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8 Songs I Connect to as Someone With PTSD

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I listen to a lot of music, especially on my drives to work. I dislike silent driving, and sometimes shouting the lyrics to a random song helps to block out bad thoughts. But recently, I realized that I was coming up with a lot of the same songs, and so I decided to go on a hunt for some more. In the process, I started finding some music I hadn’t heard in a long time that struck a new chord with me now that I was hearing it again. But more than that, I found songs that understood me. They get what it’s like to have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and to feel like you’re stuck with it forever, even if that isn’t necessarily what the song is intended to be about. They get what it’s like to be trapped in a bad situation, to feel like you aren’t human, to not understand what’s wrong with you, to wish you could disappear.

• What is PTSD?

In no particular order, these are some songs that I’ve been playing on repeat lately and singing along with as loud as I can. These are songs that are helping me right now. They are not necessarily the best songs in the world and I wouldn’t call all of them favorites of mine, but right now, they are something.

“Disturbia” by Rihanna

This has always been my favorite Rihanna song, but I hadn’t listened to it in quite some time until I recently started scouring my computer for new songs to add to my car music rotation. Right away, it struck me just how well the lyrics capture how it feels on the bad days. Some of the lines feel like they were something I thought at one point, and one of them really is something I thought at one point and still do: “I feel like a monster.”

2. “So Long Sentiment” by Cell Dweller

I will clarify that the particular version of this song I like most is the metal remix by Paul Udarov. I feel like it perfectly conveys the torture of being enslaved to your own self-hatred and feeling like you’ll never forget what happened to you or be able to make peace with it, and the knowledge that one day you’ll hit the bottom and find nothing left. There’s also that hint of sadness at finally being away from a bad situation: you did what you were supposed to do and got out, and you’re lucky for it… but there’s always that reminder that safety does not equal being well.

3. “Alice” by Avril Lavigne 

This song was written for the soundtrack to the 2010 “Alice in Wonderland” adaptation by Tim Burton. I’ll be honest here. I’m not Avril Lavigne’s biggest fan, and the glaring flaw with this song in particular is that she doesn’t so much sing the lyrics as she shouts them directly into your ear at full volume. But although I can’t really call that a good quality track, I feel like it kind of suits the song in a way. Have you ever had a day where you’re just like, “Fuck it! I left and now I’m here and life sucks but this is where I am damn it!” It’s like that, but as a song about “Alice in Wonderland” with some really nice instrumental work going on.

4. “Where Is My Mind?” by Yoav featuring Emily Browning 

Written for the 2011 movie Sucker Punch, which sadly seemed to put all of its effort into the visuals and not very much at all into the story (but that’s another review). It carries an air of drifting away in the sea. I’m slowly realizing that I might have a fondness for water. It starts out softer and slower, but towards the middle it suddenly explodes and remains loud up until the very end, when it becomes calm yet sad. It feels like the arc of a typical day for me. I wake up tired. Things build up and build up until they blow up. When I finally manage to sleep, I’m only kind of calmed down because I’m finally exhausted.

5. “Fields of Innocence” by Evanescence 

I almost feel like it’s cliche to say that a song from Evanescence really speaks to me. But something I find myself thinking about a lot is a simpler time when I didn’t know how bad things could get, and that nostalgia is at the heart of this song. There aren’t a whole lot of different lyrics, but they get right to the point and say what they need to say. I kind of associate it with an image of a little kid running through the snow, laughing, blissful without the knowledge that their happiness will one day come crashing down. Yes, I know that sounds kind of messed up.

6. “Into the Ocean” by Blue October 

This song was inspired by lead singer, Justin Furstenfeld’s own struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts, and has helped many listeners who deal with the same things. It tells the story of a boy who falls or jumps off a ship and slowly drowns because he doesn’t know how to swim. Right before the end, he is able to relax when he pictures the face of someone who loves him. It’s then revealed that the first half of the song was just a dream that the boy was having, but he still wishes that he could drift away peacefully, just like he imagined. It’s not necessarily death that we always want; it’s a peaceful end to all the pain and suffering that we endure every day.

7. “Love Lockdown” by Kanye West 

In the spirit of honesty, I will admit that I don’t really like Kanye West as an artist and tend to avoid almost all of his music. This song has always been a singular exception. I like the beat and I like the story it tells of going back and forth in a relationship, loving the person and wanting to stay but knowing that it just isn’t working anymore. The chorus is a bit loud and jangly, but the verses have a great sense of manic indecisiveness that really spoke to me.

8. “Till It Happens To You” by Lady Gaga

I don’t want to sound like I’m hating on positive thinking and uplifting advice in general, but I really hate being told that “it gets better.” To me, it sounds like filler. It sounds like something you’re saying because you don’t know what else to say, or because you don’t want to be faced with the fact that it doesn’t always just get better. This song is what I want to say back to all those people. The music itself is almost painful to hear and the video is heartbreaking, and the message is simple, clear and powerful. Overall, it feels like one of the most important songs I’ve heard in a while.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

Thinkstock photo via Halfpoint

Originally published: June 28, 2017
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