My Soundtrack by Jamie Gogocha

In The Stand, Stephen King writes, “No one can tell what goes on in between the person you were and the person you become. No one can chart that blue and lonely section of hell. There are no maps of the change. You just come out the other side. Or you don’t.” There aren’t maps, but there’s music. Through each section of life we walk through, there’s a song. Maybe it’s overt, like a movie’s star singing karaoke. Maybe it’s floating somewhere in the background.

But there’s always a song.

“Send me all your vampires” (I Want You, Third Eye Blind) (September 1999, Puyallup)

The day after I graduated from Powell County High School in 1999, I got in my Dodge Neon, merged on to I-90 West, and left my unhappy adolescence in my rearview mirror. I thought that my depression would stay in Montana with everything else I was leaving behind.

In September, the opportunity to see Third Eye Blind came along, and I jumped on it like a fumbled football. My concert companion went to find cover when the rain made an appearance, but I didn’t move. I was mesmerized by Third Eye Blind’s performance, and everything around me faded in to the background. In my mind, the timing of the steady drizzle became an element to the song. At the end, the band walked off stage. The front man returned alone and repeated the song’s last line for a couple of minutes and was accompanied only by an acoustic guitar, a spotlight, and the Pacific Northwest rain.

In that moment, I was free. Any monsters under my bed in Montana were nonexistent.

“So I speak to you in riddles ‘Cause my words get in my way” (Epiphany, Staind) (December
2001, Seattle)
After a reprieve from depression, I began to feel myself sliding backwards like an unprepared driver encountering an icy hill. At first, I thought it was just stress when I wasn’t
sleeping or eating. Then a cold, heavy hand started pulling on me and wearing me down. My loved ones’ responses amounted to “You don’t have anything to be depressed about. Buck up.”
 

I really was alone.

I’d been looking forward to the opportunity to see Staind, a band whose music was often played in my car. I sat wearing my souvenir Staind t-shirt in those red cushioned chairs at the Paramount Theater and made forced small talk with my friend as I waited for the band to come out. He was good company, but making the trip to Seattle that night took a lot of effort on my part.

The house lights went out and a subtle blue glow emerged to reveal a stage dressed with
only the band’s instruments, a microphone, and a barstool on which the singer sat. The music
started, and Aaron Lewis’s incredible voice filled the theater with lyrics about pain, loss, and loneliness. The stage blurred as tears filled my eyes. For the first time in a while, I didn’t feel
alone.

“Would it be so bad, if you were to pretend that you were so happy? Keep it to yourself, don’t let the secret go.” (Gray Matter, Finch) (February 2003, Seattle)

I felt like I was in one of those nightmares where I’m walking around pleading for help,
but no sound comes out of my mouth and no one can see me. Then, I decided that the only one who cared to help me at the time was my cat. Each day, as soon as I got home, he would curl up on my lap, purring and kneading his claws on my leg. I could be real with him. Everyone else got to be part of an experiment where the more depressed I felt, the happier I acted. I smiled, laughed, and spouted optimism.

Then, I went home exhausted from pretending all day long.

My concert buddy and I drove to Seattle to see Finch. At that time, I was very much into the pop-punk movement. Maybe it was the angsty lyrics paired with upbeat music, maybe it was the excuse to wear black and look disheveled. I just knew I could dress how I felt. The venue was small and dark, save for the stage lights. A tall, sturdy-looking guy in front of me was bouncing around with the music and stepped on my foot. My favorite boots were permanently dented, but protected my feet from being smooshed. They became part of my armor for subsequent shows.

“Broken, this fragile thing now And I can’t, I can’t pick up the pieces. And I’ve thrown my words all around, But I can’t, I can’t give you a reason.” (Only One, Yellowcard) (August 2003, Seattle)
“Why are you so depressed?” “I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what’s going on.” “You don’t want to let me help you? Fine.” My family finally realized that I wasn’t in the midst of some delayed adolescent moodiness. It didn’t matter, though, because no one could have an answer for a problem that didn’t exist. They wouldn’t believe me that nothing was wrong, but everything was wrong. “Nothing is happening! Work and school are fine. But I’m not okay.” The exchanges varied slightly, but the content was always the same.

No matter how awful I felt, I loved Yellowcard. Their beautiful lyrics and upbeat melodies were nice pick-me-ups. I went to see them at the Premier, an old warehouse turned concert venue. It was cavernous, but felt intimate packed with people. At one point, one of the guys in the band jumped off the stage for some crowd-surfing. He never stopped playing his fiddle.

Each song served as a Band-Aid for my state of mind. It was only temporary, but

sometimes, that was enough. 

“This is for you, The one that keeps me strong when I try to be weak.” (This is For You, Time and Distance) (August 2004, Tacoma)
My sister, Erin, finished high school and had been living with me for four months. She was, and still is, the only person who can make the tough love thing work for me. She didn’t let
me lay around like a blanket wadded up on the couch. She got me to make an effort to take care of myself and pull myself out of the tar pit I was in. She’s ultimately what made me go to the doctor. But that would come later.

