For those who have struggled with mental illness, sometimes you can look back on a particularly turbulent period and find it tough to recognize the person that you were. Piecing together the person that you were during and after struggles with mental health can be a painful experience, but in some ways it can also be enlightening. If you look back and really examine the difference in the person then and now, you might get a better grasp of your journey and of the obstacles that you overcame.
Meg Tinsley of the indie punk-rock band Honey Joy knows this well, having written half of the songs from the London quintet’s latest album II during a tumultuous three month period when her declining mental health forced her to take off work, with the other half of the album coming together later on from a much healthier headspace. Put together, the album offers an insightful glimpse into a mind struggling to stay afloat, but choosing to persevere in the end.
“The Healer” is the song that opens the second part of the album. It’s really not the song you might except to convey a message of self-healing and positive thinking, but that seems to be the band’s whole idea. Honey Joy is an indie punk rock band—their choice of healing medium is guitar, and they put on a show in this track.
“You don’t have the confidence / To know your ability,” Tinsley sings over a wall of distorted guitars and drums. The melody is at once jarring and resolute, and as she continues on to deliver a metaphorical “screw you,” it becomes triumphant. “You don’t have the trust to believe it / Believe it when you’re told / Or the insight to see that you did it / You’ve done it well / And you will do it all well / Cuz it will always be your best / And that will always be enough.” Tinsley’s delivery is firm, but there’s a hint of frustration in her tenacious wails. She’s tired of constantly letting others put her down, tired of constantly having to remind herself of this. “Give yourself the break / You give others / Love yourself the way you do others,” she sings—but it’s a demand, not a suggestion.
The odd dissonant chord here and there work well to contrast the more traditional aural passages, driving home the album’s overall theme of overcoming mental struggles. This was never going to be a song with a melody to soothe the soul, but Honey Joy still imparts the same kind of effect. “So remind yourself / How you were wrong / How you did it well / How you were always wrong,” Tinsley sings. From the lyrics to the chords, to the distortion to the dissonance, “The Healer” is a song about being defiant. It’s a song that forces you to stop treating yourself like an enemy, empowering yourself rather than tearing yourself down. It’s a command that we can all listen to, today more than ever.