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Why Taylor Swift’s Discography is More Than Just Music to Me

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I have been a self-proclaimed “Swiftie” since 2006, when 8-year-old me first heard the sweet country sound of “Teardrops on My Guitar” on the radio. As Taylor grew up and her music matured, so did I – and in many ways, her music has always found a way to relate to me, even with our eight year age gap. But I didn’t just relate to her music because I could sing along to in the car or embrace my teen heartbreak to her break-up songs — although, both of these are definitely the case, too! In a turn of surprising events, I actually found that her music began to resonate with my adult experiences with mental illness.

In September 2017, I was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, about a week before I decided to drop out of university for a year. My agoraphobia had become so intense that I was barely able to leave the house and when I did, I would stand in front of lecture halls in tears because I couldn’t force myself to walk through the door. During my year-off, I wandered around my home listlessly, feeling isolated and alone as the rest of the world moved on and I got stuck behind.

Then, on Nov. 10, 2017, Taylor Swift dropped the album, “Reputation.”

As most people know by now, the “Reputation” album mainly chronicles Taylor’s disappearance from the public eye in 2016 after the feud between her and Kanye West made her a target of online bullying and media smear campaigns. While her experience is far different than my own, the new lyrics that she was singing resonated with me deeply. Both of us had somehow been severed from the outside world, from what we were once familiar with, and had to find a way to come to terms with the new chapter of our lives. Songs about finding companionship in her boyfriend, Joe Alwyn, spoke to my relationship with my boyfriend (now fiancé) who stood by my side during the worst days of my mental illness. Lyrics like, “Even in my worst times, you could see the best of me,” from her song, “Dress,” spoke to the way I felt in that moment of time, when I felt like no one else could relate to me.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, my mental illness has been a constant struggle. When you spend years fighting irrational thoughts that tell you that the outside world is dangerous, it is hard to grapple with a reality that fits those fears. Just as I had been getting my mental health into a place that I was proud of, the pandemic came along and threw a wrench in all my plans. But then in July 2020, and then again in December 2020, Taylor Swift dropped two record-breaking albums,  “Folklore” and “Evermore,” and I was shocked at what I found. Her lyrics felt like they were written just for me.

Both albums present a heavy theme of mental health and isolation, a result of the times in which the lyrics were written. While almost everyone who has lived through the pandemic can relate to these songs, my experience with mental illness has allowed me to interpret and resonate with her lyrics in a whole other way. Songs like “Peace,” where she questions her ability to provide her partner with security in spite of the chaos in her life, and “Evermore,” where she describes a transformation from depression to hope, speak to moments of my adulthood. Unlike other artists where I enjoy and sometimes relate to their music, there are few artists’ music that I have found I could relate to so deeply.

As a lifelong “Swiftie,” I will always love Taylor’s music. But as an adult with mental illness, it will always be so much more than just music to me.

Photo via Taylor Swift “Evermore” album

Originally published: March 20, 2021
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