With the revelations this past week about Gord Downie’s struggle with a terminal illness, I feel that it’s only fitting to write about music this week. For those of you who don’t know, Gord Downie is the lead singer of the Tragically Hip – a Canadian band that has shaped the music landscape and probably has like a billion fans at this point. I could talk about those facts for quite a while, but alas this post will look more at the power of music when related to mental health.
One of my favourite Gord Downie songs isn’t actually a Tragically Hip song – it’s a collaboration that he did with City and Colour (another amazing Canadian artist). The song is called ‘Sleeping Sickness’ and it can be found on City and Colour’s 2008 album. Looking back now, I guess I first listened to it when I was on the tail end of my super anxiety filled years and my jaw literally dropped to the floor when I heard it. Before I go any further, I want you to take a minute to listen to it…it won’t take long. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xiq0IiGilXE.
Holy shit, right? Well, I imagine that could’ve been your reaction if you are or have ever struggled with anxiety or depression….and if your experiences are/were anything like mine. I remember thinking that it was like these men had finally found the words to describe what I had been feeling, experiencing, struggling with…and not only had they found the words, they had made them beautiful. If you’ve never experienced debilitating forms of anxiety, you may not understand that there seems to be no beauty in those experiences…so this song was quite a feat. I’ll admit, I probably listened to that song on repeat about a million times – half the time crying while I listened and half the time feeling a weird sort of triumph. I was not alone – this song proved that once and for all. What a wonderful feeling – it was like the hammer that nailed the coffin shut on the isolation that I felt with regards to my struggles with anxiety.
Music is a powerful thing. Yes, we’ve all heard that before – I’m just reiterating it. After hearing that song, I started to keep my ears open to more pertinent song lyrics and pay attention to how my mood seemed to dictate the music I would choose on a given day. We do seem to connect with songs that speak to us, about us, and for us. Music can make us feel less alone because if someone wrote those lyrics, they must understand those feelings and experiences. So, I LOVE it when clients bring in music for me to listen to and tell me that it describes exactly how they’re feeling. Those sessions are some of my favourites, as we get to explore the lyrics, the instruments, and the mood and see how it relates to the individual sitting in front of me. No, I am not a Music Therapist, but I have experienced how music can give us the words and emotions that we can’t seem to put our finger on…a powerful thing indeed. What songs have impacted you in the past?