Here we have another Movember guest post by Holland Neifer, LPC. Thanks for taking the time to share some insight.Jared A. Godar
As a mental health professional, my days are filled by stories of abuse, loss, trauma, and the various ways people cope with such realities—often the problematic use of alcohol and other drugs. Despite the circumstances, I am humbled to witness clients take courageous steps towards recovery and their hope for a brighter future. For this piece, I chose to write about singer-songwriter Jason Molina, an artist who knew all too well the power of the bottle.
Jason was unable to triumph over his own battle with alcoholism, dying of multiple organ failure at the age of thirty-nine, but his music lives on to remind us that we are not alone in our struggles. When I hear a song such as “How To Be Perfect Men” from the 1999 album Axxess & Ace, I can feel pure emotion, pouring from this Lorain, Ohio native and his project Songs: Ohia.
This song begins subtly, withdrawn, and subdued. I love the shift in dynamics as it prepares the listener for Jason’s brutal honesty, as well as the driving instrumental end. The lyrics are unpretentious while achieving depth.
Of all that I should beJason Molina, “How to be Perfect Men”
And perfect men would never be
Jealous or desperate
My ghost and I in our graves will lie
Although I am unsure of Molina’s mental health history, I am reminded on an almost daily basis that it is nearly impossible to separate mental health from substance abuse and subsequent dependency. Working for a non-profit that treats dual-diagnosis clients, it saddens me that few agencies exist to manage both concurrently. Whether that stems from a lack of resources or not, I can tell you that nearly every client I assess uses substances to self-medicate an otherwise untreated mental health condition or that they have now developed a mental health disorder from the consequences of their drug use. I approach all substance abuse from a mental health lens to explore what is really going on.
I have heard Molina’s art referred to as “Depression Music” and I cannot say that I disagree. “How To Be Perfect Men” appears to be a declaration of one’s own shortcomings and a sense of powerlessness that comes with failure. Unwanted, invasive, self-sabotaging negative cognitions can cripple people to the point of total despair. We have this expectation of how we “should be,” a large product of our environment, confronted by our actual selves, which often sets us up for feelings of worthlessness. These thoughts can truly make us feel like ghosts. In fact, as Jason later wrote in the song “O! Grace,” that he felt “as lonesome as the world’s first ghost.” Wow!
Meeting people in this headspace is heart-wrenching, but so REAL. So real that a whole manual, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders exists to describe those very feelings that so many of us experience. My copy is spineless, missing the back cover, and tattered from use matching symptoms to disorders.
Some clients take comfort in the label that this book provides. People like to know that they are not “crazy,” but that they are exhibiting common symptoms in reaction to their circumstances. The label normalizes a stigmatized experience. Others would rather focus on the symptoms at hand.
At the end of the day, my goal is to simply help people feel better and to legitimize their experience when they might otherwise not able to do that for themselves. Music is such a powerful vessel that can accomplish the very same task. Everyone deserves to have their reality recognized. We are not perfect men. Thank you, Jason, for sharing this truth.
If you ever find yourself feeling “as lonely as the world’s first ghost,” questioning your place in this world, or merely needing someone to talk to, please call the confidential National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, available 24 hours every day. You can also use their Lifeline Chat, https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/
Additionally, if you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, you can contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for resources in your area.