My Favorite Depression Song

on Monday, March 26, 2007

It was an exciting but tiring weekend; not aided by the fact that I had a fever and a bad cough. You could say that I have a fever aggravated Monday Blues funk. What I really need is to get some sleep.... for about a week. As that's not gonna happen, I just have to let the blues out somehow and so I decided to blog and share my misery around. This is going to be a seriously depressing post. If you wish to remain cheerful with birdsongs in your heart and cherry blossoms in your eyes, leave now. You have been warned.

Several posts ago, I did a little poem about my feelings during my bout with depression many years ago. When you are in that state, you develop a new set of habits which I think has to do with trying to express with actions the turmoil within. I had a friend, my depression buddy in fact, who painted all her room black. She even wrote me a nice long letter which was on black paper and written in black ink (you can read it by slanting the paper near a light and there will be a reflection off the ink). As she couldn't speak without breaking down and crying, this was her way of expressing herself. Black, of course, is also soothing. It's like being in a safe cocoon and I don't think it was so much to do about being morbid.

I, though, found myself a nice theme song so that even on the brightest, sunniest day, I had a magic tune to lead me back into the comforting darkness. That song was the theme song from the movie M*A*S*H and it was called "Suicide is Painless". The "young" readers are probably lost at this stage. M*A*S*H was a black comedy set in a mobile army surgical hospital during the Korean War. It was also adapted into what became arguably the most popular T.V. series of all time. Look it up yourself cause I want to talk about the song.

This song was written by Johnny Mandel for the movie. Director Robert Altman asked for a dark, funny and yet stupid song. Mandel came out with the tune but complained that there was no way he could come up with anything so ridiculous. So in the end, the lyrics were written by Mike Altman who was at that time the 14 year old son of the director. Can you imagine that this was written by a 14 year old? Marilyn Manson did a cover version of the song in 2000 as the theme song for the sequel to the movie "The Blair Witch Project". Marilyn said that it was "More depressing and offensive than anything I've ever written". Praise indeed from the master.

Of course, many people have argued about what the lyrics actually meant. Some suggest that it was really a metaphor for the political and military decisions facing U.S.A. during the Vietnam War. I think that's stretching it and giving a lot of credit to a 14 year old.

Why did it become my depression theme song? The lyrics are misguidingly comforting. When you think that nothing is going right and you have no control over your life, it seductively suggests that you still have the power to choose to live or die, or to choose to die on your own terms "before the losing card you play". It suggests that all the pain will go away and the act itself will be surprisingly painless compared to the pain of continued existance.

Of course, I think that it is all nonsense now. It isn't about power but about running away, about giving up and about security in defeat. The truth is that in every life some rain must fall but life is a precious gift and worth all the pain and inconvenience. However, even though the lyrics no longer has its hold on me, the song is a very major part of my past and therefore forever a part of me.

Anyway, here are the lyrics. What do you think?

Suicide is Painless

Through early morning fog I see
visions of the things to be
the pains that are withheld for me
I realize and I can see...

That suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
and I can take or leave it if I please.

I try to find a way to make
all our little joys relate
without that ever-present hate
but now I know that it's too late, and... [Refrain]

The game of life is hard to play
I'm gonna lose it anyway
The losing card I'll someday lay
so this is all I have to say. [Refrain]

The only way to win is cheat
And lay it down before I'm beat
and to another give my seat
for that's the only painless feat. [Refrain]

The sword of time will pierce our skins
It doesn't hurt when it begins
But as it works its way on in
The pain grows stronger,
watch it grin, but... [Refrain]

A brave man once requested me
to answer questions that are key
"is it to be or not to be?"
and I replied "oh why ask me?"

'Cause suicide is painless
it brings on many changes
and I can take or leave it if I please
.....and you can do the same thing if you choose.


CSL said...

I loved M*A*S*H, and I've always liked gallows humor. As a bonus, they had a great shrink character on it. And I like the theme song, although I can't say I agree with the lyrics. Primarily because I've seen how damaging suicide is to the people left behind. Not so painless at all.

Tai said...

A 14 year old wrote that??
Well, I guess it's not that surprising really, 14 is a tough time, isn't it.

etain_lavena said...

wowi....prozac for that kid;)
I know what comfort black can bring, when I want to hide, I do my full goth thing. when I wanted to paint my room black my father had heart failure...alas it did not happen....
The words of Anny says it best: The sun will shine tommorow...yes I have red hair....what gave it away.
Peace out:)

Odat said...

I knew the them song from Mash ..but didn't realize it had lyrics!!! Wow.....
Oh wish for you today is sunshine and smiles....

Ruth said...

Hi, I just had to tell you that i have been enjoying your blog for some time now. Depression is a "condition" that many do not understand. I think your doing great

Proxima said...

