A lot of personality was stripped when switching from the blog to the site, something a reader pointed out to me last Summer, so I will do my best to maybe bring back that sans souci/reader beware style of writing here.
The Music Rag began as a writing project to recover from anorexia - something all you long-time readers know - and that illness and its effects were mainstays on that old green blog. Back before the album reviews and artist interviews and site offers came through, it was just as the title implied, a rag: completely subjective posts about exams and boys and hospital rooms with something nice to bob your head to and really worth no one's time and how this *gestures emphatically at site* happened is far beyond me. I thought last year's final-go of a post said all that needed hearing and presumed everything else just didn't need saying, but we've recently been reminded of just how many people we love are still affected by mental illness and you need to know that you are all so amazing and loved, no matter how lost you feel.
I owe you guys everything, because The Music Rag wouldn't 'be' without you amazing, fantastic, awesome people. There were days, after I'd worked at two shitty jobs, visited my dad in the hospital, and crawled into bed at 3 AM before waking up at 6 for classes when I knew for a fact it was ridiculous bothering to keep it up because what could ever come out of a silly blog, but you made it real and offered a healthier distraction with focus and let me know that even though the stories were shit (seriously, one detailed how I fell off the couch and stabbed my dog with the fork I was holding), the music got to you too. Sure, our artists are these incredibly cool people who are generally just great and we're stoked we get to introduce you to so many of them now, but this website is for you because it wouldn't have happened without your unfaltering support. This post specifically is for all of you readers who supported whatever this is up to this point and for all those who were so supportive and vocal and thanked the posting of last years' NEDA piece, because I certainly wouldn't be dredging it back up for anyone else.
Because of this posts' being it is imperative to state, suicide is never the answer. I know there is this awful, building pressure in your head and it seems the only way you can alleviate it is with a bullet or a blade, but it does fade over time and one day you'll feel alive and happy again. I guarantee you, no memory is harder to shake than that of the faces of your parents and siblings and friends when you have to answer 'why?'. That look in their eyes will stay with you and hurt longer than any of those thoughts in your mind will. You are worthy of asking for help; you're worthy of being listened to.
Last years' piece ended so optimistically on that 'there are so many things worth staying around for' trope (which, have you heard Lila Rose's "All The Beauty" because, just, damn, I mean, fuck, she's good. I know, that's the type of high quality writing and shit you come here for) - and there are, there are so, so many things worth staying here for - that it made it all the more pathetic when I 'relapsed' - for lack of a less worthless word - and I was cool glossing over it, but we're here, talking about feelings, again. Can't wait!
Relapse, huh? That's a stupid fucking word. It's like calling a Cat 5 a heavy rain. You'd think it would be easier; you made it out before so this shouldn't be too difficult, but there's just something so much harder about coming out of a relapse. It's shorter, but darker. On top of the intrinsic hate you've got this sense of doubly failing and letting so many people down - again - and already knowing just how easy it is to let go while the depression is this much more hollow nearing metaphysical but still sharp in its intensity ache that's like a static, full body void and a total loss of self; like that drop in your gut when you get really bad news but throughout your body and just numbingly, frustratingly, petulantly stagnant.
The relapse started shortly after writing last year's NEDA piece and I realized as I was writing about all these old feelings that they weren't so displaced and there were so many things I still had to get over - there still are - and I knew it wouldn't be long before I was back with what felt familiar and, when it hit, I stepped back from the site.
I took time off from the site because I couldn't continue acting like I had the right to be doing this thing I never actually planned to do. I was under-qualified and overwhelmed and began eating less and working out longer and working more and delivering less. Every post was the same because every song was the same, to me, and it wasn't fair to anyone involved. I took a break because I didn't like the gross hypocrisy of talking to these artists who fit our 'Good Music, Better Artists' tagline to a 'T' and "mhmm"ing and "aha"ing to all of their "but music makes it better"-isms while my left wrist was once again raw and scabbed as I danced around the idea of finishing what was deterred before.
