Music and the Memories of Depression

Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. From the baroque era to black metal, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t listening to some kind of music, first on a little cassette player, then on CDs, and now of course through online streaming. In fact, the world of streaming music has opened my library up to hundreds of thousands of songs that I would never have thought to listen to before.

According to my iTunes library, I’ve listened to the 10,000 songs in my library over 300,000 times. Some I’ve listened to only once or twice, of course, but the top ten percent of plays – 30,000 or so – are of just sixty songs – by just ten artists.

From Coma White by Marilyn Manson, at 450 plays, to Brief is the Light by Sentenced, at nearly 500, these sixty songs are an unintentional reflection of my mental state over the years. On average, I’ve listened to these sixty songs at least once a week for the past fifteen years (since I first built an iTunes library), although of course there’ve been days when I’ve listened to some on repeat for hours at a time.

You see, music is my memory. I don’t have the sharpest recollection for things, people or events, but listening to a particular song will invariably revisit the feelings I was experiencing when I first came to know and love it. For me, music is feeling, it is emotion, and frequently, it is depression.

When I listen to My Hope, the Destroyer by My Dying Bride, I am returned to the gloriously dark, gothic days of my teenage depression, candles and vodka late at night, wondering if I was destined to be alone for the rest of my life. When I hear Join Me In Death by HIM, I remember the blood running down my arms as I cut myself repeatedly, wishing I had the strength to cut deeper, harder, more finally.

These aren’t necessarily pleasant memories, but they are the foundation of who I am today – the essence of my soul. It would be a disservice to forget who I used to be, and how it led to who I am today. There are still days when I simply can’t cope, when I want to sleep all day and forget the world; there are days when I just want to cease existing. This last week has been especially hard, coping with the death of a dear friend and being asked to read his eulogy.

And in those times, I fire up my Depression playlist, and I remember. I remember what it feels like to be alone; what it’s like to be numb, and miserable, and to want to die. These are powerful memories, and they’re important.

Sometimes people ask me why, if I’m already depressed, I choose to listen to music that reinforces the feeling. They wonder why I don’t listen to happy music to cheer myself up. The answer is that I don’t use music to change my mood; I choose my music to reflect my mood. When I’m at my darkest, I need strength; when I’m at my lowest, I need reassurance. And the memories of past sadness is, in a way, just that: a reminder that I’ve felt this way before, and that I’m still here.

Music, in the end, is timeless and eternal. And in this, it serves as a reminder that all things pass, for better or for worse. I too will die one day, and I don’t want that day to come having wasted what’s left of my life.

That doesn’t mean I want to write a book, or cross off a bucket list; to me, that’s not the measure of a life well spent. To me, it’s about feeling. And feeling, be it happy or sad, alive or numb, is the essence of life. For some, they get their feelings from movies, or books; some get it from food, or family.

I get it from music. I am eternally grateful for the music in my life, and I will continue to rack up the plays on those top sixty songs for the rest of my life. Every time I need to remember, every time I need to feel, those songs will be there for me.

So remember to listen, and remember to feel: we aren’t long for this world.

Advertisements

15 Replies to “Music and the Memories of Depression”

  1. Music is life. I haven’t heard those songs but I will check it out. I’m listening to this one on rotation. Maybe you’d like this one too.
    youtu.be/1Ct9cP3f12M This Band has a lot of dark music. This one is their only lighter song. Check them out.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I liked your post. I find music really powerful, it can trigger allsorts for me. Since I broke down about 18 months ago I haven’t been able to really bring myself to listen to my iPod as I fear the reaction it may trigger. Hopefully I will be able to soon.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I’m so sorry. If you ever need to just vent or talk… let me know. Always try to have hope. Even you just hope for the day to end.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I understand the fear. Sometimes you don’t want to remember the way you felt when you first made the association with the music. I hope one day you can enjoy that music again without fear.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Maybe it is my autism, but I have always found it so soothing to listen to albums I know by heart. There is something about listening to an album that I know so well, being able to pick out every word, instrument sound, and voice variation that feels almost like a comfy, worn blanket.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I can relate to that,
      Mouthing along to the music in my ears
      It is one of the realest feelings ever – be the song sad or happy.
      Music is the language of our souls.
      Cheers

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I agree – there’s something very comforting about a well-known song or album. It’s predictable, and in a lot of ways that’s soothing; the chaotic nature of the world needs balancing, sometimes.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Somehow I thought I was reading about myself when I got to this part,

    “I remember what it feels like to be alone; what it’s like to be numb, and miserable, and to want to die. These are powerful memories, and they’re important.”

    Music really speaks to me on a level i can’t quite capture in words.

    _Always Keep Fighting_

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad something connected. It’s hard to say exactly the effect music can have, but I think it’s something really important to maintain.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I can’t relate to the chronic depression but “I choose my music to reflect my mood” this is definitely something I do as well. I wanted to tell you that your wring this piece has helped me understand a lot more depression. Thank you and I do hope that you are not struggling too much with it.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s