Melbourne woman Eleanor Chadwick, 26, has struggled with crippling anxiety all her life. The last thing she ever thought she would do was headline a music video - but not only did she do just that, she is performing in a large stage show in Melbourne on November 25. Eleanor joined Pop Choir, one of Australia's biggest community choirs, and her self-confidence has sky-rocketed as music helped her escape what she calls "the nonsense in my brain." Here, she tells Lifestyle News her inspirational story.
Not long ago I took to the stage to perform a song I wrote myself at a music showcase. As I stepped toward the microphone, my heart started to pound.
The familiar feeling of my heart beating out of my chest and not being able to breathe properly began to overtake me.
Breathe, take a deep breath I told myself. I opened my mouth and to my relief the sounds came out. People were smiling. Phew.
Being a singer and dealing with anxiety is a tough combination. I get very anxious in the lead up to performing.
I’ve performed many times over the years but despite this, every time I notice my body getting into a panicked state where my brain is in overdrive.
Which makes it very hard for me to be able to sing properly and remember the lyrics! It’s hard, but it does get a little bit easier every time.
I’ve always been a highly anxious person. I have vivid memories from the age of five onwards being anxious about minor things.
I’d fixate on school pick-ups worrying the person would be late or that something bad might happen. I’d fret about school fetes, performances, homework and having to present.
I used to bite my lip and make it red and sore. Mostly school was overwhelming for me.
However, I muddled my way through, and now, at the age of 26, apart from being an aspiring singer/songwriter I’m also a disability support worker and kindergarten educator pursuing a degree in early years/primary education.
I still get very anxious about university assignments and deadlines and get so overwhelmed about the final product feeling it needs to be perfect and thinking that I’m going to fail.
I notice my body getting into a panicked and overwhelmed state to the point where I don’t produce anything at all, which makes me even more anxious.
It becomes a vicious cycle, but I’ve learnt to manage my anxiety around this and haven’t given up on my studies, despite how many breakdowns I’ve had.
It’s become easier for me over time by implementing strategies, such as recognising and knowing when my work is complete, that I have done my best and that it doesn't need to be perfect.
This is an important strategy for me and ensures I don't get to the point where I may 'burn out.'
One thing which always gave me a lot of joy was singing. However, the performance aspect of singing is something that’s always been very challenging for me as you can imagine.
I started getting singing lessons with my vocal coach Sharon Stokes when I was around the age of 16 and studying VCE music at the time. At that time my self-confidence was hugely lacking, however Sharon helped me grow within myself and as a singer and performer. In 2021 I joined the group Sharon co-founded - Pop Choir – one of Australia’s largest community choirs based in Melbourne. With 750 members spread over four locations, being part of the choir has made a huge impact on my mental health and my self-love journey.
For me, Pop Choir is a safe place where I can completely shut off my brain and immerse myself in music.
Being able to do a hobby where you can separate yourself from your anxiety is a fantastic coping mechanism. I can be feeling exhausted after a long day and the second we start singing I’m taken to my happy place.
I leave full of energy and with a positive mindset that carries me for my whole week. We have done various public performances over the years and pushing myself to perform has gotten better each time.
I also started getting lessons with Pop Choir’s other co-founder Darryl Moulton, who helped me write, produce and record my first single Pull Me Down released last year which is about my struggles with anxiety and how I’ve finally learnt to live with and embrace my arch nemesis.
A few months ago Darryl asked me to be the lead character in the music video for Pop Choir’s new single Window With Smiles.
The song is in support of The Lighthouse Foundation’s youth homelessness mission and my character was to wander around Melbourne feeling lost and adrift. I felt nervous at the thought of being the lead, but it was a fantastic experience.
Soon I’ll be on stage with 350 choir members for our first large scale stage show - Pop Choir at the Palais: With a little help from our friends - on Saturday November 25 at the historic Palais Theatre in St Kilda.
Performing lots of well-loved songs from bands like Coldplay, The Beatles, Radiohead and Take That in front of thousands of people, I know my nerves will be fluttering, but I will steady my mind and cope.
Nowadays, I’m definitely more in tune with myself and my emotions. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ll always be an anxious person and have found ways of dealing with it.
To keep it from feeling overwhelming, I know when I need to rest and recover, spend time with loved ones, go for walks and know when to ask for help.
I also like to tell myself that the world isn’t going to fall down if this one thing happens and that I’m just a tiny speck in the universe.
It’s easier said than done but being able to rewire my thinking has allowed me to believe in myself to think more positively rather than always focusing on the negative.
Basically, I’m much happier knowing that everything will all be okay.
For ticket information on Pop Choir at the Palais: With a little help from our friends visit here.