'Hold On To These Words', Or How Music Saved My Life

WARNING: This post may be triggering (contains discussion of suicidal thoughts).

Photo by Me


I sat at the lake, feeling melancholy and pensive, but mostly just tired... Tired of life. Tired of contemplating taking my life.

Mostly, this suicidality had been impulsive. The thoughts just came. I swatted them like flies. Occasionally, they gripped me with such force that I honestly considered giving in. It was twisted and terrifying, but I fantasized about death.

This was one of those days. I sat on a concrete ledge, feet dangling, looking out over Lake Ontario. I wanted to be one with the cold water. It would be poetic and tragic and sure, a little cliche (think Ophelia)... But a few gasps for air, a few moments in the frigid water, and it would all be over.

But something inside me whispered, "Hold on to these words/I'd like to think that they may offer/Some protection/Against the night..."

Watching myself, as if on a movie screen, I saw a girl who wanted to jump, but didn't. Who felt drowning was the only way, until she heard that song. These revelations didn't happen in real life... Did they?

"Against the night/Your life can feel transparent/A reflection/A trick of light..."

To be sure, Jason Webley's song didn't make my mental illness go away. It didn't "cure" me. There is no cure. These words didn't even make the thoughts go away. But it awakened something in me... Hope. I hadn't felt hope in a long time.

We, as humans, need something, anything, to keep us going. Simply existing is not enough. People who are so-called "normal", healthy, don't usually have to think about this. People who, like me, sometimes struggle to cope, have frequent "existential crises": What are we living for? How will get through the hard times? Why should we bother?

"So when sleep just won't come/And you've got no occupation/But nibbling at the fruit/Of the melancholy tree/Just hold on to these words/Hold on to me..."

Call it Logotherapy. Call it The Meaning Of Life. Call it "protection against the night". Just find it. Cling to it. Never let it go. Collect the little things that prove to you that life is worth living, that you are worth loving, that life is worth loving.

That day at the lake? I didn't jump. I wept and pressed replay.

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A year later... here I am. Jason Webley is still a fixture on my mp3 playlist. I even saw him perform last night at Mitzi's Sister (a Toronto bar). It was incredible-- but that goes without saying.

This blog post started as an open letter of thanks (to Jason), but it evolved into so much more. I hope I've changed some circumstance, for some one out there. Maybe I've introduced you to new music? maybe I've inspired you to seek help? Maybe I've simply shown you that art has an incredible ability to heal.

Whatever you take away from this, hold on to it. Let it make you stronger.

"So when sleep just won't come/And you've got no occupation/But nibbling at the fruit/Of the melancholy tree/Just hold on to these words/Hold on to me..."

1 comment:

  1. [...] etched in tin art, mental health + culture collide Skip to content HomeAboutWho Is Rebecca? ← ‘Hold On To These Words’, Or How Music Saved My Life [...]

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