Underneath It All

If you, like me, have battled, are still living and expect to keep dealing with depression, and if you, like me, have children who also have anxiety and depression as a constant illness, then you, like me, should not listen to “Dear Evan Hansen” music alone in an office at the end of a long week.

If you don’t know the story of Evan Hansen, you can find the full run down on the Wikipedia page. Warning: I’m likely to give away at least some of the story here.

Until recently, I didn’t know of it either, but my daughter started to share the music and I noticed a theme running through the lyrics. Although the story is not scene for scene the story of my family, too many of the lyrics ring true. Here’s the parts of the first song, sung by two very different mothers, both trying to negotiate normal families, social anxieties and, unknown as yet, suicide attempts.

****

Can we try to have an optimistic outlook, huh?

Can we buck up just enough to see the world won’t fall apart?
Maybe this year, we decide
We’re not giving up before we’ve tried
This year, we make a new start
Another stellar conversation for the scrapbook
Another stumble as I’m reaching for the right thing to say
I’m kinda coming up empty
Can’t find my way to you
Does anybody have a map?
Anybody maybe happen to know how the hell to do this?
I don’t know if you can tell
But this is me just pretending to know
So where’s the map?
I need a clue
‘Cause the scary truth is
I’m flying blind
And I’m making this up as I go
Another masterful attempt ends with disaster
Pour another cup of coffee
And watch it all crash and burn
It’s a puzzle, it’s a maze
I tried to steer through it a million ways
But each day’s another wrong turn
-happen to know how the hell to do this?
I don’t know if you can tell
But this is me just pretending to know
So where’s the map?
I need a clue
‘Cause the scary truth is
I’m flying blind
And I’m making this up as I go
As I go

****

Now I am aware of the normalities, anxieties and ideations of my family, I think, and I am flattened once again, knowing that I have still not been successful in ‘fixing’ those. So, alone in the office, I cry. And sing along.

Were this anyone else’s post, I would be hitting the comments button and assuring them that no one’s mental health difficulties are my responsibility, but parents and significant others in my situation will testify that it isn’t as easy as telling yourself that. That’s my baby, despite the age; that’s my responsibility.

I used to be able to kiss it all better and now I cannot even slightly improve your outlook with a million hugs and kisses; ongoing psychiatric or psychologist appointments or 20 iterations of medical prescriptions. I hear you. I see you. I love you. And yet, that isn’t enough. God formed you, I carried you; and I would carry you in my arms again if that would mend your broken heart/soul/feelings/brain/self-worth/mental health…….but it doesn’t and I can’t.

I feel responsible because of the statistics that I have seen. Approximately 1 in 7 young people experience an affective depressive disorder (beyondblue.org.au) in Australia. Children whose parents have experienced the same are 4 times more likely, and children who have one or more grandparent who have experienced mental health issues are apparently 20 times more likely to experience some sort of mental health concern than others. How could I not feel responsible? This has been my story. And now it’s an inheritance.

Mostly, mostly, I don’t get stuck in this state. I don’t know why today is different. Perhaps because I feel alone when I’m surrounded. Perhaps because I am tired and need a good sleep (for a few weeks). Perhaps it is musically induced melancholia. Perhaps, and not so surprisingly, perhaps it is my depression coming to the fore in response to all of the above. Whatever.

Mostly, mostly, I live a Nike slogan and JUST DO IT. Whatever it is on the agenda for that day and planning for the next few. Just the same as people everywhere ad infinitum. I’m not alone in it, for which I am grateful and neither are you, for which I am exceptionally grateful.

So, what now?

Now I pack up my today; pick up another child and go home. Now I buy bread and milk and ice cream, because they are the essentials tonight. Now I wipe my face, put on different music (duh) and then cry by myself in the car, wipe my face again and smile hello as I greet my family. I’m going to be ok and, God help me, they will, too.