That night, we stood together with the other seventeen people gathered to watch a band
from West Virginia perform in the basement of a church in Tacoma. I was happy because my sister was happy. She would get a t-shirt and a handshake from the band, and the band would play a song she yelled out when they asked for requests. One part concert, one part church youth group

meeting.

“She thinks she missed the train to Mars, she’s out back counting stars.” (Hum’s Stars, Finch) (September 2004, Seattle)

The first Finch show was so much fun, that I wanted to take Erin with me the next time they came to town. That night was not what I had expected. The lead singer sounded drunk, and they did very few songs I knew. And when they did perform a familiar one, the lyrics were jumbled, like the singer forgot the right order. However, the whole situation was comical, and Erin and I laughed about it all the way back to Puyallup. That’s how it was with my sister—everything was going to be okay.

And I was introduced to Stars, which is a song I instantly loved. I still think of that

concert when I hear it on the radio.

“And there’s a memory of a window, Looking through I see you, Searching for something I could never give you” (God of Wine, Third Eye Blind) (June 2009, Seattle)

In the spring of 2005, my mental situation was the worst it has ever been. One day, I had a meltdown either brought on by nothing or by something I cannot remember. I admit that the moments during the meltdown are somewhat fractured, but I do remember a couple of things. I crawled into my closet, sobbing, and made myself as compact as I could while laying on top of my collection of stuffed animals. My sister grabbed my arm and pulled me out of the closet like she was pulling me out of the water so I wouldn’t drown. In a way, that’s exactly what she was doing. “Jamie, I love you and cannot watch you do this anymore. I can’t be there to save you every time. You have one week to get some help or I will check you into a hospital and move back to Montana.” With that she dropped my arm, and walked out of my room.

The experts all seem to agree that the tough love approach isn’t the way to deal with a depressed person. But that’s what I needed.  I got some help, and my sister stayed to support me. “As long as you’re trying, I won’t go anywhere.” 

2009 was the first time I had an opportunity to see Third Eye Blind with my sister. Four
guys who I had never met were (and are) an important part of my life, and standing in the venue
next to my savior made me realize how far I had come. “God of Wine” is my favorite song, but I had never connected it to myself. That night I did because it’s about trying to save someone as they’re dragging you down with them.
“Back down the bully to the back of the bus ’cause it’s time for them to be scared of us.”
(Wounded, Third Eye Blind) (July 2015, Redmond)
I left my job of nine and a half miserable, mind-numbing years as a court clerk. I had been doing everything right for my well-being, such as counseling, heavy medication, exercise, and trying to eat and sleep better. So I knew the almost monthly panic attacks were telling me it was time to go. My last day was bittersweet. I was fond of the people I worked with, but I couldn’t stay for them any longer. As I walked out of the office for the last time, I felt free and hopeful about the future. I would be away from a job that was harming me, in the fall, I would be starting the Professional and Creative Writing online program at CWU, and in six weeks, Erin and I would be seeing Third Eye Blind together once again.

My sister and I stood at Marymoor Park under the twilight as the band performed less than
100 feet from us. Erin and I hugged each other excitedly when one of our songs started, and we didn’t care at all if we looked too fan-girlish. As Stephan Jenkins sang the songs I could sing in my sleep, I felt like the thunderous music would swallow me and keep me in that moment of freedom forever. 
“So have you ever been caught in a sea of despair? And your moment of truth Is the day that you say ‘I’m not scared’” (Unity, Shinedown) (October 2015, Everett)
At that time, and even now, each day was a battle with the depression monster. Sometimes I win, sometimes he does. But overall, I have it under control. By 2015, my husband’s PTSD was
dormant and he was ready to try going to a rock concert. We were both doing well, all things considered, and we were going to celebrate by seeing a band we both love. 
I stood with my arms around Jason’s waist, two among a crowd of thousands that moved like a flag in an uneven breeze. That breeze carried with it the scent of popcorn, bottled water, and
the faint smell of marijuana smoke from somewhere above us. Then, I heard the music for “Unity” start, and the front man requested that all of the lights in the arena be turned off. “Get out your cell phones, turn ’em on, and hold ’em up,” he said. The arena lit up with a soft, white glow from thousands of tiny battery-charged stars. Thousands of individual cell phones created a single light, and that light is what Jason and I feel when we stand together when things are tough. 
My next track will be recorded in November. My husband and I will see Shinedown again in Tacoma. The first few months of this year brought unexpected plot changes. For the first time in almost a decade, the songs that are my soundtrack are not in the background as I try to keep myself afloat. I am driving with my windows down and radio up, and I’m unabashedly belting them out as I’m moving forward.
 

*Jamie Gogocha is in her final year at Central Washington University’s Professional and Creative Writing Online Program. She is shy, but eager to be part of the conversation that writing creates. Jamie lives in Yelm, Washington with her husband and their two cats.