In Honor of Men’s Mental Health Day: My Journey into Healing with Music & Matthew Good
I have a spectacular view from my window where I work, which also happens to be my kitchen table. On the days I sit there and write or work on other projects, I find it hard to concentrate because of the lush greens of the mountain that I live on, and the amazing amount of wildlife that comes through. This morning, I watched a young black bear saunter across my front lawn.
This window view also affords me a lot of time to sit and think. We writers call this the ‘creative process’, but I’ll let you in on a secret. We’re stalling. We are thinking about what to make for dinner, or the latest deadline from our editors. Sometimes, our minds bring a more serious topic to the table, as mine did with me earlier. Today, I was thinking about mental health – not just mine, but the state of the world. Then I saw that today was Men’s Mental Health Day, sorta kismet. Right?
Now, I know, you’re wondering what this has to do with music… just hang in there, I promise it connects. I myself have battled the demons of anxiety and depression, as I am sure have many of you. I found a way that works for me to cope, and it carried me through many years. However, there was a period about seven or eight years ago where my normal methodology failed me. I was sad, depressed and felt that I was completely alone. Not even those that have the same afflictions could help with their words of comfort and sympathy.
A friend of mine recommended a new musician to me through casual conversation. We were chatting online, talking about music and he sent me a few songs. Being from a different country than I, he was sending me music from a popular musician from Canada that I had never heard of. I told him I liked the songs a lot and asked him to send me more if he could. What I failed to mention to him was that the songs he was feeding me, were feeding my soul and ability to connect on an emotional level like I had never been able to do before.
The music of Canadian artist Matthew Good struck such a strong chord with me, that I promptly went to youtube and started searching for every song, every album, every concert I could find. While I did adore his voice, and the musical elements of his work were quite striking, it was the lyrics that ultimately made me feel like he could possibly understand all the terrible things in my head. The prose that Mr. Good put into his music became my anchor, and my go-to place on the days when my head and I refused to get along.
Finding Out My Hero Had His Own Kryptonite
After devouring Matthew Good’s entire catalog that was available to me, I wanted to know more about the man behind the music. As I wikipediaed my way through his history, read his book cover to cover, and the more I discovered, the more it made sense. Matthew had been diagnosed as bipolar, after an overdose and a 72-hour stint in the hospital’s psychiatric ward.
That fact was all I needed to know. His music became even more profound to me and my existence. On the nights where I couldn’t “zen” my way through the darkness, Matthew’s music was there to help me find the light. The amount of personal truth and meaning that went into each line captivated me more than the jam sessions at a Grateful Dead concert (which I admit, I’ve been entranced by A LOT of those in my day).
I would never wish mental illness or the side effects associated with it for you or those around you. However, I am grateful beyond words for Matthew Good, his experiences and his music. I hate to look back at the past, but I can say with fair certainty, it was his music that helped me climb out of the hole on more than one occasion, and if not for his words, I don’t know if I would have made it out.
On top of his music, his transparency on his own struggles with mental health, he is an impassioned advocate for the people, brings important world news to our attention, and loves tweeting about garage wine and football (you know, the European kind). He is my hero, in more ways than one.
Why Music Moves Us – Especially When We Feel Broken
I could wax poetic for days about how much I love Matthew Good and his music: how I anticipate each new album he releases; how I stalk his website and social media feeds for that announcement of his tour coming to my area. Instead, I have to question… What is it about certain music that moves us? Is it that there is another person alive who knows just how you feel in that moment? Which, ultimately gives you the ‘I’m-not-alone’ feeling everyone craves? Is it the melody? The swell of the drums as the final chorus kicks in? Is it the emotion in which the artist pleads their case, begging anyone to listen to hear them.
Maybe it’s all of the above. For me personally with Matthew’s music, it was the fact that he was being real about what goes on in his head. It wasn’t just songs and words of encouragement. It was real, raw and had a deeper meaning to me than anything I had ever heard previously.
So, in honor of Men’s Mental Health Day, I would like to say a very public THANK YOU to Matthew Good. Thank you for sharing your life, words, music and soul with the masses. I don’t know if you’ll ever truly know what your music has done for my life.
To learn more about Matthew Good, his music, go to his website where you can find all his social media links, discography and much more.
With that, I leave you with this YouTube playlist of my favorite Matthew Good songs, as well as a video of his TED talk about mental health. Also included are two videos of a song (dumb phone cut off recording) of when I got to see him play acoustic live in Philadelphia, March 2012. His sound system cut out and he sat down right in front of me and played one of my favorite songs. How’s that for an intimate performance!