How A Song From The Color Purple Improved My Mental Health

Coming from a musically inclined family, I grew up watching Broadway musicals like Wicked, Cats, etc. Since our home was only an hour away from New York, it became part of our tradition to drive there during the yuletide season to see an incredible show or two. The traffic was undoubtedly awful, but the musicals made our suffering on the road worth it.

Now, while growing up, my parents allowed me to watch kid-friendly Broadway shows. E.g., Annie, The Lion King, and even Newsies. When I went to high school, though, our family dynamics changed drastically.

It started when Mom found out that Dad had an extramarital affair one too many times while on business trips. My father wanted to make amends, but my mother—bless her soul—practically informed him that second chances weren’t available. Thus, she kicked Dad out of the house and went on to file for divorce.

The perfect life that we had fallen apart within months. All of a sudden, I needed to go back and forth to different houses. Mom had me on weekdays, while Dad got my weekends. I could not complain verbally about this setup, but it made me want to move across the country and stay away from my parents.

Forgetting Broadway

The divorce meant that neither of my parents was willing to continue our family tradition on Broadway. They did not even bother coming up with an excuse; they only said that it was no longer in the cards. Then, I got accepted to UCLA, and my musical-watching days became a history.

Although LA was fun, I felt miserable there. At one point, I wondered if my childhood was nothing but a lie. Were my parents genuinely happy during our trips? Did Mom put up with Dad because of me? Such questions swirled in my head repeatedly for some time, to the extent that I started sinking the depression hole.

I remembered the first time I got drunk. A friend told me that that’s a quick way to forget your worries, albeit momentarily. And when the alcohol hit my system, I understood what she meant. I kept drinking whenever I thought of my problems, which was almost every day. I only realized how low I had gone when I failed all my classes, and Mom coaxed me to go back home.

Seeing The Color Purple

When I came back home, I met my parents at a restaurant. It was the only time they met out of court; even when I went to LA, Dad merely gave me a call to say goodbye. They agreed to be in the same room together because they wanted to do a little intervention on me and ensure that I would not throw away my life before it even started.

In truth, I stopped drinking ever since I flunked at UCLA. I realized it did not help me at all and perhaps ruined my chances of becoming a doctor. But of course, I did not tell my parents that. Instead, I just allowed them to think that I needed this intervention so that I could see them agreeing on something after a long while.

Before the dinner ended, my folks said that I could try applying at NYU. The next day, I dropped in the campus to send my application and walked around the streets to familiarize myself with the location. Even if I wouldn’t get accepted, I thought of looking for a job around the area.

After a few minutes, I was standing outside of a theater where they were doing the production of The Color Purple. I heard about its movie version back then, but I never got to watch it. I had no inkling who Cynthia Erivo was at the time either, but I knew that Jennifer Hudson’s a powerhouse singer. For the first time in years, I was in the third row of a Broadway theater to watch a Broadway musical.

Listening To “I’m Here”

The play took place when African-American women were still oppressed. The main character had been wronged many times in her life, and I felt so sorry for her. Then, she sang “I’m Here,” which blew me away.

There was no way I could relate to the main character’s hardships, but it hit home when Cynthia Erivo sang, “I’m gonna take a deep breath; I’m gonna hold my head up. I’m gonna put my shoulders back and look you straight in the eye.” It was such a powerful part of the musical and showed the actress’s heart. I was already shedding tears silently before I could stop myself.

When the Broadway musical ended, I felt a change of heart. I forgot about our family issues and suddenly felt like going home and hugging my mother. I also wanted to walk around the city with my head held up high—just like what Cynthia Erivo said—and show the world that I was ready to move forward.

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