My Mental Health Playlist
We all have songs that take us back immediately to a specific moment in time.
The music I listen to — and create — has always been linked to my mental health. Over the years, music has helped me to explore, understand and challenge my thoughts and feelings. It's also made me feel more at ease with who I am and the state of my confusing mind.
I wanted to write this post to share with you some of the songs that have contributed towards landmarks in my mental health journey.
The Song When I Realised I Was Different
The first ever cassette single I bought, this song both haunted and fascinated me as a small child. Each time I listen, I remember exactly how uneasy I felt as a small, kind-hearted blonde kid in a big world full of danger. I realised I was in for a lifetime of deep thinking.
The Song That Got Me Through The First Time
So far in my mental health journey, i've had two large periods of illness. The first in my early teens as my anxiety exploded and I left school, and the second at around 19-20 when unresolved issues from my early teens culminated in a breakdown.
This is the song I listened to on repeat as I sat, 15 years old, with seemingly no future. I felt as though i'd caused so much trouble for my family through being ill, lost almost all of my friends, my education and was approximately 10,000,000 miles away from being on stage like I dreamt of. I thought I was at the lowest of the low, but actually, that was to come later (yay!)
I used the lyrics "I guess you'd better go and get your armour" as desperate motivation to somehow scrape something out of my situation and work towards a new goal. The "I never meant to start a war" lyrics related to the atmosphere at home I felt I had created through being so much trouble.
Now, I just think it's a good pop song.
The Song Where I Finally Understood
In the melancholic catalogue of Damon Albarn, I found music that told the story of my brain. This Is a Low said all the words I needed to say at the time but couldn't get out. It made me realise that I'd had some unfortunate experiences in life. I was ill, but I could get better. It made me cry for the first time in the couple of years since i'd left school, releasing emotions i'd been trying to ignore. It was ok to have a mental illness — it wasn't shameful or any fault of my own. I could either let it ruin my life or treat it as an opportunity to make something more of myself than I otherwise would have done.
The Song That Got Me Through The Second Time
At 20, after a false start where I thought since i'd got a job and more of a 'normal' life everything would be fine, I had a breakdown. It happened gradually, and culminated with me spending every moment of the day sick with anxiety and unable to eat without throwing up due to said anxiety.
After the journey I had already been through, I was heartbroken to have experienced hope and simply been dealt a bigger blow in response. It was hard enough to get to the position I was in, how could I find the strength to fight back once again from square one? Luckily, I did. It wasn't easy, and I could still cry at the drop of a hat if I really dug deep to think about the process I went through as a young adult, but the most important thing is that I survived.
I Was Gonna Cancel — the underrated Kylie/Pharrell collaboration from 2014 — was the song I played on repeat every day whilst I waited to get an appointment at my doctors surgery and beg for any pills that would make the feeling in my brain go away. I am not joking when I say that this random song is one of the only reasons why I am still here today and did not give up.
"I was gonna cancel, then you reminded me of who I am"
The Song When I Finally Had Hope
In the late Summer of 2014 after I had been on anti-depressants long enough to go out of my house again, I travelled with my mum and dad to Carsington Water. On the journey there, we had Annie - Anniemal playing in the car. This song was playing as we pulled up to our parking spot and got out. The sun was shining, and me and my mum skimmed stones on the water as my dad watched. It was the first time in months on end that I felt as though a millimetre of fog had been lifted from my brain. I realised that my life had been saved, I had been given a glorious second chance, and everything might just be ok one day.
Fun fact: this moment is referenced in the lyrics to my song "I Just Hope You Know" from the album Breaking Circles. "Take me back to when I stood there, throwing stones into the river, when the water turned the sunlight into sparkles"
The Song That Always Cheers Me Up
It's very hard to pick just one, but usually if I need to smile I shuffle my playlist of ultimate school disco/wedding reception tracks. My favourite is the classic Saturday Night by Whigfield.
Do you have a mental health playlist? Any songs you have repeated over and over again during your mental health journey? Let me know in the comments!