So despite ‘evidence’ seen from outside, we will keep doing what we think is right. We won’t push for employment and we will ignore or face down detractors who believe we are enabling millennial entitlement. We will smile, a little stiffly perhaps, at those who believe, “If you just….(insert your values here)” it’ll all be ok.

And maybe every now and then I will cry with and for my family and make all the plans, suggestions and appointments (even with bloody Centrelink) that I think will help in any small way. And I will write my fears and feelings – and lyrics that I think 5 Seconds of Summer should record. And despite my best efforts to the contrary, I will listen to musical soundtracks like “Dear Evan Hansen” and “Be More Chill” (don’t ask, the trend is actually alarming me). And I will keep going. And I will be ok. And that’s what it is to be honest, and live and love. And that’s good.

**An hour later**

I have travelled the gamut of emotions in the past 60 minutes.

I picked up the recently employed child who offered to buy me dinner – win! We had a wonderful time and I felt a bit better, which was nice tonight. However, as I have explained, I am exposed to new music via my children, and tonight was no exception.

“Mum, I really like this song and I don’t really know why. Can I play it to you?”

“Sure.”

I’ve linked the song he played below. Your job now is to decide whether my reaction was:

A) understand immediately why he liked the song and proceed to have discussion on the merits of music genres followed by singing along to John Denver and The Proclaimers (separately, ’cause that’d be weird). This interspersed with buying previously mentioned milk, bread and ice cream.

B) crying silently with my face tilted slightly away from the passenger seat because the song describes and repeats what my eldest has tried to describe and repeat, underlined by minor chords. This interspersed with buying previously mentioned milk, bread and ice cream.

C) both A and B and wanting to vomit and gripping the steering wheel tightly in an attempt to distract one pain with another.

THE SONG

The ice cream was mediocre btw.

My daughter has been playing me some of her favourite bands’ music recently and I’ve had “Don’t Stop” by 5 Seconds of Summer stuck in my head for a few weeks – just ask some of my classes! I’m not the only one! My 3 year old loves choosing the music that we play in the car and the other day had me confused when he asked,

“Can you play Dawn Star, please?”

“Dawn Star? Can you tell me what else it says, so I know which one?”

“Yes. Dawn Star doin’ whatcha doin! Cause I like it!”

Then I figured it out…”Every time you walk in the room, you’ve got all eyes on you…”

***********************************************************************************

So, on a YouTube wander, I found myself watching  Belgian interviewer, Jolien Roets, interviewing the band. Some of it’s funny, if a bit risqué; some entertaining. Towards the end, the interviewer tells the guys about the Belgian Red Nose Day, part of which is raising money and awareness for mental illness in young people. Jolien then asks if 5SOS have ever experienced that sort of thing.  A couple of the guys answer quickly enough that they have, but no details are given as to what. Ashton Irwin follows up with more, saying that he doesn’t think that they (5SOS) ought to talk about their own experiences, but that they do know that it’s (depression etc) a prevalent thing and that as public figures,  it is their role to talk about and sing about it. AGREED, thanks guys!

Throughout this year, there have been articles on band member Michael Clifford’s mental health; his visit to a therapist and the fans support of him during this time, proving that the group’s followers agree that sharing is caring. I want to add my support to that already given, Michael. I know first hand what it’s like to ride the ups and downs of the rollercoaster (Read about my personal experience here) and of supporting someone who is living it (My son’s story from my perspective and in his own words). I can only imagine what living it out in the public eye must be like. Good for you for sharing about it and for all who support you. Keep it up!

Anyway, back to the title of this blog. With all of the above in mind, and ESPECIALLY since hearing the new album, “Sounds Good, Feels Good,” I’ve been inspired to write you lyrics for a new song that you might like to include in an upcoming album?? That bit is up to you, but here we go. 

I love the sound of the new album and I know that you’ll do an amazing job of transforming these lyrics into a song with energy, anger, sadness and love – all the things I’ve felt over the past 25 years and tried to put into these words. I’ve written two versions of the song; one from the perspective of the person suffering (hate that word) the mental illness and one from their perspective of someone who loves them and is trying to help. I couldn’t decide which one I most wanted to share. Which, and if, you decide to do anything with is up to you. If you do, credit me?

