How am I different

In this article I want to share with you one of my favourite musicians Aimee Mann and to discuss what her work means to me and how important it is for understanding mental health.

When I was about 20 years old I watched this film called “Magnolia” and it touched my soul. The feel of the film is very sad but contains some of the best drama I have ever seen on film. The film has some big stars like Tom Cruise, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Juliane Moore. One of the elements of the film that attracted me was the music. On investigating this I found out that the director of this film Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights) was in love with Aimee’s music and so he asked her to score the entire film using her music. The music was like nothing I had ever heard so that inevitably led me to look through her catalogue of music.

I started with an album called “Batchelor No.2” which I believe to be one of the best albums I own. In this album Aimee doesn’t just give you music, she gives you a window to her own personal fears and anxieties. Many music critics have described the music as raw because it has a lot of depressing lyrics though the melodies are not always in a minor tone.

If you are the sort of person who has an inner dialogue that criticises you and tells you you’re not good enough like I do then you can hear this argument in her music. Aimee isn’t always writing about herself she plays the parts of different characters and can be offering advice too.

Lost in Space is one of my favourite go to albums when I’m feeling a bit low. The album is about people who have a drug dependency. Aimee would compare taking taking heroin to being lost in space. The album has a number of fascinating rhymes which really stretch the imagination. Aimee once rhymed “Margaret Thatcher” with “Compound Fracture”. For me the most moving track on this album is titled “Its not” which I have included an excerpt of below:

“So here I’m sitting in my car at the same old stop light. I keep waiting for a change, but I dont know what.

So red turns in to green turning into yellow, and I’m just frozen here on the same old spot.

And all I have to do is to press the pedal, but I’m not, no I’m not”

I find these lyrics beautiful and very clever in the way they play with metaphor to describe a feeling we all have in life. Hidden expectations we are all expected to live up to. People around us who all seem to know the right way to live their lives and know all of the choices they need to make it happen.

I think if you don’t like to think about your music then this isn’t for you, and if you’ve never dabbled in self deprecation then this perhaps isn’t for you but I’d try it anyway. This music might be downbeat but it sends an important message that we’re not alone in how we feel.

I recently found out bizarrely that Aimee in the past lent her vocals to Canadian rock trio Rush for their famous single “Time Stands Still”. Aimee also plays the girl who had her toe chopped off in the Coen Brothers film “The Big Lebowski”

Mental Illness is Aimee’s new album and lends itself to the territory of how people with mental illness cope in their day to day lives. I haven’t yet fully explored the content but I’m excited for what new fruit will come from it.

Aimee is still touring, I had the pleasure of seeing her in London and picked up a signed copy of Charmer. Aimee is such a bright and funny woman that you might not think she is capable of writing such sad music but perhaps this is one of those ironies in life, the funniest can often be the saddest inside. Please give Aimee’s music a try and let me know what you think.


What I need to do less of

1. Stop being miserable – even if I am sad at times I must always try to be nice to other people. I am very conscious that my resting face is the personification of watching my own mother being molested so I need to switch things up and even when I am knee deep in the dullest of conversations I need to plaster on a big old smile.
Being miserable doesn’t just hurt me and my life, being miserable rubs off on other people, and at social events people don’t like it when you answer their question of “What’s your favourite sport” with “I like the one that is played forever and ever on a constant cycle of winners and losers aimlessly until I die”.

2. Stop being selfish – altruistic behaviour is crucial for a happy life. It is hard not to be selfish because we are wired to work that way but we do have a choice. Doing good deeds for others is the main sweetness in the fruit cake that is life.

3. Stop eating so much – I accidently shaved off my beard the other day as the razor broke and I thought as I looked in the mirror, you fat chin-less nothing. I need to lose weight and always have but I am at the point now where I will live until about 60. The problem I have is that food is delicious. A chocolate bar is never going to taste the same as an apple. My girlfriend told me she ate at Apple the other day and it made her feel full up. I am considering renting out my stomach as storage space for when people move house.

4. Being afraid – I have moments where I am scared to try something or put myself in a tough situation but life is about living and sometimes if we push ourselves now we will thank ourselves later. I have a funny feeling about flying and fear of turbulence but I need to travel the world, so I must force myself to go against my instincts as I will thank myself for the life experience.

5. Start listening to my parents – my parents have a lot to say and often I will disregard them because they don’t have a complete grasp of the modern world. My parents are the only people in the world who will do anything for me so I need to appreciate that. Even if they don’t always show it, they have my best interests at heart.

6. Stop listening to my parents – My parents can say things that poison my mind and can tell me hurtful things. Sometimes rather than being direct and having a heart to heart emotional conversation instead they will say something hurtful as though I should know better and just indirectly pick up what they’re trying to say. I can always remember when I got offered a new job, I was so excited and when I called to speak to my parents the first thing they said was “How much is the salary?” A little bit put a back I told them and they were disappointed, they said I had to ask for more money. I tried with the employer and they turned me down. My mother then said in a passive-agressive tone “Oh well never mind, I suppose it’s a step in the right direction to getting a good job”. I felt so deflated, I couldn’t be excited again. It felt like a wake up call. I try to protect myself by not telling them things that make me happy because I don’t want them to undermine the happiness I have.

7. Acting like nothing matters – yer okay humans are insignificant! and yer okay there is no god!, and yer okay the planet is on a trajectory into a sun! and yer okay all humans are essentially animals that have predictable reproductive cycles that become about as cliché as the sun rising and setting but things have value. I need to take a leaf out of Stoicism and say to myself none of this is in my control. I am aware of all of the above and I can still wake up in the morning. Ignorance is definitely bliss and I must try to enrich people’s lives by being loving, caring and considerate.

8. Being a shit friend – I have always been a crap friend, I have paid for it in my life by losing some wonderful smart people. Life moves on and our lives change but I can’t help think of the NIN lyric “Through the stains of time, the feelings disappear. You are someone else, and I am still right here”. I need to do altruistic things to overcome my own anxieties and if I work really hard and make an effort I know I can earn back and retain the friendship of the many I have lost and will inevitably lose later on.