About a year ago I started using a streaming service to listen to music, and I purchased a pair of high quality, refurbished headphones. Before these two purchases, I had not listened to much music since college other than instrumental music to meditate and YouTube to watch music videos I heard about on social media. Once I got a streaming subscription I began listening to music for at least an hour daily. It is a way for me to center myself, distract myself while doing housework, get inspiration for writing, and simply experience pleasure.
I often listen to music when I am working on the blog; it helps me focus and inspires my thought process. I have mentioned several songs I like on the blog including Kanye West’s “Runaway” and Aloe Blacc’s “The Man,” but many other posts I have written have been directly or indirectly inspired by other songs on my most listened to playlists. Today I thought I would look at a single lyric from 3 different songs that reflect some of the main ideas for the blog as a whole.
“Wake Me Up” by Avicii: “All this time I was finding myself, and I didn’t know I was lost.”
I like this lyric because it is fairly true that every moment is a chance for self-discovery and that sometimes we discover things about ourselves that we weren’t necessarily looking for. In my mind, both of these are wonderful things! It is really about how you look at yourself, your situation, and your circumstances. Taking time to reflect on your day, your life, your role, your goals, your dreams, your accomplishments can be very rewarding. Self-inventory keeps you in touch with yourself, and the more in touch with yourself you are, the more you will learn about yourself. And, in my opinion, the more you learn about yourself the more information you have to make good choices for your own well being. Besides, self-revelation can be truly liberating. To me, it makes me feel more in control and more confident in my choices. I don’t seek others’ approval as much because I know enough about myself to make an informed decision.
“Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd: “Be something you love and understand.”
One of the reasons I encourage self discovery is because, hopefully, it is a step toward self-acceptance. We are all unique beings, irreplaceable individuals with one chance of life on this earth. For me, self-acceptance is a necessity for living. Depression makes me so self-critical, self-loathing even, that when I am well enough, I try to make up for lost time by truly loving who I am and trying to live in a way that makes me happy. However, part of accepting myself is accepting my depression. I cannot get away from the fact that it has change and reformed my personality over 15 years. I am a different person as a result of my illness. When I accept that depression is part of my life–part of what makes me me–I can better understand what I need to be healthy and live a happy life. I know cannot ignore my depression. And yet I love myself, I love my home, my family, my work. And I understand who I am right now and why I have made the choices I’ve made. I feel comfortable in my own skin, and it took a lot of work to get here. I have spent years in therapy, journaling, working with family and friends to understand my issues, my fears, my desires, my goals. Being is a continual process that doesn’t end until we die. Continual self-reflection allows you to make the necessary changes to continue to accept and understand yourself.
“I” by Kendrick Lamar: “Seen enough make a motherf*cker scream, ‘I love myself!'”
This song (and whole album really) knocks the ball out of the park. When I listen to Kendrick Lamar talking about struggles with depression and suicidal ideation but then conclude that–despite everything going on in the world and his own head–he emphatically, intentionally loves himself, I get chills; I get inspired; I feel motivated to love myself. I love that this attitude is in direct opposition to the normal depression response to internal or external crises. When something bad happens in my life, my depression tells me that it is my fault. After years of depression and suicidal ideation, it often doesn’t take much to make me feel that something is so deeply my fault that I need to either self-harm or kill myself. If my husband is overwhelmed by too many papers to grade, my depression tells me that it is because I haven’t provided him with enough work time or that he works too much because I can’t work. Depression tells me that because it is my fault, I need to do something to rectify my mistake. I need to fix the situation and the ultimate fix is always suicide when my depression is in control. For Kendrick Lamar to respond to similar mental pressures by loving himself is a rebellion against the depression. It is a rebellion against any number of pressures that intend to make people feel they are worth less. This type of rebellious attitude can be so useful when facing depression because depression wants you to give in and you must fight back. One of your greatest weapons to fight depression is a well nurtured love for yourself.
When I am overwhelmed by depression and suicidal thoughts, when I cannot even wear my glasses because it is too much to see clearly, when I can’t eat, when I can’t stop crying or get out of bed, I get angry at my depression. I remember that I don’t deserve what I am going through. It is not my fault, and I do not deserve to die for my mistakes. I get so angry at the injustice of my illness and the lies it tells me that I want to scream back–“Enough of this! I love myself!” After years of fostering a love for myself that is how strongly I feel–I love myself fiercely because if I don’t I will fall victim to the lies of my depression.
So, really, these three song lyrics touch on 3 significant ideas that I repeatedly return to in the blog: finding yourself through self discovery, understanding yourself through self-acceptance, and loving yourself unconditionally. I really appreciate lyrics that positively support these ideas, and I especially enjoy finding this kind of positivity where I didn’t expect it. Music of all kinds can be a truly wonderful help through difficult times, if it is already a source of pleasure for you. One of the greatest thing about music is that there is so much of it, and if you take the time to look you can find just about anything. I often look for music that makes me want to dance and promotes some kind of positivity. Then when I am having a bad day, I just put on my headphones, turn on one of my playlists, and I am sensorily inundated with music that makes me want to move my body and lyrics that remind me of who I am and that I am a fighter. It doesn’t always work (some days nothing really works), but more often than not, if I persist, I can make some progress on getting myself back from the edge of depressive tunnel vision. And, as I’ve said before, every battle you can win against depression counts in a life-long war. Much love and happy listening!