Overcoming adversities to stay alive
The above title refers to the Pearl Jam song Alive. The following paragraphs are an expression of what Alive has come to mean to me and how it has helped me overcome some of life’s recent adversities.
Let’s start with the song. Alive was Pearl Jam’s debut single from their debut album Ten. The latter being released in 1991.
It is easy for the uninitiated of all things Pearl Jam, to misinterpret the meaning of Alive as being life-affirming.
In an interview with Cameron Crowe in 1993 Vedder discusses this:
“Everybody writes about it like it’s a life-affirmation thing, I’m really glad about that. It’s a great interpretation. But ‘Alive’ is, it’s torture … The story of the song is that a mother is with a father and the father dies. It’s an intense thing because the son looks just like the father. The son grows up to be the father, the person that she lost. His father’s dead, and now this confusion, his mother, his love, how does he love her, how does she love him? … So what does he do? He goes out killing people, that was ‘Once.’ He becomes a serial killer. And ‘Footsteps,’ the final song of the trilogy, that’s when he gets executed.”
Vedder’s first sentence above is interesting. As I have written several times, here on Medium, Pearl Jam have always stated that their songs are open to interpretation. They state that fans should take part ownership and make what they will of their own interpretations and meanings of the songs and lyrics.
Vedder was raised by a man who he was lead to believe was his biological father. It was only in his teens that Vedder found out this individual was actually his stepfather. Vedder’s biological father had since died of multiple sclerosis in 1981. Vedder had only met his real father once and tragically at that time never knew his father’s true identity.
In later interviews, Vedder claimed that the opening lyrics to Alive are autobiographical and are connected to the absence of his real father and troubled relationship with his step-father.
In interviews, Vedder has spoken about how he viewed the lyric “I’m still alive” as a curse. Vedder explained the emotional conflict of having to deal with a challenging relationship with a stepfather and later finding out his real father was already dead.
Vedder stated several years later that with the positive reinterpretation of this lyric by fans, he now feels the curse of this emotional conflict has now been lifted from his shoulders.
I have seen Pearl Jam perform Alive four times. And every performance was as equally captivating and emotive as the others.
With Pearl Jam’s ethos that fans should take ownership of the meanings of their songs, I have always, for myself taken Alive as having a life-affirming meaning. Despite Alive’s original meaning by Vedder.
Alive is one of many songs I would consider as being an integral part of a self-comprised soundtrack to my youth.
It is a song that I never tire of hearing. Alive and I have been through a lot together. Such is the emotive, thought-provoking, dependability of music.
Alive and I go way back. We’ve known each other much longer than I have been acquainted with depression.
I live with reactive depression. We’ve got to know each other incredibly well over the last two and a half years. We know each other’s strengths and weakness.
Depression cares little, if at all for who it affects. It also likes to stay hidden. That is when it has the potential to inflict the most damage.
I want to split up with depression. As far as depression is concerned, such matters are not up for discussion. At its worse, depression is uncompromising and callous. At it’s absolute worse it can be fatal.
Throughout the worst of my depression, those closest to me have remained unconditionally loyal, caring, compassionate and most important of all, always there for me. Even when I have selfishly dismissed their love, kindness and support.
I owe everything to those closest to me. I know I would not have survived had it not been for these people.
We all made it through these dark episodes together. We may not have entered those episodes together. But we made sure we all come out of them together.
Amazing and significant benefits have been the fruition of our labour of ensuring we all made it out together.
Strong attachments have been made. Those that already existed have been strengthened. A small group of individuals do for me, what we humans simply do not do often and spontaneously enough; being kind to one another.
“Always help someone. You might be the only one that does.”
On the one hand, life is a beautiful gift for some. For others, it can be the biggest of burdens. For far too many of us, life can fluctuate between the two.
To conclude this story, I’m still alive. I also feel the unjustified feelings of emotional turmoil I once experienced have now been lifted from me.
Thank you to those that are always there for me.
Originally published in Medium publication ‘Invisible Illness‘ 05/04/19.