Month: July 2017

July 31, 2017 auticus No comments exist

Once we start digging ourselves out and working towards bettering our lives, that doesn’t mean we are free and clear forever. Old issues still come back, and we still have to deal with it. But, when looking at Wisteria compared to songs earlier in the album dealing with the same issues, there’s a stark contrast.

At the start of the album, we see a lot of hopelessness, relying on friends, and not knowing where to go. There isn’t a whole lot going on personally. Which isn’t wrong, as I’ve mentioned multiple times before, it’s important to have a strong support group and be able to rely on them on times of need. But, it’s also important that they don’t become a crutch.

What makes this song different, he’s not waiting for them to come to him and help him out. In the chorus “Mary, Mary, tell me how your garden grows.” He’s taking the first step, he’s asking how to get out of the spot he’s in.

The theme of plants, gardens, and growing is throughout the entire song. The name of the song, Wisteria, is a vine plant. Like most of the songs in this album, I find two different meanings in this song. One of them, is a sort of seasonal depression. Near the end of the song, the lyrics “But then September swept the overcast aside / dusted off the winter’s curse, and she cut me through like knives.” The band is from Australia, so their winter ends at the end of August (thus the use of September). But it gives the impression of being too depressed to do much, and being still long enough that the ground around started to grow around you, which just further gave way to the feeling of hopelessness. The difference between this and earlier in the album, this time he takes steps right away, starts asking how to get out of it and through this session.

The other way, is new life. The chorus “Tell me what it takes to come alive, to see what you have sown / because I’ve grown into the ground and there are branches in my bones / I am overgrown.” It has a sense to me after taking ownership of his life, he’s started to grow and blossom into his new self. In a sense, almost too quickly and doesn’t know how to handle it.

I think both of these themes can be seen in the song, and I don’t think either one is wrong. Both are important. It’s important to know how to get yourself out of depression, and also important to make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew.

I also love the last line of the song before the final chorus starts. “She whistled proudly her season’s song, and showed me that I was alive all along.” It not only goes back to the importance of a support system and friends surrounding you, but it also shows something important. Often when dealing with depression, we feel dead inside, and that our life isn’t worth much. It’s easy to forget that we are alive. It’s so important to have reminds of that.

July 30, 2017 auticus No comments exist

One of the most important things about mental health is learning to love yourself. As mentioned in the Shapeshifters post, it’s so important to have a strong foundation. That’s what Fountainhead is all about. Taking your life back from others and making it your own.

It’s really easy, especially when dealing with emotional trauma, to forget about yourself and just focus on others. Either that, or allowing others to rule your life, depending on them to lift you up, tell you what to do. But that’s not how you live life. In the last song, No Parallels, we got a glimpse of living life outside of monetary gain, breaking free from that cycle and focusing on yourself.

Now we see that same idea being built upon. The song opens up with “In a murmuring room full of critics and fakers” and in the next verse “Waiting on a single word / that could spill from my mouth / that would give them a reason / to take me for all I’m worth”. I love these lines because he’s not passively backing down. He realises what he’s up against, and faces it head on.

But this song goes so much deeper than just standing up for yourself after living a life that was in their shadows. It also explores the idea of those who have gotten use to you being passive and doing whatever it is that they said not liking you standing up for yourself. Which can be one of the hardest obstacles to overcome.

We can sit here and have a discussion on toxic friendships and how it’s better to get out of them, which if your friends don’t like you standing up for yourself and being your own person, that’s not a healthy relationship. But that’s a completely different topic. When you are working on rebuilding yourself after a difficult time, even more when it’s from the ground up, it’s not as easy as just “cutting them loose.”

This song is an anthem for those who have overcome that hardship and taken back who they are. I love the part in the song where he questions where they got the idea they can control his life.
“I don’t use your lungs to breath, your feet can’t walk for me. / So tell me where you take your right to my mind.” Then just a few lines later “So tell me where you take your right to my freedom, my cause for creation, my mind, my direction, my life.” It fits so perfectly in with finding your own happiness and not letting others make that choice for you.

