Yes, I guess technically every song tells a story. What we are interested in however are the songs that tell actual stories -stories about cowboys, and love and the day the music died. Songs are the smells of the ears, they can transport us places in an instant. All this week we are exploring these story songs and getting all Springsteen-y because it's winter now and all we want to do is stay inside and listen to music. - Dylan Wise
I say I hate country music because of the stories and dialogue but secretly most of my favourite songs are stories. I blame this on my love of the short story. I can tear through a collection of short stories in one night but it takes weeks for me to power through just one chapter in a book. Now, add the short story to music and keep it under 7 minutes in length and I am sold. It was hard to choose just one song. I kept thinking "oh this one's perfect", "no this one!" I finally settled on "Institutionalized" by Suicidal Tendencies. Wait, did I mention I also love songs that leave me wanting to fuck shit up? I do.
"It's like I concentrate real hard and it doesn't work out.
Everything I do and everything I try never turns out."
Let's get into some #realtalk - this song hits home. From elementary school until I finally sought help in my early twenties I was a mad woman. I was feeling feelings on top of feelings on top of complete emptiness. This is possible, I assure you. My most prominent feeling was anger, my second resentment. I was furious that I had to deal with these feelings all day-every day and that people around me didn't have to. I didn't understand how people could feel happy or be in love or be "chill." I didn't understand why no one else had this constant battle waging war inside, tearing them (sometimes literally) apart.
What made things worse was people saying "You're being such a bitch" or "It's not that bad" or the worst, oh god the worst "I know how you feel." I cringe now just thinking about that phrase. (side note: now, working in a clinical position, I make sure I never ever say those things to my students/clients.)
Even though I had this war inside my head I didn't tell anyone. I let them think I was a moody bitch because I was terrified of what would happen if I told anyone the extent of problems. I was terrified they would rush me down to EMH and I would be hospitalized - so I kept it all locked inside where it could fester and grow. I kept everything locked inside until I couldn't anymore and until I was glad to hear the words "Baby, do you want to go to the hospital?"
I never thought I'd be happy to hear that phrase but to me it was someone, my mum, realizing the extent of what I was dealing with and saying "I understand this is unbearable and out of your control. I understand that I can't help you on my own. I don't know how you feel and that's scaring me so I can't imagine how scary it is for you." I didn't go to the hospital but I did start attending therapy regularly and taking medication to fix my cycling moods.
Looking back on it all now I wish I had just been brave and asked for help when I was younger but we're all stubborn idiots when we're young, thinking we can slay any demon on our own but, we can't. No one can. "Institutionalized" reminds me of those endless battles in my brain and the battles I feared if I told anyone my secrets.
[Kelly Cashman is a writer & teacher who runs you are remarkable. She lives in Massachusetts and spends her free time reading tarot cards & lighting too many candles.]