As a preface to this list, I want to say that I understand how deep and terrifying clinical depression can get. I know because I have been in it in the past and beacuse I am in it now. The fact that I am writing right now and *gasp* listening to music is newsworthy, because I am still having major issues with basic human functions like eating and sleeping and motor skills. I understand that sometimes when it gets really bad your brain just can’t process music. Any sound becomes painful and overwhelming to the mind, and there is not an ounce of pleasure to be had from even your most favorite song, no matter how much it once did for you. That in itself is incredibly disheartening.
I also understand that for people who can listen to music in this time, incrementally or otherwise, a small and carefully crafted playlist may already exist in the corners of your iTunes, as a secret between you and Spotify. There is so much music out there about mental illness (and fueled by experiences with mental illness) and some of it may speak to you and some of it won’t. Personally I cannot listen to anything triggering when I feel this way; I need something that isn’t peppy, but real and can fill me with a glimpse of hope when hope is a word I’ve stricken from my vocabulary. They might remind me of the ephemeral nature of everything—including severe depression—and push me to keep clinging to that teensy, tiny hair of hope and the knowledge that the pain will not last forever. My hope is that the following seven songs may do the same for you; if not, that’s cool. It’s an incredibly personal thing. Feel free to share your personal songs of salvation in the comments.
1. Holding On For Life – Broken Bells
Even if this song is not even a little bit about depression, it works so well for when all you can do is hold on for life, and for love.
2. Dry the Rain – Beta Band
“This is the definition of my life/ Lying in bed in the sunlight/ Chocking on the vitamin tablet/ The doctor gave in the hope of saving me.” This song could not be more perfect in any way. The rain will dry. I promise.
3. Be OK – Ingrid Michaelson
I just want to be OK, too. Ingrid gets it.
4. Sun Song – Laura Veirs
“First rays of light are coming through/ Been several months since I saw that much blue/ Water a-rushing in the banks/ Freed from the ice…” Once again, an incidentally incredible expression of how it feels to feel yourself finally awakening from the nightmare. Also Laura Veirs is incredibly talented and deserves more listens.
5. Everybody Hurts – REM
“When your day is long/ And the night, the night is yours alone/ When you’re sure you’ve had enough/ Of this life, well hang on.” An oldie but a goodie. Literally every lyric is relevant.
6. Surfing the Human Heart – Pomegranates
One of my very favorite songs of all time, ever. It comes from a place of such vulnerability, of turning outward for answers when you’re completely empty inside, and it’s all too easy to relate to when you’re also in this place.
7. Keep Breathing – Ingrid Michaelson
“All I can do is keep breathing/ All we can do is keep breathing now.”