Mental Illness Music & Addiction

by

I used to listen to music all day, all night, I had one headphone in my ear in college classes. The other ear digesting dialogue from the professor who rarely had a name in my life. Just a list of deadlines.

I played guitar (I still do, with less passion) and I miss my Yamaha. Stepped on by a "friend" in a drunken rage.

At the age of eighteen, life was defined by The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Bad Company (oops 80's rock), Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac, Eric Clapton, Cat Stevens and the rest of them. The first time I fell in love (and have I since?) we would stay up all night, incense burning on the night tables, sketching each other while Jim Morrison sang about riders on the storm and living on love street. In love with each other and with the music that fueled it.

I miss love like that. I miss love.

Classic rock, some blues like BB king thrown in for diversity, reminds me of what I have lost.

And then---a rather abrupt introduction to alcoholism. No longer did I listen to the music that made me laugh, but I replaced it with sounds that define the feeling of being out of control. A lot of Metallica, Pantera... and the like. Great music in it's genre-- hearing it now I instantly picture a bottle of tequila, myself passed out on the floor, waking up somewhere strange, my knees cut and bleeding from falling. My pride--shattered.

This music reminds me of that time and there is no escaping this fact. I miss the music that defined my life but to hear it is to feel what I felt. I would rather not feel. I would rather keep running.

And then--addiction. The goddamn icing on the cake. Though still a class A alcoholic (merlot and I made fast friends, liters every day, I will always miss it--addicts always do). With addiction came loud clubs, loud friends, euphoria that I cannot explain. I will not ever be able to find words for it. It is a dangerous feeling because it feels so good. It must be kept hidden. It must not steal my life away--again.

Addiction brings along horrible music. A lot of techno music, loud abrasive beats, because it fuels your high.

This brings me to sobriety. Sobriety involves a lot of talk radio. I miss music. But music reminds me of addiction. I find lovely new bands and analyze the lyrics. Half the goddamn time they talk about drugs and alcohol. Bright Eyes, a fantastic low key group, sings about heroin. And then I remember the time I did heroin. He talks about rehab. And I remember rehab.

I wrote about bands. I went to every concert I wanted to. Every concert I was wasted. I forget if Bob Dylan was as bad as everyone tells me he was; I remember Neil Young singing about freedom when I felt so trapped.

My partner does not understand.

"This is pathetic. You should be recovered by now!" I do not think nearly three years of sobriety is really that fantastic, and with a couple bumps in a lovely paved road, but apparently I should be recover. Not triggered. Ever.

Ahem, just give me five minutes and I'll be recovered for ya. Pause that song and I'll be back to good. 

I miss music, and it may sound strange, but I sort of need to avoid it. It makes me think of things that terrify me. But things I miss.

I miss Tangled up In blue. The rest of them too.

 

***

Connect With Me!

Website @ www.thethirdsunrise.com

Twitter @thethirdsunrise

Facebook @Natalie Jeanne Champagne

Comments

I smiled seeing your list of artists knowing they are all in my collection and yet now hardly played. Music for me became a soundtrack to my depression , a reflection of my feelings but in those early days the music i listened to was simply music. I listened and enjoyed and became thrilled or touched but it was just music. Depression began to change all that and although my diagnosis and realisation of my illness kicked in later there were early signs in the music i began to respond to. Playing The Smiths albums over and over was surely a giveaway but they existed alongside all those other kinds of music i would listen to. Gradually as the years past the depression took hold tighter and the list of 'meaningful' artists increased. Back to Nick Drake and on to Joy Division, The Cure, Radiohead, Nirvana. A trend began to form and now it is one of my running, though perhaps not funny, jokes about how many of the artists i like either killed themselves or are suspected to have. Ian Curtis, Nick Drake, Richie Edwards, Kurt Cobain, Mark Linkous and Vic Chesnutt all gone. These however are the artists and the music i cling to in my times of depression. While i can understand the need to put distance between that which reminds you of the darkest moments and yourself now i find myself doing the opposite. Doctors, therapists, work colleagues and friends have all changed over the years, some not to be really replaced. The music though, those songs which touch me and soundtrack my life remain like constant friends however many times i abandon them or neglect them during the times when my mood picks up and i seek more positivity in the music i listen to. The strangeness of some of what i listen to also serves to reflect what i feel. The middle of the road has been abandoned as too normal. The wackiness of Primus or the strange beauty of Mary Margaret O'Hara has meaning to me that normal music has lost. That is why the old music is now rarely heard. Fleetwood Mac and Bad Company represent a normality that i have mostly lost touch with in myself except in fleeting moments. The rest of the time my sense of musical balance is obtained by bouncing wildly from one side of the emotional spectrum to the other. The wild brutality of Atari Teenage Riot followed up within minutes by the aching melancholy of Joanna Newsom. At one time my own round of gigging saw me watch Clapton in both London and Paris. I went with a friend to see Prince and so loved the mix of music and fun and sexuality that i immediately booked to see him play again 3 days later. In the middle of my depressions though Prince becomes irrelevant. What does that fun, positivity and sexual forwardness have to do with me? After all i am shy and ugly, socially incompetent and alone. Far better to listen to Morrissey singing "I am sick and i am dull and i am plain". He understands. Depressions pass or at least ease though even if it is sometimes hard for me to remember that while stuck right in the eye of the storm. At the moment my playlists include Joy Division, Henry Rollins spoken word piece "I Know You" and the aural soundscape of The Third Eye Foundation's Semtex album which best represents in sound some of what depression feels like for me. This unholy trinity means i am in trouble but i knew that already. The music rides in on the following waves of depression after the lying in bed unable to work for months, after the new antidepressants and during the ongoing visits to my new therapist. Maybe i should run in the opposite direction too and not hold so tightly onto the music but i feel i lack the prose to express what i feel adequately myself. Other peoples words always say it much better than i feel my own do. Besides i know that at some point the fog will lift a little and my mood improve. Joy Division and the rest of the 'suicide list' will be put aside and into the space left behind will come happier music. Maybe it will be Prince or if i am lucky enough to feel that normal again maybe i can get to dust off my old Bad Company and Fleetwood Mac records. Heres hoping.
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