Depression. The ole emotional ebb and flow. Sometimes it’s due to a string of bad luck, personal past trauma, a tricky assortment of chemical imbalances, a mix of all of the above, and something that may even feel hard to define if you’re the soul that’s in the eye of the hurricane. For me, it’s been an on and off recurring specter for most of my life. It’s like the world’s shittiest and shiftiest house-guest who eats your food, runs up your water bill and then proceeds to lecture YOU on all of the things you are doing wrong in your life. In other words, depression is a bit of an asshole. OK, more than a bit. Total flaming asshole.
The only thing less appealing than oversharing for me is creamed corn, fundamentalist religions and the band Poco, so I will not go into any nitty gritty details of my own devils. (That’s what art is for! Also, add Starland Vocal Band to that list of disgusting.) But after going through one particularly dark and intense period, I want to share with you the things that helped me clear through the fog. Why? Cause we are all in this mess together.
Things like depression and anxiety can make you feel like you’re alone and left suspended in the ether, but again, it is a lie. As the old saying goes, “No Man is an Island,” and while yes, it is a cliché, it is a cliché for sound reason and firm truth. YOU are not alone and neither am I. No matter how alone you may feel and that emotional pressure of UN-connection is deeply scary, please know, not only is it not true but also that you deserve better. The true assholes of this world never have enough conscience to even mildly sweat their effect on others. If you even stop for a second to worry about another human being, you are ultimately fine. We are allowed our flaws and demons
There were several factors that have helped me wade through the depression/anxiety muck, including the immense blessing of having key loved ones and friends who were not only unconditional with their support but also real enough to say “Hey! Are you okay?”. Also, experiencing the stark realization of the fact that things like self-kindness are rarely taught to most of us when we are little beings. This is bonkers, because if you are going to be as a person, friend, lover, parent, sibling, etc. then you need to feel good. A golden warrior is a nourished one. Part of that includes things like taking the time to just fucking rest,
It was one of my oldest friends that helped nestle me through some truly dark and shadowy times: Music and its fiercely beautiful creators.
Music has always gotten me through many a rough day, week or year/s. My entire adolescence and teen years alone were made bearable by movies, literature and, of course, music. With this most recent bout, the bands that helped push my head above water were the dreamiest double bill of two British bands, one from Sheffield and the other from Middleton: The Comsat Angels and The Chameleons. B
But I can’t stand up and I can’t sit down“Independence Day” The Comsat Angels
Cause a great big problem stopped me in my tracks
I can’t relax cause I haven’t done a thing and
I can’t do a thing cause I can’t relax
Of the many multitudes of bands that emerged in the late
But it wasn’t just that album that gave me solace, but the bulk of their work, including 1981’s Sleep No More, 1983’s Land, and 1985’s 7 Day Weekend. They nourished me. The Comsat Angels’
Their song, “Independence Day,” which first appeared on Waiting for a Miracle and then later on in a re-recorded version for Land, is one of the most honest songs about the quixotic and frustrating elements of depression and anxiety. In fact, if you are blessed enough to have never experienced these things or are trying to explain to someone what it’s like, play this song and Lou Reed’s “Waves of Fear.” Both certainly nail what my experience is like, especially that awful feeling of being nearly paralyzed by your own overreaching brain and nervous system.
The twin beauty of “Independence Day” lies both in its honesty and hopefulness. They aren’t giving your superficial platitudes here, but instead letting you know that yes, this is heavy and this is real, but it isn’t the end. This kind of soul-resonance lies in so much of their music though. My life is so much the with having The Comsat Angels’ music in it. The dark satin fog of Stephen Fellow’s voice coupled with a band with each member, namely Mik Glaisher (guitar), Kevin Bacon (bass), and Andy Peake (keyboards) being a deck of aces is a gift of an overcast sonic seaside.
Don’t fall“Don’t Fall” The Chameleons
I know your back’s against the wall
But this roaring silence won’t devour us all
Another band that was a huge beacon of light for me was The Chameleons, especially their lead singer and bassist Mark Burgess. They formed in 1981 and released their incredible debut album, Script of the Bridge in 1983. Much like The Comsat Angels before them, there is not a work of theirs I wouldn’t recommend. Albums like the aforementioned Script of the Bridge, What Does Anything Mean? Basically (1985), and Strange Times (1986)
Songs like “Don’t Fall,” “In Shreds,” “Swamp Thing,” and many more confront some of our deeper and inner-fresh-scars in a way that is real, evocative, and yet, never ever depressing. Straight up wallowing was not something I cared to dive into whenever I have been in the thick of it. In the last really dark period, even songs that I had found beautiful, like Kate Bush’s “And Dream of Sheep” further dug into the wound, because I felt like I was drowning. I still love that song and of course, Kate’s a goddess, but I have a hard time listening to it even now because of that association. But The Chameleons were the aural salve that helped plant the seeds for me to start crawling, scratching, and tearing my way out of the paralytic emotional membrane that had grown too big and deceptively strong for my own good.
Bless Mark Burgess and his voice and words for having such a strong emotional constitution, old soul wisdom, and a one-of-a-kind vision. I feel happy to live in a world where we, the lucky ones, get to have access to such art. It’s a gift I never take for granted, along with the love and support of the true blue ones in my life.
While I wish there was one neat concrete thing that could fix it all, instead, we have so many ways and chances to help us heal better and get a little bit closer to not listening to the poison and interior worm that likes to gnaw and whisper when given the chance. If you’re going through this, please know that you deserve better and that beasts like depression and anxiety lie. Be as good to yourself as you possibly can, even if at the moment you might have
We can get through this and we will succeed.