Maybe people will stumble across my blog and these will be a comfort to them, and I’ll be ok with that, that’s what they’re for. 

***********************************************************************************

Private War #1

I’m living in a world that you’d find hard to enter

Blocked by a door that’s locked, I don’t want you here

I need you more than I can say

I don’t understand when I push you away


I tell you it’s going to be ok even when I don’t think it is

Say you love me when I don’t believe it

It’s not even as easy as crying all the time; wish that’s all it was

How can I explain there’s nothing wrong – there’s no reason and no cause


It’s like fighting a private war

Against a very public enemy

It’s like fighting a private war

With the one who means the most to me


I want you to stay with me

Understand I need to be alone.

I reach out to the reaching hand, but find I can’t grab hold

I can’t be left alone.


On days where my blanket is all I can hold

Where I want to snuggle, but my energy’s low

Just laying here staring at the ceiling

Wishing these feelings would fade away


It’s like fighting a private war

Against a very public enemy

It’s like fighting a private war

With the one who means the most to me


Invite me even though I’ll say no. 

Take me places even though I’ll want to run straight home

Wanting to step out and take it; open up and welcome the world

While you’re lifting me out of the bed; I’m pushing you out the door


Try to understand when I don’t answer your calls;

When the best conversations we have are by text.

Sleepless and restless; tired but wired.

Allowing me to cuddle without wanting sex


God knows if you’re ready, to take the vast extremes

The public face, the hyper, the dreamer, even the screams


It’s like fighting a private war

Against a very public enemy

It’s like fighting a private war

With the one who means the most to me


I don’t want to get out of bed today – maybe I can’t.


It’s like fighting a private war

Against a very public enemy

It’s like fighting a private war

With the one who means the most to me


Private War #2

You’re living in a world that I find hard to enter

Blocked by a door that’s locked, no one knows who by

I want to tell you it’s going to be ok even when I don’t think it is.

I want to hold you close and say I love you through both of our tears.


I want to tell you I love you even though you won’t believe me.

I want to help, and try to understand when you need to be alone (can’t be left alone)

I reach out to the reaching hand, but find I can’t grab hold


It’s like fighting a private war

Against a very public enemy

It’s like fighting a private war

With the one who means the most to me


I’ll invite you even though I know you’ll say no. 

I’ll take you to places though we’ll have to go home.

Wanting you to step out and take it; open up and welcome the world

Lifting you out of the bed; pushing you out the door


On days where your blanket is closer than me. 

Where you just want to snuggle, but with your pillow, not me.

I’ll try to understand when you don’t answer my calls; when the best conversations we have are by text.

Allowing me to cuddle you without thinking I want sex


It’s like fighting a private war

Against a very public enemy

It’s like fighting a private war

With the one who means the most to me


God knows if I’m ready, but I’ll take the vast extremes

The public face, the dreamer, the loner, even the screams

When that demon grips your mind, I’ll be there

Though I know that I’m flying blind, I’ll be there


It’s like fighting a private war

Against a very public enemy

It’s like fighting a private war

With the one who means the most to me


You wrap yourself in your hard shell

To protect yourself in your private hell

And it cuts me that I cannot be the answer

But I don’t want to put that guilt on you

Cause I’m afraid you might just snap under the pressure

I don’t know what will pull you through,

But I’d lay down my life for you,

I can’t tell you that cause life is so unstable

Call me when you’re able


It’s like fighting a private war

Against a very public enemy

It’s like fighting a private war

With the one who means the most to me

*******************************************************************************

Anyone reading this – these are for you. The comforter and the uncomfortable; the alone, lonely or loner. You aren’t alone. There are people who feel the same and people who love you. People who want to stop, or help, the “Private War.” I promise.