IN CONVERSATION WITH ABBY EATON
Singer Abby Eaton seemed to have it all. She loved making music, her husband Chris was writing songs for big-name artists and the couple had a lovely home. But when they had a baby Abby found herself struggling with postnatal depression and tackling the taboo that often surrounds mental illness. She talks about her daily battle with anxiety and the joy of creating new music.
When did God first become real to you?
I remember when I was four years old singing a song and asking Jesus into my heart, and meaning it with all my heart, and actually tangibly feeling different.
Were you passionate about singing at that point?
Oh my goodness, yes. Before I could talk I used to drive my parents crazy singing, and I still do it. I sing without even realising, even in my sleep! My grandma asked me when I was little, “What do you want to be when you’re older?” and I said, “I want to be a gospel singer like Amy Grant.”
Have you ever met Amy Grant?
I actually have. It’s crazy! My husband writes songs for Amy, has toured with Amy and she’s now one of my dearest friends. He also writes for artists like Cliff Richard. Meeting Cliff was the most amazing experience; he is the most humble man. I’m so thankful to God for the dot-to-dot he does, where he just joins things together. Even in times where you think, “Why is this door not opening?” you look back and go, “God really had everything in place ready for me to receive.”
How did you meet your husband?
We met at a concert at my home church up in Preston almost 12 years ago. He’d been booked to do this concert and I was singing. I was introduced to him as he was walking in to do this concert, and I’d just been sound-checking, so I was really busy. I turned around to shake his hand, and God literally said to me, “This is your husband.” It was weird, but I knew it had happened. He’s quite significantly older than I am, so I was like,“Okay, this is interesting, God. This is interesting.”
Chris would say it didn’t happen for him at that moment, which is a bit disappointing for me! For him it was when we were singing. We sang together from the minute we met, and it was when we were worshipping together that God just said, “There’s your wife.”
Tell us about the background to your song, Anchor.
Having suffered with postnatal depression and battling with anxiety on an everyday basis, this song came from a real place of vulnerability, and of deciding that I’m going to speak God’s truth and God’s word over myself every day, but especially when I’m feeling the fear. I’m going to cling to him with a thread of hope, even if I feel that’s all I have. It’s a real song of declaration of hope and of trusting God.
When did you first realise you were struggling and needed support?
It took me a really long time to actually get help, which I think is one of the reasons I’m quite vocal about my experience. Immediately after having my son, whom I love with all my heart, I just felt like I wasn’t a natural mum. And I felt like I’d disappointed myself because I hadn’t responded to the challenge of becoming a mum like I’d anticipated I would.
I think it can be really difficult, and as a Christian it can almost be harder, because we kind of say, “Well, I’ve got my faith, God will see me through.” And of course he will. Sometimes you can use those things as an excuse not to get help.
Did you tell anyone apart from your husband what you were going through?
Yes. I feel really blessed that I have an amazing church and an amazing friendship group. That’s one of the things I would say to people who are going through postnatal depression or any form of anxiety: make sure you surround yourself with good people that have your back, that you can confide in. I was starting to open up with a really vulnerable thing, which of course it is, because we all want to have it together all the time, and I certainly wanted to be that natural mum. I felt really blessed to have been part of a church that supported me and gathered around us as a family.
What role does anxiety play in your life?
Anxiety is a strange beast. I can feel it rising up, and it always comes when I’m a bit vulnerable. Every day I feel some form of anxiety, and I get a lot of ridiculous thoughts, which I would call intrusive thoughts, that just creep into my mind. I have to speak the word of God into those situations and rationalise with myself that I shouldn’t be thinking things like this.
Does singing help?
Yes, and worship helps so much. I feel like that’s what I was created to do. People say to me, “When you’re singing you are your most shining bright, your most happy Abby self.” And it’s so true. The peace it brings is incredible; the connectedness you can get with God.
Why do you think we need to talk more about mental health in the Church?
Because it’s so real. There are so many people going through it. We believe our body is a temple as Christians, and we believe we should take care of our body. But it’s so important that we take care of our mind as well, and that’s scriptural, too. It was a natural thing for me to kind of brush over those initial experiences and almost
dumb them down and think, “I’ll be okay. I’ve got God and a good family around me” instead of addressing the issue. It’s a really tough one when people see you on stage, leading worship and in your happy place, and doing what you’re called to do, and yet at the same time I’m battling these ‘demons’, almost. We all have battles we have to face, and if we don’t talk about it where’s the help going to come from?
Have some of these issues fed into your songs?
Songwriting is a really vulnerable thing. You pour out your heart and soul, and just lay your bare bones out there for everyone to hear. For me as an artist I’d had years of not releasing any material, and I was doing lots of session work and singing on other people’s albums, and writing songs for other people, but God was really calling me to share his heart through my experiences. So we had a songwriting weekend in January, and quite honestly God gifted us three of the songs in two days. I did a prelaunch in the summer for my church family and friends, and then we did the songs live. Philippa Hanna, who is a dear friend of mine, features on one of the songs and she wrote ‘Go to the mountain’ with us too, so it has some Philippa influence.
You can find out more about Abby’s music at www.abbyeatonmusic.com
Her EP ‘Anchor’ is set for worldwide digital release on November 26th.
This article was written by Joy Tibbs, who is a freelance writer and is based on an interview with Maria Rodrigues, presenter of Woman to Woman which you can hear every weekday morning from 10:30 on Premier Christian Radio.
More inspiring reading, every month.
Get much more with a subscription to Woman Alive, from just £35 for 12 issues.
More inspiring reading, every month
Our magazine is written specifically for Christian women who want their faith to impact every area of their lives. Subscribe today and look forward to thoughtful articles, fresh ideas and good advice - all delivered to your door every month. Click on Subscribe for our latest offers.