For World Mental Health Day
Let’s get one thing straight before I start talking about myself. Mental health is an important thing that needs to be talked about without shame, without embarrassment and with love for more than one day out of the year. With that being said, I know that’s a hard thing to do.
I can’t talk about my feelings. I’m really bad at it. I’m an Aries, so I’m really bad at it. The worst part too is when people throw me the, “Aren’t you a writer though?” like you think I’d be better at finding the right words but it’s not like I write about my breakdowns for a living.
Regardless, if you’re reading this, that’s completely sweet of you. I don’t know why you’d want to spend today reading about my thought processes, but I appreciate you for that.
It’s hard for me to talk about feeling bad. Or feeling low. Or experiencing depression. Or dealing with anxiety. When it’s hard to breathe. How some days it takes me two hours before I can actually get out of bed. What’s worrying me. People I miss. Places I wish I could be. The things I want to fix. The things I think about before I fall asleep at night. The things I think about that keep me from falling asleep at night. I write in journals. I write on blogs, thinking it somehow helps me communicate my feelings in a better way but sometimes I really can’t do it. So I let music do it for me.
Emotional well-being is so important. It affects every aspect of your health, physically and mentally. It affects your relationships and how you move through life. I know sometimes it feels like an endless battle – keeping your nightmares locked up and your demons at bay – but just remember that if I can count for anything at all to you, I’m rooting for you.
Here are ten songs that help me when I feel at war when trying to keep my mental health intact. Thought I would share them with you.
Be Still – The Fray
When darkness comes upon you
And colors you with fear and shame
Be still and know that I’m with you
And I will say your name
This song to me is everything I need someone to tell me whenever my mind goes off running and starts thinking way more than it needs to. Something beautiful about this song too is that the artwork for it features The Fray running as fast as they can towards something that we can’t see pictured in the shot. It’s kind of like what anxiety does to my brain – It makes you think about something you can’t see the end or the outcome of. The gentleness of this song with Isaac Slade’s voice has brought me down from overthinking too many times to count.
Even My Dad Does Sometimes – Ed Sheeran
It’s alright to cry
Even my dad does sometimes
So don’t wipe your eyes
Tears remind you you’re alive
X by Ed Sheeran is an album that has actually saved my life, and this song is one of the reasons why. It plays with this stereotype of how fathers, or men, are always supposed to be these strong, stoic figures, and how that’s not true because you don’t have to be. The song says, “It’s alright to cry,” and sometimes that’s all you need to hear.
There’s this way of thinking that if you’re not happy, something is wrong. You know what, a lifetime is a long time. When you’re battling mental health, days can feel so long. It is okay to feel down. It’s okay to cry when you need to. This song addresses the feeling of death and how maybe it might be a way out but it’s not … because the last lyric, is “Hold on,” and you keep yourself going long enough to rewind the song to hear it again.
Take Me Home – Jess Glynne
Every minute gets easier the more you talk to me. You rationalize my darkest thoughts. You set them free.
Beautiful song from a beautiful voice. My breakdown song. The idea of “home” as something that exists somewhere even though you haven’t found it yet, you know that someone, some place, some state of mind that feels like home is out there, and that’s what you have to keep searching for.
This song breaks my heart. It’s vulnerable and sad. It’s a cry for help. It’s almost the sonic vision of someone down on their knees absolutely lost.
You say space will make it better
And time will make it heal
I won’t be lost forever
And soon I wouldn’t feel
Like I’m haunted
The fact that Jess Glynne – another person, another soul on this Earth – feels like this proves you’re not alone.
Quiet Your Mind – Zac Brown Band
Quiet your mind
Soak it all in
It’s a game you can’t win
Enjoy the ride
This song by the Zac Brown Band came out in 2010. It has followed me for nearly a decade now, and it’s another song that helps calm my mind when I feel like I can’t get a hold of my thoughts. The line, “It’s a game you can’t win,” reminds me how pointless it is to worry about things we can’t control, but it doesn’t matter whether I tell myself that or not, my mind is still gonna wonder – and that’s when the second verse comes in.
I feel the change going on all around me.
It’s strange how I’m taken and guided where I
End up right where I’m needed to be.
It took years of me trying to coach myself out of what comes to me as natural ways of toxic thinking … Thinking the worst, and preparing for it. Being cynical like it’s your second nature. [ Insert “For a Pessimist, I’m Pretty Optimistic” by Paramore here. ] It’s something I tell myself to try not to do every single day. I have to remind myself that no matter how hard things get, it’s where I’m supposed to be for the moment, because maybe in the moments after, there’s something better there – and I know it’s sounds impossible to keep that in mind, but sometimes you just have to.
Flowers On The Grave – The Maine
Feel the moment all around you
And the quiet that surrounds you
The time you have is sacred
Don’t wait around and waste it
They can’t take that away from you
Everything is temporary
Even the sorrow that you carry
I haven’t had the pleasure of introducing you to a band called The Maine on Love and Lyrics yet, so I’m going to do it right now. In March of this year, they released an album titled You Are OK, and you don’t need more than a second to figure out how important and moving that is.
For me, as a fan of the band, it was promotion centered around the phrase, “You Are OK.” It was “You Are OK” printed on merchandise. The “You Are OK” era. There’s a “You Are OK” tour. The band plays with a gigantic banner behind them that says, “Are You OK?” in big bold letters. The band’s drummer, Patrick Kirch, then has the phrase “If you aren’t right now, you will be soon,” printed on his drum head cover. It was this constant reminder that – in that singular moment – I was okay. This album is an important one to me. It’s a movement so powerful that I can’t help but pull myself out of hard days just because they told me to.
