I spent most of my teenage years as an awkward loner. I was never especially popular in school, and I got bullied a lot, because of the way I looked, and the way I dressed. I was also head over heels for a girl, who didn’t seem to have any interest in me. We’ve all been there though, right? I was left feeling like people didn’t understand me. People didn’t take the time to get to know me, and what I was all about. It left me feeling insecure and angry at everyone.
I was a bright kid, I had a loving family, it could’ve been much worse for me. I guess this made me worry that my problems weren’t important enough for anyone to take them seriously. So I bottled it all up. I occasionally confided in my two close friends about what was bothering me, and they were in a similar position to me. It was comforting to know that there was someone else like me.
But I still went through some of the darkest times of my life, feeling very isolated, and looking for something, anything, that would help me cope. I was keeping diaries, and they got progressively darker and angrier, often turning my rage against myself.
The first time I cut myself, I was fourteen. I was sat in my room, going over everything in my mind, and it all got too much for me. Everything was spilling out of my head, but I didn’t think anyone would understand me, even if I tried to explain everything to them. Someone had told me that cutting themselves was what helped them. At first, this seemed like a crazy idea, but in that moment, it was the only thing I could think of that might possibly help me express all of my angst, my anger, my frustration.But I wasn’t really thinking at all.
I wouldn’t say it helped me. It hurt. But afterwards, I felt like I’d just woken up, like I’d suddenly come to. It then became something of a crutch; something I would turn to when everything got too much, which became more and more often. I hid the cuts on my arms with wrist bands and long sleeves, because I knew that if anyone saw, I’d get attention, but it would be the wrong sort of attention, and the bullying and people chastising me would only get worse. I knew it would break my parents’ hearts, but I also figured they wouldn’t begin to understand. Of course, it turned out that they knew everything (parents have this freaky way of knowing, even when you think you’ve gotten away with something) but they didn’t quite know what to say. But they tried their best to be there for me, and talk about stuff, even if it didn’t particularly seem important.
As the months went by, I found myself in a downward spiral, of feeling low, and cutting myself, which only temporarily covered up the problem, rather than doing anything about it, which in turn made me feel worse, so I’d turn to my penknife again. I was in desperate need of something to save me. But anytime someone tried to reach out and help me, I’d push them back, or lie about how I was feeling.
Then I discovered pop-punk music, with an upbeat sound and lyrics that really spoke to me. It assured me that there was at least one other person who felt the same as me, and that everything’s not as bad as it seemed. Some of it really surprised me how much I could connect with what these bands were saying. It inspired me to start writing music of my own. Most of it was full of terrible couplets, but it was a way for me to spill everything out of my head. Scribbling words onto paper was better than carving holes in my wrists. And I’ve still got dozens of notebooks filled with cathartic writing and songs.
I started turning to writing or playing music whenever I was down, and pretty soon it overtook my urge to cut myself. I was determined to get better, at writing music, and in myself. So every time I was feeling like I needed to express and spew out everything that was flooding my brain, I’d thrash out a song, or blast my drums for a couple hours. I started playing in a band, where I met some of my best friends, and have had some of the best experiences of my life. There were still days when everything got too much, but having the support of my friends in the band, and the people who came to our shows was something to fall back on, and keep me strong, and writing and playing became my coping mechanism. And to this day, it still is.
I still find huge comfort in song lyrics. I still have some of the hardest days, and as I get older, problems seem to become more serious (when I was a kid, finding money to pay rent was never an issue). But I still throw myself head first into music whenever I get down. I guess the difference now is that I have a Heads Above The Waves playlist, which I made before HATW even really existed. It’s just a bunch of songs that I can always listen to, and they’ll cheer me right up again. I know when I’m getting depressed, and my first instinct is to put on the saddest or angriest music I can and turn it up til my ears hurt. But then I make the conscious decision to put on my HATW playlist (It’s mostly pop-punk) that just reminds me of better times, and that will always bring a smile to my face, because of the music, and more often than not, the lyrics.
I did a degree in Music Technology, and I’m still playing in a band. Those four dudes are some of my closest friends. Music is still my catharsis and comforter. I still have hard days, but now I know how to deal with them, and the fact that I’ve got through it before. It’s all just another step forward. I guess my hope now is to turn that negative experience I had as a kid into something positive, something that can help out other people who might be reading this and feel just as misunderstood, isolated and lonely as I was. Because I’m just like you. I got through it. It gets better. You’ve just gotta keep getting up. And keep your Heads Above The Waves.
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