Mental Health Monday: Billy Joel

Billy Joel has been an open book regarding his psychological disorder(s) throughout his career, and even if you aren’t his No.1 fan, his story will break your heart and make you fall deep in love at the same time. Following dreams, learning to box, trusting the wrong people, hiding from reality, in and out of rehab, riding motorcycles, finding true love and losing it – his biography has all of the ingredients needed to create the Creme Brulee of literature.
One of the most famous aspects of his life is the “Piano Man” story – where he hid from the bindings of a deceitful contract, playing music at a dead-end bar under a false name. My personal favourite element of his biography has to do with his romance with Christie Brinkley, and subsequently his relationship with the daughter they conceived together. Amidst of all of these events, Billy Joel has been open about his mental illness throughout his career, giving insight to his fans and showing support to those who also suffer from Bipolar Disorder. Bipolar Disorder (or, manic-depressive) is classified under Mood Disorders by the DSM-5, causing shifts in mood, thinking, and behaviour. Individuals who suffer from it will fluctuate from the highs of mania on one extreme, to the lows of depression on the other. As in most cases, Billy developed an intense substance abuse problem – struggling with an ongoing alcohol addiction. The depressed aspect of the disorder is most easily seen in the history of Billy Joel, and in his music:

“They say that these are not the best of times, but they’re the only times I’ve ever known.”

“We are only what our situations hand us, it’s either sadness or euphoria.”

“Darling I don’t know why I go to extremes, too high or too low there ain’t no in-betweens. And if I stand or I fall, it’s all or nothing at all.”

“You can get what you want, or you can just get old.” 

“Today I am your champion, I may have won your hearts, but I know the game and you’ll forget my name if I don’t stay on the charts.”

In 1970, during a low period of the disorder, Billy Joel attempted his suicide. This tells us that living a life with this particular illness was more torturous than the idea of ending everything, all at once. Noting the immense talent, brilliance and authenticity of such a man, it puts the power of mental illness into perspective. Thankfully, the suicide was unsuccessful – his friend rushed him to a hospital before the furniture polish could affect his system. What did this mean? A 20 year-old girl was able to take a trip down to Manhattan to see him play live in 2014…… (flips hair). Along with this, Billy Joel lived on to recieve 6 Grammy’s, has been inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (delivered by Ray Charles), voiced the coolest dog in all cartoon history, owns a motorbike repair shop in NYC, sold a house to Jerry Seinfeld and most importantly, wrote songs that, “meant something during the time in which I lived… and transcended that time.”

In short: Billy Joel is the epitome of cool. He is by far my #1 idol and his songs will forever act as a personal touchstone for when I am hopeful, or hopeless.

On the Way to the Bar: A Short Story

It was a brisk fall evening on the night my professor told me, “Never start a story with the weather.” His voice, calm and stern, was unlike any other 70 year-old man I had met before. He always had an appeal to him, regardless of distinctly smelling like a vitamin-B supplement. But now, alone in his office, I was intrigued – I had never kissed an older man before. My inner thoughts resembled something that only occurs on the Spike television network. He was the storage unit I wanted, and I wouldn’t let any bald-headed brothers get in my way. I was ready to make a move. My mind raced as it searched for a way to draw him into my web of lust. Thinking back to the success of my last rendezvous, I asked him if he wanted to get a drink at Fiddle Faddle – the country bar downtown. How could any man refuse the offer: “body shots on me” (both literally and that I would be paying for them)? To no surprise, he accepted, and we headed to the parking lot. He suggested that I drive, joking that the transportation bureau had terminated his license due to his age. I’ve always adored a guy who could make me laugh.
On the way to Fiddle Faddle, our flirting was interrupted by a ride-check program on highway 69 (talk about the irony). Though the police officer was a doppelganger for Mitt Romney, I held back my hormones to show my professor that I was taking our relationship seriously. Still, the officer tempted me with, “Drink tonight Ma’am?” I sternly responded, “No thanks,” and drove away rapidly. I was impressed with my strength. Usually, I would have caved, but I had a feeling I already had a man with a weapon in his pants. As I looked back in my rear-view mirror, I saw red and blue lights flashing. My first thought, “Officer Hotbuns likes a woman who plays hard to get” was quickly extinguished as it came to my attention that I was pulled over for my previous “smart-ass” answer. Professor Rogers (?) and I were asked to get out of the car, where suddenly, the attention was no longer on me. After getting a good look at the professor, the officer called for backup. Soon, my date was being carried away by a swat team (okay, three police women) and I was brought in for questioning. Apparently, my professor had been on the Most Wanted list for stealing cases of vitamin-B from Shoppers Drug mart for the purpose of selling them to his elderly friends. That explained the smell. After providing a statement, I was told that I would not be seeing the professor for a very long time and given a lecture to find out the man’s name before I a) go on a date with him and 2) accept to providing a statement. I then asked if they had any advice on where I could go to find a cute guy, and they asked me to leave. I was at a standstill, so I asked officer Mitt Romney to escort me to Fiddle Faddle for a drink. He said he was married, to a man.
All in all, I am happy to have shared this experience with Professor (something with an H, I swear) but a lesson has been learned – always bring shot glasses and peach schnapps with you when getting your essay revised. You never know what could happen on the way to the bar.

Mental Health Monday – Adam Duritz

Someone who will be repeatedly worshipped on this bloggy-blog of mine is Adam Duritz (whose name should not be in the same sentence as “bloggy-blog” but, no regrets). Adam is the lead singer of Counting Crows and an extraordinary human being. Under this man’s coral reef of a hairstyle lay a mind more complex than that Mousetrap game we all had in the 90’s. Unfortunately, Adam suffers from depersonalization disorder – a dissociative disorder which causes him to feel disconnected from one’s body and thoughts. In interviews Adam has mentioned that it has led him to be unsuccessful in many relationships; he feels the person is a stranger no matter how long they have known each other which leaves him unable to connect. Unfortunately, the disorder is hard to treat, and most times professionals will try and assist the depression and anxiety that comes with it.

For anyone struggling through a mental health issue, Counting Crows often has a calming and relatable undertone in their music. The new album is on-par with their old stuff and is definitely worth a purchase on iTunes! Here’s a new song and an interview of Adam, you know, if you feel like falling in love today.