EDITORIAL: Songs To Calm An Anxious Mind


It was a complete depersonalization and increasing dehumanization. Nothing was real, for everything that was real was hastily slipping away. I began to think of my family, and how they would react once I was gone. I was soon replaying the last conversations we had in my mind, as if I could somehow justify our last dialogues as fitting for a goodbye.

I sat in my car in a parking lot as it began to happen. The same car that drove me home from hockey practice, drove me to my first concert, picked up my first date, and acted as the portal to my first libidinous escape. The safety of my adolescence was soon to fail me.

I had never felt this way before, somehow completely unbalanced and out of control. Nerves were rocketing up and down my entire body, consistently reminding me that something was very wrong. I was able to get out of my car and onto the pavement, stumbling through everything that was simultaneously spinning beyond focus. The trees bent over as if they were there to watch my demise, somehow to enjoy the complete unraveling of any type of consistency I had experienced in my short twenty years. My heart was racing, breaths became increasingly shorter, and it felt as if someone was squeezing my chest just to see what would pop out. I kept repeating to myself that there was no turning back from this, all I wanted in that very moment was for this moment to have never happened, but what was even happening? Was this how it was to end, alone in a parking lot with a life barely lived? Every ounce of feeling I had left to myself was spinning with fear, indignation, and regret. Everything that was once safe to me was now a gyrating escape from realism, stability, and comfort.

I was experiencing my first panic attack.

Though the troubles would continue in my future as they have, as a music lover, one of the greatest weapons I have at existential equilibrium is music. Getting lost in music, and the rewards it can present, has given me insight in life that has become an invaluable mindset in collecting myself so that I can truly enjoy the amazing world around me.

Whenever I find myself on the brink of an attack, or facing a constant battle with lingering anxieties, these are some of the sounds I turn to to remind me of the good and pure within the world. To remind me that the human condition is varied, but universally experienced.

Mimicking Birds – “The Loop”

“Soon now too that light will die
but its energy never does.
It burns in some other new blood.”

“The Loop” by Mimicking Birds is a beautiful reminder of the cyclical nature of our universe, reminding us that on a cosmic scale, atoms may burst, but are soon reused in new invigoration. While the realization that our presence and importance in the scale of the entire universe is incredibly small, just think that as each star bursts its cosmic material, it is passed on to the next gravitational force. Acting as a cosmic handshake, this exchange results in a unification of atoms that is present within us, and everything we can see ahead of us. While we are infinitely small in the cycle of existence, what is within us, is also within everything else.

“They’re all gone, she’ll begin
as just elements again
Tumbling in the solar winds
In and out they’ll spin
in a different direction.”

Circa Survive – “Meet Me In Montauk”

“I’ve been wandering around,
Making up movies in my head”

Circa Surive’s “Meet Me In Montauk” has always stayed with me in varying ways. The lines “I’ve been wandering around, making up movies in my head,” has always reminded me of the escapes I am allowed. Anxiety can come at any time, but so can imagination. This idea that the simplest tree can become a giant among a biosphere, against the prevalent cruelties in the world, the change that I wish for begins with a spark of intramural imagination. Just as the sounds weave in and out of normalcy, “Meet Me In Montauk” prompts a world constructing as I live through it.

“All the sudden, so fucking scared… I’m not scared.”

Bon Iver – “Holocene”

“And at once I knew I was not magnificent
Strayed above the highway aisle
(Jagged vacance, thick with ice)
And I could see for miles, miles, miles”

There is no singular, I am only a mere person in a sea of people. My accomplishments will always be my own, but one of the grandest realizations about life is that of its community. To understand that for some reason, out of all the other species to ever crawl up on this Earth, nature chose us. “At once I knew I was not magnificent,” because I am not, but we certainly are. Together we can “see for miles and miles.” Sometimes I wonder how little I could see if I was alone.

“Someway, baby, it’s part of me, apart from me.”

Modest Mouse – “The World At Large”

“I like the autumn but this place is getting old.
I pack up my belongings and I head for the coast.
It might not be a lot but I feel like I’m making the most.”

I think one of the healthiest things someone can do is something new. One of the hardest things that has hit me since getting panic attacks is a fear of being far from home if it happens. A constant questioning of where I could be if it happens, and how quickly I can get back to my bed until it passes. With each trip away I attempt to get farther and farther from home, each time successfully beating the constant fear of impending fear. While these new experiences away are shuddered a bit by anxiety, “I feel like I’m making the most.” Coupled with the uplifting whistling of the joyful “The World At Large,” the Good News For People Who Love Bad News opener is a welcomed companion to crossing state lines. Not to mention the following track “Float On,” is a constant reminder on how to brush off whatever shit life throws at you. “Don’t worry even if things end up a bit too heavy we’ll all float on alright.”

“I know that starting over is not what life’s about.”


S. Carey – “Creaking”

“There are things here that I could not see before”

One of my favorite aspects about S. Carey’s second album, Range of Light, is how it acts as a vehicle for further nourishment. Using it as a backdrop to nature, Range of Light, specifically “Creaking,” has helped me get lost in the historic woods of New England, accompanying me to a natural insight that is able to conclude all ailing thoughts or feelings once held during the day. Understanding truly how amazing the world around us can be, with the association of music, nature is a pure remedy for the darker afflictions of life. In the bustling methodology of current society, it can be easy to drive by a beautiful park, tree, landscape, or anything that is not either A or B. Thinking constantly in this manner is sure to provoke anxiety, so I prefer not to focus simply on A or B, but what it means to travel between them.

“Creaking, creaking.”

Daughter – “Winter”

“Drifting apart like two sheets of ice, my love
Frozen hearts growing colder with time
There’s no heat from our mouths
Please take me back to my rich youth”

If You Leave is an incredibly beautiful album, and the caring sounds Daughter emit sew in and out of a troubled mindset, finding a balance between pain and beauty. As I have gotten older I have found that past events I once rued are becoming welcomed additions to an ever-growing life of learning. This idea of being brought back to “my rich youth” is not as scary as it used to be, as I now welcome my heartaches and tribulations as a teenager, thanking those for the experiences they shared with me, regardless of the outcome. While an end is a single event, the means to get there are a wealth of worthy passages. With this calm and collected mindset, every seemingly panic ridden setback is only a lesson for the future. Attributing to one of my favorite writers, C.S. Lewis, or better yet, my loving uncle Screwtape, “indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one, the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

“Oh, winter come, winter crush all of the things that I once loved”

My anxiety comes and goes, but music will always be a constant in the equation of life. These songs are nowhere near the entire catalog of sounds that bring me ease, for the wide world of music is an ever-giving and ever-growing continent of offering. A world that can mean anything to anyone at any time, how I take in sounds may be different from yours, and that may be one of the most beautiful things about our homologous existence. This is but a small example of what music can do for me, what can it do for you?

Editorial written by Drew Caruso – Follow him on Twitter.

Drew Caruso

Drew Caruso is a Bostonian who, when not writing about music and film, spends his time getting lost in New England, reading books, talking about science whether people want to listen or not, and more. To see the thoughts of a scientist by day and a writer by night, follow him on Twitter.
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