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Dealing with mental illness in a band

Discussion in 'Bass Humor & Gig Stories [BG]' started by RiZzBot, Feb 5, 2016.

  1. RiZzBot

    RiZzBot Drunk + bass + broken strap locks = :'( Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2014
    210, Texas
    My best friend, guitarist and BL who I have known for over 20 years, has always been a little eccentric. As a child he was diagnosed as Bipolar with manic depression. He's always been a little over the top at our shows. I love the guy like a brother but lately his behavior has become a little more than just over the top. Hes always had a problem with volume (like most guitarist). Most of the time after bringing it to his attention he would reluctantly bring it down. Two weekends ago at our last gig, he went over board and had the volume at an obnoxiously loud level. After a few complaints from people in the crowd, he gets on the mic and tell the crowd to "F'n deal with it". The rest of us in the band were completely in shock, but not surprised. Throughout the set he was forgetting lyrics, he was forgetting where he was in the song, extending his solos way beyond their normal time, and using the wrong effects for the wrong songs (mind you that there was no drugs or alcohol present). This has always been a small issue but lately it seems to be getting worse. After the show was over, I was so upset that I told him I was done, and stormed out.

    I next day I get a call from him, and hes obviously distraught. He starts telling me that he needs the band and that without us his life has no meaning. I told him that Id always be his friend but I couldn't guarantee that I'd be could be his bass player any longer. He promised that he would try to work on his outburst. I told him i'd have to think about it. This guy has never been able to hold down a job and the gigs are pretty much his main source of income. The rest of the band (Me, another guitarist, and a drummer) are full time working guys. We usually give all the gig money to him, and really just end up doing it for fun, and to help him out. I feel a bit obligated to stick around because before my brother and the drummer it was just me and him jamming open mic, friends parties and other small venues. I have always told him that I would do this to help him get his music out. He's a hell of a guitarist and song writer. The music we're playing now is 15 years in the making, and i'm finding it very hard to let it go. I also feel bad that I brought my brother into the band, cause now he and the drummer almost see it as my fault the band is breaking up. I feel like i'm letting everyone down. I feel like i'm losing my best friend to his mental illness. Has anyone ever dealt with a similar situation? Damn, I just dont know what to do.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2016
  2. wmhill


    Aug 20, 2012
    upstate NY
    MTD basses endorsed artist Bartolini pickups emerging artist TECAMP bass players gear endorsed
    a friend is a friend, but a band is a business- sometimes the two have to be separate. Possibly it can be salvaged- but have him on notice, that there is no wiggle room on it. At the end of the day, you should be making music for yourself, not the rest of the band. (Just my opinion....results may vary)
    RiZzBot likes this.
  3. ONYX


    Apr 14, 2000
    While I've never dealt with it in a band situation, I did have a friend who suffered from bi-polar disorder. His life ended tragically because he never got help.

    Your friend needs professional help, don't try to "fix" him yourself. Mental illness is a serious situation and things can go from bad to worse at the slightest provocation. If you indeed think of him as a brother--then do what you would if he was your actual brother.
  4. viper4000


    Aug 17, 2010
    Has he been on medication since childhood? Is he off of them now? Marked changes in behavior are typically indicative of going off meds. Good luck to your friend.
  5. Your heart's in the right place and, yes, a creative outlet such as music can have significant therapeutic value. However, he shouldn't be in a band right now. As has been stated above, professional help must be his immediate priority, especially if he's saying things like "My life has no meaning." That's not a place for dilettantes like you or me, however concerned and well-meaning, to venture (apart from providing transportation).

    And btw, you're NOT letting anyone down. Nothing about this is in your control.

    Good luck and good vibes to you and your friend. He sounds like a person with considerable gifts to share. Hope he gets the help he needs.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2016
  6. He needs help. I was married to a bi-polar woman for 14 years and she decided the best way to cope with it was by eating her gun. Help your friend get help, please.
  7. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    If he's not being treated and/or can't stay on his meds you have to let go :( .
  8. xUptheIronsx

    xUptheIronsx Conform or Be Cast Out....

    Feb 6, 2010
    C-ville, Col, Ohio
    I dated a girl who was bi-polar manic depressive ,and also was paranoid and schizophrenic. We dated for 13 years. The ONLY thing that wil help your band mate is professional help as many have mentioned. When I first started dating this girl, she had just been diagnosed, so I went through the whole range of emotional issues with her (and at least 10 suicide attempts). After about 5 years, she was able to manage it (you never get rid of it) and now lives a steady life. We are not dating anymore because her "life adventure" required her to live in the Northeast and now Alaska (she is a Veterinarian who fly's her own planeto remote places to tend animals). We are still great friends because of what we went through together, and she still deals with it. Obviously she has been and is on medication for it as well.

