Keane week on One Week // One Band, TWLOHA, and depression

As described in this post from back in April, I have been working on a series of articles about a particular band during my takeover of a Web site called One Week // One Band. I had been thinking about contributing for some time, but I didn’t sit down and starting drawing up an outline until I was on my way to Austin by plane for SXSW 2015. Due to many factors including extenuating circumstances in my department at work in April, physical and mental exhaustion, and preparing to go to England and Ireland to cover music festivals and shows in May, I ended up getting delayed with my writing and had to ask OWOB editor Hendrik if I could have more time. I thank him a whole lot for being so flexible. I knew I really wanted to do a good job with and be proud of the content I would share with the world, and I couldn’t when I wasn’t in an inspired state to write.

I find it strangely coincidental that during my time of listening and relistening to Keane songs I had known so well for this project, I found myself in a bad place emotionally and actually really and truly needed Keane there for me right then. There wasn’t a particular stressor or trigger; things in my life have just snowballed and some incidents on my trip acted like a slap in the face, and in rapid succession. Perhaps it was when I had finally boarded my very delayed flight back to Washington and watched the film ‘version’ of To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) that my body at last decided to respond to this wakeup call. Had I been anywhere else but in an airplane over the Atlantic, I would have been freaking out, shaking wildly, pacing back and forth. Instead, I excused myself to one of the lavatories and just stayed in there, sobbing for over 15 minutes, blowing my nose, and wiping my eyes until I felt I could emerge and pass myself off as normal.

Right. Normal. Something most people pull off effortlessly every day, and yet on this Sunday afternoon, I couldn’t.

On a nighttime run this past week, I thought about a time some years ago when I was in the office kitchen, waiting in line to use the sink to wash my hands. Two of my coworkers were chatting. I remember the moment vividly, because I’d walked into the room as one of them said to the other that he couldn’t understand how someone could ever feel so bad and hopeless about his life that he would be driven to kill himself. He went to say to the other woman, “it’s unbelievable, I just don’t know anyone who is depressed!” He even laughed about it to her.

What? You’ve never met anyone who has depression? I almost turned around to leave. But I said silently to myself, “no. Stay. You can get through this. They’ll leave the room, and you’ll be fine.”

I sucked in my breath quickly and quietly to prevent myself from gasping. I couldn’t believe what I just heard. Wow, you really have no idea, do you?

That’s the thing about people who have depression. Unless we are physically incapable of getting out of bed and going to work, we look, sound, and generally act like everyone else. Because even on bad days – especially the bad days – we make an extra effort to hide how we feel. These comments I heard at work were not only hurtful to me personally but to each and every person who has struggled with their own battle with mental illness. Trivializing someone’s own struggles or worse, blaming the person for not seeking help fast enough as what happened in the case of the suicide of Robin Williams, just goes to show how ignorant modern society is about mental illness and how it can affect just about anyone.

Anyone. Young or old. Male or female. Rich or poor. With a job or without one. Any race, color, or religion. Depression doesn’t discriminate.

People who have depression have it for their whole lives. Although our lives are a sea of good days mixed in with the bad, and the ratio of the two varies over time, often it’s difficult to make other people see and understand that our struggle isn’t like a switch you can turn on and off easily. Taking medication or seeing a medical professional certainly helps to get you of the dark places you’ve been stuck in, but even with assistance, there are invisible scars under the surface everyone else can’t see.

Music is very therapeutic to me for one very good reason: I don’t need anyone else when I decide to invoke it to help me when I need it. I’ve not had an easy life. Just in the last 5 years, I have been betrayed, left behind, and had my heart broken numerous times. But music has been the one constant even when the people I loved and cared about the most decided to write me out of their lives. I hope this importance of music to me is evident through my week of writing about Keane, even if I don’t go into my personal life on each and every post.

Something I find very special about Keane is that although Tim Rice-Oxley doesn’t avoid talking about sad situations like breakups and broken hearts, overall there is still a lot of positivity, forward thinking, hope, and light in Keane’s songs. It’s easy to write a slow sad song that is nothing but blackness and shadows. It’s much more difficult to write a sad song with an upbeat tempo that makes the listener think of different ideas and outcomes for him/herself. That’s what Tim is able to do and better than anyone else.

‘Sea Fog’ from their fourth album ‘Strangeland,’ for example, sounds mournful because the protagonist has had to come to accept that this journey with his loved one has come to an end. But this acceptance is parallel to the acceptance that this is fate, that everything happens for a reason. And things do happen for a reason. I feel very sure of that. It’s just very hard to see the sun behind the fog when all you’re surrounded by is grey and darkness, to have enough faith that there’s a day on the other side of the night.

I could have given up so many times. But I’m still here. The music I love, including Keane’s, have played a huge part in making sure that I am.

You can read all my posts on Keane on One Week // One Band in chronological order through here.

You’ve got time to realise you’re shielded by the hands of love.

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