Well, it’s been quite a year! Not what we were expecting and a challenge for many. Some of our plans had to change in terms of our hopes for the project this year. However, as an online resource we wanted to do what we can even if it is just to help people out in a small way amongst all this madness! Here are a few highlights:
We got out of our comfort zone a bit by doing lots of online interactive things like livestreams, webinars, online speaking, videos, pictures and we set up the metal health moshpit.
We did loads of playlists this year as well, so we have hundreds of hours of metal music for different emotions now available. Our shirts and patches were also way more in demand than we could have possibly expected!
Everything we do is based on a collective approach, so thank you so much to everyone who helped out this year.
See you all next year when we have lots of exciting things planned for you 😊🤘🏻
Sometimes it’s easy to forget how important some simple things are. Like cheese on toast. Or Rice Krispies. Or music. Today, the stars have aligned in such a way as to remind me how important music is to our everyday lives.
I was talking to my favourite aunty this afternoon. A once in a blue moon call just to see how she’s doing. Her husband, my Uncle Jim, passed away a few months ago. Like many on my mum’s side of the family, Jim was a musician. He played in the Sally Army band, his local orchestra… everywhere and anywhere he could play, he would. As a child, I almost never saw him without an instrument case. Uncle Jim was 93 when he passed away and, as far as I can tell, had been playing brass since he was a lad.
Aunt Shona mentioned that he regularly played with a friend. She recounted him playing a duet in a cathedral and sang me the tune. “Gershwin – Summertime” I said. His friends eyesight began to fade and last year, she gave up playing the piano as she could no longer read the music. Jim stopped playing too. “He seemed to fade a bit” said Shona. Then she told me that during the summer, an old pupil of his came to visit. They had a lovely Socially Distanced picnic in the garden and Jim had the opportunity to discuss music with his former pupil. And he found a second wind.
Later in the afternoon, I was skipping through YouTube and came across the old video where 1000 Italian musicians gathered in a field to perform Learn To Fly by the Foo Fighters. A huge group of people performing one song with such passion and pleasure was amazing. And all for one reason – to ask the Foos to play in Italy. That video was quickly followed by the Foos charity song from the start of the Covid Lockdown Thirty world class performers gathered, via the magic of the interweb, to sing Times Like These.
“It’s times like these you learn to live again It’s times like these you give and give again It’s times like these you learn to love again”
Words that hundreds of thousands around the world have sung but now meant something new. Something… important.
During Lockdown, I wasn’t listening to much music. Like many thousands of others, the wife has been working from home since March and I’d been trying to keep the noise down. As I was going to weekly nurse appointments, I’d listen to music in the car but that was about it. On one occasion, I sat in the car for an extra 20mins when I got home, just to finish the album. We bought a second Alexa-thingy and I was able to listen to music in the bath. Almost immediately I realised that I’d missed it without realising it wasn’t there. Singing and dancing are now firmly back on the agenda. And both our moods have improved dramatically (you may have seen my wife’s dancing videos on Bookface?)
That’s what music does. It feeds our souls. It lifts our spirits. It breaks our hearts and it mends them too. It sings to us when we can’t find the words. Take away the music and we stop being ourselves. We stop being Human.
I’ll let ABBA sum it up for me
Thank you for the music, the songs I’m singing Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing Who can live without it? I ask in all honesty What would life be? Without a song or a dance what are we? So I say thank you for the music For giving it to me
“I look forward to the day that we’ll all be back in a muddy field again, singing our hearts out together” Dave Grohl, April 2020
Something a bit different now…you will no doubt have picked up that we love a bit of Nine Inch Nails. We are absolutely delighted that Adam Steiner, who wrote a recent book, Into The Never, on the Nine Inch Nails album The Downward spiral, agreed to both talk to us about his thoughts on the mental health themes in the album, and to generously give us a mental health relevant preview chapter of his book. See both below, thanks Adam 🙂
On The Downward Spiral Trent Reznor’s Scream Becomes An Eternal Sigh
The Downward Spiral is commonly acknowledged as a challenging, bleak, and sometimes depressing album. Its lyrics speak of pain and misery while its music is angry and defiant; with the album’s narrator often switching sides in this disorientating push and pull of emotions.
It is hard to say why the alternative and metal fans identified so deeply with the record, providing a form of therapy and representing a new openness in discussions about mental health as an issue that affects everyone.
