An Interview with Meg Hutchinson from New Film “Pack Up Your Sorrows”
This Wednesday, Wayside will be hosting a FREE screening of the documentary “PACK UP YOUR SORROWS,” featuring local singer/songwriter Meg Hutchinson, who shares her journey to live a healthy life with bipolar disorder. The film features interviews with groundbreaking authors, psychologists, neurologists, advocates and teachers including Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, Dr. Richard Davison, and Dr. Nassir Ghaemi.
Last week Wayside’s Amy Hogarth reached out to Meg to learn more. Check out their interview below.
Amy: What is one thing you wish folks knew about supporting someone with mental illness?
Meg: Sometimes we help someone the most when we stop trying to change the situation. Of course we need to help them get proper professional care and we need to get them into a hospital if they are at risk. But as a friend or family member it is not our responsibility to treat the illness. We are the ones who can hold a space for that person as they recover and heal. We can offer so much comfort by loving and accepting someone exactly where they are. We can reassure them that they don’t have to get better faster than they are able–that they are good enough right where they are– that we love them completely and that we’re gonna sit with them in that suffering and just BE with them. There is so much comfort in that gentle and unconditional presence.
Amy: Why did you become a singer? What led you to it? How does it sustain you?
Meg: I think I started writing music from a very early age in order to make sense of my life and of my inner world. In my late teens, as I began to struggle with depression, music became a lifeline. It was the only way I knew how to speak honestly about what I was going through. I was such an overachiever and a perfectionist and I couldn’t reach out for help or let people know I was struggling. So I turned to music as a way of expressing and understanding what was happening to me. It was really a coping mechanism and a medicine long before I understood what was happening to me.
Amy: Who is your role model, and why?
Meg: I have many! If I had to choose just one it would be His Holiness the Dalai Lama. As he always says, “my religion is kindness.” He has been a meditator his whole life and has cultivated a deep, deep compassion for every living being. The way in which he’s navigated the tragedies in Tibet and the way in which he inspires each of us to cultivate that mindfulness and that care for each other and for the world gives me so much hope and optimism.
Amy: Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.
Meg: I think the project that has required the most work and been the most rewarding is coming to terms with mental illness and learning to speak openly about my experience. I was so ashamed for so many years. I was too ashamed to even go to therapy. It took a breakdown before I could acknowledge that I needed help. It took many years after the breakdown to gain the courage to speak honestly about what I had been through. But these years in which I’ve been a speaker and advocate have been deeply rewarding. I think we all go through experiences in life that test us to the very core. As a result we know what we’re made of. We find out how strong we are when we learn how to be vulnerable. Illness is such an opportunity to get to know ourselves on the deepest level and to grow.
Amy: What are three things you would never leave the house without?
Meg: I try to leave the house with my walking shoes and my dog every day for a few hours. Paying attention to the natural world is an essential part of my life. It’s good to try to leave the gadgets behind every day for a while. To get away from the screens and the noise. It’s deeply healing to reconnect with the silence in my life every day.
Amy: I loved listening to your music how would you describe the healing of music and all art forms for us humans?
Meg: Music cuts through all our filters and goes right to the heart. I think music reaches people in a very subconscious way. It accesses them through feeling more than through intellect. Human beings are so fortunate to be able to create in so many marvelous ways. I think creative expression is a way to tap into what is most essential and most powerful about being alive and then to connect with each other about these universal human experiences.
Amy: What’s your superpower?
Hah. I’ll let you know when I find out!
Amy: What’s your favorite ’90s jam?
Meg: I listened to a lot of Greg Brown, Shawn Colvin and Tracy Chapman in the 90’s
Amy: What inspires you?
Meg: The natural world. The tremendous open quality of the sky and the forest. Being still and just noticing the world is really restorative and feeds my creative mind.
Amy: Do you have a quote, or poem that you use as a guide in dark times?
Meg: Mary Oliver’s poetry has always been good medicine to me. Especially “Wild Geese.” I also love John O’Donohue’s audio collection “Longing and Belonging.”
Join us for the screening of “Pack Up Your Sorrows” this Wednesday, May 18, 6:15PM, at the Watertown Free Public Library, 123 Main St, Watertown, MA 02472. The screening of the movie will be followed by a live Q & A with Meg Hutchinson. Reservations are required in advance. Please contact Kelley Daron at [email protected] or 781-891-0556 x 58.