One of my favorite sections in this entire album is in this song. Near the end, right before the last chorus, “I’m the one who wears the consequence / I’m the one who will stay true to myself.” He’s not looking for a way out, or an excuse. He’s taking 100% ownership of his life and his actions. I think it’s so important. Because once we take ownership of ourselves, it becomes easier to change who we are. We can break ourselves down (in a healthy way) and rebuild ourselves stronger and healthier when we know who we are and believe in ourselves.

July 29, 2017 auticus No comments exist

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If you've listened to the album, you'll notice that I've skipped "oceandust." There's a reason for this, and I will be coming back to this song.

 

So far, the album has been fairly downbeat in terms of what the songs are about. A lot about depression, feeling beaten down, and not knowing where to go. True, each song, except for "A Tale of Outer Suburbia" has resolved positively. But that doesn't change the content of the songs.

That changes the second half of the album. The message is still the same, things still resolve, but it's no longer focused on the darker sides of the mind, but start to focus on improvement.

Often times when we look at our life, we think "if I had more I'd be happy." Whether that be money, a better car, better job, education, a romantic partner, or something else. We often base our happiness on our outside circumstances. But, when we do that, we wind up in the places that are repeated over and over in the first half of this album.

A long time ago I was given some advice that has stuck with me. "Love is a choice." That isn't to discount the feeling and emotion of love, but that it goes so much deeper than just the emotion. Throughout my life, I've tried to apply that same concept to happiness. It's a choice. Regardless of where we are in life, we can choose to be happy.

From a young age, we are taught how to fit in, how to be what the world wants. We are taught to conform, to be a cog in the machine. Which the song conveys in two lines "Our path a prison, bound to walk where countless feet already fell. / But there's a wildness in our hearts, that we've forgotten in our march"

It's at this point in the album where I look at the walk of Mental Illness that things start turning around. No longer giving into the fears that are holding them down, and no longer letting it consume them. The tagline for this blog is "The Past Doesn't Define you." Which I believe this song emulates. "run free, run wild and leave behind what holds you down."

 

That's not to say to forget the past, and not take it's lessons moving forward. But don't be weighed down by it so much that it stops you from happiness. But instead, take the lessons of your past, learn from them, and move forward. It's not an easy task at all. It's a mindset that is contrary to the one we are taught to believe. It's one of the things we see all the time in movies and aspire to, changing our "fate" and being someone we aren't meant to be.

To me, this song embodies the idea that each one of us can choose who we want to be. It's never too late to go back to school and get that degree, learn a new skill, or just try something new. My dad is a great example of this. After spending 23 years in the navy as a cryptologist, he retired. But, he wasn't ready to be fully retired. He decided to do something completely different, he went into the oil field, and put as much distance between him and anything computer related. He put himself to this new job and learned it. He forged his own happiness and molded himself until he was happy.

Don't be someone you aren't because that's what's expected. Find what makes you happy, make a break for it, and go after it at full speed. Regardless of where you are in life, happiness is your choice, not someone else's.

July 24, 2017 auticus No comments exist

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This is probably the saddest song in the album. It's the only one that doesn't have some sort of positive resolve in it. But that doesn't mean it's a bad song, or any less for that. If anything, I think the fact that it doesn't get that positive resolve gives it another level of meaning.

The song is from the perspective of a bear that is losing it's home due to the urbanization just outside of the forest it lives in. The song is riddled with helplessness, anxiety, and desperation.

When I listen to this song, It reminds me of the destructive nature of anxiety and depression. The chorus poses a question: "Is our skin to keep the world out, or our bodies in?" The character in this song, isn't willing to be open to those around him, to the change. Which is something I'm constantly battling. I want to keep the world out, not let them in. But it goes beyond that "I'll tear apart the town then sleep, and sleep alone." If left unchecked, anxiety and depression can turn into anger and rage, leading to destroying those around us.

As the song progresses, the bear becomes more and more agitated, wanting to destroy the town, eventually claiming he will destroy the town "stone by stone." To me it is an important reminder of the damage we can do to ourselves. It's so easy to tell those who are trying to help that "You don't understand," or "you don't know what I've been through!" To push them out and destroy that friendship.

