Jordan Gow's Mental Health Diary
"My music helps to ground me and gives me a sense of purpose, a feeling of being grounded and flying – simultaneously." – Jordan Gow
Ottawa singer/songwriter and inaugural BIRDSONG recording artist Jordan Gow was diagnosed at the age of 30 with severe ADHD (combined type) and chronic SUD (Substance Use Disorder), by the team of physicians working on the Royal Ottawa’s Concurrent Disorder Unit.
He had experienced periods of severe loss of focus and motivation during which he didn’t so much as glance at a guitar or even entertain a lyric – so broken-down and hopeless did he feel. Rehab after rehab failed in attempts to divert his self-destructive trajectory, but it seemed he was determined to remain dead on course. He was eventually diagnosed and treated, but it wasn’t until he found a program and a community of recovery that he was able to incorporate music, his absolute passion, back into his life.
“Music is like my diary,” says Gow, explaining how his art has served to provide him strength against the struggles inherent in his diagnosis. “I can look at the words to a song and know exactly what I was feeling at that time. I can hear how I sang it in the moment and feel how I felt. It helps to ground me and gives me a sense of purpose – a feeling of being grounded and flying, simultaneously. It is the most integral thing in my life that allows me to escape and persevere over the challenges I face.”
Given how far Gow has progressed from out of the throes of his downward slide, he stresses that his music has done far more than simply saving his life.
“Music is my life,” he says. “I wouldn’t be who I am without it. I never studied it – seriously anyway – but from a young age I just intrinsically knew how to play. It came as naturally as swimming or riding a bike. I can’t explain that. I can’t even begin to express how being able to write music gave me a way to truly express myself and my ideas, in times of joy, rage, love, loss and sorrow.
“As I grew older and my musical tastes expanded, I began to channel my energy into trying to create songs that spoke from where I was at in my life. They are both a celebration of a complicated person and a lament to those who feel the same way. Or they are intense looks at what it really feels like to believe you want or need someone, and how painful that can sometimes be. Or how it is often painful, or sometimes worth it, but it can also be necessary to walk away. All my songs represent a different aspect of my personality: romantic, confused, desperate, longing, loving, hopeful and idealistic.
“I find the people I’m most drawn to are mercurial by their very nature. I believe that this has allowed me to create and seek out music and musicians that challenge me to feel the message of the song from as many angles as possible. That’s a lot of fancy words, but it boils down to that fact that if I didn’t have music... I wouldn’t be here.”
Gow is also significantly buoyed by his BIRDSONG studio experience, which has fundamentally changed the way he feels about his talent, his mental health issues and his ability to address them both going forward.
“The opportunity BIRDSONG has presented to me has been amazing,” he enthuses. “I had not recorded my songs in a studio for years. It reignited in me a creativity that had been dormant for quite a while. It has given me a new sense of purpose with regards to my music and songwriting. It has also given me a new sense of confidence in my abilities as a producer, which I have since begun to take on, inspired by the support I have encountered through all the participants in the BIRDSONG Foundation.”
His message to other potential Birdsongs thinking of applying for the Foundation’s recording fund is unequivocal.
“Do it!” Gow stresses. “You will have creative freedom and all the support you could ever need, on top of being part of a growing family of artists that care first and foremost about the music. The Foundation sends a message to others suffering from mental health issues that there is always hope for them.
“I’m extremely grateful to BIRDSONG for the opportunity to share part of my soul with them – for a good cause and with great people.”