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  • Writer's pictureSarah Caltieri

Higher Than Before

Updated: Mar 24, 2021

Higher Than Before This song was originally written when I was twenty-three years old, sitting on my bedroom floor in a heap. I’d been losing my sight over a period of a few months as a result of a type 1 diabetic eating disorder (similar to bulimia but which involves omitting insulin). It had been a rough time. I had been having laser surgery to zap all the extra blood vessels which were growing at the back of my eyes and leaking blood into the fluid preventing me from seeing properly. The condition was a result of the damage I had caused by omitting insulin for several years to help me lose weight, a very common problem with type 1 diabetics. I’d been over the eating disorder for a few years previously and was now able to pursue my passions properly. I was on Holiday in Greece with a friend, when I noticed my vision had changed. I knew something was wrong as I’d only got a new prescription for driving glasses a few weeks earlier. As soon as I got home to England (with a broken shoulder needless to say as a guy had pulled me over in a drunken state of excitable dancing in a bar the evening before the flight) I went straight to the optician (after the trip to casualty to fix my broken shoulder) and he noticed I had started developing the condition “diabetic retinopathy.”

Treatment The treatment was thousands upon thousands of laser shots to the backs of my eyes to stop the bleeding. In the process of doing this however, the retinas developed scar tissue which then had to be removed by having many operations. As you can imagine this hurt. A lot! Weeks upon weeks I endured this and eventually I ended up having to leave my job as I could no longer see a computer screen, stop driving, and change how I survived on planet earth. (The vision I was left with is like looking out of a steamed up window, or bathroom glass).

Road to Rokstardom

So, after several weeks in bed and opening my eyes every morning and realising that I wasn’t in a dream, that my sight really was not the same anymore I had to think about how to rehabilitate myself so I could become a rockstar! I started by simply trying to do things in the house, for instance learning how to use the cooker without being able to see and without killing myself; using the t.v remote without looking by counting buttons and things like that, - it was exhausting. How did I get up every morning?....Trisha. Trisha got me up every morning without fail. No matter what else I did for the rest of the day, my daily goal was at least to get out of my bed to watch Trisha so depression didn’t get the better of me and I didn’t get into lazy habits. I did write to thank her but don’t know if she ever received my letter. I did address it to “Trisha, ITV.” Maybe i should have put the postcode....oh well.

Shit! FIRE!!! There were a few mishaps like, not noticing when someone had left bacon fat in the bottom of the grill and trying to make toast. I pulled the grill out to turn the bread over and as I did so, several foot-high flames were a-blazing. Mum who was standing at the sink washing up, calmly took the flaming grill out, walked across the kitchen with it and placed it on the step and threw a wet tea towel over it. “Well, she said calmly, we’d better remind the others to clean the grill after they’ve used it next time won’t we?” Two steps forward, one step back Everything was two steps forward and one back. Everything. Sometimes three. I’d been training at college in acting and singing and also singing around bars in Leeds with a DJ. I had just finished a course where I’d played the role of Sally Bowles in the stage show “Cabaret” at Leeds College of Music and was trying to figure out what my next steps were going to be for my career when this blow happened.

"Higher Than Before" So, one day, after feeling exhausted with it all, I rolled out of bed and sat on the floor with my head in my hands sobbing. I looked up at the sky and said “Hey?” Why?” “Why would you fucking do this to me after I’ve pulled myself out of a life-threatening eating disorder which took several years? Why now hit me with this? Is this some kind of joke?” Then something happened to me….something came over me and it was an immense feeling of a divine energy. It’s the only way I can describe it.....I started talking to it....”Do you know how it feels inside? When you have a big part of your life denied. To sit and wonder, what will I do? Is it time to give up, or will I see this through….. Well I’m not going to let you beat me lately, because I know that someday’ll take me higher........”. Something came out of me and so the song was born. Picking up the Pieces “Higher Than Before” went on to be featured on the end of the BAFTA winning Channel 4 Cutting Edge Documentary series “Picking Up The Pieces”.The hour long programme documented the highs and lows of my rehabilitation and career. I later performed an acoustic version of Higher Than Before on GMTV’s Lorraine and most recently (based on Simon Russel’s original composition), it has been re-recorded with platinum award winning producer Duncan Cameron at Riverside Studios in Glasgow and re-mixed by Graeme Young at Chamber Studios in Edinburgh. The song was self released earlier this year on debut album Something I Couldn’t Say”...

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