The Rising Tide

Band: Sunny Day Real Estate
Album: The Rising Tide
Best song: “The Ocean” and “Fool in the Photograph” are the best songs.
Worst song: “Tearing in My Heart” isn’t much.

As a nonreligious person, an absurdist (in the philosophical sense) and a bit of a contrarian, I welcome things that challenge the status quo. However, I also tend to worship at the altar of science more than the average cat, which can be a tenuous stance. Science is progressive, so the preeminent science of today may be considered bunk in a week.

I especially believe in medical science. My sister is a doctor and my father is a dentist. I give doctors — for the most part — carte blanche and tend to agree what doctors tell me and will believe what they say. Much of this is a result of having grown up in a community that fetishizes education, as doctors are well-educated.

Mental health — nay, all things “brain” — is so wildly misunderstood that it can be frustrating. People mock psychologists and psychiatrists with aplomb, even calling the profession “head shrinking.” Because it isn’t the same as a knee injury or a facial scar, no one believes mental health to be a major factor. Indeed, if you can’t see it — the old images of a man who thinks he is Napoleon or the extreme example of someone suicidal — then the problem doesn’t exist. Unlike someone walking with a limp, a mental limp can come out in many different ways. This comes out when people treat mental health as frivolity or unnecessary. It’s damaging.

The role of religion in treatment of people with mental health problems is complicated. Certainly, in Alcoholics Anonymous, the role of a “higher power” is not without tremendous value, as it’s a proxy for the nature of chaos in the world. But, religious organizations often take a substitute role for mental health professionals, with clergy asking for the afflicted to simply accept God in lieu of actual treatment. This… isn’t great, especially from someone like me (a nonreligious person).

The notion is responsibility, on some level. People tend to look at any mental health treatment as “lazy” or for someone who doesn’t want to take responsibility. This often happens with alcoholism and self-reliance; everyone shits on alcoholics without any understanding of what alcoholism is. Depression is the same way. Anxiety isn’t far from that. Everyone wants to think that people with mental health are just babies or can’t handle it. But, that’s outstandingly misunderstood.

In art, it’s often suicide. Suicide is something that can happen to anyone and it just needs some terrible thing. Suicidal people are not suicidal people on a dime; someone who is willing to take his/her life does not go into that decision easily. These people need treatment and help, including antidepressants.

The best analogy, as mentioned above, is a knee injury. If someone has a knee injury — be it congenital or from a trauma — no on doesn’t believe that person. The injured gets a brace or rehab or is told to strengthen the muscles around the joint or any combination of these (and plenty of other treatments [I’m not a doctor]). No one says “Hey, jerk. Just try to figure it out. You need to be stronger.”

Sometimes, the brain needs a brace (antidepressants) and some rehab (therapy). That doesn’t make the individual weak. It doesn’t mean the individual should be ashamed.

I’ve not been shy in this space about my own struggles with mental health. These struggles started in high school, as they do with a lot of people. Growing up, I’d heard a lot of music that mostly shits on antidepressants.

Which brings us to one of my favorite bands. Sunny Day Real Estate’s second reunion album — maybe? I don’t really know how this whole thing has worked — is certainly the band’s weakest, but there’s a wonderful song with a troubling lyrical notion that speaks to this.

“Killed by an Angel” has a wonderfully unique (for the band, at least) guitar sound and a driving rhythm that’s really excellent. Unfortunately, the lyric sheet is pretty well anti-mental health.

And paranoia keeps you healthy
Crooked deals can make you wealthy
Serum vials to help you when you’re sad

It’s an upsetting notion that Jeremy Enigk — a religious person — is apparently against mental health on such an overt level. The song is good, but the lyrics are awful. It speaks to the notion of whatever responsibility everyone has to their mental health, with a “serum” being laziness. Which stinks.

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  • About Me

    I'm Ross Jordan Gianfortune. I am not a writer, but I sometimes write here about music and my life. I live in Washington, DC.

    I used to review each of Rolling Stone Magazine's top 500 albums of all time. Now I'm writing about albums I own.

    My work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Gazette, The Atlantic, Sno-Cone and a bunch of defunct zines.

    You can contact me at rjgianfortune at gmail dot com.

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