    Remember that your job is to help him cope, but not FIX it. That is his and the therapists job
  9. BryanB

    BryanB Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Agreed. You are in over your head. He needs professional help. You are only helping him avoid getting the help he needs by propping him up like this. Unfortunately, you cannot make the decision to get help. Only he can do that.
    Awesome Sauce and Aberdumbie like this.
  10. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    One question that bugs me - is his behavior due to being bipolar or is he just being a brat? Has he ever been on medication or had counseling?

    I'm glad to hear no drugs or alcohol were involved. Until I got to that line I was thinking his behavior reminded me of an alcoholic BL/guitarist I used to play with. Very similar, in fact - forgetting lyrics, forgetting riffs, swearing at the audience in inappropriate circumstances. And actually the same weeping, when I stormed out over it, that the band is his whole life and he doesn't know what to do with himself if it breaks up.

    It's good that you're his friend and want to help. But usually being his enabler is not the way to help. Make it clear that there are consequences for his behavior, that he needs help, and you support him getting it.
  11. BryanB

    BryanB Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Just because he is on meds does not mean he is getting proper treatment. I have a brother-in-law in a group home. He has a variety of mental illnesses including bipolar disorder. His meds gets reviewed and updated quite frequently. Brain chemistry changes and so does the response to certain medications.
  12. RiZzBot

    RiZzBot Drunk + bass + broken strap locks = :'( Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2014
    210, Texas
    I'v have suggested that he get professional help in the past, but that's a conversation that turns ugly quick. He gets offended very easily. I'm not trying to fix him. I do consider him as close as my actual brother. I really dont know what i'm trying to do here. This is a very tough situation to deal with. The guy's been my best friend since we were kids. He also has no support from his immediate family. They've all but abandoned him.
  13. RiZzBot

    RiZzBot Drunk + bass + broken strap locks = :'( Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2014
    210, Texas
    He was off his meds for quite awhile now. As I have stated already. He gets 0 support from his immediate family. They dont want anything to do with him. Its a pretty tough situation
  14. BryanB

    BryanB Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    His reaction is not uncommon. IME with the mentally ill, there is often a resentment toward the illness. That usually manifests as denial. Confronting his illness pierces that veil of denial which leaves him feeling exposed. The best thing you can do is to walk away. As hard, and harsh, as that seems, you will only see things get worse if you don't.
    Robert B and RiZzBot like this.
  15. lexefx

    lexefx picky?? Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2009
    Grayslake IL
    Mania is crazy. The things it will legitimize are insane. Echoing the above help is needed. BP's often feel like their meds cramp their creativity or productivity. Getting back on meds supervised closley. All you can do is let them know is you understand their judgment or perception is clouded. Encourage regular medication regiment. If he ignores or blows up - you can't help him. He's the only one who can make that call. No amount of cheer leading will help.
  16. RiZzBot

    RiZzBot Drunk + bass + broken strap locks = :'( Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2014
    210, Texas
    I'm going to try and approach him with the idea of getting medical help. It's hard for me to walk away though. Because of his behavior, He's already run off everyone whos ever loved or cared for him.
    Lee Moses and Lava like this.
  17. RiZzBot

    RiZzBot Drunk + bass + broken strap locks = :'( Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2014
    210, Texas

    Dude you hit it right on the head. He would say that the meds made him feel numb and make it harder for him to concentrate. I doubt anyone could supervise his medication. He's 36, and stubborn as a mule.
  18. cronker


    Feb 13, 2007
    As someone who is living through this, albeit in a mild form, I can tell you that anxiety is a major trigger for the other things that hurt in the mind.
    If you think about things that might make you bite your nails, you're sort of on the right track when it comes to mental illness. But it's all magnified - an outstanding bill, a lawn area that kids have been on, a heap of clothing that needs to be washed, a guitarist who can't handle the reaction of the crowd or can't understand his need to lower the volume - these things can trigger depression or worse. The sufferer doesn't see that the actions they take make things worse for them, it's a downward spiral.
    Your friend needs some professional help, and support from the people he sees as friends. It's not a life sentence.
    And xUp, sorry to hear.
  19. Given the circumstances the OP has described, how is it reasonable to assume the situation is controllable by his friend or that it will improve?
  20. denhou1974


    Mar 6, 2008
    I have more than one family member that is just like your friend.

    You MUST set boundaries with this type of person. You MUST also enforce those boundaries. Example: "OK, you can stay in the band but if you can't behave it's out you go. Here's are some things you can't do". So basically you're informing them and you're giving them the choice. These people have to learn that they are responsible for their actions and they have to OWN their s--t!

    I'm getting to the age where I expect people to either grow up and stop causing trouble or get out of my life.
    Nev375 and Billybladez66 like this.

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