I need to start this by saying that La Dispute is not my favorite band. They aren’t even in the top three, but Wildlife is my favorite album, ever, of all time. It came to me one Christmas when I wasn’t yet at my worst, but it was building. The storm was coming in, and I, as well as everyone close to me, was oblivious to the fact. Sure, I had anxiety attacks about silly things and couldn’t watch the news, but I’d been like that for years.
“I know I never used to feel like this. I used to never think of death or hear voices. I used to feel like everything was perfectly in order, a normal life… but I guess then came a departure.” – A Departure (Wildlife, 2011)
My departure came in March of 2012. My family refers to it as “that March I got sick”. I was always sick, I was just better at hiding it before then. It wasn’t as bad. I wasn’t as bad.
Small sidebar: I am paranoid. Very much so. If someone tells me they “know a guy” or something, I will wait for weeks for said guy to come kill me for knowing of his existence. I hate getting to know people because I’m terrified they’re going to tell me they murdered someone or know someone who has. It’s strange; I’m working on it. End of sidebar.
March 2012 was hard. I didn’t eat. I barely slept. I vaguely remember worrying someone was going to come and arrest me, that someone had framed me for a crime, that I was going to be taken away and no one would believe that I was innocent. The memory has a blurry feeling to it, almost like a dream. A dream that made me drop 30 pounds and still makes my mom cry when she remembers it. I have no idea how the fear started. I think maybe I’d read an article or a statistic of people that got framed for crimes and that triggered it. I have no clue. All I know is I was dying, literally starving myself to death because I was too afraid to leave my room. My mom would bring me food and I was too sick to eat, everything tasted dry, like trying to eat sandpaper and wood shavings. Even soup wouldn’t stay down. My stomach was too full of boiling acid terror to stand real food.
La Dispute comes in because, even in that state, I got songs stuck in my head. Most of them stayed stuck, I was beyond putting in headphones– what if someone came for me and I couldn’t hear them approaching?– and getting rid of them. Not “all our bruised bodies and the whole heart shrinks” (lack of caps is them, not me), not “Say you think of everything in fear. I bet you’re not the only one does”. So one day, with my whole family home and awake, with my door securely locked, I turned on the song.
Over the coming weeks, I must have listened to Wildlife more than one hundred times. Every lyric screamed to me, telling me I’m not alone, I’m not the only one that feels this, I can get better.
And guess what? I did. Not all at once, this isn’t magic or a movie where things are condensed and sped up. It took time. La Dispute did not, by any means, heal me with their words. They did give me the courage to get help, to go to the doctor and find meds that were right for me, to talk about my issues so people would know they aren’t alone.
When I listen to Wildlife now I feel grateful that I can only relate to some of the words. I remember that terrified girl in her room, and I remember the first thing I ate and kept down: a beef and bean burrito with hot sauce and sour cream. I remember how the words called to me from what felt like the top of a well, how they seemed to echo, and how I clawed my way toward the light, fighting every inch of the way to stop from being dragged back down.
The songs never fail to give me chills, from “to scratched out, for everything” to “until I die, I will sing our names in unison”. Funny how those lines seem to go together.
April of 2012, a friend took me to see La Dispute. I cried the whole night, because I wasn’t in my room, I wasn’t (too) afraid, I was getting better. All because of those guys on the stage.
I want to end this as cliche as possible, obviously. Thanks, La Dispute. Thanks for helping me get better, me and countless others. I owe you one. We all do.
To everyone who feels like I did, you aren’t crazy. Your brain is just a wreck. Let someone help you clean it up.
“And just the other day I swear I saw a man there, pulling weeds out of the concrete, sweeping up and patching cracks. I saw him lift a rag to wash the years of filth from off those windows. Made me wonder if there’s anyone like that for you and me, and anybody else who broke and lost hope.”- St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church (Wildlife, 2011)