Trigger warning: self-harm, death
This piece of writing happened because I had put this song on repeat and I just couldn’t stop listening to it. It’s almost unedited (I have only changed two things) so be kind!
‘Helena’ by My Chemical Romance
I was 12 when this was released, though I don’t remember being so young when I first heard it on one of the many music channels I used to watch. My dad loved to watch VH1, bought DVD versions of music video compilations from 80’s and 90’s albums. The ones I remember were the ‘Best of’ Tears For Fears and Michael Jackson. I must have watched them dozens of times, because I can tell you exactly what the videos look like for almost every song.
I used to binge-watch (though this was not a term back in the early to mid-noughties) music video channels through our Sky subscription. Kerrang! was a particular favourite. It introduced me to the love of my teenage years, Billie Joe Armstrong. Consequently, I also fell for punk rock and indie music.
Helena is a beautiful music video. Gerard is beautiful. His hair dark and long-ish. His eye make-up drastic. The video uses gorgeous shades of red – blood red, bright red, auburn. And of course lots of monochrome (mostly black). The song is about a dead woman. She climbs out of her gothic coffin (aren’t all coffins gothic?) with her ultra-pale face and large dramatic eyes to do a little dance in front of her mourners. She’s majestic and graceful. I wanted to be her.
Listening to it now, the song fills my tear ducts. I can’t cry as easily as I used to thanks to my ongoing prescription of Sertraline. It makes the buzzing between my ears go away a little bit, it makes my wrists feel as if they are going to burst. My wrists are so heavy and uncomfortable that it is hard to type. My imagination presents a potential relief – perhaps cutting them open to let the blood out will help me feel better.
But no, I’m too scared to be doing that.
I think of my beloved friend. I think about the one I worry about. I think about my child. I think about my chest becoming tight. My wrists really are aching, I think they might explode.
Should a song have such an effect on a person? Can music drive somebody to madness? Or have I been mad all along, this song perhaps just a portal to that part of me. It’s as if putting this song on repeat is a form of self-harm.
But it’s a great song, a great album. I love this band. I loved Gerard. Yes, they sing about death a lot, but why not? Life is full of death.
I can see my younger self diving deep into the music, turning up her huge CD and music system as loud as she thinks her parents will permit, drowning her thoughts in lyrics. She scribbled the words over her forearms, much to her mother’s disapproval. That young woman never immersed herself in the punk rock culture because she was too scared to stand out. She was an oxymoron (emphasis on the moron) – she craved invisibility, yet she wished to turn heads. She wanted to be wanted.
I often think that if I had let that side out, if I had been braver, maybe I would have been happier. I would have been included; I could have found the right group of people, the better clan of friends.
My desire for attention, for support, lead me to cut my calves every now and again with a razor blade. I did it on my parents’ anniversary, the same day as my mum’s birthday, but I cut a little too deep. I got scared by the amount that was pouring out of my leg into the bathtub. I didn’t call for help though, because I didn’t want the wrath of either of my parents, nor did I want to ruin their one happy day of the year. It stopped bleeding eventually, and I went back to my room.
I can see Gerard’s face as he sings these lyrics, especially towards the end. There is so much pain in his eyes. I wish I could live in this music video. Live between the lines of the lyrics. Look like that ‘dead’ goth girl, just dancing and looking peaceful yet frightened. I could do that.
I could also change the song, but this kind of misery can be addictive. I’m not ready to change my mood yet. I am ready to cry, but as I mentioned, the antidepressants won’t let me.
I am overthinking. I am turning these feelings against myself. I know for a fact that if I played a different song, a different genre really, I would be fine. This would all be some embarrassing, dramatic 45 minutes that I have somehow typed onto a screen.
Okay, I’ve changed it. It’s not quite pop, but it’s not so intense. My veins still look and feel like they are bulging, my neck still feels a little twisted, but I think I’m ready to move on to something else, to a different state of mind.