15 Songs I Listen to When I’m Depressed – and Not One is About Sunshine.

Music has always been an extremely significant part of my life. From singing, to playing piano, to being a DJ, to having music playing almost constantly; it has always served an important purpose for me. It has gotten me through my worst times, and even my best times. If music didn’t exist, I’m positive the silence would kill me.

High school was a particularly difficult time for me. Between school itself, a strained relationship with my mother, and having already had a depressive childhood, I saw some of my darkest days in high school.

I was very depressed, often didn’t want to live, and cut my wrists occasionally for about a year. I had many friends, but I didn’t want them to think I was crazy so I hid these things from most of them. The only place I truly found solace was in music. Turns out there’s a song for just about every emotion there is. Additionally, psychologists are seeing positive effects of music therapy for many illnesses.

Those of us who have ever suffered from depression know that it’s one of the most severely isolating mental illnesses, and it makes you feel crazy and alone even when you aren’t. Hearing lyrics that echoed my thoughts and feelings was very therapeutic for me because it forced me to understand that I’m not the only one feeling this way. That’s also a huge reason why I started this blog – so that people like me know that they aren’t alone.

I’ve always enjoyed all types of music and respect it all as an art, but it was the rock, punk, and grunge that really spoke to and comforted my ‘dark’ side. I had several songs I’d listen to that would help me through the hard times, and I’m not sure what would have happened to me if I didn’t have them.

People who have never experienced depression are quick to tell you to “snap out of it,” “just think happy thoughts,”and “stop feeling sorry for yourself,” but we know it’s not something that can be fixed in a simple step. Of course there are small actions we can take to ‘stay positive,’ but sometimes forcing happy only makes us feel more abnormal.

Making positive choices is absolutely necessary on the road to long-term happiness, but I also know that sometimes you just need to feel like shit and get it over with. So if you aren’t feeling rainbow unicorns and sunshine, it’s perfectly acceptable to write a sad poem, cry it out, scream into a pillow, or listen to emotional music. Covering up pain doesn’t do you any good, so sometimes it’s necessary to feel every dark corner of it and address it.

I’m always trying to think of new and different ways that I can help my readers with depression, so I thought it may be beneficial to share with you a little playlist of what got me through high school (and beyond). You can find them all individually below with a description of each song and what it means to me, or you can subscribe to my YouTube channel and play them all in a playlist at the bottom of this page.

Good Charlotte – Hold On

Good Charlotte received many letters from their fans about how terrible their lives are and how they feel like they can’t go on, so they wrote this song in response telling them to just “hold on” because it gets better. It’s pretty obvious why this is one of my songs; sometimes you just need to hear someone tell you things do get better.

But we all bleed the same way as you do
And we all have the same things to go through

Hold on, if you feel like letting go
Hold on, it gets better than you know
Don’t stop looking, you’re one step closer
Don’t stop searching, it’s not over
Hold on

Papa Roach – Last Resort

Written about a friend of the band who neared suicide, it shows the perspective of someone who simply can’t take anymore and thinks that suicide is the only option. I often thought about suicide when I was 15-18 years old, so this song really resonated with me – probably more than any other.

“Don’t give a fuck if I cut my arm bleeding” was very powerful for me since that was a coping mechanism I had turned to for a year or so of my life. It makes no sense to someone who has never done it, but on some (unhealthy) level, it somehow transformed the deep emotional pain I felt into a physical pain I could control.

Can’t go on
Living this way
Nothing’s alright

Sadly, this is often how I felt.

Incubus – Stellar

Some of my favorite memories from high school are of driving around aimlessly with my best friend and some of the other ‘goth’ kids. We all listened to about the same music, and Incubus was pretty popular then. I had a HUGE crush on this one guy and he loved playing ‘Stellar’ in his car, so this one is more nostalgic for me than anything. But it’s about love and the transcendence you feel when you’re in love, as if you’re in outer space.

Slipknot – Surfacing

With a message of “don’t judge me” and “fuck what other people think,” it’s a great anthem for me to scream along with when I’m pissed off at the world.

Fuck it all! Fuck this world!
Fuck everything that you stand for!
Don’t belong! Don’t exist!
Don’t give a shit!
Don’t ever judge me!

It’s a good reminder to just be yourself, and that it’s OK.

Everclear – Wonderful

This one was a particularly pivotal song for me growing up. Since I can remember, my parents haven’t really gotten along, and I was often a witness to the dysfunction. They allegedly ‘separated’ when I was about 14 after my older sister had gone off to college, but they remained living together and are still ‘together’ to this day. The separate, yet together, thing was pretty confusing for me, and this song really helped me through it.

Written from the perspective of a child witnessing a divorce, it talks honestly about what that child sees and doesn’t quite understand.

Hope my mom and I hope my dad
Will figure out why they get so mad
Hear them scream, I hear them fight
Say bad words that make me want to cry

I don’t want to hear you say
That I will understand someday
No, no, no, no
I don’t want to hear you say
We both have grown in a different way

Some days I hate everything
I hate everything
Everyone and everything
Please don’t tell me everything is wonderful now

Papa Roach – Broken Home

Along the same vein as ‘Wonderful,’ ‘Broken Home’ is also about divorce.