The lingering question here is the extent to which The Downward Spiral is symptomatic of the Generation X era, but also offered its own cathartic and expressive solution.
[The following article is an extract from Adam Steiner’s book, Into The Never: Nine Inch Nails And The Creation Of The Downward Spiral]
S. Alexander Reed noticed how a wealth of bands from the early 1990s, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains et al, presented themselves as these same “damaged hollow men”. This harsh introspection sometimes tipped over into self-loathing and addiction issues; where the initial empathy of up and coming musicians became reserved for their rock star lifestyles, failing to highlight and attack wider social concerns as the root cause of their own unhappiness. But perhaps it is no accident that many of their fans felt the same way.
On Pretty Hate Machine, Reznor’s observations on masculine success as identity are grounded in inferiority complex, tied to romantic failure. By the time of The Downward Spiral Reznor presents many of his ‘masculine’ traits as flaws, feeling himself wounded and inherently damaged. The 90s would continue to develop into an era in which mental health awareness and treatment in the US walked a knife-edge between positive intervention, although with increasing reliance upon medication, and music that openly asserted the right of a generation to express negative feelings, taking pride in their right to be openly fucked-up.
There is comfort and security in having your sadness reflected back to you, confirming that it is ok, normal even, which encourages others to talk more openly. But this can also spill over into narcissistic wallowing, to be in love with your own sadness as a failure to outgrow or to transcend some of the more teenage expressions of these feelings is one of the common criticisms of the album, it allows for too much self-pity and negativity as to become a dirge.
However, The Downward Spiral reflected genuine experiences of depression, self-loathing and mental pain of many, Reznor’s story was one among thousands experiencing a withdrawal with life and expressions of inner hurt expressed as external rage.
Many fans have commented on how the music of NIN, The Downward Spiral in particular, made them feel less alone with their mental health challenges. Reznor perhaps voiced this best when looking back on his own teenage years and how music gave him its own form of optimism through belonging, telling Live Wire in 1995: “When I was feeling depressed, certain records made me feel better, stuff like Pink Floyd and old Cure. It was good knowing that someone else was feeling the same way I did.” Reznor would carry this nostalgic appreciation for difficult and challenging music for difficult and challenging times into The Downward Spiral, he told Hot Metal in 1994: “The idea was to try and make something that was a bleak chunk of work that, for the right mood, might be the perfect thing.”
Reznor presented the therapeutic aspect of his music as a form of rough dredging towards a confrontation with the self, music that both listens and reflects, forcing up repressed emotional difficulties. While this process can be disturbing and destructive it also offers perspective, Reznor said: “I think the very act of wanting to discover and uncover unpleasant things is itself positive. The act of trying to rid yourself of these demons, to prepare yourself for the worst, is a positive thing.”
Reznor referred to “nakedness of emotion” as an important arbiter of honesty in his work. Fans responded to the power of expression and Reznor’s lyrics confessional edge. NIN along with groups such as Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins and Korn openly expressed dissent at being sidelined out of mainstream American life and its uniform system of values. Cobain sang from the perspective of his emotionally and financially deprived background; Billy Corgan and Jonathan Davies sang about childhood abuse and bullying, all producing directly ‘issue’-driven songs that were transgressive in bringing harsh realities to light.
But The Downward Spiral went much further into the abyss than many of NIN’s contemporaries who used anger solely as an undercurrent of energy, whereas Spiral exposes and expresses the experience and repercussions of emotional pain and negativity, through its fundamental concern of remaining human in an often cruel and chaotic world, and the consequences of losing this empathy for others.
Reznor said to Details magazine in 1995: “Every day I’m saying the most personal thing I could ever say. And I don’t know if I want people in my head that much, but I’ve chosen to give that out because I realized that’s what made the strongest statement, that was the most honest art I could make.”
The challenge with The Downward Spiral was the risk of Reznor giving too much of himself away and being exposed through his lyrics. Reznor has acknowledged knowing his music makes a difference in people’s lives, to feeling disappointed but also angered when he is considered to have failed to meet their expectations, and knows that he will only ever disappoint them, this sentiment is present across Spiral, the break-up pain of Piggy and Hurt’s extended apology.