This type of actions and thoughts eventually lead to depression spiraling out of control. The bridge, "I've lost faith, the forest changed." Looking at this from a strictly metaphorical sense, not at a "deforestation is destroying wildlife" sense. The bear refused to move, or change his surroundings. So often it's the same way with depression. We refuse to move. We see the world around us getting more and more toxic, but all we tell ourselves is "I've lost faith," "I've lost heart," and "I've lost faith" and repeating over and over that "the forest changed." Eventually leaving us with, in our minds, one choice "Each breath rattles like dice in my chest / each breath gambled, unwinding till death."

It's so easy to fall into this trap, and once you are in there, it's so hard to climb back out. It's so easy to yell and push away those who are trying to help you. It's easy to put the blame on them, to say it's their fault for not being more helpful, or being there when we needed. Because we've blinded ourselves to the truth, that it was us who pushed them away, and us who refused to change.

In no way am I implying this is easy. Getting out of that spiral is one of the hardest things to do. You can ask any of my friends who have watched me go through it. It's hard, but worth it. It's something we have to do. While being so wrapped up in our current situation changing and becoming to toxic to live in, we ignore the vast forest just behind us that is full of life.

July 20, 2017 auticus 2 comments

 

This is a beautiful song. From start to finish I find a lot encouragement from it. For me, this song has a double meaning. On one hand, it’s a broken house trying to find your place among parents who don’t seem to show you love, but through the song, the family becomes stronger.

The other meaning this song holds for me, and the one I’ll be focusing on, the child doesn’t believe that her family loves her. As a child, she is unable to understand or comprehend the ins and outs of life.

I grew up in a young family. My dad joined the military right out of highschool, so his idea of love was very harsh and cold. My mom, marrying my dad out of highschool, learned that love and affection was only shown on birthdays and holidays. Everything else was business as usual. This is the type of home I was born into, and spent the first ten years of my life in.

I was convinced my parents didn’t love me, that I was a burden to them, and they’d be better off without me. I wasn’t able to understand that my dad had to learn how to be an adult in a cruel world, or that when I was born, my parents were still kids themselves learning their place in this world.

To me, this song is my older self talking to my younger self. At first, I’m talking to myself where I am at that moment, “Don’t look down / Even though they’re looking down on you/”. Because I was too young to really understand anything else, and I needed someone to meet me where I was, and tell me how I was feeling was ok.

Not only that, but there is a sense of frustration, “If only I could show your future you would light up like the sun.” Looking back at that time of my life, I wish I could have told myself where I’d be now. Given myself the encouragement I needed at the time to make it through. It’s one of the reasons I’ve gone into this field, to be that voice to others in similar positions I was in, and hopefully help them not walk it alone.

But, the song doesn’t end there, eventually, the character in the song starts to grow up, and starts to learn some of the intricacies of life and their parents story, they learn that “there’s no-one looking down on you.” But it’s not just the child who grew.

The child “Little light” starts to gain self confidence, the mom “Mrs. Might” learns how to express her belief in her child. The dad “Mr. Beaten Down” learns how to love and express that. Not only that, but the dad goes on to give their child what they can to help their “little light” make something of their life.

This right there is such a beautiful image of a family making it through a dark time together and coming out stronger for it. It also mirrors my own walk with my family very closely, which makes it close to my heart. There was a time I wouldn’t acknowledge my dad was even home, and would only go to my mom if I needed something. But today, I talk to my parents all the time, and consider them best friends who I can confide in.

 

July 13, 2017 auticus 2 comments

 

 

At some point, I came to the realisation that I needed to either embrace my mental state, or be consumed by it. But not only my mental state, but my entire self. I had to learn how to love who I was. To me, that’s what this song represents. If I wanted to have enjoyment in life, I couldn’t keep living in the shadows and keeping what I was going through silent. I was ashamed and afraid.

But then something clicked. I started to understand what it meant to love myself and where I was. The song opens up with a great reminder, “To know your every detail is a lifetime.” It’s not an overnight thing to understand who you are, it takes your entire life.

I made the mistake for a long time of putting my hopes, dreams, and life in the hands of someone else. But that was doomed to failure, because I was ignoring myself. The idea isn’t to find someone else to complete you, but to be a complete person yourself. This song, is me talking to myself. I needed to learn to be my own muse, my own masterpiece, and my own canvas. If I relied on others for those things, I would eventually fail.

