From Our Readers
July 30, 2015 9:10 am

I am not your typical metal head. My only piercings are in my ears (one each) and my hair color stays within the plausible-in-nature range. I prefer retro clothes (being tall and buxom they suit me) and bright red lipstick. I am, in my day-to-day life, pretty straight-laced.

But I struggle with something, that according to Anxiety and Depression Association of America, affects eighteen percent of US Americans aged eighteen and older: I have an anxiety disorder. And I’m finally talking about it.

I’ve struggled with anxiety for years (along with depression and long-undiagnosed ADHD). I have found, along with medication and therapy, some things that have helped me greatly. Most prominent among these has been music. And of the genres I love, classic metal has had the most profound effect on my mental health.

I discovered Metallica when I was 14. Gangly, long-limbed, and awkward, I fell in love at first riff. And it has been an enduring love. I heard “Sad But True,” and suddenly I could breathe. It was as if the world opened up and said, “Hey. Things suck right now, it’s true, but you’re going to hear some ridiculously sweet guitar and percussion, and things will feel better eventually.” Metallica gave me hope for normalcy, and proceeded to open up a whole world of musical expression for me.

After Metallica came Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, and Queensrÿche (Geoff Tate still holds a very special place in my heart). These bands didn’t make me angry, or anti-social, instead they gave me refuge. Pounding drums to “re-calibrate” my heartbeat. Wailing guitars to lift me up and inspire me to my own creative pursuits. Lyrics and poetry that made me think, and consider my views on politics, religion, and social issues.

As I have gotten older (about a decade has passed since that first pulse-racing “I’m your dream, make you real…”) I have only fallen more in love with metal. Through tumultuous relationships, and the gripping spiral of anxiety and self-doubt, those lyrics and many others were beacons of better times to come. And now, when I am finally in a healthy place mentally and emotionally, I find myself continuing to be drawn to these songs. I still love Metallica. I still yearn to wrap myself in Goeff Tate’s voice like a baritone blanket. Blue Oyster Cult still makes my skin crawl in the most delicious way; and I fully expect to be loving metal for the rest of my life.

I will always be a person with anxiety. This is a fact of my existence, the same way that being tall, or loving my family, or being an animal person are all defining aspects of my person. None of these are all of me, however. They are facets of my being. Each integral and important, but all existing in perspective to each other.

And that perspective? I got that from metal. Through my love affair with heavy percussion and wailing guitars, aggressive vocals and thought-provoking cover art I came to terms with reality—my reality. And I was able to see the beauty of my own existence. So, my dear Metallica, thank you! You changed the way I look at the world, and gave me hope. I am eternally grateful.

Josette Belant is a paralegal student who crafts compulsively and dresses her puppy up in demoralizing outfits. You can read more of her thoughts on mental health at borderlineacidic.wordpress.com.

[Image via YouTube]

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