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I’m In Between Therapists So I Made a Rap Album

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I’m writing this from my couch on my 26th birthday.

Last year on my 25th birthday (I age consecutively like many people), I wished on a flaming chocolate cake to work with the television writer who had unknowingly mentored me for years through my development as a writer and storyteller.

The next week, that wish became reality as I locked in dates with his assistant to travel to Los Angeles where I would collaborate with my TV hero on what would ultimately turn into my album — DISTURBED DEPRESSED INADEQUATE. The stars had aligned, the birthday gods had smiled upon me with favor, and the lewd inside-joke rap song I made and tweeted at him was proving to be the most fruitful creative choice of my career.

I put a lot of pressure on this meeting. This was, after all, my shot to prove myself to the man who picked up the slack where my film school curriculum fell short. I got myself in the room and now I had to deliver the goods.

Miraculously, unlike most things I overthink and assign too much value to, it was an overwhelming success that surpassed my wildest expectations. My pathological hunger for validation was satiated beyond anything I had experienced up to that point. Every need I’d ever discussed in therapy — to be seen and appreciated, to enter a room without having to defend or justify my value — was fulfilled within those two perfect fairytale days. It was recognition, it was a cosign, it was encouragement from the person whose opinion I craved most. I had never been happier or believed in myself more.

That second night, when I went home to a friend’s empty apartment on what had been the best day of my life, my dopamine high steeply plummeted. I had never been more depressed and oh baby, being depressed is what I do. I finally got what I wanted, but it didn’t fix anything. I was still broken and I decided then I could never be happy.

I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for all of my adult life. It’s truthfully the only thing I’ve ever struggled with. I lead a very charmed privileged existence, save for the fact that my brain doesn’t always work right. I’m a passionate and creative person with an artistic vision and a matching set of skills. Unfortunately, most of my creations never see the light of day, because at some point in the process I’m incapacitated by debilitating self-doubt and loathing.

So when propositioned by a creative role model to make a rap album, the only struggles I felt qualified to draw from were the ones taking a shit on my brain every single day. What resulted was a form of self-imposed exposure therapy in which I wallowed in my own neurotic filth for months, boiled down my cathexes into tight lyrical narratives and set them to music. It was in part an attempt to simplify, title and conquer my demons. On top of that, I hoped it would serve as some medicine for other people who suffer like me.

I certainly didn’t cure myself, but like most art it was a way to process and give language to abstract pain. Recently, a couple months after completing the album and then stepping away from it, I finally listened back, ready to hate it as I do most work that’s behind me. But I didn’t. It actually cheered me up and made me feel less alone, if only for a short period of time. Sure I wrote it about myself for myself, but I couldn’t help but think damn this is honest and relatable, this dude really gets me. My hope is that I’m not the only one who feels that way.

Tonight, for my birthday, my girlfriend served us an ice cream cake that was too frozen to stick candles into, so there were no magical wishes made. But I think that’s fine, because whatever I think I want, the real answer is probably just therapy.

I should really, really be in therapy.

As I sit here on the couch next to my loving partner, stressed and hating myself about how bad this essay is turning out, I take comfort in knowing whatever I do, whatever I make, I’ll never be free of this delicious cake’s existential frosting question: Is this what you wanted?

A cake with the words "Is this what you wanted?" on it

You can find on DISTURBED DEPRESSED INADEQUATE on iTunes and Spotify.

Lead photo provided by contributor

Originally published: November 14, 2018
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