I’ve fought depression most of my life. I assume many overweight teens have similar stories to mine. I struggled so desperately to fit in, never feeling comfortable within my own skin. It sucks being a teenage outcast. Always wanting to be the hero of the story, destined to be a background character. You’re on your own. Stuck on an island of hurt and desolation, where every day is cloudy. You try to talk about your feelings with your parents, but when they’re just as emotionally damaged as you are, you really realize how fucked up the world is. You find yourself just going through the motions, holding on to the little moments of happiness that washed up on the shore from time to time. Only to realize that you’re still on that same island when the happiness runs out. I tell you all this, not to bring you down, but instead to tell you about the lifeboat I found in the form of August and Everything After by Counting Crows.
I was a husky sixteen-year-old with eyes for a high school cheerleader. We had talked a few times and she didn’t immediately reject me. She may have been out of my league, but I’d seen enough 80s teen movies to know that if I found a romantic way to ask her to the Homecoming dance that she would have no other choice than to say yes and we would be named Homecoming King and Queen. So, I did the most romantic thing that I could think of. I had a carnation delivered to her 4th hour class with a note asking her out. To my dismay, she said she would be out of town. Not to let rejection deter me, I did what any hopeless high school romantic would do. I went to the dance solo in search of love, only to find the girl who rejected me flying solo as well. I was crushed. She turned me down because she didn’t want to go with me, but didn’t have the heart to tell me. Instead, she made up a story about being out of town. She gave me a sympathy slow dance and when it was over, I left the dance emotionally devastated.
When I got home, I just wanted to be alone. I shared a room with my brother, so the only place I could be by myself was the bathroom. I grabbed my CD player and ran a shower. I put on August and Everything After and laid in the fetal position letting the shower wash away the tears of high school heartache. Track after track I found little pieces that spoke to me in the Crows’ lyrical stream of consciousness…
Then she looks up at the building
Says she’s thinking of jumping
She says she’s tired of life
She must be tired of something
At that point in my life, I had considered suicide on more than one occasion. I told my dad so many times that he got tired of listening. He told me that the shotgun was in the closet. Stop talking about it and go do something about it. Just Do It. A great slogan for selling shoes, but not the best advice when your kid tells you they want to kill themselves. When I heard that Girl on the Car in the Parking Lot tell me to take my shot, all I wanted to do was wrap her up in love. I wanted to take away that hurt, because I knew that hurt all too well.
We all want something beautiful
Man, I wish I was beautiful
Mr. Jones was the best friend I never had. That person that sees you and loves you for who you are. They don’t force you to be anything other than the best version of the person that you want to be. When I didn’t feel understood by anyone, Mr. Jones was there to tell me that I would never be lonely. A positive affirmation that I hear echo in my head to this day whenever I feel the grey starting to creep in. I never liked what I saw in the mirror, but the Crows and Mr. Jones told me that I wasn’t the only person who felt that way. If Adam Duritz could sing about insecurities on pop radio, maybe my situation wasn’t as unique as I thought it was?
Perfect Blue Buildings
Gonna get me a little oblivion baby
Try to keep myself away from me
My oblivion was the thing that I longed for more than anything: happiness. When happiness eluded me time and time again, I assumed that I was the problem. I was undeserving of the happiness that I could never sustain and therefore I didn’t want to have anything to do with myself. When all you ever feel is rejection, it’s not long until you start to look at yourself as a reject.
She’s talking in her sleep
It’s keeping me awake and Anna begins to toss and turn
And every word is nonsense but I understand and
Oh lord, I’m not ready for this sort of thing
Two people falling reluctantly in love, not wanting to admit it. Anna began to show me that even when you think you’re ready for love, there’s more work that needs to be done. Finding someone who loves you wasn’t the destination; it was the start of a bigger journey. When you get past the physical attraction and the moment of passion, then what? Where do you go from there? I couldn’t even handle my own emotional baggage, how was I going to deal with another person’s as well?
And I belong in the service of the queen
And I belong anywhere but in between
She’s been lying and I’ve been sinking
And I am the Rain King
This was my song. I deserved better than what that girl did to me. Whenever I sang this song, I sang it with conviction because I lived it. It empowered me and gave me strength when I had none. When I wanted to reject love, “Rain King” told me that I deserved a little more. My queen was out there. I just hadn’t found her yet.
Raining in Baltimore
And I get no answers
And I don’t get no change
It’s raining in Baltimore, baby
But everything else is the same
When you’re in that moment, nothing else matters but the hurt. You can’t see past it. You’re sure that your life is over, and yet the rest of the world just continues to roll on. What you don’t realize at the time is that heartbreak is a blip on the radar. One that you’re more than likely going to encounter on multiple occasions. Over time, the hurt starts to fade. Jokes start to be funny again. You catch your face doing something that resembles a smile despite your best efforts. In my cycle of depression, I always find myself at a point where I know that I am punishing myself for something that I shouldn’t be. That’s when the light starts to penetrate the darkness and I start to pull myself up off the floor.
A Murder of One
All your life is such a shame, shame, shame
All your love is just a dream, dream, dream
The closing track of any album is one of the most important. It’s an opportunity to leave the listener with a lasting impression. “Mr. Jones” and “Rain King” were glimmers of hope on an album full of melancholy. Had the Crows closed on another somber note, you might not be reading my column today. Instead, “A Murder of One” was an upbeat song of hope. If you weren’t happy where you were sleeping, you could change. If you didn’t want to waste your life, you could change. It was like being given permission to stop being hard on yourself. You’re only as far down as you choose to be. We get so consumed with little moments that we forget that there’s a million other moments out there just waiting to happen to us. The longer we dwell on that moment, the longer we deprive ourselves of anything else that’s coming our way in the future. “A Murder of One” closes with a mantra of Change. Change is never easy. It takes work and effort and some days you just don’t feel like working. Those are the days I revisit August and Everything After.
I crawled into the shower that October night a broken teenage boy. Over 51 minutes and 42 seconds I went on an emotional rollercoaster. Baptized by a band from the Bay Area. I had no idea what most of the lyrics were about at the time, but I heard myself in every song. By the time “A Murder of One” lifted me up off the shower floor, I was a little stronger. My broken heart now scarred over and slightly hardened. August wasn’t this magical album that cured my depression. It was a lifeboat that allowed me to get to the next island. A lifeboat that I still use to this day.
If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide, call 1-800-273-8255 in the U.S. and 1-833-456-4566 in Canada.