Trent Reznor has spoken of how there was a degree of irresponsibility, or danger even, in the extreme material of The Downward Spiral, what might now be called a trigger warning, especially with its indirect mentions suggestive of suicide. This comes with the album’s dizzying perspective of spiralling nihilism that is irreconcilable to life. As with the bleak lyrics of the Manics’ Richey Edwards, the album offers a metaphor for powerful realism that questions everything to the point that it collapses under permanent doubt, cynicism and despair. In his essay Nihil Rebound, about Joy Division singer Ian Curtis, Mark Fisher noted the continued death drive that can arise from intellectualism and mental health difficulties to the point of becoming co-dependent aspects of a personality; as in the case of Richey Edwards reading a book a day, manifesting as a will to suicide.
The harshness of this thinking can spark a downward spiral line of thought, as Gina Gionfriddo notes: “The mind powerful enough to save itself is also powerful enough to destroy itself.” Fisher suggests that powerful and challenging ideas in art and education can be dangerous when they are taken too literally, absorbed at the expense of the positive aspects of life, by vulnerable young people to justify negative thinking – as if knowing too much, or seeing the world too clearly, can kill you. In a 1995 interview with Live Wire, Reznor himself compared the wilful suicide of Kurt Cobain to Ian Curtis, two artists who had highly influential and artistically rich musical careers, and yet took their own life, perhaps because of the weight and pressure this success brought them. Greil Marcus highlighted the dangers of spiral-form thinking in his book Lipstick Traces : “Nihilism is the belief in nothing and the wish to become nothing. […] Nihilism can find a voice in art but never satisfaction […] It means to close the world around its own self-consuming impulse […] When the nihilist pulls the trigger, turns on the gas, sets the fire, hits the vein, the world ends.”
Certainly, for someone experiencing extremely negative thoughts, the album might seem to confirm depressive ideas or re-enforce the will to act upon them, but it also expresses the damaging impact and irrevocable consequences they can have. The album’s spirit is not just one of resignation and self-defeat; it shows how actively combating negative voices or feelings using anger as resistance, can stall the spiral and re-empower the individual to halt what might seem in certain dark moments to be ‘inevitable’, but is often a question of managing perspective and affirming life though decisive action and challenging negativity.
Beneath the surface, we can all appreciate and identify with some of the emotional hurt and pain the narrator comes to represent. In her Village Voice essay on Nasty Art, Anne Powers argues that transgressive music can allow us to vent negative feelings through the exercising of our emotions, but not to the point of completely exorcising this negativity. This is a constructive experience, even though it won’t necessarily make the listener feel immediately ‘better’ of ‘happy’. Referring to ugly images and feedback drenched guitars of NIN, Powers wrote: “All these devices work as a mind-clearer, fighting against what art critic Robert Hughes has called the ‘culture of therapeutics.’ This notion that even transgressive art must enrich and heal dominates the American aesthetic.” Perhaps this is where The Downward Spiral succeeds best, as a vicious and bilious purging of pain that we can experience along with the narrator, and then switch off, having brought to the surface some of our own negative thoughts and feelings. Art does not have to be pretty, but it can at least resemble catharsis as a kind of emotional freedom.
On the track, I Do Not Want This, Reznor’s narrator refines this bleak sense of purpose, offering direct communication with listener, speaking about his fear of being alone with his dark thoughts and recognising the need to offer a hand to others who might feel the same way. This connection, based upon emotional knowledge and experience, bridges the distance between art, artist, and the listener, making the metaphorical real, where Spiral offers something that most music cannot. Reznor explained the autobiographical streak of the album to Plazm mag in 1994: “I’m trying to deal with my own thoughts and recycle them into something that if I feel better about myself by expressing. And then, if someone says, ‘I know what you’re talking about, I feel the same way .’ That’s the best – you can’t get a better compliment than that.”
The common expression of teen angst is further marred by the privilege of its pains: the unbearable whiteness of goth offers an easy identity to Western youth raised free from violence, poverty, racism and sexual-abuse, who can afford to be anti-everything and consistently angry with their parents; whereas others born into more deprived and marginalised circumstances are born of an anger from having no choice but to rebel and to fight for every positive step change in their life. However, the mentally turbulent period of adolescence should not be underestimated, as this can easily mask the deeper depression appearing as the common signs of teenage angst. Daphne Carr’s book is dedicated to the rust belt of Trent’s childhood and shows how the NIN fans who experienced deprived and traumatic upbringings in the forgotten towns of the Midwest found solace in NIN’s music, on an emotional level as reflecting some of their own experiences. Some of the more teenage challenges of transition and inchoate mental states would resonate with adults generally, facing similarly extreme emotional situations and points of crisis in their lives, such as depression, loss and disappointment.
