When you fall in love, you just know. There is no concrete way to define it; you just know what it feels like. Similarly, and paradoxically, when you hit rock bottom, you just know.
I hit rock bottom on January 30, 2017, the day I attempted suicide for the fourth time in eight days.
Each time I attempted suicide, the song I played in the background was “Goodbye” by WVNDER. I used to think it was a very dark song until I truly listened to the words. The last line in the song goes, “Just as the earth and steel collide, my second thoughts all scream survive.”
After swallowing a large number of sleeping pills, and as I began to feel myself fade, I discovered first-hand just how accurate those words are. I also began to feel the most intense terror and fear I had ever felt in my life. I called 911 on myself, explained what happened, and then passed out. I woke up in the ER to get my stomach pumped, and then slept for an entire day before I woke up and realized exactly what I had done.
Anxiety and depression had swallowed me whole. I was in the darkest place I have ever known. I lived in a colorless world, drowning in a dark pool, dragged down by my own demons while a team of lifeguards stood around the edge with their backs turned, deaf to my cries for help.
After receiving medical attention for three days, I decided to enter a psychiatric unit voluntarily to receive help for my depression and anxiety. On my first day, I saw a man covered in his own feces. The very next day that same man played the Moonlight Sonata on the piano that was in the unit. As I sat and listened, I cried silently at the beauty of the moment. Seeing someone who was clearly struggling but also able to produce such beautiful music overwhelmed me.
There was also a girl in my unit who had brought with her a ukulele, and she played a song she had written herself that was quite poetic. She also played “River Flows in You” by the Korean pianist Yiruma. In that moment, it sounded better than the original version.
In total, I spent 10 days in that psychiatric unit attending countless therapy sessions in an attempt to clear my head. After a long internal struggle, I came to terms with the fact that I was an out-of-control drug addict with serious mental health issues, and that I needed further help. I was deep into a Xanax and Klonopin addiction that I could no longer control. This was when I began to look for treatment centers that could help me with my issues.
As a naive twentysomething, I didn’t even know that one could go to treatment for anxiety and depression. It wasn't until Kid Cudi publicly announced he was entering rehab for anxiety and suicidal thoughts that I realized I had an alternative path. His music played a big role in my adolescence, and now he was helping to save my life by sharing his struggles with the world. In my opinion, “Trapped in my Mind” will always be the most accurate portrayal of what it is like to live with mental health issues.
When I entered treatment, I was forced to give up my iPhone. I missed listening to music terribly. That is, until in my second week at rehab, when I was gifted an iPod shuffle by a departing patient. It was only 2GB, room enough for about 150 songs, but I quickly filled it up with some of my favorites—"Why Don't U" by Father, "F*ck Her Brains Out" by Montana of 300, "Chill Bill" by Rob $tone.
Around the same time I regained the ability to listen to music at the treatment center, I also met a girl who encouraged me to take a deeper dive into the lyrics of songs. She began by playing Panic! At the Disco, whose lyrics were surprisingly relatable. She showed me lines from songs that most people would just gloss over, but to her, they were so profound. In return, I played her “Human Performance” by Parquet Courts, which includes the lyrics, “It never leaves me, just visits less often. It isn’t gone and I won’t feel its grip soften, without a coffin.” I had never paid much attention to that line until she told me how much it meant to her.
She also showed me snippets of music videos that seemed minuscule to me but painted such a vivid picture for her. First came “Robbers” by The 1975, but she muted the sound and played the song “If I Get High” by Nothing But Thieves. The audio-visual combination was a perfect match. When we needed a pick-me-up and wanted to have fun, we listened to “Intro” by Lil Yachty.
For 110 days, I called a treatment facility my home, working day in and day out on my depression, anxiety, and general outlook on life. More than any other activity, gathering and discussing music with other patients is what helped me pass the time. These were people who had been through tremendous hardships in life, and so the music they enjoyed was usually profoundly emotional. Hearing the stories behind these songs and about their lives, the process of discovering such expressive music through relative strangers, is really what saved my life.
I now have an iPod with over 1,000 songs that I gathered from the most interesting people I’ve ever met. I wouldn’t be who I am today without the music I discovered while in treatment—or possibly, even alive.
One song that's been particularly important to me of late is Logic's current single, “1-800-273-8255.” The song presents a very accurate portrayal of a person's battle with suicidal thoughts. "I finally wanna be alive, I don’t wanna die today," Logic raps.