Middle school was a weird time for everyone. I was no exception. In fact, when I hit puberty, I developed what I now know to be chronic severe depression with anxiety. When I was a teenager, though, I had no idea what those two words even meant, nor that what was going on mentally and emotionally with me had a name other than “moody” or “weird”.
Music has always been a huge influence in my life. I give my mom credit for that; she’s always loved music, too, so I grew up with it. Some of her favorites that I still like today are Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, and Queen. I began my life listening to them as well as 80’s and 90’s pop hits.
When I was around 14, a friend of mine gave me a mixed CD to listen to on one of my family’s long road trips. There were songs by Green Day and blink-182 on it, as well as bands I wasn’t as familiar with called Simple Plan and Good Charlotte. That is how I was first introduced to Joel Madden’s band Good Charlotte; the rest is history.
Back then, MTV was still the channel of music videos (sort of), and shows like Making The Video and Total Request Live. I loved whenever Good Charlotte was on it. Their music really resonated with me; their poppier, more upbeat songs were fun to sing and dance to and a good distraction from all of the angst and pain I was trying so hard to push down. Their deeper songs were perfect for me to sing along to to release some of that energy in a fairly healthy way. The long and the short of it was, their music was perfect to me.
Girls and Boys is an example of one of their “poppier” songs and one of my all time favorites. (Motivation Proclamation is an example of one of their deeper songs.) Both of these are quite old; let the record show I love ALL of their music. Cold Song is one of their most recent songs that I ADORE.
High school was a difficult time for me. I had moved from a small Catholic school environment in a small town in South Dakota to a semi ritzy suburb in Wisconsin with eight times as many students per grade. Due to the anxiety and depression, I isolated and was extremely shy. Making friends was rough. My high school was cliquey, and I wasn’t pretty enough or popular enough to be accepted. Majority of my friends were my high school teachers. I didn’t have a locker and had to store my stuff in a teacher’s cabinet. I didn’t have friends at lunch so I ate in the bathroom a la Katy Herron style in Mean Girls (until she became a plastic of course).
I was struggling in just about every way you could imagine. The emotions and feelings of shame were getting to be too much. I wanted out.
One day when I was 16, my parents and brother were gone somewhere, which left a car in the garage. I grabbed my Young & Hopeless CD and went out to the car. I planned on running it with the windows down until I hopefully passed out. I wanted Good Charlotte and Joel’s voice to be the last I heard in this world, because his voice did calm me as much as anyone could.
When their song “Hold On” came on, I broke down, rolled up the windows, screamed at the top of my lungs, and went back inside. That song saved my life.
This world is cold
But you don’t
You don’t have to go
You’re feeling sad, you’re feeling lonely
And no one seems to care
You’re mother’s gone and your father hits you
This pain you cannot bear
But we all bleed the same way as you do
And we all have the same things to go through
Hold on if you feel like letting go
Hold on, it gets better than you know
Recently, I had the opportunity to meet the band. I’m 33 years old now; in the last 17 years I have seen them over a half dozen times, but I had never met them. I couldn’t believe I was actually going to meet JOEL. What an amazing and incredible gift that I never thought would happen in my lifetime.
At first, when I bought the VIP upgrade, I was elated. I never thought I would ever get the chance to attend such an intimate aspect of their tour — an acoustic performance, Q&A, and an actual meet & greet with the band — so I was beyond excited.
Quickly, though, that turned to anxiety and even anger. I hate to admit that the anger ruminated and stuck around longer than it should have. I thought back to when Good Charlotte played a huge role in my life. It was an extremely dark time; probably my darkest. That band kept me alive and fighting, but it was all within the confines of my headphones. In the outside world, I was extremely alone. I was angry at my parents for not catching on and angrier at myself for never giving them a heads up. Suddenly I reverted back to how I felt at that time, and it was an ugly feeling.
Once that passed, I was extremely nervous leading up to November 6th. I was going to get to look Joel Madden in the eye, the man whose voice saved my life many times and on varying levels. I may even get to give him a hug. If I’m lucky, I might even think of a question to ask during the Q&A portion and actually have an exchange with him.
I wasn’t going to use this post to talk about my show, so I won’t. The purpose of this post was to talk about a man who helped me through the darkest hours of my mental health. But I will say the show was awesome. I did think of a question, and we did have a back and forth. I did give him a hug. And he did something special for me during the meet & greet itself. Before they perform Hold On, his brother Benji is usually the one who talks about the song’s importance and gives an uplifting speech. This night? Joel said he felt inspired to do it. Thanks to my friend Taylor, I have the whole thing on tape (I didn’t start recording right away, stupidly) and can listen to it whenever I need it. I am incredibly blessed.
Meeting someone who I idolized and respected for over 17 years was everything I had dreamed it would be. I wrote him a letter he may or may not have gotten (I forgot to hand it to him and supposedly one of the staff was going go bring it back to him). But as a preface to my question, I did thank him for songs “like Hold On and Self Help”. He may or may not be reading this post right now, because I tagged him on Twitter when I advertised this post.
Joel, thank you. I said it to you, I said it in my letter, I’ve tweeted it, and I’m saying it now. I am here because of you. Your music helps so many; I am just one tiny example. I owe you so much. Thank you for being such an incredible person to meet and for giving me an unforgettable experience that will leave me smiling for years to come.
I have two more lifesavers, an actor and an ex-firefighter turned comedian, and I will highlight them soon. They are all reasons that I am here and I am continuing to fight through these illnesses and struggles I face.
There is no way I’m alone. I know people have been helped through public figures of all kinds. I find those stories absolutely amazing. This is one of mine. Joel Madden is one of those people for me. Not only is he one of them, but he’s the first. You never forget the first. You never stop loving the first.