I love music. But there isn’t much out there for me. See, I’m asexual. So that eliminates most songs. I am fine listening to them, but they don’t really speak to me. Second, I’m really into mental health. That has not been explored in music that much beyond the classic angsty and vague songs. They also tend to talk about the problem, not the solution. At some point I decided I wanted to change that.
It all started when I began to watch the animated TV show Steven Universe. (Yes, I’m 16 and it’s a kid show, but I recommend it to any adult). This show completely changed my perspective. Not only was it LGBT friendly, but it openly talked about mental health, from things like consent, PTSD, self-esteem, death, depression, and toxic relationships in a digestible manner. Because it adds one thing-kindness. All of the characters have their flaws, but they are also incredibly kind and often open on the show about the problems they deal with.
At the time, I was dealing with many life problems. It felt so strange to feel like there were people on screen like me, who weren’t celebrating their angstiness, but really dealing with the weight of their problems.
But I digress. What I really loved about this show was the music. It was some of the first that I’d heard depicting healthy ways to deal with several mental health problems. “Here comes a thought”, a song sung by Estelle depicts ways to deal with turbulent emotions by accepting them. “True kinda love” also by Estelle talks about the importance of loving yourself. “Be wherever you are” talks about the importance of staying in the moment, and how magical it can be, especially with other people. The show does not hold back song genres either. They have styles anywhere from electro to your classic campfire ukulele music. If you want to listen to these songs, check them out on YouTube or Spotify.
One of the show’s episodes even made me stand up to my abusive dad, leading to our separation and the space I needed to heal. Before the show, I didn’t know that life could be different, that I didn’t have to have an abusive dad, I didn’t have to suffer. I really didn’t know that there was a way out, or that this wasn’t normal. One of the things the main character says to an abusive mother figure that really hit me was “this isn’t normal”.
My songwriting came about while I was going through therapy, in an attempt to fix the aftermath of a lot of traumatizing events. As you might guess, my mind was full of thoughts and feelings and music was how I let it out. Listening to Steven universe songs helped, but I realized I wanted to write something more personal about what i’d learned in therapy and through my experience. I wrote my songs as poems and later converted them by adding chords based on many of the show’s songs. I would keep writing a song about a certain topic that was bothering me until I had dumped all the thoughts I had about it, and therefore resolved it by letting it out into the world, unashamed of it. What better way to let out your feelings constructively than in a beautiful song that others can enjoy and learn from?
My first one was about the weight of my past problems putting me down, but my desire to get out, and understanding that things were better now. My second one was about the toughness of change in the sense of letting go of toxic people and experiences. My third one was me being open about my nostalgia and guilt for the good past I left behind, but my willingness to learn from it. And the fourth one, my favorite, talks about how important it is not to shame yourself for feelings, after all you can’t control them.
I talk about the ridiculousness of people shaming people for their emotions. Why be sad that you’re sad? Sounds ridiculous right? What’s even worse than a negative emotion? Feeling invalidated and ashamed of what you’re feeling. It was very important for me to write this song, because it was my way to deal with my father’s abuse. He was a gas lighter. Those people make you feel like your feelings aren’t real, or don’t matter. Not the most supportive dad right? Whenever me and mom experienced any emotion, we were put down and shamed for it. And think about, you feel A LOT of the time. It’s a natural reaction to experience. I realized people do this in normal life too, and it leads to a lot of problems. Many people live with their own feelings wound up tight and take them to the grave. They end up lashing out in their lifetime and making themselves miserable by shaming themselves for feelings that aren’t their fault.
I love my songs, but what I want more than anything is for more people to write these emotionally open songs. I had a lot of fun with it; it was a way to turn my pain into something beautiful. I also want more songs like this on commercial markets, and not just tucked away in shows, so I could know earlier that I deserve better, and that my feelings matter, and that there are others going through the same thing who can support me.. Good luck to all of you out there. Thank you.