Processing Pain through Podcasts & Parkas


I’ve just realised how mentally ill I was in my twenties. Not via the conventional channel of therapy, upon which I’m frantically paddling after waves of mental health, but by listening to a podcast about serial killers and an old Oasis B side.

The human brain is a very complex organ, y’know.

You may recall my essay about EMDR. I’m now in my sixth week and while it’s still effective, I’m increasingly aware that the cost is high. The processing phase, which my therapist told me was as important to the treatment as the sessions themselves, is a trudge through a barren wilderness lit only by the hope that something better than coping lies over the horizon.

Last week I was on that path for six days.

(image via @killnofillpod)

I was listening to AllKillaNoFilla Pod, my current escape from all things bleak. You could say finding peace in listening to light hearted exchanges about serial killers is indicative of how far I’ve unravelled inside the straitjacket of sanity, but I’d see that and raise you women’s lifestyle magazines, which almost certainly cause misery to more people in the world for longer than your average Fred West.

Anyway. I digress.

The AllKillaNoFilla presenters do that a lot too, which is how an examination of Robert Pickton, a farmer from Ontario convicted of murdering twenty-six women, turned into a conversation about Rachel Fairburn’s favourite Oasis song. These glorious asides, incidentally, are what makes the show so goddamn listenable, but please don’t take my revelatory moment as a guarantee that you too might have a mental health spasm while Fairburn & co-host Kiri Pritchard-McLean discuss the relative merits of living in Gloucester during the late eighties and early nineties.

I mean, you might, but I’m the only person to go public with mine so far, so I’m claiming it.

The song referred to was Rockin’ Chair. I know it because as a record shop worker in the late 90s I was required by law to listen to every sound that emerged from a Gallagher gob at least ten times a day, whether I liked it or not. I did, as it happened, but only because I was relieved it wasn’t one of Ministry of Sound’s Annual compilations.

On a whim I YouTubed it.

If Elon Musk could bottle the sensation I felt at the moment Liam Gallagher’s sneer emerged from my tinny Mac speakers, he’d make billions. The chemical surge coupled with the sensation of being snatched from the sofa and into the body I occupied as a twenty year old was utterly intoxicating. I wasn’t thinking about being there, I was there. I felt it.

It wasn’t what I remembered, though. In my head, the twenty year old me had made poor choices, regrettable decisions and mishandled other people’s feelings because I was a bad person. My Liam Gallagher propelled Sam Beckett moment articulated someone else entirely. Someone trying to appear normal while attempting to soothe nerve endings so sensitive they reacted to the air passing over them. I was fucking unhinged.

While Elon might want to edit that bit out to ensure better revenue, the experience has come as a massive relief to me. I can only assume that the therapy is responsible for the change in perspective, but instead of feeling angry with the person I was for not being better – a lifelong default setting – I felt sorry for her. Furthermore, I’d always seen myself as weak for failing to cope with life. Now I realise what I got through to be here now and… wow.

I’ve lost a massive proportion of my life to mental illness and the effort required to manage it, hide it, deny it and outwit it. Oddly though, I’ve no regrets that I didn’t seek treatment earlier, despite the progression I’ve made through EMDR and Rachel Fairburn’s obsession with the Gallagher brothers. While I’ll never feel like those dark years were ‘worth it’, I lived them, I survived them and if I can just extricate myself from the ectoplasm, I’ll probably be Wonder Woman.

Actually, fighting crime in a leotard would be a stretch. Going to an event or even on holiday without having an aneurysm would be progress at this point.

2 thoughts on “Processing Pain through Podcasts & Parkas

  1. I want to reply something deep and profound, something useful that is in keeping with a well written and heartfelt piece… but all I can think to write as a reply is: Did you mean to write “be here now,” because bravo if so, and your brain is better than you realise if not.

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