“My Journey to Choosing Love”: An Essay by Holly Bruce for Mental Health Awareness Month

Holly Bruce © 2024
Holly Bruce © 2024
Throughout the year, Atwood Magazine invites members of the music industry to participate in a series of essays reflecting on identity, music, culture, inclusion, and more.
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Today, Nashville-based singer/songwriter Holly Bruce shares her essay, “My Journey to Choosing Love,” as a part of Atwood Magazine’s Mental Health Awareness Month series. Says Bruce, “Having overcome severe mental health struggles and a lifelong pursuit of external validation, I have found fulfillment through self-discovery, spiritual growth, and music, culminating in my upcoming album ‘Love Remains,’ which aims to inspire others to embrace self-love and perseverance.”
As Bruce navigates her musical journey, she seeks to expand her reach and impact, exploring opportunities to place her music in television and film. Through her artistry, she aims to inspire others to embrace self-care, resilience, and the transformative power of love. With a background in Music Composition from the San Francisco Conservatory, Bruce aims to inspire compassion, resilience, and love in a world often filled with challenges and adversity.

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Love Remains - Holly Bruce

by Holly Bruce

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Mental health disturbance is something that is quite familiar to me, especially true during my youth.

Depression, OCD, addiction, suicidal ideation among other topics all contributed to a heaviness that hindered growth, happiness and lasting love in my life. I am grateful to say that I live lighter now and am managing my topics with more ease. If my younger self could see my life now, she would be in total shock. I had never thought it would be possible to find happiness and fulfillment in life, relationships and experience freedom from turmoil, even though I deeply craved it. I discovered that fulfilling love starts with a healthy relationship with oneself and that a healthy partnership between myself and my higher power is essential. For me, this includes having a willingness to grow, asking for help, learning to take responsibility, surrendering ego and/or selfish attachments, practicing humility, gratitude, acceptance, practicing rigorous honesty, learning to self care, etc. These discoveries took much internal excavation (with support of gradually trusted beings), while facing difficult truths within myself step by step.

Holly Bruce © 2024
Holly Bruce © 2024

Growing up, I felt misunderstood and “out of the loop” while it appeared to me that everyone else seemed to be enjoying their life normally. I often felt as though I was looking in from the outside, like Alice through the looking glass. Helen Keller’s story of being blind and deaf, and later learning how to communicate with others, also resonated. These stories and depictions offered me some context for what I was experiencing that would continue into adulthood. For a long time, I focused externally on being the “perfect ____” – whatever I thought would bring happiness and fulfillment, while focusing on being “pleasing,” looking for external validation and approval from others, only left to be disappointed and heartbroken again and again. It would flip into a part of rebellious non-caring, the root being disconnection. The pain of my internal journey has often driven me to write and compose music and to process feelings.

Eventually, I would embark on self-discovery and a spiritual journey that would influence my music as well. Music has had a huge influence on my life! As I came across singers and songwriting artists that expressed themselves in raw, honest ways in my youth – artists such as Alanis Morissette, Tori Amos, Jewel, Fiona Apple – I was also moved and inspired to put lyrics to my music compositions, while motivated that perhaps my music expression would touch others similarly to the way these artist’s music had influenced me. It was witnessing other artists being unapologetically themselves that offered me “permission” to question my reality and face experiences (including my writing) with courage.

Holly Bruce © 2024
Holly Bruce © 2024

Striving to gain love, acceptance or approval from my art or from a successful music career is something that I also now keep in check.

I discovered that things are impermanent and while I can be grateful to have things, external things cannot truly fulfill. It would take a couple decades of self discovery for me to arrive at “good enough” healthy self caring. For those of us on a long healing journey, I find it is an ongoing practice. It is thanks to many inspirational beings that I’ve met along the way, that I am able to see myself more clearly and now ready to communicate my vision and practice of “choosing love.” This is a practice that involves ancient wisdom and seeing others as a mirror of oneself, softening my judgments and adopting a “curious” mindful perspective especially in moments of reaction, while understanding that there are more to the “stories” that the mind makes up about a given situation. Choosing to be kind as able, adopting the perspective that there is always “more to the story” I find, causes myself and others less suffering.

“Choosing love” may also look like holding healthy boundaries and not enabling others. There is much more I can say on these topics, however, I wrote an entire album worth of songs that highlight my last decade of self discovery that I plan to release this summer.

Several singles from this upcoming album, titled Love Remains, are being released. My hope is that it uplifts and inspires a positive reflection upon what is essential in life, encouraging you to keep going. You are worthy! – Holly Bruce

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Love Remains - Holly Bruce

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