Music And Depression (1)
Excerpts from anonymous or anonymised comments I got while working on today’s Pitchfork piece. If you made one of them and want it credited or removed, tell me and I’ll do either ASAP.
They’re quite long so I’ve put them under a cut. Please do click through if you enjoyed or related to the piece, though - there’s a lot of insight here I think.
I’ll do a collected post of song mentions/recommendations (funny word in this context!) later on.
Thanks, again, to everyone who replied.
“In goes the tape [of Deserters Songs by Mercury Rev], and there’s that pretty orchestral blur in “Holes” arriving quietly like a sun rising, the drift from sleep to wakefulness. I was searching for transcendence — trying to will it existence, really — with every line, making them all apply to what I was feeling RIGHT NOW, hoping there’d be some lyric would serve as a sign from God that I should go on. (At my most desperate, I am indistinguishable from pagan, and would probably resort to tea leaf reading and entrail divination if it occurred to me.) That didn’t quite happen. And really, I knew quite well it wouldn’t; at 27 I was already skeptical about the power of art to save people. But I got a charge nonetheless. And from that moment on, it seemed like things picked up. A bit.
This is the only thing I remember from that week. Everything else that happened decayed in my mind, probably due to its uselessness and banality. I could reconstruct this time, if I wanted to — I have all the emails I’ve sent from the time stored on a portable hard drive. But I don’t. I can listen to “Holes” and “Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp” with pleasure. I won’t deny these songs mean something deep to me. But I never listen to *Deserter’s Songs* anymore. I have no urge to pick it up and see what it’s like. It’s not embarrassment or revulsion. It’s nothing strong like that. It did its job.”
“I can tell you that the record that probably resonated the most for me when I was at my worst was the self-titled album by Rites Of Spring (reissued with EP tracks tacked on under the name “End On End”). Members of the band went on to be in Fugazi, but Rites Of Spring themselves were very short-lived—perhaps nine months, total, in 1985? Something like that. Anyway, the members, who had been high school kids playing in hardcore bands shortly before, were all getting older and dealing with the transition from adolescence to adulthood, and Guy Picciotto wrote some really powerful lyrics about finding reasons to live, learning to deal with emotions, and reaching out for connections to other people. Then the band played them in this slashing, out-of-control way that made the entire record sound like it was about to shake apart, until on the last song, the 8-minute “End On End,” it did. Hit me to the core as a teenager—and honestly, considering that I didn’t get much of a handle on my depression until the last couple of years, it hit me to the core for quite a while after I turned 21 as well.”
“The idea of music associated with depression is completely foreign to me. When I’m depressed — really, truly depressed, the state where I worry myself and others if I let anything on, which I try not to — I have to have silence. Complete, utter silence; not just no sound, but the active lack of it. Nothing sounds right when it’s on. Anything I could possibly listen to would assert itself too much or wilt into dull noise.
If there was anything I’d listen to, it’d have to be something that goes nowhere, does nothing, just sits there inert. This generally doesn’t make for good music, certainly nothing I’d listen to otherwise.”
“Long history of depression here, but I’m struggling to come up with song or album names. For me, real depressive episodes are about silence, the inability to draw succor or pleasure from music—or books, films, food, etc—and the not wanting to try.”
“the real soundtrack to my depression has always been NIN. the impotent and unfocused anger and frustration, the self-absorption and self-aggrandizement, “pretty hate machine” was the soundtrack to my first round of suicide attempts. “wish there was something real, wish there was something true,” “i was up above it, now i’m down in it,” “hey god, why are you doing this to me … can this world really be as sad as it seems,” ETC ETC ETC. this is why i love NIN shows so much - seeing a seething mass of black-clad people screaming along with these lyrics reminds me of how universal depression can be, how that many people experienced it the same way i did, how good it feels when all of us in unison scream “fuck you” to that feeling, that emptiness, all smashing into each other as a visceral reminder that we can feel things, that we have bodies.”
“Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock album is so closely tied to a period of depression in 2008 that I simply can’t listen to it anymore. It feels like music that I only turn to at the worst of times - to listen to it in any other mood is disrespectful to it or something.”
“A lot of people (particularly girls) go through periods of being very ‘funny’ about food and it’s often talked about as being an attention seeking thing (another reason for going on anon). This isn’t a sob story so I’ll try and keep it to the point, at my worst I was fasting for up to six days at a time, hiding as much food as possible, and weighing myself at least four times a day. During this time my mood was very changeable, I would go from very depressed to incredibly happy (after a while the body starts to release chemicals that cause ‘starvation euphoria’). I had so many rules, about food and activities and times, these rules included the music I could listen to at different times in the day (for example, I had to put on a certain song as soon as I woke up).
Now I’m past all of that and it sort of feels, in a weird way, like that’s because I love everything too much to have rules anymore. The music wasn’t really a big part of it all then, just a part of my routine, but I now don’t think that I could go back to being like that again because I have found too many other things (books and films and music) to completely immerse myself in.”
“Whole albums i associate with certain times in my life. So listening to them now, immediately links them to it, which can be rubbish! When i was having a particularly shit time first job post-uni, i listened to the Best Of Talking Heads all day everyday for about 2 months (only album on ye olde ipod shuffle, didn’t have access to changing the songs). Can’t listen to it now, because i don’t want to be reminded of how bad i felt. It’s not necessarily the individual songs that can affect you, it’s the order of those songs that can set off murky self-reflection!”