That’s not to say that other people aren’t important, and finding inspiration in others is bad. But if that’s your starting point, and where you build yourself upon, you set yourself up for failure. I think I’ve mentioned my reliance on my friends enough to convey that I am not against leaning on others. But, I found them to be the most helpful when I broke off from them being what I built myself around.

Let me put it this way. For a long time, the foundation I built my house on was my friends and loved ones. Everything else was built on top of them, so when I lost that foundation, everything else came crashing down, because there was nothing left to stand on. Instead, my friends are now pillars within the house. They are vital to keeping that house standing, but if I were to lose that friendship and love, I still have my foundation to build on.

So to bring it back to the song, it’s a love song, but not directed towards someone else, but towards myself. Learning to love myself and be my own person, relaying on my friends as support and not the foundation, has lead to stronger and deeper friendships. By making that simple shift, I went from having an ever changing foundation to a solid floor that is unbreakable.

July 11, 2017 auticus No comments exist

 

The third song in the album “Weight” is a great representation of what depression looks like. It’s so much more than just being sad, which I know I’ve talked about before in earlier blog posts. This song starts off with a feeling of defeat. Not only that but that “they’re all too familiar, I’ve been here before.” It’s not the first time, and part of the overbearing weight of depression, is knowing that it won’t be the last.

This is also the first song in the album that mentions a house, which is a theme that comes up in other songs. We’ve all built a house around our lives. Our actions have helped to shape the house we live in. When dealing with depression, your life choices, the house that you’ve built, seems to betray you.

In this song, there is also no “we” statements, only “I”. One of the hardest things is to remember and relay on your friends, you feel like it’s you verses the world. Often, as the chorus states, feeling empty, uninspired, feeling the weight of the world coming crashing down. But not only those feelings, but also just a generally feeling of being unsure of where to go.

Another difficult part about depression, it’s familiar. It’s a place I know and understand. It’s “silent and it’s safe.” Often knowing the way out, and how to get there, but it seems impossible to get there, it always feels like “there’s everything, but just out of reach.”

However, eventually there comes a “sink or swim” moment. Realising that “I’m not helpless, I’m not hopeless, but I don’t believe in hope on its own, no spine and no substance.” It’s the realisation that you have something to live for, and things ahead of you, and they are worth fighting for. It’s not time to give up just yet.

Coming out of a depression stent is something that I’ve always had to do on my own. That isn’t to say that my friends aren’t helpful. That moment where I start to realise that I have things worth fighting for are often because of my friends not giving up on me. But they can’t pull me out. I have to push myself out “with my two bare hands.” That isn’t to say the role of my friends isn’t important. I will say it every chance I get that they are a huge reason as to why I am where I am today.

Often times when we see friends suffering, we feel hopeless, and feel like what we offer is so little and means nothing. But that’s not the case. Those simple “how are you?” or “let’s do something together.” Those little statements, little shows that you care, those can make all the difference in giving the strength needed. My two best friends have been that support for me. I might feel alone during times of depression, but when I stand back up and look around, I see all those around me who have been there the whole time.

July 10, 2017 auticus 2 comments

 

The second song in the album has a bit of a different feel to it. It’s right in the title of the song “Introduced Species” and reinforced by the first line “we don’t belong here.” Growing up in a military family, this was almost literally my life. I would pick up and move every 3 or 4 years, having to learn a new social structure, a new life, and fit to new people. Over time, I lost the identity of who I was, and just became whoever was around me.

To me, this song is about realising that and coming to the conclusion that I’m not suppose to be where I am. It’s easy enough to take this as a negative, and the lyrics do seem to reinforce those thoughts on the surface. But the more I listen to it, the more I see the song as a positive and as a fight to be yourself and who you are regardless of where you are.

It’s not so much a song about giving up, but of starting a journey to figure out who you are. You can almost hear the cognitive dissonance between him wanting to fit in, and be himself. “In a way we are all connected/ threaded together / In a way we are all suspended / bound going nowhere.” To me, it’s a cry out of seeing that we are all human, all sharing a common bond, but not knowing how to connect to that, and feeling lost.

What speaks to me the most about fighting to fit into a place that isn’t your home is the section after he repeats “will you run?” If you listen closely, you can hear a faint screaming voice shouting “It’s no longer survival of the fittest, now that everyone survives. But we don’t want to survive, we want to live.” Fitting in, and being whatever everyone else is, that’s just survival. It’s doing just enough to skate by. But that’s not what I want, I want to live. That requires being myself.