The first time I knew I was in real trouble again was when I felt that void, optimistically assumed it was hunger, made food and couldn't eat it, got pissed with myself that I couldn't eat, tossed in a frozen meal instead, angry ate 3/4 of a family-sized Stouffer's mac and cheese, and then promptly threw it up. I remember leaning back and resting my head against the wall and staring up at the bathroom ceiling and cursing everything that I was back to an actual tangible space to which I swore I would never return.
Long-time readers know that last Spring wasn't the first time I left music, but it was certainly more selfish. At 15 I carefully placed (straight up threw in an immature fit of rage) instruments and sheets and speakers and memories in the back of old closets and left them to gather dust because music was supposed to be this great thing that kept us safe and brought us together, always, and instead it was just this sadistic reminder that nothing would be the same because car crashes and illness and purely stupid decisions were taking people too young and everything left seemed vapid. Of course, you know my absolute love for my last and only 'favorite band' Lady Danville and how pure their music will always be to me - long story short, a friend's not-so-magic trick and "David" got me back into music - but "Cars"... I think, for most people who have attempted suicide, there's a lost piece of logic to the process and you can't actually remember getting to that final act; it's self-preservation, I'm sure, mixed with the franticness of the moment, but what you can access comes to you in these hurried flashes of hot tears and an empty chest and sweaty palms and lost bargains and unsteady breaths like a cheap TV movie montage and all I remember, clearly, is pacing and trying to find a grip. I know a lot more than I did the first time, you learn best from your failures after all, and I knew that this fast pacing with clenched and unclenched hands wasn't going to lead to great things so I grabbed my ancient iPod and meant to play "Frames & Moulding" (because 5 AM on I-10 West with the sun rising and that song playing was just one of those transcendental moments) but my shaky fingers skipped to "Cars" and it was like a switch. There was this calm of anchored memories and clear faces and, of course, the song has a lick that can actually make anything so much better if you just lay back in the damp early morning sand and listen to it on repeat.
Catchy music is implied with any of these posts, so relapses are like that part in every great song that ever was in whatever era of your life it made a difference; that moment where it hits its sweet spot, this gut reaction, where you can go left or right either getting caught up in it and falling for the music or just allowing the emotions to rip through every old wound you thought you'd sutured. It's that drop in "The Funeral" and the wondrous with no destination stream of consciousness that is "The Trapeze Swinger"; the honest verses, truer choruses, and quiet, resounding meanings that accompany haunted riffs in "A Change Is Gonna Come" or "Vienna"; the desperate to get anywhere and juvenile understandings of the punk to the core riffs that promised better in "Rooftops" or "Anthem Part 2"; the slinky quiet of "Coming Home" or "Big Parade" in a rush of classic and modern that washes over you so delicately. It's that 'what now' moment when your suicide attempt was no longer a turning point in your life.
If you've never had to claw your way out of depression or any other mental illness, Air Waves' "Fantasy" gives an elegant summary. Your mind is like this swirling static fog that's too light and airy to catch while all at once grounded to these heavy, never-ending, down-tempo beats and you're putting on a great show of acting as expected and smiling on cue but everything has this false sheen that only you are aware of and you're in a set space but it's not a safe space and that opening line, "someone take this pain away from me", gives way to these just god awful beautifully pure truths that get lost in hypnotically raw riffs and twisted but unrelenting melodies - let's not pretend this level of authenticity isn't awe-inspiring and underrated.
Truth is, it sucks getting better, initially and again. Have you ever been congratulated for finishing a small meal? For being a fully functioning and competent adult and suddenly being given the same compliment bestowed upon every 6 month old with their first bottle of pureed carrots. It's easy to step back into anorexia after you think you're out because it just gets it and not a single person who hasn't been anorexic understands a damn thing about it and hearing their attempts at relating and unintentionally belittling praises and "good jobs!" with each pound gained gets old real fucking fast. Unless you've been there, woken up with an empty stomach and been proud; worked out to the point of exhaustion and searing pain and still thought, "one more set" - not to make a personal best but because you have to; loathed every compliment that ever existed; thrown on baggy tops because the weight loss is simultaneously shameful and not enough; referred to sharp chest pains and headaches and shortness of breath as 'just the norm'; unless you've been 30 or more pounds underweight and looked in the mirror and still thought, 'I am so fucking fat,' and hated yourself for being this and thinking that, you won't understand anorexia or any other eating disorder which is so great, but also why it is so easy to fall back into something consistent and knowing, despite the absolute knowledge that it has never been the least bit logical.
