Rising singer opens up about struggles with anxiety

Ben Westwood
Ben Westwood

The new year promises to be a great one for Sussex singer/ songwriter Ben Westwood. In early 2017 he releases his debut album, ‘Sing Like Your Life Depends On It’ which follows his current single ‘Falling’.

Here, Ben exclusively reveals his battle with anxiety after losing his wife and how his rising music career will support others in similar situations…

Feeling the earth move is usually the stuff of romantic movies, but when it actually feels like the ground is shaking, it’s not nearly as pleasant. One day in my house I thought I felt the floor vibrating. It kept happening without warning and was even worse when I was lying in bed – in the middle of the night I would feel this unnerving tremor. I broke out in a cold sweat and began to panic. There must have been an explanation – I live near a railway line and I wondered if the trains were particularly noisy or perhaps my house foundations were the problem. I began calling builders and texting neighbours, who were perplexed to say the least.

Slowly after a few days, it began to dawn on me that the earth wasn’t moving at all, but it was I, in fact, who was shaking. It seemed I was suffering from involuntary tremors, most likely caused by acute anxiety. I went to the doctor, who gave me some medication and the shaking stopped immediately.

This was a wake-up call. It was over a year since my wife Carolina had died and I was under a lot of stress – at work and at home, running a household, looking after two children alone. It was all taking its toll on me psychologically, particularly because I needed to be the rock who held everything together.

Being a widower is hard enough, but when you need to carry on parenting and working rather than curl up into a ball, it can be unbearable. I realised that I needed an outlet to express myself. I had been through very little counselling since my wife’s death and started with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The sessions made me realise that there was so much I had not expressed because I was just so busy getting through each day.

I’ve always been a creative person – whether it’s journalism or songwriting, but through my wife’s illness, death and aftermath, I had hardly written a word. I first began to pour my feelings into newspaper articles about my situation as a widowed single parent, and I was heartened by the support I received. Then, after four years of not writing a single note of music, I picked up the guitar and songs started to come. The first was called I miss you. Then the trickle became a flood – I wrote songs about love, loss, grief, bitterness, healing and hope, making an effort to find light in the darkness. Songs such as Time heal me, Let in the light, Hold me til it hurts, Up again, and Nothing left to lose flowed out. Most songs were written in one sitting, completed in an hour or two. I felt like a man possessed, but also liberated.

The album Sing like your life depends on it began to take shape and quickly expanded to two albums worth of material. I recorded it over an intense period of three months and the album will be released in early 2017.

I’m proud to have partnered with two charities who do great work for widows, widowers and their families – Widowed and Young (WAY) and Winston’s Wish. I’ve already had some wonderful feedback from people and it feels entirely appropriate in these troubled times to be singing about issues that really matter. Making music about love, death, grief and healing is far from easy, but it’s beyond satisfying, and an incredible journey.

For more information on Ben and how to buy ‘Falling’ visit his official website.