“I went back to my mother, I said, ‘I’m CRAZY, Ma, help me;’ She said, ‘I know how it feels, son, cause it runs in the family.'”
- “The Real Me,” The Who
I find a lot of solace in music, a sort of camaraderie with my favorite songs, albums, and musicians. It’s a kinship almost, the feeling that a particular song and lyrics are about YOU. That’s particularly true in those moments when I don’t have the energy to battle my depression and just want to wallow in the negative sentiments. Sometimes it’s almost preferable to bask in your sadness and horrible thoughts, and allow those negative feelings to seem justified. Because if I seem to gloss over the difficulty in overcoming my mental illness and starting/continuing to produce these posts and content, well, mission not accomplished.
I’ve been listening to Quadrophenia by The Who a lot recently, mostly because I love that band and album. But I also have a deep appreciation for the insight into those feelings of aimlessness and hopelessness, as is projected throughout the seminal rock opera. I realize this site is half dedicated to pop culture items of interest from the 1990’s, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say The Who is my absolute all-time favorite band. When push comes to shove, no one better illustrated what it meant to be a ROCK group, and that came with some of the most insightful songs and lyrics in music history. I’ll argue this fact until I’m blue in the face. Jason Lee’s character notes in Almost Famous that no one can explain rock and roll, except “Pete Townshend, but that’s ok.” And that shit is as true as it gets.
So the main character in Quadrophenia is a disenfranchised young man who rebelled as a youth in early 60’s British culture, and is let down by the entire movement over time. His ending is left ambiguous (like much of the album, there’s an abstract quality to the storytelling in an almost blatant effort to divert from Tommy), but it’s clear he never resolves what’s bothering him. He’s a person who’s mired in a rut, that perpetual state when you can’t think clearly or envision anything but a tragic ending. It’s the opposite of what’s imagined as ideal in “My My, Hey Hey” by Neil Young: it is better to burn out than to fade away, so which path do I expect MY life to take.
But I digress, and don’t want to divert too much into a discussion of the merits of classic rock and the sub/regular text of specific songs and albums. I more wanted to discuss something I touched on at the top. Sometimes, I don’t want to battle my depression or illness and just want to luxuriate in those low thoughts and moments. It’s exhausting constantly reminding myself that the looping thought saying I’m destined for failure and am a useless vessel is wrong. I have never been suicidal personally (thankfully), but I’ve felt absolutely useless. Felt like nothing will ever get better, that no one cares about me or what might happen, and like there will never be a time when I don’t hate myself. And pushing through those thoughts and emotions takes a toll.
I’m not saying to give up or suggesting it’s better to succumb to my illness, but really, to ALWAYS put on a happy face and replace my negative thoughts with positive emotions isn’t possible. It’s just not realistic, and occasionally you don’t want to burn through that mental energy. So I listen to music, and focus on finding songs that evoke my inner demons, often providing a cathartic release for what’s inside. In a way, letting go of the emotional struggle and losing myself in the music helps shed the burden of those negative emotions. Allowing myself to FEEL how I can’t control feeling can be a great thing, because realistically you can’t just shut off certain feelings or emotions. We feel how we feel at times and can’t always push those uncontrollable things aside. Sometimes, it’s nice to let my sadness, like love, reign o’er me. Until next time…