When I was seven years old, my best friend — my grandmother — died, and I began to deal with that grief by ritualizing and catastrophizing. I obsessively washed my hands (a typical OCD ritual) and avoided touching metal of any kind. I feared death, especially when I was going to sleep. By the age of eight, I had officially been diagnosed with OCD. It wasn’t until I was 11 years old, when a friend randomly lent me a book about a boy battling OCD who had lost his grandfather, that I began to feel less alone. After being immersed in this fictional world, thankfully, my OCD and its accompanying anxiety mostly faded. All of my fears seemed to dissipate; sleeping became easy, and my worries subsided — at least for a while.
A diagnosed mental illness, like the general anxiety disorder that has plagued me for years, goes beyond garden-variety teenage angst.
Instead, I sat in my room trying to find my sanity, and through that, I found how curative music could be. In high school, listening to Death Cab For Cutie got me through my breakups, but in college, it was something that helped me find my inner peace. As an anxious adolescent, I felt like Ben Gibbard's sadness was my sadness. His diaristic lyrics about depression, lost love, and displacement were like musical antidepressants to me (I was taking the medical kind, too). Although friends have always teased me for listening to "depressing" music all the time, it was melancholy songs like "A Lack of Color," “Transatlanticism," or "Title Track" that managed to put me at ease.
I'm no long-distance runner, but Gibbard's path to fixing his flaws and mending the broken parts of his life wasn't too far off from mine; it involved hard work, focus, and stamina. I may not have sold out huge concert venues around the country or have 20 years' worth of music out there in the world, but I do understand what it's like to overcome a personal struggle and apply yourself to something healthy.
While friends back then (and to this day) teased me for listening to 'depressing' music all the time, it was melancholy songs like 'A Lack of Color,' 'Transatlanticism,' or 'Title Track' that seemed to put me at ease.