Tuning Out Depression: Foo Fighters

 

It’s times like these you learn to live again.” 

     – Foo Fighters, “Times Like These” from One by One

Of all the months of the year, January is the runt of the litter. Following the whirlwind of get-togethers with friends and family, staff parties, as well as the requisite gluttony that comes with the Christmas/holiday season, January is usually filled with a whole lot of blah, with a side of meh. It’s a time of new year’s resolutions where people have good intentions of attempting to better themselves, but realistically only end up purchasing gym memberships that don’t get used past February.

For me, January has taken on a special significance since it was January of 2013 when I was (finally) diagnosed with clinical depression. After years of either not wanting to admit that I had depression, or thinking I could just handle it by myself, it took a couple of mental breakdowns triggered by stress to finally wave the white flag and admit that I needed to get help. For the rest of my life I will always take the time every January to reflect and gauge how far I’ve come and what I still need to work on.

As I write this, it’s been just over three years to the day since I was diagnosed with depression and began what will be a lifelong healing process. I’ve come to terms with the fact that my life will be a continual state of “two steps forward, one step back.” A combination of running, working out, writing, reading, listening to great tunes, proper sleep, learning to better cope with stress, comedy, and anti-depressants will ensure I have good days. However, I will always have set-backs because the chemical imbalance in my brain will decide be an asshole from time to time. It’s my new reality so I have to do my best to take care of myself each day and deal with the cards I’ve been dealt. Every step I’ve taken these last three years are huge, but they will never compare to that crucial first step I took when I saw my family doctor because if I never got that help and got the ball rolling, well… there’s a good chance I wouldn’t be here to share my story.

One band that I will always link with my healing process is the Foo Fighters. While I wouldn’t rank them on my desert island list of greatest bands, Dave Grohl and company have had a knack for consistently writing uplifting rock anthems for two decades and counting. The music of the Foos will never epitomize the zeitgeist or be seen as “important” as Grohl’s prior band, but it’s safe to say that Grohl has (ever)long since escaped the daunting shadow of being the drummer in Nirvana.

The first Foo Fighters album (which was basically a Grohl solo album) and The Colour and the Shape are unquestioned classics, but their following albums tended to include killer rock radio singles with their share of filler. For me, this all changed with 2011’s Wasting Light. Reunited with Nevermind producer Butch Vig and featuring appearances from Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic and Hüsker Dü’s Bob Mould, Grohl and company seemed reinvigorated and showed that they mean business. Song for song, the Foos brought the goods.

The one song that instantly grabbed me from Wasting Light was “Walk.” Now, no one will be bold enough to rate Dave Grohl with the likes of Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan as a lyricist, but Grohl has an uncanny ability to write songs with universal themes that most people can relate to, without delving into the dreck and pandering of the Nickelbacks of the world. Shortly after this album came out I was in the midst of a rough stretch mentally, to put it mildly. My stress was compiling, my anxiety was becoming unbearable, and I was having more and more depressive episodes which would lead to two mental breakdowns within a couple months. I wasn’t quite ready to get help yet but I was determined to try to get through this rough patch primarily through running and music.

It was during this time that “Walk” really resonated with me, and the chorus has been somewhat of a mantra for me ever since.

“I’m learning to walk again

I believe I’ve waited long enough

Where do I begin?

I’m learning to talk again

Can’t you see I’ve waited long enough?

Where do I begin?”

     – Foo Fighters, Walk” from Wasting Light

For the last three years, it really has felt like I’m learning to walk again. After two mental breakdowns and going on antidepressants it felt like I was starting a brand new life. Whatever I saw as normal would be thrown out the window. I was broken and every day since then has been a slow process of building myself back up again. It would have been nice to just take my meds and then life would be all peachy keen again, but when you have depression and anxiety you quickly learn that medication is one small piece of the puzzle, and that every “happy pill” out there has its share of side effects and that it affects everyone differently. I was on a low dosage of antidepressants, but I found I had almost no energy most of the time, it was harder to concentrate, plus I would have more “brain farts” than usual. There’s nothing more frustrating than having a conversation with people and losing your train of thought mid-sentence and forgetting the simplest words you want to convey. But, despite the side effects, they really helped stabilize my nerves which was absolutely necessary.

A few months ago I decided to test out going without meds since I’ve made it a habit to read self-help books from the likes of Chris Grosso, Don Miguel Ruiz, and Eckhart Tolle. These authors have been a tremendous help in shifting my perspective to focus more on the present moment and not dwell on the past or worry about the future while seeing the world in a more positive light. Through reading, writing, exercise, music, etc I have a solid day-to-day routine to better handle my depression and anxiety, but there are some things that I still can’t shake and likely never will. I’ve been able to keep my depressive episodes down to a minimum and my social anxiety has drastically improved, but I still don’t have the energy I would like to have, I still have difficulty concentrating sometimes, it’s hard to feel super happy (or conversely, sad) about things, and I find myself becoming more irritable at situations that should just be minor nuisances. So I plan on talking to my doctor and trying a low dosage of a different antidepressant to help work these kinks out.

Treating depression and anxiety is a series of trial and error and I’ve accepted that this will be my reality for the rest of my life. But after looking back at where I was three years ago I’m in a much better state these days. It’s been a million small steps in the right direction with a thousand slight steps back, but I’m starting to become more of the JJ I feel can be. I’ve gone on a couple of vacations, emceed some cool events, seen some kickass concerts, and am gradually starting to get more of my mojo back. I have more and more moments where I feel like Dave Grohl screaming towards the end of “Walk.”

“You keep alive a moment at a time

But still inside a whisper to a riot

To sacrifice but knowing to survive

The first decline another state of mind

I’m on my knees, I’m praying for a sign

Forever, whenever

I never wanna die

I never wanna die

I never wanna die

I’m on my knees

I never wanna die

I’m dancing on my grave

I’m running through the fire

Forever, whatever

I never wanna die

I never wanna leave

I’ll never say goodbye

Forever, whatever

Forever, whatever”

     – Foo Fighters, Walk” from Wasting Light

Depression sucks, but when you simplify things and focus on living one moment at a time it makes life much more manageable. And right now I never wanna die. Three years ago I could not have made that claim so I’ve come a long way.

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2 thoughts on “Tuning Out Depression: Foo Fighters

  1. Thank you for writing this piece. I’ve recently gone on anti-depressants for the same issues you discussed and tonight on my drive home from work, Walk came on and it resonated with me more than any other time I’ve ever listened to it before. To the point where I studied the lyrics and figured out how they relate to my particular life and place in time. Your honesty and openness is greatly appreciated. Thanks again for sharing.

    Like

    1. No problem. Part of my healing process has been talking and writing about it. The more I share the more I realize that tons of other people are going through the same thing.

      Like

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