Admittedly, I stole this idea from a blog post I read ages ago. The other night I was reminded of a song I’d listened to during freshers, which reminded me of the blog post, which made me think it’d be something fun and a little different to do myself.
So here we go: a soundtrack, mixtape- whatever you want to call it, with songs that bring me riiiiiiight back to certain times of my life and particular periods of wellness or unwellness.
“Rule the World”- Take That
August 2008, the time I’ve always said was when I First Got Sad. I played this on repeat after hearing it in the background on some TV show, and it was playing in the shed of the gite we were staying at in France. For whatever reason, that holiday was the beginning of a long, long depression. I quite literally woke up and felt…off. I shrugged it off, assumed I’d bounce back to my loud, obnoxious, hyper self in a day or two. Only I didn’t. Things felt muffled, dull, a bit blah, a bit flat. The weeks pressed on, and by Christmas 2008 I knew something wasn’t quite right. Rule the World marked my descent into darkness.
“Could’ve Been”- The Veronicas
Listening to this I’m sitting in my school assembly hall. It is freezing cold and those of us who aren’t sitting GCSE mock exams are revising for them. Before I came into the hall my head of year stopped me and asked how I was. A few weeks prior, she had been the first person I’d told I was struggling. Over the next few years, she became an unbelievable source of support for me. December 2009 I felt small and scared and vulnerable, but I was starting to getting help.
“Cling to me”- L.P
Summer 2010. I sat my GCSEs and visited New York. I listened to this song before each of my exams and on the plane to the ~big apple. I guess at this time I was cautiously optimistic. My CAMHS notes state my depressive episode was ‘in remission’, which I guess on reflection is probably true.
“Scarlet”- Brooke Fraser
Summer 2011- I was sitting my AS exams, struggling through a second rotten low, and I decided to quit CAMHS. I felt very alone, very frustrated, very misunderstood and very suicidal. I was just about to give it all up when I met my private therapist, and it couldn’t have fallen into place at a better time. Still, that summer was H A R D and I spent most of it in bed with the curtains drawn, either staring at the wall, or reading. It also reminds me of a friend I met at that time, who’s now really unwell.
And so while it’s one of my favourites, I find it hard to listen to.
“Levels”- Avicii and “Give me Everything”- Pitbull
Ok I’m cheating and adding two, but these two songs remind me of my final year in school. Things were still tough mood wise in lots of ways, particularly in the lead up to my A Levels with a mixed/high episode, but these songs make me look back on that time fondly. I’d had the best seven years at that school and seventh year was the year I made new friends and solidified my friendship with some old ones- and I’m still friends with those girls today. These songs are nights out, swaying drunkenly on the dance floor, 18th birthdays, hair experiments, laughter, my last days at school. And these songs- for me- gave me hope that there were better things ahead- or at the very least, that there were things and people in life worth sticking around for.
“One day at a time (sweet Jesus)”- Cristy Lane
Ok, flipside to 2011-2012. The shit bits. If I was having a bad night, I stuck this on repeat. I’d end up listening to it for hours at a time, hunched over and howling on my bathroom floor. Sometimes drunk. As I said, approaching my A Levels I went through an antidepressant induced mixed/horrible high. Lots leg jigging and agitation and obsessive studying and downing half bottles of wine and quarter bottles of vodka late at night to try slow things down and block out the noise in my head. With this song playing a constant loop in the background.
“Flume”- Bon Iver
Honestly, I could’ve picked any Bon Iver/Ben Howard/Alexi Murdoch/Coldplay song for this time in my life. Therapy. 2012-2013. I saw him weekly, mostly. I’d bus it up from uni on a Thursday evening and make the 80 mile round trip to therapy for my Friday at 4pm appointment. There would be milky coffee waiting for me and we’d talk through all the shit in my head. Overthinking, overanalysing, that’s what characterised that time- and that’s what we’d talk about it. The drive there and back was reflective. If it had been a good session, I’d smile the whole way home, feeling safe. If we’d talked about tough stuff, I’d cry. And if he’d pissed me off, I’d fly down the motorway swearing until I got it out of my system. Therapy was exhausting. Looking back, I’m not quite sure how we spent five years working together, how there was possibly that much to unravel. But it helped. And the music on the long drive there and back helped too.
