Recovery songs: Music as an alternative to self-harm?

“Stand By You” by Rachel Platten has been playing on repeat almost every night for the last week or so since I discovered it. The song makes me feel empowered; strong; capable of overcoming anything that threatens to tear me down. But it also reminds me of my best friend who has been there for me since I was 14 years old; that’s almost a decade of unwavering support.

When I shared the song with her it brought her to tears. She told me it is the story of us. It is our song. We’ve both struggled a lot over the last few years, but the one constant support system that we’ve both had is each other.

“Wings” by Birdy is another song that makes me think of my closest friend. The song brings about such strong emotions that it often makes me cry, but in a way that lets me feel both the good and the bad; the joy and the pain. The song hits me so close to home that the entire song evokes memories of times in which I felt impossibly lost and alone, but also times when the people in my life were able to help me get through those hard times. This song truly is an emotional roller coaster in the best possible way.

“All About You” is another song by Birdy that has a more obvious meaning. The course in particularly really speaks to me:

“You don’t have to do this on your own
Like there’s no one that cares about you
You don’t have to act like you’re alone
Like the walls are closing in around you
You don’t have to pretend no one knows
Like there’s no one that understands you
I’m not just some face you used to know
I know all about you
And you should know that someone cares about you”

I tend to listen to this song when I’m feeling completely alone. It reminds me that I’m not alone in my fight. I have my friends, my family, my treatment team, and, of course, myself. I have so many people in my life who know about my struggles who have been there for me since before they even knew about my struggles. The didn’t run for the hills when I disclosed to them that I was struggling; they stood by me and gave me support without trying to take over and control me. This song reminds me of those wonderful people.

“The Scientist” by Coldplay is another song that really stands out to me. Note, this is not the original version of the song, I just prefer this cover of the song because it’s what inspired me to learn how to play the song myself.

The song itself really makes me think about my struggle with an eating disorder and the things in my life that caused me to go down that path. I very much feel as though my struggle is about “numbers and figures” and has me “running in circles”, and in the end the lyric “nobody said it was easy, nobody said it would be this hard” speaks to my recovery progress. It’s been almost 2 years of recovery and yet I still find myself struggling and relapsing every few months.

One of the first lines in “Elastic Heart” by Sia is “you did not break me, I’m still fighting for peace” followed by “I’ve got thick skin and an elastic heart, but your blade might be too sharp”. This reminds me that I am no where near as messed up mentally as I was even one year ago, but at the same time, the memories of the past still haunt me and tempt me to self-harm. The reference to the blade as a means of destruction in the song reminds me that it is not the memories themselves that cause me physical harm, but the blade itself. This song reminds me that I am in control of the physical harm and I do not need to go down that road.

“Candle in the Wind” by Elton John is by far one of my all time favorite songs. I feel as though this song perfectly describes my struggles with anxiety, self-harm, PTSD, and the eating disorder. The lyric that really stands out to me is “it seems to me you lived your life like a candle in the wind, never knowing who to cling to when the rain set in” which perfectly articulates how I feel when I’m at my lowest points in recovery.

This is another song that can quickly bring me to tears, but when that happens it is the kind of meltdown that purges me of negative emotions and allows me to feel rejuvenated when it is over. This song is like an alternative to self-harm. It forces me to feel the emotions that I try to push away which feels like physical pain at times, but in the end I feel the same emotional release that I might otherwise achieve by harming myself. It’s amazing that someone can bring out such an emotional response just by singing a song. Thank you for that Elton John. I wish that I could one day have the opportunity to express my gratitude to you in person.




4 thoughts on “Recovery songs: Music as an alternative to self-harm?

  1. skinnyhobbit says:

    I also want to say I just found your blog and feel less alone. While I wasn’t sexually abused by a sibling, one of my siblings beat me and it was traumatic. Living with “the abuser” sucks, especially when he claims he’s chronically suicidal to me too.

    • Discoverecovery says:

      I’m so glad that my blog has helped you! I’m sorry that you had to go through that and I hope one day you are able to get the help that you need and deserve to overcome the past. Never give up on your future. Your sibling may have stolen your childhood but they can’t steal your future. You have that control.

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