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Artist Blog Series #14: Neeharika Aniruddh

Welcome to the fourteenth post of The Artist Series, where I interview musicians who have overcome injuries to help demystify performance-related pain and inspire musicians to better take care of their health.

Our next guest is Neeha Aniruddh, a music student at Eastern Michigan University.

What is your name (and preferred pronouns)?

Neeharika (they/she)

Where do you currently work, and what is your instrument/voice type?

I am currently a student at Eastern Michigan University. It will be my last semester this fall!

What was your injury, and how did you get injured?

My injury came from prolonged stress on my wrists, neck, shoulders, and back. I held a lot of tightness everywhere, and with instrument playing it got even worse to the point where I could barely ever practice.

What were the biggest challenge(s) of your injury?

Not being able to practice without any pain was definitely a huge downside, but I would say the biggest challenge was the mental drain and burnout that came from not being able to do what I love without immense pain. It really made me wonder if it was even worth it to keep pursuing music if it meant I would constantly be trapped in a cycle of pain.

What was your recovery like? What struggles did you face trying to overcome your injury?

I would say my recovery was very eye-opening, as I learned so much while working with Austin. The biggest struggle I had to face while overcoming my injury was consistency. Being burned out from my injuries in addition to having ADHD and PDD, it was hard to get into a good routine because sometimes the motivation wasn’t there, and other times the executive function wasn’t there. But Austin helped me implement small steps and realistic goals to help me establish the right habits. Austin also provided so much information, so that I could make informed decisions and continue to improve my routines and habits even after working one-on-one with him.

What was the biggest lesson you learned during your recovery?

The biggest lesson I learned was that there are many hurdles on the road to recovery, and that intrinsic motivation is the only thing that truly gets you where you need to be. In the hardest moments, it’s hard to pull myself up and continue to build healthy habits and change things in my life that might be contributing to my injuries. However, affirming to myself why I want to live a healthy life and finding that motivation within, and not relying on an external factor for my purpose is what pushes me to keep going when it feels like it would be easier to just quit.

What was something that surprised you during your recovery?

I was surprised by how even the smallest new healthy habits such as quick mobility routine or drinking the right amount of water could make such a huge difference in the amount of pain I would experience. The small daily habits do seriously make the biggest differences.

What are you actively doing to stay healthy and pain-free?

I actively prioritize my wellness. Especially as a college student (and a music student at that), it has felt way too many times like I have to prioritize everything else before I prioritize myself. Other’s expectations, performances, auditions, assignments, etc. have been prioritized above my health too many times. But recently I have shifted that perspective and realigned my priorities. Because what is the point in anything else if it means that you are compromising your health to get there? Burnout happens faster when our wellness is not respected. And we should be our biggest advocates. I do think that it’s easy in tis field to feel pressured to deprioritize wellness because that is how the culture has been up until now. However, I think that people are starting ot shift that perspective, and we need to push toward a culture in the music field that prioritizes the people behind the music as well.

Do you have any words of encouragement for someone currently going through an injury?

Don’t give up on yourself. If that means you need to take a break from something that is burning you out so that you can focus on rebuilding your health, then do that. If it means going through an injury prevention program so that you don’t have to choose between your passion and your wellness, then do that. But don’t give up on yourself because there is a solution, even if it might not be what you had originally planned.

Any other final thoughts about your recovery journey you’d like to share?

Another important thing to know when you are going through an injury or a difficult recovery process is that you are not alone. There is a large community of people who are going through the same thing as you are, who understand your struggle, and who genuinely care about your wellness. Surround yourself with this community, and any struggle on the road to recovery will feel that much less intimidating.

What are you currently working on musically? Do you have any projects you’d like to plug?

Currently I am focusing on finishing up my degree and figuring out which of my many project ideas I want to pursue as I am finishing up my undergrad! Prioritizing my wellness as a music student for me meant to focus on one thing at a time. As an overachiever and as someone who has so many ideas for projects, that has been so difficult for me. However, I am so proud of myself for prioritizing my physical and mental wellness. One potential project that I have been excited about for a long time is to be able to start a podcast that focuses on music and mental health, especially for those of us in the music field that come from marginalized communities. Another goal I want to pursue in the next couple years is to get my master’s degree in Expressive Arts Therapy. No matter what I do, I want to use music to help people heal (including myself!), bridge communities, and fight for what’s right. I’m excited to see where I’ll take things!


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