Drawing upon Yale research, Sue Klebold, the mother of Columbine shooter Dylan Klebold, noted a correlation between being bullied and externalising this pain through violence against others, self-harm, depression, and increased risk of depression or suicidal ideation, as well as being a bully, sometimes masking deeper personal issues. A line from a W. H. Auden poem marks an ominous precedent: “School boys do what is done to them” This can be taken very literally, and as a sign of the adults that children will become. When the victims of bullying or isolated people attempt to ‘take back’ control and become empowered. As with Animal Farm and Lord of the Flies, being abused or perceived as weak or unintelligent can drive the need for corruptive power; the victim can become the bully or the aggressor, and completes their revenge fantasy on their former tormentors.
Reznor has described his own school experience variously, but he once referred to himself as being someone who “fell through the cracks” neither remarkable or unremarkable, and because of this, it suggests he was largely unnoticed by many of his peers as someone who did not seem to matter. But there are darker aspects to this reflected NIN’s music, for example some of the hectoring and bitter abuse in Piggy, and the need to prove one’s self from a position of anonymity.
Mental health among musicians, and their fans, is not something to ignore, romanticise or to be taken lightly, the two aspects of the relationship walk hand-in-hand. It is only in recent years that we have begun to move-on from the cliche model of the ‘mad’ genius, using the term with little regard or attention to the fact that performative behaviours can mask underlying mental health issues. The Downward Spiral is perhaps both representative and demonstrative of this.
In several interviews about The Downward Spiral album, Reznor spoke enthusiastically about his achievements, acknowledging the privileged position he had worked so hard for, to be able to make and perform his music for a living, but often with a sense of defeatism, suggesting that he remained unhappy or somehow unfulfilled by the ‘rock star’ life, as deeper problems perhaps went unacknowledged, telling USA Today in 1994: “I’m not proud to say I hate myself and I don’t like what I am.” Reznor constantly referred to the idea of having a normal life. His overriding sense of disappointment and nagging unease, in spite of his success, could be part of a confrontation between innate perfectionism meeting with ongoing dissatisfaction. Artistically, the slightly addictive sense of wanting more, and to want things better; while personally yearning for some domestic stability; wanting to put down roots, to escape his pesona and the demands and sacrifices his own work ethic placed upon him, but without having a definite idea of what that ‘better’ life might look like.
Reznor himself would later follow the now standardised narrative arc of a ‘fall from grace’, to become a recovered rock star beginning a clean, new life; sometimes performed as becoming a ‘better’ version of themselves, or as a return to a more real, original self, with this ‘return’ concept informing ‘comeback’ albums that almost inevitably disappoint unrealistic expectations of being ‘like the early stuff’. But more recently, death by drugs and alcohol has given way to rock stars succumbing to deeper mental health issues in their later life having already achieved a long and difficult road to recovery. Chris Cornell of Soundgraden and Chester Bennington of Linkin Park, musicians who had achieved success, struggled with addiction and mental health issues, only to come out the other side and die by suicide. The reality of their situation is obfuscated to everyone outside of their headspace at that dark and difficult time; on the surface of American aspiration both artists had much to live for: family, wealth and success, but chose suicide regardless.
Speaking to the Guardian newspaper in June, 2018, Reznor looked back upon his entrance to the Le Pig studio and his absorption into the process of The Downward Spiral: “The self-destruct button was pushed when I first started writing. There was a sense that I couldn’t fit in anywhere, I couldn’t relate to people; I felt alone, I felt angry about it. I felt like I was heading down into something that wasn’t going to have a good ending. That ended up being addiction: its claws were in me but it hadn’t fully revealed itself.”
Through the wider narrative of The Downward Spiral Reznor expresses how the “great silencing machine”, perhaps depression, doubles-down on all of his troubles, forcing him into escapism and isolation, addiction and sex are shown to be hollow and flawed, only making things worse. Chris Vrenna provided insight into Reznor’s very private lyric writing and recording process, telling Dark Angel zine in 1995: “When it came to the lyrics, he would literally lock himself up in the house by himself, often for days at a time, and just write. It was only when he felt comfortable with the lyrics that he‘d come out and let me or Flood or whoever was there have a read. I think that’s his way of venting all those negative sides that everyone has a little bit of inside them.” What still resonates from The Downward Spiral with many people of various backgrounds, ages and life experiences, fans and casual listeners alike, is the direct and confrontational address of Reznor’s music to look into the abyss of an impossible situation; and to know that they are not alone in their pain, and for each individual to be encouraged by the album to keep fighting to and find a way out of their own personal spiral.
