"No Wonder You're Depressed Listening To That"
The above sentence is something I have heard countless times throughout my life and to be fair the people who said it did in some way have a point.
Ever since my childhood days I have been obsessed with music. Music of all shapes and colours starting with whatever my parents were listening to (which was a LOT of different genres) right through to my own finds and obsessions, obsessions that last to this very day. From the age of twelve I started finding myself drawn to music that was darker and more edgy starting with the revelation that was Guns 'n' Roses Appetite For Destruction. This was my light bulb moment. At the age of ten I was hearing someone sing about sex, death, drugs, self-destruction and I was transfixed. I must admit the swearing also helped..
Why I was drawn to this music I will never really know. I grew up in rough area of the Rhondda Valleys but I had a very stable family life and good friends. It was only as I got older that the subjects that Axl Rose was singing about on this album started creeping into my life.
The older I got, the more my tastes turned to the darker arts. Films, books and music all seemed to have a theme running through them. A theme of rebellion, of isolation, of destruction and as my depression grew so did my love for this type of art. Was it the music I was listening to that was making me depressed or was I listening to depressive music BECAUSE I was depressed?
As I spiralled through my teenage life and into young adulthood I became even more engrossed in the words of musicians such as Lou Reed, Robert Smith, Radiohead, and Ian Curtis. It is this last musician who I felt the strongest affinity with. If you are not aware Ian was the lead singer of the post-punk band Joy Division who took his own life at the age of just 23 (today would have been his 60th birthday). His work with the band focussed on the darker side of human nature and it was only after his death did people fully realise that the words he was singing were not some great artistic narrative but the actual heartfelt words of someone suffering. Ian's life and death have been written about and poured over many times, the best of which being his widow Deborah Curtis' excellent book 'Touching From A Distance: Ian Curtis and Joy Division (Faber & Faber)
Hearing Ian sing lines such as "Here are the young men, the weight on the shoulders" really struck a chord in me as did albums like Pink Floyd's The Wall, Radiohead's OK Computer, Nirvana's In Utero and David Bowie's Low and what I realised that I was using these albums not to make myself depressed but as a form of catharsis. If I was feeling particularly low I would lock myself away and listen to an album and at the end of it I would feel better knowing that there were others that felt the same was as I and actually had had it a lot worse.
I couldn't talk to my parents or friends about the feelings I had so these musicians became my confidantes, my crutch, my North Pole. They spoke to me like no one else could and helped me on many occasions.
Now there was a danger to this as I could sometimes get too engrossed and obsessed making me wallow in the music and build up some romantic image in my mind of what I should be aka a "tortured young man". I could assume a role and become one of these artist unfortunately without any of the musical talent or outlets so these feelings would fester in my mind.
After two 'incidents' I stayed away from the darker side of the arts for a while instead choosing to dive into the more euphoric state of dance music but the side of my brain that NEEDED to delve into the abyss kept niggling away until I returned and what I found was that now I was in a far better place in my life the music took a different perspective. I could now empathise with the words and instead of wanting to be these people I sympathised and, in the case of Ian Curtis, felt sorry for them. I have now come to a place where I can put the music on just for enjoyment (it is bloody great music after all) and not get too deep but if I need them I know they will always be there for me, a guide, a fellow sufferer, someone who "gets" me so the next time you hear a family member or friend listening to what you may term "depressing" music instead of questioning the music itself ask them why they like the music, does it help them, and to borrow the album so you yourself may get a better understanding of the music and its importance to said person. With the increase in suicides in the UK (especially amongst young men) this is more important than ever. Don't judge, engage!
What are your thoughts? Do you use music as catharsis or do you feel listening to a certain type of music is detrimental to your mental health? Let us know below.