Flowers on the grave
Of the child that I used to be
I love this line within the song with all my heart. When dealing and battling and trying to fight and coming to terms with your mental illnesses, your human weaknesses, your ways of thinking, it can take so much out of you. There is a fast kind of way you have to start growing up. There are things you lose and leave behind when moving through the hard parts of life. Placing flowers on the grave of your past self is such a beautiful reminder to me – even though it’s sad – that I’ve become someone else that’s not that person anymore. Sometimes, hopefully, stronger and for the better. I mourn her for a second, and then I leave the flowers there and continue to sing songs.
On My Own – Les Misérables
In the rain the pavement shines like silver
All the lights are misty in the river
In the darkness, the trees are full of starlight
And all I see is him and me forever and forever
I know this is a love song, but over the years of loving a musical as moving as Les Misérables, I’ve come to personify the word “him” in a different way. “Him” isn’t a person for me. It’s the place I want to get to. That good place. That healthy place. That safe place, and even if I’m dreaming about “him” on my own, I know he’s out there.
What I love about the verse above is how things as beautiful as “rain shining like silver,” and “lights in the river,” can still be beautiful even if I feel horrible inside. My mind can be so cloudy and dark and fogged up for days on end, but I’m reminded everywhere that there is “starlight” in “darkness.” Sometimes, that is enough to keep me going. If there is beauty out there, surely some of it in this wild, large universe, has to be for me?
Jasey Rae – All Time Low
Keep my fingers from making mistakes
Tell my voice what it takes
To speak up, Speak up
And keep my conscience clean when I wake
“Jasey Rae” is a song that’s so important to me. This isn’t one that tells me that I need to calm down. It’s not a song that tells me that I shouldn’t be thinking the way I am. It’s the song that allows me to feel guilty about myself. The fact that it’s Alex Gaskarth who’s feeling as worthless as I might really helps too.
Gaskarth wrote this song about feeling guilty when he left someone he cared about behind. Over the years I’ve followed All Time Low, I’ve come to attribute the song to the way that I view myself. Sometimes I really hate myself. Sometimes I wish I was better at things. I think I’m stupid for things. We’re all human. We’ve made mistakes. We carry regret. We shoulder our pain from things we’ve said. I hate things about myself that I can’t change. For years, I just took all that hate and anger and bitterness and kept it inside.
Call me a name
Kill me with words
Forget about me
It’s what I deserve
This is the song that yells for me when I can’t do it out loud. Let me feel guilty. Let me hate where I am right now. Let me feel ashamed. Let me address my rage. Let me feel without thinking, just for three minutes and thirty-eight seconds because I’m human, and maybe I need to.
Numb – Max Jury
I am numb, I am numb, I am numb
You know when life gets hard sometimes, you’ve been harboring the feeling, the struggle, a pain, for days or even months … Over time, you end up numb. You don’t think anything’s funny. You don’t think anything is fun. It’s rare that you’re ever excited. You’re not exactly angry about something. You’re just sort of lost and confused and numb.
I use this song to sit in my feelings. I question myself about why I feel like that. Max Jury sings me through it, and then I try, with all the strength I have, to keep the fire inside me alive.
Please Be Patient With Me – Wilco
How can I warn you when my tongue turns to dust like we’ve discussed?
It doesn’t mean that I don’t care
It means I’m partially there
You’re gonna need to be patient with me
When you struggle with handling your mental health, it can also really affect the people around you. This is a song that’s special to my heart. It isn’t very long. It’s sonically simple, but it’s a beautiful poem. I look at it as my apology for everything I am. For the way that I am, and though, I no longer feel the need to apologize about any part of me to anyone, a mental health battle is a hard fight and it can bring out the worst in even the greatest of people. This song is what I wish I could say to the people I care about around me.
Le réel – Gang of Youths
“Le réel” is the French phrase for, “The real.” It’s an instrumental track, and there are no lyrics because some days, Erica, you just need to shut up … It’s one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever come across. Written by David Leaupepe of Gang of Youths, I put it on to just sit with.
Go Farther In Lightness is another album on the list of albums that saved me. “Le réel” is a string arrangement. There’s a beautiful violin that plays notes that sound pretty but are also laced with tension. I titled this post “Songs That Help Me Handle My Mind,” and used the word “handle” instead of “battle” or “fight” because sometimes I don’t know want to fight it. This song is a reminder to me that whatever this is, whatever feeling I’m in – it’s real, and it’s okay. Even if it’s horrible, because then I remember that I’m alive, and at the very least, I’ve made that choice, and that’s real, and that should be enough.
Mental health is so different for everyone. It affects people in so many different ways. Maybe you didn’t even like any of the songs I listed .. That’s okay. I’m not asking you to like them. I just shared them in case they might help, and at the very least, I just wanted to prove to you that you’re not alone because you never are.
Hotlines You Or Someone You Know Might Need
Crisis Text Line
The Trevor Project
Keep the conversation alive. It’s scary, I know but do it. It’ll help. Whether it’s for you or not. The more we speak, the more the stigma dissipates. Be a friend. Treat people with kindness. Listen. Question. Believe in them. Believe in yourself. Take care of yourself. Don’t be afraid to reach out. You deserve that. Don’t forget to breathe. It’s okay to sleep. Love yourself. You’re worth it … and we need you here.