Read more about Adam Steiner’s new book, Into The Never: Nine Inch Nails and The Creation Of The Downward Spiral on his website:
We have been putting people’s stories of how metal has helped them with wellbeing onto our site now for a couple of years. But now we are able to share our first proper video story with you! We spoke with Richy, friend of HMT and personal trainer. He talks to us about his experiences of living with ADHD here:
Today is halloween (or as we prefer to say goth Christmas or gothmas). As your gift from us we present you with this fabulous novelty playlist of all things devil/satan and Halloween related, you are welcome 😈
As usual there are a few disclaimers – it’s fairly flexible theme and genre wise for a start, based on you lot suggesting things. Obviously there are some dark and disturbing topics, very much NSFW etc. It’s designed to be a bit of fun and not a reflection or criticism of anyone’s beliefs, we are always happy to discuss themes for playlists and this one was much requested.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. I only share my personal experiences and observations working with some of my voice students. I also do not generalise all metal vocalists as having identified ‘mental health problems’, here are just a few experiences as well as small fraction of my personal story, what directly correlates with benefits of metal singing/ screaming and mental well-being.
The idea that screaming may be a cathartic and therapeutic experience has been around since the late 60’s when psychotherapist A Janov proposed the benefits of ‘primal scream therapy’. This approach has not been without controversy, but has the central idea that the release of intense emotions (often related to childhood trauma by Janov’s model) via screaming or other non-censored expression helps with processing difficult feelings. Research into emotional processing in listeners of heavy metal shows that this can be helpful for the processing of anger, but what about the therapeutics of being a metal vocalist? We couldn’t find much by direct research on this, though came across a cool little study that showed that aspects of metal vocals are correlated to recognised vocalisation patterns in emotional expressions like anger and sadness (references below). Yet many metal vocalists, even the ones that are just practicing at home (I was going to say ‘bedroom screamers’ but realised that might not be what I meant!), say that it could be something very therapeutic indeed. Here Mara Lisenko, metal vocalist and vocal coach, reflects on her experiences and those of her students:
Anger is an emotion that’s not very much welcomed in today’s society. Everyone has to smile, everyone has to be “ok” and do “well”, it almost feels like we’re forced to be happy. But in a healthy emotional system, there has to be a balance between ‘good’ and ‘bad’. So how do we deal with negative emotions, especially if they are very intense and burying them only leads to self-destructive patterns and long lasting resentment? Well, there are few options, some people backlash that anger onto other people or themselves (not suggested) thus continuing the pain, some people find other more constructive and safer ways of letting go by boxing, playing tennis, beating up pillows.. and doing metal vocals! Sometimes I see a shy, tiny teenage girl who comes to my lessons just to quietly whisper “I want to learn growling”. Oh my.. And then I realize that there is soooo much work to do, and not so much technically as psychologically. A reoccurring theme that I notice is that students sometimes are not so much interested in singing or screaming itself, they just want to release their voices, and usually I already know what’s behind that- they might have a hard time saying “No”, they cannot draw healthy boundaries, to stand up for themselves, be straight and honest in their opinions and feelings, they might even feel like their opinions don’t matter at all. So they silence themselves, to the point it starts to burn them from inside and they need an outlet for that. And they might choose metal screaming, I mean you cannot do it silently, you HAVE to let it out- it’s also a matter of technical safety for the voice. So a lot of times I see how voice training changes not only their voices but also their lives, because they feel “allowed” to get more vocal to express their emotions more freely. I teach not only how to train the voice but also work with the thoughts and beliefs, because where your mind goes, the voice follows. Sometimes students freak out that by the tone of their voice I can tell EXACTLY what they are thinking!
