ve felt incredibly anxious, alone and depressed. Naturally this isn’t anything unique or special; with one in five teenagers experiencing a mental health problem in any given year, as reported by the Mental Health Foundation. I can imagine the figures will be higher during this pandemic.

I think everyone could benefit from confronting emotions that make them feel uneasy, and find ways of expressing themselves healthily, in order to move forward. I find writing stuff down very helpful. You can find other tips here at life labs.

Mostly, when I’ve shared my negative emotions with people, nothing good ever came from it. I think I’ve learnt to rely on expressing myself through creativity, and to only talk about difficult feelings with people who I feel very safe with.

I need someone who will just listen, rather than try to fix or solve my issues. When I’m not heard, it mostly reinforces the self-hatred that I sometimes feel I deserve.

By sharing more of myself, life has become much more enjoyable

During my time at school and college, I engaged with a lot of people who were so focused on screaming out “Imma do me! Everything’s about me!”, claiming it was important for their mental wellbeing to live this way.

Self-absorbed individuals don’t show much concern about anyone or anything, outside their narrow self-interest, which seems to me to be more destructive than healthy.

A lot of time has passed since then, and one thing I can say is that I feel more comfortable and prepared to tackle tricky emotions. I have had counselling at my university, where I’m studying film. I’ve stopped focusing on hiding my feelings, and started to allow myself to open up, and even move on with my life.

By sharing more of myself, life has become much more enjoyable. Most importantly, I’ve stopped being afraid that people won’t like me.

When the lockdown hit I couldn’t work on my films as easily, so I tried to tell my stories and experiences through songwriting.

Humour helps me hold heavy stuff more lightly, making it easier to process. I want to make people laugh.

I sat down for a while and began writing some new songs to an old tune. ‘Stay Okay’ started to formulate in my brain. It’s about how much I feared people finding out how I truly felt.

There’s a comedic spin to the song. Humour helps me hold heavy stuff more lightly, making it easier to process. I just want to make people laugh.

I recorded the song on GarageBand using a microphone I got about a year ago, a Rode NT1-A with the Scarlett Focusrite Mini, if you’re interested ;).

My friend Benjamin kindly did the background voice, acting as someone slowly backing away from the singer, who is almost shouting at times. As the song builds to a crescendo, the raw emotions behind the appearance of ‘I’m Okay’ spill out, revealing the truth.

About a month later, I wanted to make a lyric video, so I asked my friend Sonny if he could create a background. I sent him the track and he came up with the illustration. I really love the way it depicts a restless mind in lockdown.

I think my song is somewhat funny and disturbing. Everyone can relate to it on some level, but no one wants to be shouting any of those things into a microphone for all to hear!

Stay okay and not okay, both are okay.

Ben is studying a BA in Film and Television Production at University of Hertfordshire. He has enjoyed writing songs and making films since he was 14 years old.

Ben has recently graduated with a first from his Film and Television Production degree at University of Hertfordshire. He has enjoyed writing songs and making films since he was 14 years old.

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