I was 10 years old when Bruce Springsteen released that hit single. The impression it made on me then lingers still.
The storytelling, the hint of pain in Springsteen’s voice made me pay attention. I wondered what it felt like to be the character in that song, to walk away from everyone and everything and just keep wandering, never appreciating what you have, never finding what you seek.
Despite the melody of a pop song, it felt honest and sad, resigned to a truth that life doesn’t always pan out the way we think it should. What did I know of hungry hearts? Nothing. Everything.
I was an anxious, sensitive kid with an innocent optimism behind thick glasses, an affection for the written word and a melancholy soul. Some things never change. Most things do.
I still appreciate the music of Springsteen, but I understand it now with a fresh perspective after reading his autobiography Born to Run.
In a week where our newsfeeds have been filled with the words, “Let’s Talk,” we have seen an overwhelming push to end the stigma around mental health issues. It’s time. It gives me hope that one day we will see our health as our entire being. How ridiculous to even have to say that, but there lies the ignorance. But I am all talked out. I’ve admitted my struggles and put my heart on my sleeve enough. I struggle mildly compared to many, but I am still the anxious little girl who didn’t hear song lyrics, she felt them. It is a blessing and a curse to feel so much. Yet while I may not get so low as to cause alarm, I do know the crippling mind-screw of anxiety. And I can tell you, it’s been easier for people to sympathize with my recent kidney stone pain than it has ever been to make people understand my challenges with anxiety. It’s hard to tell someone writhing in pain with a kidney stone to suck it up, better days ahead, chin up. I can cover the pain of one affliction far better than the other. Anxiety gets you unsolicited advice like calm down, relax, lighten up and you’re luckier than most. I wouldn’t choose a kidney stone any more than anxiety. Neither are choices. And yes, I take great steps to control both. Life has a way of shaking things up.
That’s why I enjoyed Springsteen’s book. Born to Run is as much a story of mental health through the generations as it is a tale of the driving passion for the music behind this rock ’n’ roll legend. If you need inspiration, it’s here. Springsteen pulls back the curtains of a lifetime of living with his father’s mental illness and ultimately, his own struggles with depression. Even those who have it all in the limelight have shadows and dark days. Springsteen asked for help. He leaned on friends, his wife, his doctors. A rockstar with an ego, fame and a reputation to uphold in a culture that didn’t talk about mental health (in an industry that should know better), he asked for help. It’s where we all start.
“Don’t make no difference what nobody says, ain’t nobody likes to be alone.” Show up. Reach out. Support. Let’s take care of each other. Let’s do better. Let’s be better. Everybody has a hungry heart.
This I know for sure.