Singing and screaming absolutely is not only technical but mental! Often people who choose such an extreme form of vocalisation as screaming have a lot of intense, unprocessed feelings, that otherwise they don’t feel safe to express. It can range from a loss of a loved one, to an unhealed childhood trauma, or depression episodes or resentment etc. When students start lessons one of the first questions I ask is- why do you want to scream? I believe that screaming has to be justified. I mean we don’t go around and scream what a beautiful day it is, screaming is usually associated with anger, pain, very heightened emotions, protest, rebellion, there has to be some ‘emotional friction’, otherwise it is just a pure noise. I honestly have no interest in teaching someone to scream simply because they think it’s “cool”. Because I myself also scream with a purpose. When I fell into a severe depression many years ago, the lyrics and the way I sang back then was not enough to express what I was going through. There was a lot of “ugliness” in my mind that needed a release. So I went for metal, because it welcomes all the darkness and ugliness and it’s a place where it is ok to express that negativity. Actually, it’s more than that- it’s where you turn that negativity into something creative, into an art. What an amazing safe and meaningful outlet. I love a phrase my teacher Melissa Cross once said: “Don’t scream if you have nothing to scream about” and I totally agree. On the contrary, if you have something to scream about, it will be such a great therapy for you, it’s amazing how many famous metal vocalists admit that screaming is their form of therapy, including singers like Max Cavalera (ex-Sepultura, Soulfly) and Jonathan Davis (Korn), just to name a few. So you need a vocal technique for sure, it is a ‘safety net’ to express your emotions, otherwise you will destroy your voice. As the name “extreme vocals” imply- it is a high risk activity but with the techniques and training, this outlet of intense emotions can be so rewarding. For some people, screaming is an ugly sound, for some it’s beautiful, but for some- it’s meaningful. I cannot count the times when someone has said that my screaming and my lyrics have helped them to release and process their intense feelings. I think it’s one of the best compliments I can ever have as a vocalist. The amazing thing is when you are free to express yourself emotionally, other people feel safer to do the same thing too. It’s amazing how both the vocalist and listener can benefit from these extreme vocal sounds that some consider “just a pure noise.”
Janov, A. (1970). The primal scream: Primal therapy: The cure for neurosis.
Sharman, L., & Dingle, G. A. (2015). Extreme metal music and anger processing. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 9, 272.
Thank you to all of you who came to our first webinar
As part of the webinar and general celebrations we spent some time reflecting on the past year and also thinking about what we want to do next for year 3. We have come a long way in the last year, with the introduction of ‘merch’, development of playlists, and lots of work for the metal university being particular highlights! We have been pleased to get some cool feedback, but we also want to continue to progress into year 3. Here is what we came up with in terms of ideas for next year:
We hope to have a presence at some events and festivals next year and to be able to offer some well-being activities as part of this. We have a team of enthusiastic metalheads who can’t wait to get out there and meet you! We will have some ‘merch’ and things at these events as well, as merch was definitely a success of year 2 (re-stocking soon!).
Many conferences and events were cancelled in 2020 but we should be able to present a poster to the BAMT conference 2021, and out first book chapter (about awesome metalcore) should be published in October as well. We have lots of plans for writing more stuff for the metal university and maybe dipping our toes into some research as well.
We want to continue to support people using the online formats, so will continue with interactive things for social media. This will include a playlist amnesty, maybe more webinar type events and continued development of the metal health moshpit forum
We intend to develop some well-being resources around metal and mental health, for the website and at events, focused on the lived experience of metalheads.
It’s hard to believe that Heavy Metal Therapy is now 2 years old, things have changed a lot since we set up a little Facebook group for a few friends who thought metal music could be therapeutic. To mark the occasion this year we asked you lot to submit videos, quotes and stories about why metal is so important to you, and we summarised it in the little video below:
In the end we had so many profound and personal stories that we couldn’t include them all! However, one person submitted this slightly longer account which we think sums things up pretty well:
“Burn it down, burn it all down. I don’t give a fuck. Burn it all down, burn it to the ground. Feed the flames, go insane and burn it all down, burn it all down” Gasoline, I Prevail
As someone who has struggled with depression, suicidal ideation, and lack of anger control; metal has been my saving grace. I’m only 16 now, and started listening to metal from age 13-14, started off with Metallica and ACDC and now I listen to just about the entire spectrum of rock and metal. Now I can’t imagine my life without it. It helps me deal with those emotions in a positive way as well as makes me feel less alone or hopeless. I don’t know what I’d do without metal music. I often try to find songs with lyrics describing my situation or what I’m feeling, and let me tell you there is nothing more liberating than screaming “fuck what they say, fuck everything” (Gasoline, I Prevail) at the top of your lungs with music blasting out in the background after finding out something related to past trauma and abuse. Metal music is the one thing that can hold me together, no matter the situation causing me to feel like I’m falling apart again. My parents have put me in therapy and on medications but none of that has helped me deal with the monsters in my head and in my life. Metal has been there and its always been very consistent, and I hope it stays that way because I can’t imagine life without it, let alone a healthy, mentally stable life. Metal music is imperative for my mental wellbeing and is one of few things that keep me going in my day to day life..
