Recently, I found out that a song I wrote saved a person’s life.
A pretty bold start to a post, admittedly.
The crazy thing is it is true.
A fan and online friend, who shall be given the respect of anonymity, had seen a post on Facebook I had written earlier this year about how suicide had recently affected my life. My general tone was not so much cynical as it was merely a statement on the evidence of my experience: That with the two recent suicides that impacted my life, I felt I ultimately had little ability to counteract or to help stop.
In other words, my existence would not avoid the inevitable once the suicidal friend’s decision had been made. This was no easy conclusion on my part; I am delusional enough to think I can affect anyone if I have the ability to at least try. So my post (and feeling at the time) was part complaint as well as admission: that my talking and deliberate attempt to help did nothing when it came to the friends I had lost. (That) my actions were fruitless in some way.
But this friend I speak of…. well, she wrote (in an e-mailed reply to my statement) that talking does help, even at its most difficult. And then she decided to share something with me; something she had been meaning to share for a couple years but had been previously too embarrassed to do so.
She continued writing that in 201x (let’s go with a couple few years ago) “depression had gotten its claws” into her, telling her “all sorts of lies; including the one that “no one would really care” if she was alive anymore. The people closest to her were adamant this wasn’t the case, but her depression would have her believe none of it.
While dealing with this she also battled insomnia and, according to the note she wrote me… well actually you know what? Let me just have you read it in her own words:
“.....On one particularly bad night, I turned to one of the only things that seemed to help distract me from feeling horrible: music. I put my music on random and the first song that came up was "Liftoff (The Loneliest Number Mix)." I was looking for a sign that fighting the depression was the best choice, and in that moment your lyrics/music were exactly what I needed. I pushed repeat and listened to it again and again instead of making destructive decisions. The next day, I tried to write you an email to say thank you, but my depression convinced me that you wouldn't care or would think I was stupid/weak/ridiculous. All I managed to write before I abandoned it was: No lie or exaggeration; "Liftoff" saved my life this weekend.”
The emphasis above is my own.
I do so because the words hit me like a hammer. She went on to thank me, and to discuss with gratitude the support from her family and the ones who loved her most as well as the 3 or so years of professional help it took for her to “be me again”.
Reading this for the first time, I paused—composed myself—and did the only thing I knew I had to do:
I wrote her back, with just my telephone number and a simple request to just call.
It was fortunate for me—after a little bit of egging on—that she was ok with it, if however a bit terrified (her words). She was just as kind and sweet and charming as I expected her to be based on how I imagined her. We spoke, giggled over the newness of each other’s voice (we had never previously met), and just talked of things that will remain between her and me. (Our little gift to each other, I guess…)
It’s funny: this little thing she said I gave her was actually a big thing she gave me. I was so overwhelmed by the experience that it took me 6 months to properly process so I could in turn share (with her blessing).
And, for these reasons, I do want to share:
To those who have lost someone to suicide and feel helpless; to those who have considered suicide, and to those who have overcome the depression to make themselves into better people. Life… LIFE… is about possibility. Don’t lose sight of this.
And for my friend, whose words made me feel better about my own experience, who by sharing her story allowed me to heal (to the ones I lost) and allowed me to feel lucky that something that is at my most central core (my songwriting) did in fact help at least someone:
That is a gift I will keep forever.
About the song “Liftoff”:
I recorded two versions of this song: one was the rockin’ kind, and the other—called “Liftoff (The Loneliest Number Mix)—is the version to which she referred.
Recorded with just piano, voice and a sound library file I found of a crowd at a bar, the person singing the song is imagined to be in some piano bar where it is packed with people who aren’t listening to anything the singer is singing about. In spite of this universal indifference, it is the singer who is defiant. Even if no one cares, I’m going to sing:
oh look what’s happening to me!
my smile is wide, it’s looking quite cat style and I
I think you will agree
there’s better days ahead
So upon reflection of this year 2013, with all its bitter and its sweet, raise a toast with me to better days ahead in the new year.
I wish everyone a wonderful 2014.