I am a highly associative person. Not just the smells of fall bringing me back to years on the soccer or rugby fields, not just with blueberry pancakes making me think of one grandmother cooking breakfast at our family camp, or macaroni and cheese from a Crockpot made by my other grandmother, but music. There are any number of songs that instantaneously transport me to specific moments in time.
Marcy Playground's "Sex and Candy" makes me think of middle school friends and our borderline obsession with a local DJ. "Ring of Fire" by Johnny Cash makes me think of my friend, B, who once had a drunken night losing his flip flops. The Killers' "Mr. Brightside" never fails to make me think of AWC. Pretty much anything by Peter, Paul, and Mary makes me think of my parents and youngest brother (hereafter called "Middle"). Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me" reminds me of a particularly epic temper tantrum I had as a kid when my mom came in, sat on the edge of my now-broken bed and just rubbed my back. Pretty much anything by Rod Stewart makes me think of my friend, Alex, and the John Tesh radio show the year we volunteered knocking on doors for our local pro-marriage equality campaign. There's also "China Grove" by the Doobie Brothers. A song that one of the local radio stations seemed to play 24-hours a day while my friend Marc and I were campaigning for a local Congressman. Journey's "Don't Stop Believing'" reminds me of volunteering on a different campaign and my first party convention (I wish it only reminded me of Glee). "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" by Bob Dylan makes me think of so many nights doing karaoke on the Playstation or listening to my friends, AM and CW, play the guitar late into the night. These are, for the most part, excellent memories.
Sometimes, though, I'll hear a song and it'll transport to a less good space. "Just a Thought" by Gnarls Barkley is one such less good song. One of the first times I admitted out loud that I was suicidal was with a friend, Eric, during another campaign time period. This was around the time a friend from college, Calvin, had committed suicide. There are so many other songs. Songs that remind me of times friends passed away, friends hurt themselves, friends were hurt by others, times I hurt myself, times I hurt others (not physically; hopefully not intentionally).
Music is an incredible tool -- one that can hurt as well as help. If you're a musician remember to use your tools for helping; helping yourself and helping others. If you're not a musician, but find yourself with a soundtrack to your life, remember that for as often as you find yourself listening to downer songs, keep happy songs in the queue. My heart breaks when I hear songs that remind me of Calvin. My heart soars when I hear songs that remind me of my Hippo, the Clan Ginger, my brothers, my parents, the rest of my family, the rest of my friends. Remember that when I say turn up the Eric Hutchinson or turn down the Melissa Ferrick it's probably because of some memory associated with the song you're playing. It's not because I dislike the music, it's not because I don't like your taste in music. It's that the music may be a bit too much for me in the moment.
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