Thank you to everyone who contributed to this (and everything on the site really!). Hope to see you later for our webinar.
You know what people love? Security, routine and a sense of identity. We won’t admit it, we like to think we are creatures of adaptability, but change the layout in a supermarket and we lose our fucking minds. And you know that’s a rough thing because the one consistent in life is change.
We are actually okay with change as long as it’s a gradual thing, but accelerated change really throws us. It doesn’t have to be bad either. The process of adapting to a promotion can be just as traumatic as losing a job. When change happens, it shifts us from a secure and confident state to a yearning for what we had. It makes us critical, defensive and often in a state of denial. It makes us resistant to any further change (which is very counterproductive) and for some of us it makes us want to numb the sensation.
Sitting with the experience, accepting change and being curious are an amazing way to get to the other side. Learn new things, especially about yourself. Be humble in how you approach things and fearlessly connect with people like your life depended on it (it may well do).
If you are living with a mental health difficulties it changes you in ways that are hard to describe to those who haven’t. You go through a process of healing from the initial symptoms but there is the fallout to deal with. I have lost multiple jobs and relationships due to how I and others have managed my episodes. That’s entire identities, pieces of me, gone. Following these social changes is the big churn of where you stand in life. How you and loved ones deal with it is just as essential as the treatment for the actual symptoms.
The good news is if you have been in that position you know that life goes on and there are always good times coming. Some changes have been useful and I would make a strong argument for mental health symptoms being a clumsy attempt for your mind to make things better. My PTSD and depression forced me leave jobs that not only did I hate, they were killing me through stress. I have tried things and had experiences I never would have had before. If this happens to you often you know that sometimes it’s best to just go with it. The more you lose identities the better at it you get at making new ones. Some of us chronic sufferers who are always starting over would probably make great secret agents.
This is why people who have been through mental health problems often make great mental health workers. We have seen the other side of it, it gets better if you can hold on a little longer. We get you man.
So where the fuck does metal lie in this?
I have said this before but I haven’t had many constants in my life. Friends and even family have walked on and off the stage and like many people there is no job for life, no house for life and no guarantees. Every so often it feels like I restart my life. I have some amazing family. I have wonderful friends, mostly beautiful batshit metalheads (big love you magnificent bastards) but we are two points of the compass away from each other and I rarely physically see them, especially post Covid.
Metal and our culture are constant. It’s a reverberating throbbing riff through my, and my friends’ lives. Any city I moved to I have instantly sought connection with the local metal culture and never been left without company. It’s like a religion I can find a congregation of in most towns and feel supported by brutally honest, loud and caring people.
At the time of writing there is a global pandemic. We are all going through changes and there is a phenomenal amount of uncertainty. I find I’m trying to hold on to constants and metal is very much one. Gigs, bars/clubs and festivals are off. I have started a nightly ritual I have with my daughter where that we listen to metal together while we eat. We even have a dance and a mini circle pit in the confines of my single bedroom flat and you know what… it’s fucking awesome.
It’s a long way from the hard press of bodies, the loudness and the thrill of seeing bands live. A million miles away from laughing with mates in a rock bar. It is, however, tying me over and a reminder that even as things change I have some constants.
Look after yourselves and the guy/gal next to you. We will get through this.
**Change (in the house of flies) obviously belongs to the fab Deftones, we own nor claim any rights to it
Next week we will be speaking at MHBlogAwards 2020. Get an insight to the sessions by watching the speakers video (link below).
What do you need to know before the day: – Tickets to the zoom hosted event are £2.95 (https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/86239920925) – Event programme can be found here (https://www.mhblogawards.com/programme) – Awards voting will happen on the day, & is only available to event attendees (Polling link will be sent in the zoom chat) – Email sent to attendees with additional information and zoom link one week prior to the event. – End event announcement