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How Metallica Lifted My Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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It’s especially important for those of us with bipolar disorder or other mental illness to constantly have something to look forward to. If we don’t, it’s easy to slip into a depression or worse. There’s been a lot of live music to be had during lockdown, and Metallica has been at the forefront.

But during lockdown and the aftermath, I’ve had the pleasure of watching a lot of “live from home” concerts from other artists. Ben Gibbard from Death Cab For Cutie and The Postal Service was broadcasting weekly from his Seattle home for a while. I’ve also watched live sets from Frank Turner, Dan Deacon and Waxahatchee. And I thoroughly enjoyed Lady Gaga’s “Together at Home” extravaganza back in April, featuring musicians including Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Lizzo, Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder.

But Metallica has been the band I’ve watched most during this pandemic. 

Get a load of this: I’ve lost count, but for more than 20 weeks now during the duration of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, I have tuned in to #MetallicaMondays on Facebook every week without fail. In fact, there are thousands of us jumpstarting our week with the thrash quartet — perhaps the most notorious heavy metal band of all time.  #MetallicaMondays has been my “thing to look forward to” all summer long. The band has been together since 1981 so there is a lot of concert footage to be had. They could probably continue doing #MetallicaMondays for years and not play the same concert twice. 

I’m not even that big of a Metallica fan, but I’m becoming one. I have “Master of Puppets” on vinyl, but that’s it. I look forward to Monday’s concerts as a way to feel a sense of community with everyone watching. Frontman James Hetfield calls us the Metallica family. I’ve touched upon Hetfield before, writing about his struggles with alcoholism as well as my own.

The Metallica family dials in live every Monday as the band unleashes a new full live concert from their vault. The concerts are then archived on YouTube. During the livestreams, we chat on Facebook while we watch and reminisce religiously every week. I haven’t skipped a single concert. Every Monday, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. CST, I’ve watched Hetfield, drummer Lars Ulrich, lead guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Rob Trujillo wow audiences from Portugal to Peru. 

Some of the older clips feature the beloved Cliff Burton on bass, as well as Jason Newsted who took over bass duties after Burton’s passing. Burton died in in a tragic bus accident in 1986.

These are taped concerts from all eras of the thrash metal juggernaut, streamed live, and then archived on YouTube. And some pretty good concerts, too. My favorite so far is a show at the Metro in Chicago in 1983, when the band was brand new and hawking their debut “Kill ‘Em All.”

I’ve said it before: I am a proud music addict. I’m a recovering alcoholic, and I describe my travails in my memoir The Bipolar Addict. Listening to music is a healthy cross-addiction for me. Instead of binging on beer every night, I binge on music. I listen intently for about two or three hours a night almost as a means of meditation.

Music is an intensely powerful and hellaciously galvanizing force. It fuels our existence, feeds the mind and scorches the soul. Some of us get goosebumps when we hear a favorite chorus, a dynamic solo or a particular lyric that resonates with us. And ultimately, music links itself indelibly to our memories.

I owe my sobriety to music. It helps me get through the roughest of times. When I listen to music, my anxiety and depression fade. It’s the one true escape I have in my toolbox.

And for me, the soundtrack these past months of COVID-19 that has lifted me up and kept me going has been Metallica.

Image via YouTube

Originally published: August 26, 2020
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