It hurts. It hurts a lot. Unlike physical pain, emotional pain always feels the same to me once it reaches a certain intensity. It’s the heartache that feels woven into the muscles pumping blood through my heart, both sustaining and destroying me.
I spend so much time fighting my pain every day that I get exhausted. By four o’clock today I couldn’t fight it anymore so I put on my “Saddest of the Sad” playlist. It’s my longest playlist, with ninety-seven songs. Every sad song I’ve connected with. I curled up on the couch and listened to the songs on shuffle. The Velvet Underground turned to the Smiths, on to Wilco, bands that I still listen to on a regular basis.
Then came Silverchair’s Suicidal Dream and Hurt by Nine Inch Nails (both triggering, so no links from me but look them up if you are feeling safe and want to). Throw in some Jack off Jill and it made me remember my first year in and out of the hospital, when I realized that my pain was an illness that my therapists thought they knew. And they didn’t know it, they had no idea what MY pain felt like, but those musicians understood. Our Lady Peace helped me hang on with the lyrics, “Life is waiting for you. It’s all messed up but we’re alive, it’s all messed up but we’ll survive.“
Still on shuffle, my iPod played Sarah McLaughlan and I remembered my pain when I thought it was only grief over deaths in my family. Sarah McLaughlan’s voice was my first comfort and I’d forgotten how soothing her voice is. Verve Pipe’s The Freshmen made me remember how I felt after my friend Darlene committed suicide. The guilt I had, the fear and pain of being stuck in a life I didn’t want but knew I could not give up.
Gary Jules’s Mad World reminded me of bringing up Donnie Darko in a writing class I took. I tested the waters to see if there was anyone in the room like me but the only response I got was nervous laughter at the darkness of my poetry.
Third Eye Blind, Azure Ray, the Cure, Bird York, Radiohead…these bands know my pain better than I do. The songs on shuffle made me jump back and forth as far back as my first interest in music. It’s no coincidence that we turn to music as we become teenagers.
My pain feels too familiar for me to cope with sometimes but when I look back through my years of suffering I realize that although the pain hasn’t lessened very much, I have survived a lot of it. Slowly, song by song, step by step I learned how to keep going even though I had no end in sight. I really don’t know how much “better” I am but my collection of music is teaches me that I am learning more and more about myself as I continue through this fucked up life. Experience is growth, even if that growth doesn’t give you any distance from pain.
Think about how many new bands emerge each year, how many albums are released. With free music downloads widely accessible, there’s no way we have to go through our pain alone. Find a voice that connects to yours and when you lose your voice, listen to that other voice until you grow strong again. Which music helps you connect with your feelings?