Friday, 30 August 2019

How Radio Came to my Rescue




Ben Dolbear tells the story of how listening to the radio helped to save his sleeping pattern and improved his mental health.

- Ben Dolbear



Night-time is the hardest time for many people living with depression. In the dark, there is no background noise to blend out thoughts that  just don't want to disappear, no visual parade of ever-changing events that entertain your thoughts and no company, to distract you from your depression’s trickery. To make things worse, much of our days are spent wading through the depths of social media, flicking our focus between posts about a friend’s wedding, a natural disaster in Asia, a new-born kitten, a family member’s holiday snaps. Sometimes modernity makes me wish that we could set the clock back fifty years and live in a time where the news was less brutally in-yer-face, where summer afternoons were spent outside, and where there was no such thing as blue light-induced insomnia Our brains are being eternally trained to cope with a constant influx of wide-ranging information that induce wide-ranging emotions. When eventually we stop, our  mind continues to be a rally track, a whirlwind race between memories and feelings competing for our minds’ attention. In the moment, it feels impossible to just stop – 

and breathe. 

For so long, the night-time was something I dreaded. Getting off to sleep was even harder than getting out of bed in the morning (a mighty task that often leads to a slumb back into the pillow and missing yet another lecture). Waking up in the night ushered in palpable feelings of dread and upset. Not being able to sleep properly during the night, set the next day up to be filled with anxiety and stress.  Shame, regret, disappointment, self-loathing, all forced their way in to steal my calm. Sleeplessness was only exasperated by university pressure which complimentary only worsened my sleeplessness.

I tried listening to instrumental music as I drifted off to sleep, and whilst I know it is effective for many people, my bullish depression could not be held off. I tried meditation to no avail. Apps promising that these 5 minutes will bring you a goods night rest, all failed to bring rest to my mind. 

In a last ditch attempt to expel this unhealthy sleeping pattern which was having a detrimental effect on my daily activities and relationships, my thoughts returned to the time we are living in, and realised how wrong I was wanting to return to the old days where mobile phones and social media didn’t dominate lives. I admit, the 21st century has isolated many of us from our friends, but it has also brought the world so much closer together. How would we call our parents, listen to podcasts, stay updated on what is happening in the world, or even read this blog post if it were not for the world evolving, so instead of fighting this change I tried to embrace the beauty of it. 

As the old saying goes, if you can’t beat them, join them, so I decided to welcome my old foe the mobile phone into my bedtime routine. I downloaded a talk radio app and began to listen in bed. The fast pace of modern living and social media has taken away our human tendency to listen to others, as our days are instead defined by fleeting encounters with strangers,  often ones behind a screen. But listening to the radio as I go to sleep is the most rewarding practice, I have ever engaged myself in. Instead of searching for silence I adopted societies fast pace. 

Escaping the addictive authority of low-mood inducing social media platforms, radio offers the perfect natural remedy for insomniacs – my radio station of choice, LBC, which hosts Steve Allen, with his hilarious analysis of the tabloids and belly-achingly funny stories about his hometown of Twickenham, entertaining early risers between 4-7AM, seven days a week, pulling in the highest overnight ratings in London.

My mental health has been aided immensely by my listening to radio call-ins at bedtime. In my darkest times, when my ability to communicate with the people I love fractured, and I shut myself away, talk radio meant that I was never alone. I could surround myself with voices who didn’t demand a response, who didn’t question me or my intentions, and welcomed me calmly to the conversation without judgement.

Now, I sleep in peace. My thoughts and emotions are guided by the radio as I drift off, and I am happier for it.


Hi, I'm Ben. I'm an English Literature student in Southampton writing for Student Minds to help other people living with depression who are on the same road to recovery that I am on.



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