Music and Mental Health

I’m not sick, but I’m not well, and I’m so high, cause I’m in hell.

That is the chorus of Flagpole Sitta, a song I was introduced to when I was a preteen. It had themes and chords that I fully didn’t understand. In the same vein I found it in an Anime Music Video for the anime Paranoia Agent, which is also about mental health. Twelve year old me didn’t really understand why this song attracted me so strongly, other then I loved singing it. Maybe it was because it’s a catchy song, or maybe because it was one of the few songs I’d ever listened too that weren’t raps, that had cursing.

For my age group, one could consider me an odd child but that was largely because I had several undiagnosed mental disorders which in hindsight should have been pretty damn obvious. Except of course, the stigma of such disorders and it’s portrayal in media has never been well set.

In this case, I’m talking about ADHD and what is likely mild autism.

In the late nineties and early 2000s, when I found this song I was probably at I could say was my oddest as a child. I had no shame, I asked inappropriate questions, kept long wild hair that I would refuse to brush, wore oversized clothing for the intent purposes of retreating into them whenever I happened to feel overwhelmed. At that age it never occurred to me that I was odd, nor did it ever occur to most adults to correct me, after all, nothing I did was every outwardly disruptive. I was quiet and I was reasonably intelligent enough to skid through the incredibly low standards that were the public school systems with few problems.

And I also of course, listened to music constantly on my mp3 player which I hid in my hair. Especially the music from a musical about a serial killer.

There’s a hole in the world like a great black pit, and the vermin of the world inhabit it.

I was functional, in so much so I gave the rest of the world outside my interests the minimum amount of attention required to pass before moving onto what I would want to do. Music, manga, tv, internet, it didn’t matter, my most common symptom of ADHD is the ability to hyperfocus at the expense of all else. It’s why I could read an entire book series in week, but not remember the names or face of classmates. Why I couldn’t read body language even in high school or brought up inappropriate subjects at odd times. Why developing a filter between my thoughts and my mouth, just in general, happened years after my peers.

By the definition of the medical community, I was what one could call high functioning, but the truth is I was just passing the very low bars by being both non destructive and more or less self contained. My behavior didn’t effect other people so it was ignored. Which is of course part of the problem with people who go undiagnosed for so long.

There’s an image in the head of people in the world when it comes to things like autism and ADHD. Usually, that image is male, usually that image is someone completely unable to cope with the world, who reacts violently to certain stigmas, or can’t communicate their means.

The truth is mental health is easy to hide, children are adaptable. They watch other children act a certain way even if they don’t understand the processes behind it they will imitate to blend in. Those called high functioning, really just are those who were better able skirt notice by passing the bar just like I did.

Yet at the same time, I always felt alien, especially in high school since I couldn’t understand why the students acted the way they did.

But when you’re out there, out there, yeah I was out of touch, but it wasn’t because I didn’t know enough. I just knew too much. Does that make me crazy?

In the later years of high school was when I personally felt the most isolated from my peers. I’d listen to music, songs about serial killers, or people thinking am I crazy because I notice or not notice these things. It didn’t help that in my last two years of high school I spent most the days in classes without members of my immediate friend group. In one particular class which I had to spend a lot of time but in and out of, I classified very astutely what the social groups were. The white boys, the black boys, the girls, and then me.

I was never more isolated and never more confused as to why my peers acted the way they did. At that time, it had never occurred to me that I was in fact the outlier. Why would I, after all? I didn’t drink, do drugs or engage in reckless behaviors? I completed my assignments, in that particular class, I often took on group projects alone because it was simply faster for me to do so. I was passing the bars, I was doing the work, so why was I the odd one out?

Crazy’s what they say about me, I won’t stop cause they tell me so, cause ninety nine hours per hour is how fast I like to go.

The social stigma of mental health, the images we portray, how we show those who have it as lesser or in need of intense care to function is part of the reason why many people function but cannot identify what potential problems they have. It was in my early twenties when I had a larger pool of similar thinking people to bounce ideas off of that I was able to pinpoint that I was nuero atypical and also that I wasn’t alone. That was the biggest point that helped me. But, in some way I knew I wasn’t alone partially because of media and music.

I didn’t understand why I gravitated to such songs before I understood their meanings. Maybe it was simply because they were catchy. But maybe, I understood more that some part of the songs were about people like me.

Even when the dark comes crashing through, when you need a friend to carry you, and when you’re broken on the ground. You will be found. So let the sun come streaming in, cause you’ll reach up and rise again. Lift your head and look around, you will be found.

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