As a kid, the world felt like a lonely place. Experiencing depression only amplified this fact. As I disappeared inside myself and withdrew from everything and everyone. I found solace in music. It felt like a song quite literally spoke to me. The lyrics made me feel like I wasn’t the only one. It let me know that it wasn’t just me. That others I had felt what I felt time. Over time, these songs spoke to many facets and experiences of my teenage years. They kept me going in my hardest times. And they gave me an outlet when I needed one most. Helping me connect when I felt truly alone. They gave me comfort because they helped me feel when life felt numb.
I’ve had to dig deep to write this post. It hasn’t been the most comfortable one. Writing it has required me to tap into thoughts and feelings I’ve gratefully left behind. And whilst I’d like to leave the past firmly behind me. I have been thinking a lot about it recently. And so, writing this post has helped me process and perhaps help me find some closure. Making peace with my teenage experiences. And, because they are teen experiences, some of these songs may feel out of date. Perhaps, you’ll recognise some of them. Or maybe listening to them for the first time they’ll speak to something in you.
For 8 Songs to Boost My Mental Health read here.
#1 Iris – Goo Goo Dolls
Many people will be familiar with this tune. I think the lyric that always resonated was “when life feels like the movies, you bleed just to know you’re alive”. Depression made me feel so numb and disconnected. As if I was living underwater. I was aware of what was happening around me. But it was all muted. I couldn’t connect to it. And I buried my emotions as deep as possible. Trying not to feel and simultaneously feeling everything.
#2 My Immortal – Evanescence
This song is so haunting. And it always stayed with me when I heard it. In seemed to encapsulate a key theme for my depression which was sparked by the loss of my grandmother. “I’m so tired of being here, suppressed by all my childish fears. And if you have to leave, I wish that you would just leave. ‘Cause your presence still lingers here and it won’t leave me alone. These wounds won’t seem to heal. This pain is just to real”.
After my grandmother passed away I felt so abandoned by the person I felt understood me most in the world. All my fears from my childhood about being misunderstood came flooding back when the person I felt most seen by was gone. And yet, whilst I desperately wished to have her back. The impact her death had followed me around. Her loss haunted me. The pain didn’t seem to end and I wished it would leave me alone.
My grandmother wasn’t the only one I lost at that time. My closest friend cut off ties a year or so later. They were the person who I relied on. And who I thought relied on me. With their absence these lyrics became all too real: “When you cried, I’d wipe away all of your tears. When you’d scream I’d fight away all of your fears. And I held your hand through all of these years. But you still have all of me”. We’d been through so much together. Always comforted in each other’s presence. But there need of me ended. And yet, I couldn’t be free of them. I had given so much and I didn’t know how to find myself again in the aftermath. Couldn’t understand myself without them.
#3 From Where You Are – Lifehouse
I first heard this one over speakers with friends. And burst into tears. The lyrics hit me on a profound level. Relating to the broken friendship mentioned above. “So far away from where you are. These miles have torn us worlds apart. And I miss you…So far away from where you are. Standing underneath the stars. And I wish you were here. I miss the years that were erased; I miss the way the sunshine would light up your face. I miss all the little things. I never thought that they’d mean everything to me. Yeah I miss you. And I wish you were here.”
Despite our friendship ending a few months earlier. This song found the words I never could. I remembered all the experiences we had together. And at 16-17 years old those were identity forming experiences. Even if they seem minor now. At the time, I saw him everywhere and in everything. I’d never realised how important he was and our friendship was until he was gone.
#4 Scars – Papa Roach
This song spoke to the part of me that felt unseen. Despite the fact I tried desperately to please everyone. Always being kind and considerate. Going the extra mile not just to be helpful. But to make sure no-one felt left out or alone. As a teenager my mum once noted that I was good at noticing these things. I’d hung back to walk with her when the rest of the family raced ahead.
Whilst intended as a compliment, I knew the simple reason was I hoped no-one would feel the way I often did as a teenager. Forgotten and left out. And so, “I tear my heart open, I sew myself shut. My weakness is that I care too much. And my scars remind me that the past is real. I tear myself open just to feel.” said it all. I was tired of giving everything of myself. To receive nothing back. Every time I opened up, the rejection killed me a little bit more.
