David McCaig

Victoria man battles mental illness with music and gratitude

Musician competing in CBC Radio's Searchlight competition

David McCaig is often crushed by despair, hopelessness and panic.

Some days even doing the most basic tasks become overwhelming and stressful, and at times there is an absolute lack of will to live.

McCaig, 54, has suffered from severe depression and anxiety for more than 20 years. The depressive bouts first sprung up in his late 20s and became worse as he got older.

“I guess the pressures of life got to me,” says the Cook Street Village resident. “I began to worry a lot.”

His depression and anxiety condition grew with the death of his teen daughter 13 years ago, a series of family deaths and his repeated battles with cancer.

“To me the world is just a big, painful place,” says McCaig, who is on leave from his job as a social worker. “It just seems there is always something around the corner waiting to walk me off the cliff.”

The one comfort McCaig can always find in life is music.

McCaig is self-taught in guitar, song writing and voice. He often puts a melody together when he goes for a walk or driving his car. It starts with a hum and later he’ll pick out the intricate melody on his guitar or keyboard.

He figures by now he has more than 150 songs in his head. “I don’t put all of them down on paper.”

Recently, McCaig found a new outlet for his creativity and a way to ease his crippling depression.

He entered CBC Radio’s Searchlight, a contest to find Canada’s best new musical act. It’s an online voting competition.

McCaig entered the competition with Stand me by, a bouncy and lively, feel good Celtic song that makes you want to tap your feet and hum the tune.

He first came up with the song while driving one day and slowly put it together first with a guitar and then arranged it. For the Searchlight contest, he sings the song and a few friends provide the instrumentation.

“Entering Searchlight has enormous implications in terms of allowing me to have a sense of purpose in life,” McCaig says.

“If I do well then I can feel a sense of pride as opposed to having a constant feeling of shame.”

As part of the competition, McCaig’s Searchlight page (music.cbc.ca/#!/artists/David-McCaig) has a direct link to the Canadian Mental Health Association where supporters can make a donation. No money passes through his hands, but goes directly to the CMHA.

McCaig says he chose the CMHA for the all the help it’s offered him over the years, with counselling and training.

Julia Kaisla, director of community engagement for the CMHA, says McCaig approached the organization about using his music as a fundraiser.

The CMHA purposed some of his music in videos at a mental health conference and agreed to allow him to do other fundraising, such as the Searchlight contest.

“For David this really renewed his sense of purpose. The CMHA is built on people with lived experience contributing their expertise,” Kaisla says.

“It helps breakdown the [mental health] stigma and we’re making it OK for people to come forward and share their experiences. Hopefully it gives them a sense of purpose and also contribute to something bigger.”

Money raised by McCaig will stay in Victoria to help sponsor mental health programs, Kaisla says.

“I do not have aspirations of being a star,” McCaig says.

“I have aspirations of just being able to leave the house again without suffering extreme anxiety. The best way I know how to do that is by putting meaning and purpose in my life by using my passion for music to help others which is what I’m trying to do through the CMHA.

“I just want to make a contribution to this world.”

 

CAST YOUR VOTE

CBC Radio’s Searchlight, a contest to find Canada’s best new musical act is an online voting competition. To listen and vote for McCaig’s song, please go online to music.cbc.ca/#!/artists/David-McCaig

 

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