By Pete Malone
When thinking of a song that reflects my battle with mental health issues (namely depression and anxiety), I always think of ‘Unwell’ by Matchbox Twenty. However, it was many years after first hearing this song that I realised its impact on me.
It was around 2006. I was walking towards a pub that I was working in to start a shift, casually listening to music through my headphones and things had been starting to get to me.
I wasn’t sleeping and I was doing in excess of 50 hours a week in a job I had lost my passion for. In-between shifts I was drinking heavily, which I now realise was only making things worse. I had already suffered with depression for many years and at this point I had been on medication twice (however I was not taking any medication at this time).
I had been a fan of Matchbox Twenty since being introduced to their music by a high school friend who had heard them on a holiday to the USA. However, on this particular day it felt like I actually listened to the lyrics for the first time. They spoke to me and echoed everything I was feeling at that particular moment.
It was around 2pm when I stopped in my tracks and cried. Not just a private teary-eyed moment but full on, uncontrollable sobbing. This song was describing my feelings. It was as if someone had been reading my mind and had turned everything I was feeling at that exact moment into a song.
The lyrics made me realise what I had been feeling had been going on a lot longer than I wanted to admit. Each verse seemed to tell the story of my most intimate thoughts and feelings.
From lying awake day and night wishing my life away, to not wanting to be out in public in case someone asked me what was wrong with me or told me to “cheer up”. The chorus, however, made me realise that it was (and is) ok to feel like this:
“I’m not crazy I’m just a little unwell. I know right now you can’t tell but stay a while and maybe then you’ll see a different side to me.”
At that moment I felt that I could actually face this challenge and overcome it! Not only that but this set of lyrics also characterised the positive mindset I would eventually develop about my mental health:
“I’m not crazy, I’m just a little impaired, I know right now you don’t care. But soon enough you’re gonna think of me, and how I used to be, ME!.”
To me it’s not about having other people accept who I am and the illness I live with every day. It’s about accepting those issues I have myself and realising that yes, this is my own personal battle but it’s a battle that has been fought and won by many people over and over again.
The music video for the song, which you can find on various streaming platforms, initially comes across as creepy but I think anyone who has dealt with mental health issues could relate to its iconography. The low and wide camera angles amplify everything to extremes and the strange characters seem to represent unwanted thoughts.
Whether or not Rob Thomas wrote this song to reflect mental illness is, to me, irrelevant. The song and its video can be interpreted in any way you want and show that there is hope.
Now, 12+ years later and I am still going through a battle with my own mind but to this day “Unwell” is a song I will listen to again and again, taking solace in the fact that I might feel crazy but I am only “unwell”.
You can follow Pete on Twitter @PeteMalone123.
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