They say that those with the most amount of humor, have suffered the deepest about on pain. It's how we survive. Depression is disease, but you don't have to take medication, you don't *have to* do anything.

You find your own way to cope and if you can't you reach out for help and hope you get someone who can do just that.

My personal motto,is that as long as there is another day, it is another day to make things better. Regarless of your religious belives, this life and this moment will only be experienced once, you should make the most of it, because you don't get to pick and choose the memories you take with you.


Ellie said...

I am saddened to think a 14 year old could write those words, but it is a reality in our lifetime.

Interesting and thought provoking post. Color never factored into my depression. I never once thought of it.

squirrel said...

I never knew a 14 year old wrote that. I always liked that song but never knew all the words. Hope you are feeling better now. :)

Michael C said...

That is a great song. I find myself humming it from time to time, especially since the channel TVLand has started showing the reruns nightly.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Suicide is neither painless nor a solution. Yet for some, they are caught in a spiral of destructive negative thoughts and need help to realise this. It's particularly bad for those left behind.

The angst of a 14 year old? Very impressive. He probably went back to his computer games after writing it. :)

yes, I think black is more about hiding and withdrawing from the world. Redheads may look good i black but are too "sunny" to stay in black. Yes? Write when you are in London. Cheers.

You are all sweeetness and niceness. I hope this nasty little post did not slow down your cheerful enthusiasm for life. Peace.

When I went through depression, I was surrounded by well meaning friends who thought that Christians do not suffer from depression. Understanding it helps me identify with other sufferers and hopefully help them.

a healthy and balanced way of looking at life. Yes, I have always been drawn to the phrase "the tears of a clown". Those with the greatest capacity to laughter have also the greatest capacity to pain.

Don't feel too bad about the 14 year old who wrote it. I think he turned out fine, it just seems very deep for a 14 year old even if it is misguided.

color didn't factor in it for me either but I think it does for some.

don't worry I'm fine. I just have the skill of making a mountain out of a molehill or an influenza pandemic out of the sniffles.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

It is a cheerful tune, isn't it? But with dark lyrics. I think that makes a great combination. If I were there with you, I'd be watching the reruns nightly.

Ellie said...

I thought about it and I have my five, I think. :)

Janice Thomson said...

I watched MASH for years and years and never knew the lyrics to the theme song.
It takes a lot of guts and stamina to struggle away from suicide when in a depression...kudos LGS for making that journey and being here to give us a wee bit of insight into it.
Four decades ago similar thoughts were in my head and someone gave me a book by a writer of Egyptian history(Bika Reed)called Rebel in the Soul. It is a simple poetry book from an Ancient Egyptian sacred made all the difference in the world and I have never looked back since.

geewits said...

I found the lyrics in a songbook years and years ago and was surprised at their morbidity (and I never knew a kid wrote them). I'm glad you like the song as it was the only song I ever learned to play on the harmonica so it is special to me also.

Gerbil said...

Suicide mostly certainly isn't painless - the pain might get to be something you can LIVE with, but that pain never ever ever goes away. I lost a good friend to it more than 10 years ago and it hurst just as much now as it did the morning after she died.

Depression, though, is a sneaky disease that whispers to you and alters how you can perceive just about everything. You can get to the point where all you want is just to stop hurting and you can't see a clear path out of it.

It's a horrid thing to experience indeed. Clinical depression and bipolar run strongly in my family. Luckily most who suffer from it have sought successful treatment.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

It was God who pulled me through. That book of poems must be amazing if it helped you. Going through depression makes you love life even more, I think. Though I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

I can imagine the campfire after a long day of happy trekking. You pull out the ol' harmonica and we all sing Suicide is Painless round the campfire. Haha. Life doesn't get weirder than that.

As you said, it sneakily whispers to you and changes your perception. Suicide is painless compared to facing the unending pain of living each day. It's so seductive. It's all lies.

I am so sorry to hear that you have experienced such a loss amongst your friends. Also sorry to hear about the history of depression and bipolar in your family. Glad most are under effective treatment. This is a tough and painful condition for everyone.

thethinker said...

After reading the lyrics, I find it amazing that a 14 year old wrote it. I wonder what experiences in his life moved him to write it.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Hi, thanks for coming by. I've been over to your site as well. It's quite amazing writing for a 14 year old and I too wonder what experiences enabled him to write on this topic in this way. ...... but then, I think you surprise many of us with your writing too, in a good way :)

CSL said...

Oh, absolutely. In fact, it's kind of what I do for a living.

patterns of ink said...

A friend of mine has to live with the pain of this song as do her children. As you have learned suicide is anything but painless for those left to clean up.
So glad you found your way through that time and that you are open about Who saved you.

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