Trigger warning: suicide, mental illness, trauma, sexual assault and rape
I’m not the first to write about Kesha and I sure as hell won’t be the last, but here’s the truth: Kesha saved my life.
Last summer, after many long years dealing with complex PTSD that had never been diagnosed or acknowledged, I very quickly and very terribly slipped into the worst depression of my life. No stranger to mental illness, I was used to weeks in bed and bottles of self-pity wine, but this was different. On the outside, I may have seemed fine as I continued to go to work every day, but on the inside I was numb. I battled flashbacks and triggers that I couldn’t logically piece together. Anxiety and panic was replaced with what I can only explain as a darkness within. I didn’t even feel sad; I’d just had enough.
Things came to a head when eventually I considered buying a tent and going to stay on a campsite. I even researched the least painful ways to kill myself. Looking back, it seems like I’m talking about another person altogether, and I am so glad that period of my life has gone. It wasn’t just my partner, friends and family who helped me through it, however. Kesha made a difference too.
The release of Rainbow coincided with the darkest moments. Previously, I’d soundtracked my breakdown with the usual rock and emo albums – full of songs that no doubt made me feel even worse. But as soon as the title track began, I knew this was a record made by someone who understood me. “I used to live in the darkness / Dressed in black, act so heartless,” I sang along to the opening bars as I wore my clothes with the best accessory of all: a smile. I felt hope as I howled “I can’t lose hope / What’s left in my heart’s still made of gold” in my first shower in days.
“In a world where mediocre men are adorned with awards, I continue to be baffled with the lack of recognition for women who make life-changing and, in my case, life saving music.”
“Don’t let the bastards get you down,” I hummed to myself on the daily commute. “I’m a motherf*ckin’ woman,” I secretly shook my hips to as I walked on the cobbles outside my flat. Picking up an air guitar for the first time in a long time, Let ‘Em Talk and Boogie Feet allowed me to lose my inhibitions and dance around my bedroom, releasing the tension within.
Yodelling along to Hunt You Down and Old Flames (Can’t Hold A Handle To You) alleviated the crushing panic in my chest, while Learn To Let Go reminded me to take my own advice: “I think it’s time to practice what I preach / Exorcise the demons inside me”. Perhaps most importantly of all, Praying was the anthem I had always needed following several incidents of sexual assault, rape and one particularly grim abusive relationship. Giving me strength when I thought I might never find it, it encouraged me to find forgiveness, resilience and hope. Kesha’s performance of the song at the Grammys alongside other supportive women cemented its importance; if only she’d been recognised for it.
In a world where mediocre men are adorned with awards, I continue to be baffled with the lack of recognition for women who make life-changing and, in my case, life saving music. I don’t want to dig up Kesha’s past again – it’s been done enough – but she has been an inspiration to me and so many others. Ed Sheeran may have got the Grammy, but Kesha’s my winner.
Image via @KeshaRose