Even after all this time, most of my mornings start with my being unable to avoid the mirror and instantly thinking, 'I need to stop eating'. I have reminders on my phone to eat at least four times a day and I usually silence all but two, which is miles more than where I was, but still not enough (also, how the fuck do normal people have the time to eat 3-5 meals a day. Do you work? Do you chill? How do you have that much time for food prep and eating?). Objectively, I could maybe gain 5-10 pounds and be fine. I'm certainly not going to, but if I gained one pound it wouldn't send me over the edge with thoughts of failure and disgust at this point. 10 months ago I was back to not being able to run a block without my heart being like, 'peace, I'm out,' but now I can take my dog out without dying and that's kinda pretty neat. I still think I should lose weight, at this point it's fair to say I may always believe that, but I'm aware of it and keeping track of it and that's leaps and bounds ahead of anywhere I've ever been and all you can hope for is just continual progress, no matter how infinitesimal, because it's so easy to fall backwards when you're not moving forwards.
Everyone at The Music Rag loves you guys and we get it; we've all faced our own mental illnesses at some time or another because it's a part of way more people's lives than you'll ever really know and it is possible to live and thrive in spite of it - The Wombats entire eloquently put and wonderfully weird career is built off that fact (just, everything from A Guide To Love, Loss & Desperation to Glitterbug is a touch of poetic genius with a frank honesty to it and their last album showed such a gorgeously smooth maturity from This Modern Glitch - appreciate The Wombats). Find those amazing people that understand and support and encourage you to be better and I promise your weird ass life will be so much better for it.
There are a lot of ways out, but everyone here in this life has a purpose - no matter how much that reveals about my parent's admittedly new age sensibilities when raising us kids. I was 13 the first time one of my friends died. They had found the brain tumor a year before the inevitable so it wasn't sudden, but he was this living, breathing person who had been a part of the group, had instigated soccer games with laughter and vigor, secretly helped me with my first babysitting gig when the kid got out without asking for a dime, had a crush on this girl for years but never acted on it because 'no' would've been too hard to hear; he'd started to grow up with us but now the only thing any of that could ever be was a memory held by someone else. All his younger brother could talk about was how great his brother was. I remember not being old enough to understand taxes or high-heels but knowing that this vibrant person was a past tense.
We always jump to the worst outcome with our, 'but what if..,' because those negative possibilities are so awful and it's better to hang your hopes low than to have them dashed, but unsaid what ifs are a waste of so much life that could have been had. You very well could fail spectacularly, count on it more often than not, but you could meet the most amazing people in the world or have some pivotal, life affirming experience, even if it only lasts for ten minutes, because of a beautiful series of failures.
Relapses and set-backs are a part of life and the only thing about them that's a touch important is how you move on from them. This in-between might be a living hell but you are still very much alive. You don't need to feel guilty about 'wasting time' if you have to checkout for awhile to get your mind in order, but you do need to come back. I'm not saying to follow that, 'I'll sleep when I'm dead' adage because it's bullshit; people never say it about life or love, it always alludes to work and stress, and sometimes you just need to spend an entire Sunday in bed. I'm saying that life is too short to let your mind taunt you and stop you from climbing rough mountains and laying in fields with ticks and driving with the windows down when it's too hot for it and running into cold waves and driving ten hours to see your best friend's favorite band and taking an entire night to just sit on the floor with your oldest friend drinking shitty wine and re-watching The Office for the fifth time because all of life is fantastic and underrated.
I know that you can make it out of this alive, because you have to. That's it. There's no other option outside of making it. You are going to be okay. You're going to be great.