Depression really sucks. It is so hard to explain to people who don’t have mental health issues what depression is like. It is a bleak, dark sadness that comes to me at various times. Sometimes it’s fleeting; sometimes it sticks to me like I am superglue. While transition has cleared up a lot of my deepest darkest depression, I have learned that yes, my brain chemistry is very much hardwired for depressive episodes.
April is a hard month for me. I had my worst suicide attempt and only hospitalization in April. There is something about this month of spring that my brain just hates. I notice that on the bus sometimes, I just start feeling this wave of sadness.
April 5th is the anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death, and this year marked 20 years since his untimely passing. Maybe there is something about April that just sucks for people. When I was a young kid, Nirvana was one of the first bands I could say was a “me” band. I define “me” band as band you found on your own or your first real musical tastes that weren’t dictated by your family. I heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit” at a camp and I was hooked. I would turn to Nirvana in middle school and high school as my go-to band for helping fight these feelings that at the time I had no name for. I was diagnosed at 17 with clinical depression, and the sadness all made sense. Kurt and I fought very similar issues like being an outcasts in our little towns. Twenty years after his death, inexplicably I found out I live behind the hotel where Kurt was last seen alive in Seattle. Needless to say, the last few days I have cranked up some Nirvana when I can.
Music has always been my escape. Long time readers of my column will notice even in non-musical columns that I speak in the terms of music. Weeks and days like this are helped by the fact I can listen to other people’s pains that are comparable to my own and know that I am not alone in the universe.
1. “All Apologies” by Nirvana
The unplugged version is probably the most played Nirvana song in my life. The first time I heard this song, it changed me.
2. “Between the Bars” By Elliot Smith
Another random universal connection. Elliot Smith was discovered dead on my birthday. I have always loved his voice and his lyrics. The bleak happiness of his songwriting cheers me up and makes me feel connected to something. Sometimes, the only way to fight depression is to have something to hold on to.
3. “True Trans Soul Rebel” by Against Me!
My anthem. Catchy as fuck. Cannot escape my mind. Have a hard time not singing it out loud on the bus when I listen to it.
4. “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails
Another high school song that kept me going. Trent has always spoken to me. His struggles with depression have come out in some of the best lyrics and music of the ’90s.
5. “Putting The Damage On” by Tori Amos
Maybe my most favorite Tori song. It is definitely in the top three. Boys For Pele overall is my favorite Tori album.
6. “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” by Radiohead
The Bends is my favorite Radiohead album, since I have a thing for jangly guitars. I have always loved this song and it is totally underrated as a Radiohead song. Thom’s outlook in this song very much matches mine when I am in the deepest throes of my depression monster.
7. “Rudie Can’t Fail” by the Clash
Sing, Michael, sing! One of the more upbeat songs I listen to when depressed, “Rudie” has always been my favorite Clash song. When Joe Strummer died in 2002, I was really sad. There was a real possibility that the Clash were going to reunite and tour following their Hall of Fame induction. Joe was always my favorite punk rock artist.
8. “Futures” by Jimmy Eat World
Yes, I know, I should have picked “Pain” off the same album (Futures), if I really wanted to go for songs with lyrical content about depression. The title track, though, has always spoken to me as a song of hope. Most people know Jimmy Eat World from songs like “The Middle” or “Sweetness” but their albums after fading away from the mainstream have been fucking awesome. Futures is my second favorite Jimmy Eat World album, second only to Clarity. The song itself may be my favorite Jimmy Eat World song.
9.”Today” by The Smashing Pumpkins
My second “me” band. “Today” is the happiest song about depression and self harm ever. I have always listened to this song and “Disarm” as kind of a tandem of cheering me up.
10. “Cubs in 5” by the Mountain Goats
A great singalong. John’s in rare form with all sorts of allusions and channeling his inner punker.
I could have included so much more, but hey, it’s a top ten list. The hardest thing, I think, is people asking me why I don’t listen to happy music. The answer to that is happy music makes me sad. There is nothing as depressing to me as being depressed and seeing others be happy. I am a lot happier on average than I ever have been, but depression still hits me.