“You definitely have a special power somewhere! Find it”
In his 20s Stuart Murdoch was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. It was an experience that harnessed his imagination and his songwriting prowess.
I was delighted to speak to him on behalf of The Mind Map!
What has been your biggest life challenge so far and what did you do to overcome it?
I got sick with ME/CFS in 1990.
It changed my life fundamentally and forever.
I’m still very much dealing with it day to day.
Such a chronic condition is bound to have a deep effect on one’s mental health. It has!
What advice would you offer a young person struggling with CFS/depression? What have been your main coping strategies over the years and which have been most successful?
Your presence is doing someone else some good – and the whole point of your setbacks in life might be to help others!
But I realise this a lot to ask if you are at a difficult stage.
When I first got sick with ME/CFS, we formed a support group, specifically for young people.
It was just good to be with people who understood what was going on.
Was it a lonely experience being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome?
At times, the ME/CFS was very isolating, my lifestyle was so strange.
Staggering for a short walk once a day.
Writing songs was the only worthwhile thing that was happening to me.
I felt like I was given a secret power to help me prevail.
What advice would you give people in situations where they find themselves feeling isolated?
Don’t be afraid of taking a chance.
Use your ‘difficulties’ as an excuse to ignore social norms!
Try something new, join a class or a club.
Don’t be afraid to leave behind out of date plans and ambitions.
You definitely have a special power somewhere! Find it.
Does connecting with the community of people who also suffer from ME help?
I actually didn’t talk about ME/CFS for years,, I just wanted to forget about it.
Over the past eight years I realised I couldn’t NOT talk about it.
I want to be part of the search for a diagnosis and cure. It might be the most important thing I ever do.
Tell me about your interest in Buddhism and yoga. Do you feel spirituality is something that supports your wellbeing?
When I got ill, so many material things in my life fell away. New thoughts arise when your life is quiet.
Mine happened to be of the spiritual kind, so I went to church, and I still do.
I used to meditate too, one spiritual practice seems to enrich the other.
It’s very practical and helpful.
What would constitute a ‘perfect’ day for you?
I would say, a family day that I could enjoy, without feeling ill.
Just having good energy to be with my boys.
I’d take one on an adventure in the morning, the other in the afternoon.
Then a nice barbecue with friends later.
For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
A monk told me everything in your life was given to you by others.
Food, clothes, water, the house you live in.
You can practice being grateful at every turn, to everyone!
Complete this sentence: “Ace mental health for me means…”
Going to bed feeling excited about the adventure of the next day.
What do you eat to stay healthy?
Well, I’m not healthy, but if good healthy food is around, I’ll definitely eat it.
Fish and greens, and soups and salads and fruits.
I love it when we go on tour because I get loads of lovely green veg to eat.
Do you have a daily routine of exercise or do you make it up as you go along?
I walk, slowly. I have no routine, I just go where the wind blows.
And I love my bike. It’s a road bike.
In-fact it was stolen just before I spoke to you!
Here at The Mind Map we remember playing football and ‘tag’ – running around the playground everyday and loving it – can you share a similar memory?
Yes, I have lots of good memories. I had really good energy as a kid.
I always loved the Scouts and Cubs and canoeing on the lochs. It’s the little things.
A long walk through the Scottish countryside on holiday, singing Beatles songs.
What three songs lift your spirits?
I’m currently making a playlist for my 50th of songs from each era. Songs that lift my spirits are:
Sam Cooke – What a Wonderful World
Nina Simone – I Wish I knew How it Would Feel to be Free
Cyndi Lauper – Girls Just Want to Have Fun
What advice do you offer to friends when they are feeling overwhelmed?
I’m likely to tell them anything they want to hear.
It’s not the best time to challenge them with Buddhist wisdom.
My wife often says, “Don’t give me the Buddha..”
I usually go get her a beer instead.