Broken home, all alone
I can’t seem to fight these feelings
I’m caught in the middle of this
And my wounds are not healing
I’m stuck in between my parents
I wish I had someone to talk to
Someone I could confide in

Again, just hearing lyrics with the same feelings you have really helps heal those open wounds.

Blink 182 – Adam’s Song

Another one about suicide, Blink 182 wrote this about a suicide note that they had read from someone to his parents. They wrote it when they were feeling particularly lonely and homesick on the road, and it ended up being more sad than they intended.

I never thought I’d die alone
Another six months I’ll be unknown
Give all my things to all my friends
You’ll never step foot in my room again
You’ll close it off, board it up
Remember the time that I spilled the cup
Of apple juice in the hall
Please tell mom this is not her fault

This song really made me think about suicide and the repercussions of it. When someone commits suicide, they aren’t hurting themselves; they’re hurting everyone they leave behind. This song came out the year before my half-brother killed himself, but even before I felt that pain I knew I couldn’t do that to my family. The line “please tell mom this is not her fault” just made me imagine what my mom would go through if I ever did that, and I couldn’t bear the thought.

A Perfect Circle – 3 Libras

Maynard James Keenan is an anomaly among mere mortals. His talent is boundless, he is unfathomably intelligent, and he has so much music inside of him that he’s in not 1 but 3 very different bands. ‘3 Libras’ is a tune about being overlooked and unnoticed, which is a common feeling for the depressed.

Difficult not to feel
a little bit disappointed and passed over
when I’ve looked right through to see you
naked but oblivious
and you don’t see me

This song has a particularly eerie feel with the use of a violin, and I actually really wanted to sing it in high school. Add it to the list of ‘things I’ve wanted to do but never did’; thanks depression.

Incubus – I Miss You

We’ve all missed someone at some point, and this song is pretty straightforward. Teenage crushes and love are some of the most powerful, and often destructive feelings we can ever feel; so I’ve definitely played this one on repeat as I cried thinking about someone.

You do something to me that I can’t explain
So would I be out of line if I said
I miss you?
I see your picture
I smell your skin on the empty pillow next to mine

Smelling someone’s t-shirt that they left behind or their fragrance on your sheets is enough to drive you mad when you miss them, so I found this song to be painfully realistic.

Linkin Park – My December

I didn’t listen to Linkin Park too much until one of my best friends played their remix album ‘Reanimation’ often when I’d go to his house. We had a very deep connection, so I related that album to him. One of my favorite songs off of that album was ‘My December,’ and I discovered that the original version was even more sorrowful.

And I give it all away
Just to have somewhere to go to
Give it all away
To have someone to come home to

It was written about missing someone and pretending that you’re happy where you are, something that many of us have been through. Sometimes we just need someone to come home to.

Annie Lennox – Don’t Let it Bring You Down

I discovered this song in one of my favorite movies American Beauty. I’ve always felt really connected to that movie because it covers a broad range of mental illnesses, relationship dynamics, and real-life scenarios. This song plays during an intimate scene toward the end of the movie, and I find it to be really calming and relaxing.

Scene from American Beauty:

Eminem – Lose Yourself

Eminem is excellent to listen to when you just want to say “fuck it.” He doesn’t give a shit, he doesn’t pretend to be anyone or anything else, and he’s not afraid to speak his mind. ‘Lose Yourself’ is about seizing opportunities and taking life by the balls.


Metallica  – No Leaf Clover

I’m sure that many people can relate to this song as its message loosely resembles the idea of “one step forward, two steps back.” As dramatic as it sounds, I’ve always felt that this song is somewhat of a personal anthem for me. No matter how hard you try, sometimes you get absolutely nowhere.

Then it comes to be that the soothing light at the end of your tunnel
Is just a freight train coming your way

Typically a four-leaf clover is meant to bring good luck, but this song is aptly named ‘No Leaf Clover’ for obvious reasons.

Simple Plan – Perfect

Many of us spend a lifetime trying to please someone else, and it’s often our own family. The people we love the most are usually the ones who hurt us deeper in their words and actions, but we still continue to beat ourselves up to make them happy.

I just want to make you proud
I’m never gonna be good enough for you
I can’t stand another fight
And nothing’s all right

‘Cause we lost it all
And nothin’ lasts forever
I’m sorry I can’t be perfect

Growing up in my sister’s nearly ‘perfect’ shadow, I often felt (and still feel) as though I’m not good enough. We’re both very different in many ways, and that should be OK – but because I’m younger I’ve always felt somewhat compared to her. When I was about 19 or so, I remember quite vividly that my mother told me, “I haven’t been proud of you in a long time.” Needless to say, that created a pretty profound scar. Fortunately her opinion of me has since changed, but I’ve never forgotten that moment.

Nine Inch Nails – Hurt

I’ve always suffered from a lack of motivation, so I’ve had to work twice as hard as most people for the things that I’ve accomplished. I’ve also discovered that a majority of my motivation is derived from guilt and anxiety.

‘Hurt’ is a song about regret and the consequences of making choices in our lives that stick with us forever. It has a very somber feel, and Johnny Cash even covered it in the last months of his life.

I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that’s real

Don’t you feel better already?

Click here to subscribe to my YouTube channel and play all of these jams on my ‘Songs For Depression’ playlist.

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