#5 The Last Night – Skillet
I guess you could say this song was aspirational in some way. I longed for someone to see me. And be there for me. Looking back I’m sure people tried. In the depths of depression I couldn’t hear the support people were offering. And I isolated myself when I need help the most. But in hindsight the support I needed most was lacking. I needed someone to be on my side, to tell me that “The last night you’ll spend alone. I’ll wrap you in my arms and I won’t let go. I’m everything you need me to be. Your parents say everything thing is your fault. But they don’t know you like I know you. They don’t know you at all”.
Despite their efforts to help, no-one truly understood my depression. Or even that it was depression. This only magnified my feelings of being on the outside. The different one. And as so often happens, I was partially blamed for my illness. As being difficult. Or a moody teenager. I believe these feelings were only amplified by losing the two people, my grandmother and a friend, who saw me and took me as I was. Who promised to be there. But in the end couldn’t keep that promise.
#6 Numb – Linkin Park
I think this song will resonate with many who have experienced depression. As a teen it spoke to my soul. I was exhausted by my attempts to be all things to all people. To provide a façade of happiness. Attempting to be more like the siblings and friends I was compared to. So these words made me feel like I wasn’t the only one: “I’m tired of being who you want me to be. Feeling so faithless, lost under the surface. Don’t know what you’re expecting of me. Put under the pressure of walking in your shoes”.
I felt so lost, struggling to meet everyone’s expectations. So different from the person I was. And imbued with a sense that who I was must be wrong. Convinced that if I became someone else. The person everyone wanted to be then I would be loved and liked. And yet, some part of me knew this was wrong. I was trapped between needing the affirmation I would receive of pretending to be someone else. And the need I felt to be who I was. In my more defiant moments I felt “I’m becoming this. All I want to do. Is be more like me. And be less like you”.
#7 Jar of Hearts – Christina Perri
This song is an easy choice for the broken hearted. I struggled to understand how I had been left by the wayside. Feeling lost after heartbreak. I wondered how they could have left so easily. Throwing away years of friendship that grew into love in a moment. In my loneliness I wondered “Who do you think you are? Runnin’ round leaving scars. Collecting your jar of hearts. Tearing love apart. You’re gonna catch a cold. From the ice inside your soul. So don’t come back for me. Who do you think you are?”.
#8 My Wish – Rascal Flatts
I could quote the entire song lyrics here. As a teen I desperately wished that no-one would feel the way I do. I had such love for other people; and I gave it in spades. Or tried to. But never truly felt that I received it in return. And yet, all I wanted was for other people to be happy.
I believed that provided I could help others find happiness and satisfaction then it didn’t matter what happened to me. That I could be content to help people on their way. And let them leave me behind when my role was over. When love was found. This was my wish. “My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to. Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small. You never need to carry more than you can hold. And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to. I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too”.
#9 Save You – Simple Plan
This song was written about the leader singers’ brothers battle with cancer. And so it was the perfect accompaniment as I watched my grandmother wither away from it too. At that time I was desperate to do anything I could to save her. Crying along to these lyrics knowing the futility of it all. Watching the person I loved so much fade before my eyes.
“Take a breath, I pull myself together. Just another step until I reach the door. You’ll never know the way it tears me up inside to see you. I wish that I could tell you something to take it all away. Sometimes I wish I could save you. And there’s so many things that I want you to know. I won’t give up til it’s over. If it takes you forever I want you to know…And no matter what I do, I can’t make you feel better. If only I could find the answer, to help me understand”.
#10 Cut – Plumb
This last song spoke to the numbness and disconnection I mentioned before. In some ways, being numb only amplified the pain. I was awash with it. Both feeling everything and nothing. Scared of what I wasn’t feeling. And fearing the pain I did. As many of us will know, loneliness can be an intensely painful place. I just wanted to get back to who I was before the depression. But the only relief came when the pain did too. “I do not want to be afraid. I do not want to die inside just to breathe in. I’m tired of feeling so numb. Relief exists I find it when I am cut…I may seem crazy or painfully shy. And these scars wouldn’t be so hidden. If you would just look me in the eye”.
What are the songs you gravitate to when you’re in a certain mood? How or why do they help? Let us know below!