“Islands in the Stream”- Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers
Summer 2014- my first psychiatric admission. Dolly was the theme tune to my two month admission. ‘The Best of Dolly’ was on a constant loop on the ward CD player. It was the summer she played at Glastonbury, so she was all over the TV, and all over the radio. The patients sang it, the nurses sang it, my mum sang it. Honest to god, she was bloody everywhere. And while I gave out about it, I grew to love Dolly and “Islands in the Stream”. Listening to it now, it reminds me of sunbathing on scratchy hospital towels, the smell of horse shit from the stables next door, the people I met that summer and all the things they taught me, and Mrs Rosarybeads, the crabbit woman that owned the CD.
“Arms”- Christina Perri
This was my song in between my first and third hospital admissions. That admission brought up some stuff. And until I was readmitted in November 2014, I ruminated on that stuff. I related to the lyrics, found them comforting, found they explained how I felt at the time. During the summer, they had taken out the antidepressant and upped the quetiapine. The mixed symptoms passed and I was left low. Low low low. Back in hospital, I opened up to a nurse I’d built up some trust with over the summer, and Let Shit Out. It was a start. Admissions two and three were short and sweet, and before I knew it I was back at uni. Christina Perri’s album playing in my car each time I made the drive down.
“Ugly heart”- G.R.L
This was a good time. Summer-autumn 2015. I’d just finished my degree, had a two month long happy hypo, visited some cool cities and started two new jobs, both of which I loved. I was meeting new people and making new friends and I was content in the knowledge that fast forward one year, I’d be in a new city studying nursing. That summer was fun, my school friends were going travelling so we had lots of day trips and midnight drives and McDonald’s runs before they set off. It was the first time really since getting unwell in 2008 that I’d had a proper stint at stability, so it was nice. I was beginning to find out who I was, and I liked stable me.
“Fight Song”- Rachel Platten
This was one of my manic jams just before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in February 2016 (along with “The Time”- BEP, “Peanut Butter Jelly”- Galantis and “Bad Girls”- M.I.A). Standing at the top of two storey high scaffolding, naked at 2am, during a winter storm. I was transcendent, a gem, a gift from God. I could see the light and I was looking down at people in their cardboard houses in their grey lives. I felt infinite.
“Let it Go”- Frozen
February- April 2016 and December-February 2017- I am up on the table, the arms of chairs, the top of the grass bank, the locker next to my bed. I am in hospital and I am singing “Let it Go” at the top of my lungs- belting it the fuck out. A nurse bursts in and tells me I’m tone deaf and to keep it down. A nurse bursts in and tells me this is not the behaviour of someone who is claiming to be ‘perfectly calm’. A nurse bursts in and tells me this is a hospital, not a concert hall. A nurse bursts in and tells me she can’t concentrate on her paperwork because she can hear me down in the office. I sing it til I lose my voice, and sing it til I crash.
“Rise”- 21 Pilots
It’s scary how much this song brings it back for me. Autumn 2016. Listening to it- even thinking about it- and I am back in my kitchen at uni, lights off, mood lights on, flatmate jumping up and down, drink in hand. I was ‘well’, ‘stable’. Same as with “Fight Song”, I felt infinite the first time I listened to it, only this time it was a good infinite. A not-sick infinite. A ‘holy fucking shit I made it to uni and I’m now officially a student nurse’ kind of infinite. This song reminds me of being content and proud and happy and excited. Listening to it now makes me cry, because, er, kinda messed that all up…
So there we go! I’m not really sure how to end this, so yah. The End. I guess!
(Ps. I’d wanted to include video links to these songs, but apparently you gotta pay for that shit, sorry)