It may not boast the optimism of ‘I’m Still Standing’ or the anguish of ‘Everybody Hurts’ but perhaps what ‘Sit Down‘ offers is one better – empathy. There is certainly a time and place for a good old cry to REM or fleeting moments of empowerment when you declare that, like Elton, you’re still standing but there is always room for companionship, particularly when battling the relentless tide of mental health.
As messages of hope and change transmitted across radio stations for World Mental Health Day, James coincidently intervened beckoning us to sit next to him (the band and the song, that is. There wasn’t an actual man named James offering up a chair or anything). What, on the face of it, appears to be a boisterous song – one of those ‘laddish’ types perfectly akin to the 90’s britpop era – is actually completely profound and offers a sense of togetherness that anyone suffering from mental health issues needs.
Mental health awareness. The idea that we’re all in this together. We’ve got your back; for there is truly no lonelier place than under that dark cloud. The practicalities of this message are a little more complicated. Patience wanes and understanding gives way to frustration. Those suffering don’t seem to be helping themselves. In the throes of such despair, solutions aren’t necessarily sought – seemingly unrealistic notions that everything will be ok – but rather the reassurance that it’s ok not to be ok. This can, at times, seem counterintuitive. Is it ok not to be ok? Well no, it’s not ideal but actually it is ok. Because by casting further judgement on ourselves, asking unanswerable questions such as “Why me?”, we only create further pain.
And, of course, the writer of ‘Sit Down’ experienced his own form of internal struggle – how else could he identify so poignantly? Insomnia, chronic pain, mood swings, all these experiences subtly feature within the lyrics, painting the bleak picture of mental ill health.
As the songs builds to a climax and reaches its crux, those suffering from depression, its little shit of a cousin anxiety and those plagued by self doubt are invited to share their pain.
Those who feel a breath of sadness, sit down next to me.
Those who feels they’re touched by madness, sit down next to me.
Those who find themselves ridiculous, sit down next to me.
This simple gesture – sit down next to me – be it in silence, arm in arm or side by side is everything. The idea that someone is willing to even momentarily share your burden can mean so much more than any forced positivity. No one expects you to fix them. To someone who often feels touched by madness, I find such comfort, such hope in this invitation.
Music, decisively evocative in nature and our go-to to either dwell in self pity or reenergise our weary souls, often forms the soundtrack to our lives. And while there will be days that you’ll give in and bawl (because that’s also important) and others where you might triumph over your illness, this somewhere in the middle, with company, is the best place to be because ultimately “it’s hard to carry on when you’re feeling all alone”.
Cheers James, I’ll happily sit down next to you.