I encountered Matchbox 20 in my teens, and then got to know their work better in my 20s. Frankly, Rob Thomas could not have come into my life at a better time. I don’t know whether Rob has ever been diagnosed with depression, but his music certainly reads and feels like he has.
“Can you help me?
I’m so scared that I’ll never
get put back together”
Bent (Mad Season)
Rob Thomas gave me a frame of reference for what it felt like to be broken and to be scared that you’d forgotten how to be whole again.
“You show your pain
like it really hurts
but I can’t even
start to feel mine”
Could I Be You (More Than You Think You Are)
He gave me a frame of reference for my anger with the people around me who made mountains out of their molehills when I was struggling to even stand on my own feet.
“I got a disease deep inside me
Disease (More Than You Think You Are)
For the first time I felt like I could explain to someone that this sadness and bitterness and anger was poisoning me and rotting me away inside.
“I don’t wanna be the crutch
one step away from down”
Crutch (Mad Season)
I felt like I was holding myself up, acting as my own crutch, as well as being one to half the people around me. It wasn’t ok for me to fall, otherwise they would fall too.
I could go on… but these aren’t the song of the week. This week’s Song Of The Week is ‘Unwell’ from the More Than You Think You Are album.
This song finally got across to me the idea that those feelings of sadness, emptiness and numbness might not just be part of who I was. They were symptoms, side effects, clues to the real problem – that my brain was not working the way it should have been. It was another few years before I sought help, but when I did I came back to this song and it struck such a raw nerve. I had been begging people to help me, but I hadn’t been using any of the right words. And mind-blowingly, they had been there all along.
Enduring a mental illness is a difficult thing at any time, but for young people in their 20s who have moved away from home to go to University, built a new network of friends and who might be removed from their families and still struggling to find their feet in their independence after graduation, this sort of experience can be life-rending. The people who you had depended on start to see you as different, respond to you differently and expect different things from you, and those things are not always pleasant. When you become the person who doesn’t go to parties, doesn’t attend big social events, doesn’t want to be in a room full of people, it’s amazing how quickly your social life drops away and at the time you need them most, the people around you vanish.
I remember being sat on the floor of my room, wedged under my desk, sobbing until I retched, desperately wanting help and not knowing how to get it, how to reach out and ask for it. This song is what I wanted to say during the times I couldn’t speak, when I couldn’t vocalise what I was going through.
Feeling like I’m heading for a breakdown
and I don’t know why
But I’m not crazy
I’m just a little unwell
I know right now you can’t tell
But stay a while and maybe then you’ll see
a different side of me
I’m not crazy
I’m just a little impaired
I know right now you don’t care
But soon enough you’re gonna think of me
And how I used to be”
I’m going to link you the acoustic version of Unwell, because this just breaks my heart, as much as it speaks from the depths of it.
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