It was the summer of 1983. I was experiencing a major depressive episode, which preceded my eventual diagnosis of bipolar disorder type 1 with psychotic features and co-occurring cannabis dependence. In a nutshell, I was a mess.
It was relentlessly hot but I could hardly find it possible to get outside, not to mention even get out of bed. The simple act of showering was a major chore and eating was an afterthought. But the worst of it all was that I couldn’t find any pleasure in listening to music.
Music has always been something that I enjoyed. I was an avowed radio listener and during this time I was a major new wave fanatic and lover of the Canadian rock trio, Rush. I also had been exposed to reggae music, which completely fed into my marijuana addiction.
But this summer was different. Music did nothing for me. I was vacant emotionally and even my favorite tunes left me unable to connect with the one thing that had brought me so much joy all my life.
In October of the same year, Matt Johnson, lead musician and vocalist for the British act The The, released the album “Soul Mining.” This record defined my existence. The song, “This is the Day” used a clever combination of 80s synth and harmonica to create a catchy track that used its lyrics to convey a combination of melodrama, nostalgia, and hope.
So it’s with a bit of strange irony that this album, which is an integral part of the soundtrack of my life, came out as I was emerging from one a period in my life that was characterized by many of the typical symptoms of bipolar depression I described earlier. It was as if Matt Johnson and I shared a common experience.
For me, the line that really speaks to me is about memories that hold your life together like glue. While this was over 38 years ago, I remember it like it was yesterday. And while I have been able to overcome the challenges that kept me entrapped, the memories of that summer remain with me.
The album ends on a dichotomic note with the song “Perfect” which has a somewhat poppy and upbeat tone combined with quite cynical lyrics. This is also emblematic of the bipolar experience. A life with opposite poles that converge in an often difficult manner, full of highs and lows that can be best described as both tormenting and exhausting.
I’ll never forget that summer. And whenever I listen to Soul Mining, I’m taken back to a time, that while I’d prefer to push into the recesses of my mind, is ever present.