Fort Plain-native musician speaks up about mental health

Half of the brother-sister band Jocelyn and Chris Arndt opens up on experiences with anxiety
Jocelyn Arndt
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Jocelyn Arndt

Jocelyn Arndt is well-known for her powerful voice. As half of the brother-sister band Jocelyn and Chris Arndt, she’s belted out intense lyrics and melodies that range from raw to sinuous in front of thousands of fans. 

But lately, she’s been using her voice to speak up about mental health. 

In a video published by NowThis earlier this month, Arndt opened up about her experiences with anxiety, something she’s only recently come to grips with. 

“I started realizing that my nerves were basically getting in the way of my enjoyment of music, which is the absolute opposite of what should be happening. The music should be the release,” Arndt said. 

Arndt has been performing with her brother since they were in elementary school, growing up in Fort Plain. She always got nervous before shows but she thought that was normal, something that everyone probably experienced. 

However, things changed after she graduated high school and started studying at Harvard, where her brother was also accepted a year later.  

“Looking back, if I could trace my anxiety, I think it probably started to really ramp up in college just because things were getting a little crazier on the music side and school work was not letting up. There was a lot of stress and I don’t think I handled it as well as I probably could have and that had to do with my own brain was playing tricks on me,” Arndt said. 

While her mind went through vicious cycles of worry and self-doubt, Arndt would fidget; sometimes tapping her feet moving her hands.

Sometimes shortly before shows, Arndt would bite her nails until they bled. 

Her symptoms got more intense when life got busy; when the balancing act of music, school, and everything else got harder to perform. Arndt told herself that everything would get better once she’d graduated, once she didn’t have to worry about school work. 

Not just nerves 

But in 2017, after she graduated from Harvard, her symptoms didn’t go away. She could no longer chalk it up to nerves or a busy schedule.

Arndt realized that what she was actually experiencing wasn’t nerves, but an anxiety disorder. While most people experience occasional anxiety at some point in their lives, those who have an anxiety disorder experience the symptoms much more frequently. According to the Anxiety and

Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are some of the most common mental health disorders. In the United States, they affect around 40 million adults over the age of 18. 

“It’s gotten a lot better since I owned up to the fact that I have anxiety because I’m able to start to recognize when I’m going down that hill and make conscious steps to stop myself,” Arndt said. 

Her brother has also been helpful in managing it.

KIKI VASSILASKIS Jocelyn and Chris Arndt
KIKI VASSILASKIS
Jocelyn and Chris Arndt

“He’s awesome at picking up when I’m stressed out before I know,” Arndt said, “With Chris’ help, I’ve been able to start transforming routines that used to stress me out and turn them into de-escalation routines.”

It helps to put on headphones and get lost in a Queen song, to go for a walk or to write lists. One thing that’s really helped is writing out the setlist shortly before a show. 

More from this week: Our top stories Feb. 23-March 1, 2019

“Writing lists [and] writing in general, the act of my hand moving on a paper helps me and it gives my hands something to do other than biting my nails,” Arndt said. 

But even with these techniques, there are still tough days. 

“I would say that super busy times tend to bring it out just because I start to get paranoid that I’m getting behind and then my brain starts going in a cycle of ‘You’re not getting things done, so this isn’t going to happen,’ but I tend to have to work myself down from that ledge,” Arndt said. 

Opening up

Lately, there’s been a national push to destigmatize mental health. Earlier this month, during her Grammy acceptance speech, artist Lady Gaga used her platform to discuss the importance of talking about mental health. 

“I just want to say, I’m so proud to be a part of a movie that addresses mental health issues. They’re so important. And a lot of artists deal with that and we got to take care of each other. So if you see somebody that’s hurting don’t look away and if you’re hurting, even though it might be hard to try to find that bravery within yourself to dive deep and go tell somebody and take them up in your head with you.” 

Lady Gaga, Prince William and other celebrities have been opening up about their experiences with mental illness in an attempt to tear down some of the stigmas that have prevented people from talking about it. 

“Luckily, I feel like more people are talking about their anxiety issues now, which has been awesome and I feel like that’s had a huge impact on me because I know that it’s not just me and I’m not broken,” Arndt said. 

It’s part of the reason she decided to talk about her anxiety in the NowThis video. 

“It was honestly one of the hardest interviews I’ve ever done. I think that if they were looking to capture my anxiety on film that was probably a great day to do it,” Arndt said. 

During the filming of the video, the band was in New York City playing a showcase show in a penthouse, for an audience that included a few important people in the music industry. There was a lot to do to even get the show together, let alone be interviewed about such a personal topic. 

But as soon as the video was posted in early February, support started pouring in for the artist. 

“I was really nervous, just because the internet can be a pretty cruel place. But, luckily, people have been really understanding and empathetic. It was definitely a breath of relief when the video got posted and people started commenting ‘I’m so glad you did this.’” Arndt said. 

Many thanked her on Facebook for speaking up and others showed support by telling her about their own experiences with anxiety. One user commented, “My husband and daughter each suffer from this debilitating anxiety. I believe it needs to be spoken about more so that it’s not such a stigma and that it’s really an issue.”  

Beyond the NowThis video, Arndt also opened up about it on “The Fun in the Fight” the Arndt’s latest album, which came out on Friday. 

“Don’t Hang Up,” the fifth track on the album was directly inspired by her experiences with anxiety, with lyrics like “I apologize for calling, I know it’s awful late. But my mind is set to racing and I had to get it straight” and “I hide beneath my headphones.”  

“‘Be That as It May,’ is a much more upbeat take on that but the song touches on insecurities, especially with being in the music industry. There’s a couple lines that have to do with self-doubt, which for me has been a pretty big anxiety trigger,” Arndt said. 

The album is one of the duo’s most cohesive and intentional. Chris and Jocelyn started writing it when Chris was still in college and Jocelyn was living in Springfield, Massachusetts. It was the first time in years they had lived so far apart from one another and the distance forced them to schedule when they were going to write songs and how they were going to do it. 

“That was definitely a weird curveball that I think made the record better because we were more focused, we made decisions more confidently just because this is our third full length so we’ve been around the block a couple of times recording albums. We knew what we wanted,” Arndt said. 

With the release of the album, they’ll be performing at Jupiter Hall on March 1 and going on tour across the country, playing everywhere from Infinity Hall Hartford to South by Southwest (SXSW). They’ve also got a slot playing a semi-acoustic set of their new music on The Today Show on March 7. 

In other words, their schedule is going to be busier than ever. While it might mean that her anxiety gets worse, Arndt refuses to let it stop her or define her. 

“I don’t want to be the girl with anxiety. I want to be the girl with the big voice who goes out there and sings original music with her brother. This is something I’m working through, hopefully on the road to getting somewhere bigger,” Arndt said. 

When Arndt performs, whether it’s in front of thousands at SXSW or a more intimate crowd in New York City, the only thing people hear is her powerhouse vocals and that’s how Arndt wants to keep it. 

“Once I get on stage, I get to just be me and let it all out. That’s why it’s worth it.” 

More from this week: Our top stories Feb. 23-March 1, 2019

Categories: Entertainment, Fulton Montgomery Schoharie, Life and Arts

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