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Tracking How My Depression Has Evolved Over the Years Through These 8 Songs

Music has saved my life more than once, and I mean that quite literally. When my depression is especially bad, I turn to music. I’ve always found that listening to music helps me work through the intensity of what I’m feeling, and there are songs that distinctly stand out from certain periods of my life. I can go back to a song I listened to years ago during a rough patch, and I’m immediately brought back to that time in my life.

I created a timeline of my depression using these songs, because I find it shows how my depression has evolved over the years, and how I’ve changed.

The “Pre Depression” Era (before 2012)

I started experiencing depression when I was 11 or 12, but didn’t have the words for it or know what it was. I remember listening to these songs in my teenage years and relating to them, but not understanding that I probably had depression.

1. “How To Save A Life” by The Fray

I think this was the first song I heard that ever talked about struggling in this kind of way before, and it stuck with me. I felt so hopeless, and like I was all alone, so I took a lot of comfort in the idea that people would stay up with someone all night to save them or help them.

2. “If I Die Young” by The Band Perry

When I first started experiencing suicidal ideation, I remember it being so all encompassing. I thought about what it would be like if I died a lot. I spent time thinking about my funeral, and how people would react. I think it helped me stay alive in some way because I didn’t want to make anyone sad. But I also never really thought I’d live a long life, so the sentiment of “If I die young” felt very relatable for me.

3. “Life is Beautiful” by Vega4

I played this song on repeat when I was a depressed teenager, hoping that I would start to believe that life was beautiful. I liked that the song talked about how hard life can be. It was comforting to hear the juxtaposition of “life is beautiful / but it’s complicated / we barely make it.” With so much toxic positivity, this different take meant a lot to me.

The Big Sad Era (2012-2017)

The year I was officially diagnosed with depression and started to take medication was rough. I was constantly suicidal and attempted to take my life on more than one occasion. This patch lasted about five years, and music was a consistent lifeline. I’ve sometimes called this time in my life The Dark Ages, because it was such a bad and hard time in my life. I didn’t know how to cope with the pain I was in, and felt very out of control.

4. “Where Is My Mind” by Maxence Cyrin

I don’t remember when I heard this song for the first time, but it was the song I would play every time I had a panic attack, every time I was trying to push down the urge to self harm, every time I cried myself to sleep. It’s difficult for me to listen to when I’m feeling OK because it takes me to those moments, but I still go to it in my hardest moments.

5. Kodaline’s “Coming Up For Air” album

I listened to this album a lot during this time, but especially “Honest,” “Unclear,” and “Lost.” I enjoyed the calm, sad sound of their music, but the lyrics often said the words I didn’t have myself. When you’re depressed, it’s so hard to talk and articulate yourself. The lyrics made me feel less alone without me having to talk about what I was feeling.

The Living With Depression Era (2017-Present)

By this point, depression had become a part of my life and I knew it wasn’t going anywhere. I started to accept my depression more, and while I still get very depressed and experience suicidal ideation, I understand how to cope with it better.

6. “Broken” by lovelytheband

It’s catchy, it’s dancey, it’s the song I blast when I’m getting some air and blowing off steam. The upbeat melody tricks me into feeling a bit better, while still talking about being lonely and broken.

7. “Shadow” by Birdy

There’s something hauntingly beautiful about Birdy’s voice, and I remember listening to this song non-stop in 2019. Depression is like a shadow that always follows me around, so this song was fitting. But yet there was something comforting about this song as well — the idea that maybe the people in my life are shadows too, and will be around no matter what.

8. “Let It All Go” by Birdy

2019 was a BIG year for me and Birdy. I had to take a mental health leave from work, and this song was one I listened to every day. I was broken, and the line “I don’t know why we break so hard” hit so close to home, and the idea of letting things go was a very important theme for me at the time. I was holding onto a lot, and I needed to let go.

There are at least 20 more songs that belong to each of these eras, because I’m almost always listening to music. These stand out a lot as important ones, but you can hear more of them here. Music will always be a huge part of my journey with depression, and even now listening to these songs again, I can feel the pain from different points in my life when these songs were important. I feel lucky that I had these songs to help me through, and I hope that there is always a song to help you with the hard moments.

Getty image by Delmaine Donson

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