October 5th, nationwide is National Depression Screening Day. The annual day is held during the first week of October which marks Mental Illness Awareness Week.
To commemorate both I am sharing my journey with Depression.
THE SOUNDTRACK TO MY DEPRESSION
It has a familiar tune in my spirit. The melodies paralyze me out of nowhere, forcing me to deal with emotions I thought I buried deep inside. Emotions and feelings I thought I dealt with swiftly in counseling. Yet, the lyrics fill my mind with thoughts of sadness and melancholy. Each song on the list is powerful, but being the soundtrack to my depression, gives them a deeper meaning to me.
I can remember moments of depression because of its unique rhythm in my life. My life is musical like a dramatic opera starting slow, leading to a huge crescendo ending. Whether coinciding with the death of a family member, the breakup of a relationship or loosing a job, depression has hit me hard many times damn near taking my breath away. I’ve gasped for breath between crying, feeling like a drug addict going through withdrawals. There was a song in my heart, mind and soul.
The soundtrack spans a couple of decades and musical genres with some artist featured more than others. The newest addition to this list is Simply Red’s “Holding Back The Years.” The song isn’t new to me, but it has significance for my life now. My depression has helped me hear music with a critical ear. Seeking out musical tones that fit my mood. I listen for the voices that sing my pain. I listen for the lyrics that I could have written about my life. I listen for the help and encouragement I need to overcome this period of depression. Though the music inspires sadness there is also hope that one day the soundtrack won’t be needed anymore.
The pleading in the singer’s voice are like me begging, crying and clawing out of the dark hole with every ounce of strength I have. Their voices strike me at my core. Depression has left me often feeling confused. I don’t seek out the company of others when I’m depressed. Music is the only comfort I need to get the heavy ache out of my temple.
I spent the last three years of college living in an off campus apartment across from a cemetery. This living arrangement caused my depression soundtrack to grow. During this time I took many trips to New York City and it was always an emotional drain returning to my college town, Denton, Texas.
Being an emotionally intense Scorpio woman prone to intimate relationships with deep passionate connections, many songs are about the deep heartbreak I’ve known. Loving a man so hard, getting pregnant only for him to dismiss you and the child. I moved across the country for a guy only to break up with him after a month being there. Soul singer Donnie had the perfect lyrics over a sexy rhythmic beat for my ex long distance love,
An unexpected pregnancy had me close to a breakdown. I didn’t know myself. I was lost. Surely, I was the unhappiest expectant mother because the uncertainty of the situation. Jill Scott gave me songs so potent surely I thought she felt the same throbbing pain in her heart that I felt in mine. I wonder how she crafted songs so perfect for my depression. She sings, ”Oh Lord I need this confirmation/ This affirmation /That when I wake up/ When I wake up/ Everything I went through will be beautiful.” I truly believe the depression I’ve experienced is preparing me for something I can’t see. When no one is around, assurances from God are what I need.
As a proud African-American woman, I’ve often been present in spaces that denied the boldness and beauty of me. An especially dark time I had with this was while working at Walt Disney World. I sat, with tears streaming down my cheek, in the corner of a backroom in The Hall of Presidents. I was preparing for nightly parade duty as Stevie Wonder sung into my ears.
Love’s in need of love today
Send yours in right away
Hate’s goin’ round
Breaking many hearts
Stop it please
Before it’s gone too far”
People of my hue have had to fight for our humanity to be seen in America for far too long. Hate has been taught through many generations as seen by the protest in Charlottesville, Virginia. The denial my people face has definitely gone to far as Stevie suggest. In the happiest place on earth I wasn’t shielded from this harsh reality. Depression found me in Mickey’s House.
Take a listen to the soundtrack of my depression.
Simply Red “Holding Back The Years”
Hearing this song unprompted brought out a darker mood in me. After spending a wonderful day in Central Park with my family I heard this on the radio and was changed. This song inspired me to write this piece, My Depression Has It’s Own Soundtrack. The lead singer’s voice covered me in such deep sadness I had to find the meaning of the song. The lead singer of Simply Red wrote the song when he was 17-years old in response to his Mom leaving his family at age 3. When I listened to the song and heard him sing,
“Cause nothing here is grown/ I’ve wasted all my tears/ Wasted all those years”
The heaviness of growing up without a parent hit me hard, listening to this song. My parents have been married for over 50 years so this is something I can’t personally imagine though it is the reality for my son now. I ache for the singer and children everywhere whose parents have left, including my son. This song simply makes me want to weep alone in my room.