But old habits don’t go away. Every time you take a step forward, you can hear that voice in the back of your head screaming “we don’t belong here” over and over. Which can get extremely tiring to fight. But the bridge, to me, is those friends from “Developments” it’s them reminding me that even though the night was long and hard, we can’t give up now. Reminding me what’s at stake, my life. But also, that you can’t start off running, at first, they are asking if I can walk, and after that point, that’s when they help me to run.

A common theme through this album is that it’s a journey, there are ups and down. It’s not just a continual improvement. There are downfalls, times you want to give up and stop trying. But, the important thing, you keep moving forward. Pick yourself up and go. When you can’t do it on your own, it’s ok to ask friends for help.

July 9, 2017 auticus No comments exist

If you know me, you know that music is a huge part of who I am. Through the years, music has been there to help me through dark times, and help me to express myself. That really hasn’t changed as I’ve grown up.

Recently, a particular album has really rose to be something that has helped me through some dark times. About two years ago, a friend of mine showed me this song. Not because of the lyrics, but because of the music video. The song was “A fire on a hill” by Hands like Houses. The music video is fantastic and I would highly recommend watching it.

I never really paid much attention to the rest of the album, or anything else the band had put out. But recently, I’ve been wanting to write a post about that song, and decided to listen to the entire album and see if it had a similar theme, and found out that it did. I decided to convert my one post into a series of posts going through the entire album and paralleling it with my life story.

I’ve written about various aspects of my life in previous posts, and I’m hoping the content of these isn’t just a repeat. I’m going to be focusing on the emotions and feelings during the different times of my life, and not so much on the events that took place.

I will say, these are not the artist’s depictions of the songs. These are my own thoughts on them and how I’ve come to interpret them. The album is “Unimagine” by Hands Like Houses.

The first song of the album sets the mood of the rest of it fairly well for me. The opening words “we get in our own way, tripping on our feet / filling up our heads too much with words too hard to speak” sums up perfectly what it often feels like inside my head. I have a huge problem with staying inside my head and letting things spin out of control.

But the song goes so much deeper. It’s the start of a journey of self awareness, of learning who you are and how to get there. It’s so hard at first. You just see darkness and a blank page. The song takes it’s inspiration from a darkroom for photography development. Which I found to be a fantastic analogy.

When I first started looking at my mental health and decided to make that change. I felt alone. I was in a dark room, looking at a bunch of blank pictures, afraid of what I was going to find when I started to develop them and see what they hold. To the point, where I stopped. I was too afraid to look at them.

But then I met some friends who came alongside me and showed me that I wasn’t alone, and I didn’t have to go through this scary thing on my own. To me, this song is from their perspective. They validated the way I felt, but also loved me enough not to let me stay in that spot. The lines “I can’t explain enough, and I won’t let it last the night / I’ll show you that the image is still there unseen.” Is an entire conversation in just two lines. Countless times my friends have come to me and not let me sit in my depression.

They would sit with me through the proverbial night and continually remind me that even though I couldn’t see the happiness and joy in some of the pictures I was uncovering, that it was there. They were determined to sit with me as long as it took until I could see the joy. That phrase being repeated throughout the song is just a reminder that it’s not just one time and then your done. It happens over and over.

We’d often go back to that place, and they would always, without complaint, sit with me and help me through it. They often had to remind me that it’s “Darkest before the light” But not only did they sit with me and help, they put themselves in my shoes. They took on my pain and carried it with me.

They could have easily said “You get in your own way, tripping on your feet” but instead, they carried it with me. “We get in our own way.” They became a part of the struggle. Because of that, they experienced the pain and hurt I felt, but also they got to experience the joys I had as well. They walked along with me as equals, not as superiors.

That is one of the most important things through my walk. Having people walk with me as equals and treat me as if I have worth and as if I’m not broken, damaged, or hurt. They never pushed me further than I was willing to go, and never put me down if I canceled on plans because it was a bad day.

They were my rock during those early years (and in many cases still are) and to me, this song is their expression of support. They were going to do everything in their power to show me the light I had lost, and they weren’t going to rest until that task was accomplished.