Stevie Wonder “I Can See The Sun in Late December”
“I bet ya you can’t even see the sun
Ah, the sun is shining
Right before your eyes
I bet ya you can’t even see yourself
‘Cause when you’re lost
Sometimes yourself is hard to find”
I’ve lost myself and been lost in the world many times. It’s strange to look back on this lost person today. I’m not the same woman who went through an unplanned pregnancy. When I hear the song, the familiar intro pulls me into the song. December and the Christmas Holidays are some of the saddest times of year. Couple that, with the gloomy December winter weather that brings snow and frigid temperatures and seeing the sun is impossible. My goal is to be a person that can see the sun in December. When the darkness of depression subsides, the sun will shine again.
If you’re not familiar with this song title it’s because Stevie wrote the song for Robert Flack and never recorded it himself except for a performance on a European TV show in the 1970’s.
Garth Brooks “The Dance”
I’m only in my thirties but I’ve known so much death. Almost every year of my life is marked by the death of one or several loved ones. I remember reading Chicken Soul for the Soul Teen Edition and seeing the poem The Dance by Tony Arata printed inside. I read the poem over and over. There was a special note about the Garth Brooks song by the same title. Having been a fan of Garth’s I sought the song out. The piano playing really drew me into the song. It was the musical video that really held me captive. Those of us who endure depression can only hope for a few moments like “The Dance,” that make life truly worth all the sadness. Garth sings, “Our lives are better left to chance/ I could have missed the pain/ But I’d have had to miss the dance.” Though I’ve suffered from depression off and on in my life, it doesn’t negate the happy moments I’ve had.
Jill Scott “Hear My Call”
Living life is painful. This song echoes the sentiments I had when I left the father of my son. I hadn’t loved that deeply before in my life so my feelings for him took me by surprised. Our breakup disastrously coincided with me finding out I was pregnant. With him living in New York and me in Texas, I was so broken that I called a therapist on Thursday and my first session was Saturday. I quickly got help before I spiraled out of control. The ex brought out an increased awareness in myself that I hadn’t experienced before. I was unsure how I would handle that with my pregnancy and heartache. This song was my voice when I couldn’t acknowledge fully what was happening with me. My fragile mental state left my body unable to carry my son to term. He was born three months early, on the delicate threshold of life and death.
Anita Baker and The Winans “Ain’t No Need to Worry”
I am sure I had heard this song prior to my Aunt passing away in 2016 but hearing it at her funeral made me feel like it was the first time. My Dad had three sisters. This Aunt’s passing meant the trio were no more. The fact that a stable constant in my life was gone was just too sad. Loosing my Aunt was the first time I ever cried in the shower. Though the songs message is positive, it entered my life at a very sad period. I’ve allowed the song to now motivate me as I continue to overcome a difficult period of my life. This song assures me of God’s promises through the dark storms of life.
Lauryn Hill “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You”
I’d waited for years for Ms. Hill to release an album after seeing her in the film Sister Act 2. The Fugees wasn’t enough for me. I needed all of Lauryn, not just a hook or cute rap verse. This song is for the many heart-breaks I’ve endured which started in HS. Every heartbreak I’ve had in life was worst than the previous and by the last two recent breakups, therapy was the only way I could deal with them. But in HS I had this song to nurse my wounds as I watched my crush rise to popularity. My exes never “stayed” as Lauryn pleaded in the song. They all took their eyes away from me.
Jill Scott “When I Wake Up”
“Here I am thinking again
All lost in my brain
When I know I should get up and get out of it
I gotta keep moving
But here I am lost all up inside my brain
Can’t stop thinking, reminiscing.
Can’t stop. Can’t let go”
I’ve endured many sleepless nights in my depression. Often I’m awake, laying in bed, my mind racing from one thought, to this problem, my to do list, my son/family and then past heart-breaks. Most mornings on awakening, I try hard to remember last night’s dreams. I’m always anxious to see if a life lesson is learned from my dreams to help with my depression.
Battling depression is not easy. But like the lyrics in this song,”…But I’m trying everyday exponentially/To Move Forward.” I’m sincerely putting my best attitude forward. I want peace, joy and happiness when I wake up.
Moving past depression is putting one foot in front of the other. It’s taking it one day at a time. The clichés are endless. But the point is I’m making strives towards being a better person that doesn’t need a depression playlist to cope. Counseling has helped me before and it will do so in the future. Until then, I got this playlist, God and a good mix of natural remedies to keep my life evolving positively.