Emily Racanelli (Girl Nowhere)

Life is all about choices. It may seem like society has crammed us into a routine, but when you take a step back it looks a little different. Think about it; you choose to get out of bed, get dressed, go to school/work, come home, go out with friends, etc. But what if one day, you just decided to stop putting in the effort? Suddenly, all these choices were just too much and the kid you were yesterday got swallowed by this hollow shell that couldn’t pull your legs off the bedside. That’s exactly what happened to me.

By the time I was 12 years old, I knew there was something a bit off about me. I was incessantly plagued by nervous ticks and twitches, counting up even numbers in my head while washing my hands until blood trickled out of my cracked skin. Of course, at that age you assume things will pass and it’s no big deal. I wish I could say that was the case with me. Soon I was not only being tortured by my body, but my mind as well. Every time I was dropped off at a birthday party or sitting in class or basically anywhere that wasn’t my room, I was overwhelmed with this sudden rush of fear. Sweaty palms, choked up breathing, and everything else I would eventually learned was part of a panic attack. In those moments, I did not exist. The world stopped and all I wanted was to bury myself under my blanket for 6 months. Halfway through the 7th grade, that’s what I did.

One Monday morning I chose to give up. I chose to not go to school, keep my phone turned off, and not even leave the house. My parents–an elementary school teacher and high school guidance counselor–couldn’t pinpoint what was wrong, and neither could I. All I knew was that I was constantly nervous and sad and I didn’t want to feel that way anymore. As winter ran it’s course, so did my depression. I visited every therapist, psychiatrist, ad psychologist on Long Island (and tried all the anti-depressants they can legally give to kids under 18) to no avail. On meds, I was hazy and tired. Without them, I was lonely and always in fear of when my next panic attack would strike. The saddest part was that I couldn’t determine which version of myself was worse.

At 12, I thought it was all over. Fast forward four years and I was at a place I never imagined reaching. After my downward spiral I returned to the 7th grade with a new motto I would tell myself every single morning: “No matter what, you have to get out of bed.” I powered through the year and the next few after that, rebuilding the section of my life that I had previously let slip away.

I was in my junior year of high school with a solid group of friends, good grades, and minimal panic episodes. Then I met a girl who would break the normalcy; I really wanted to befriend her. I’m so glad I did because she’s the reason I can say I actually have my life together (as together as it can be for a college student) today. She introduced me to all these obscure bands, like Mayday Parade and You Me At Six. In my pre-breakdown phase, I was always drawn to non-mainstream music, such as Green Day and My Chemical Romance. However, the musical side of me was killed by my depression. Finally, it was resurfacing. I found so much comfort in these bands and their lyrics, knowing that even when my panic attacks and depression would get to me, I wasn’t alone. I have no shame in admitting that there were many late nights at 16 and 17 years old where I muffled my tears in pillows while screaming the lyrics to Mayday Parade’s “Three Cheers For Five Years.” (Acoustic of course because when you want to feel, you want to feel deeply). Those words sunk into my chest as they spilled out of my mouth: “I swear that you don’t have to go!! I though we could wait for the fireworks, I though we could wait for the snow!!” It was the catharsis I needed, knowing that it’s okay to let yourself feel things for a bit as long as you can get up the next day.

Anyways, back to my new friend. I was down for whatever she wanted, and since we now shared an interest in music, it made sense to get tickets to a concert. I’ll skip the details because it makes me cringe and die a little inside when I think of the incident, but basically what happened is I got to the front row of Hammerstein Ballroom and freaked out. As the general admission floor filled with people, my anxiety mounted and I got so claustrophobic that I made us leave before the lights even went down. Instead of tossing me and my intense weirdness aside, my friend stuck with me. In the past, people walked away because I was certainly a handful with a slew of baggage. She didn’t leave and just having someone there who accepted me the way I was meant more than words can convey.

The more we hung out, the more I fell back into music. That year I taught myself how to play the guitar and got back behind the drum kit I had abandoned when I was 10. Before I knew it, my room was filled with instruments and I was writing songs and recording every part, from the guitar and drums to the bass and keys.

Reflecting back on this at 19, it all makes sense; there was a reason I went through what I did. This journey pulled me outside of myself for a while and gave me a second chance at life. Like I said, I always knew that something was different, but when I say that now I do so with a smile. I was drawn to pop punk and alternative music because of what I went through. I think it was Soupy from The Wonder Years who said,   “I think everyone involved in punk music is intrinsically fucked up on some level and it feels good to know we’re going through this shit together.”

Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means a perfect kid these days. There are nights when I cry over an acoustic guitar and days when I’m still in my pajamas at 4 p.m. The difference now is I don’t let it get to me. Instead, I put on a song by Taking Back Sunday or The Story So Far and I scream those lyrics throughout my empty house, knowing that I’m not alone in these moments.

That girl who is the reason I am a musician today is now my best friend and band mate. I hope that the songs we write can do for other kids what pop punk did for me. I didn’t get the Mayday Parade logo tattooed on my ribs for nothing, I did it because that band spoke to me in a way that normal words couldn’t. Maybe someday there will be a kid getting the Girl Nowhere logo inked on their skin for the same reason.

Never did I imagine that I’d be in college starting a band with my best friend and excited to pull my legs over that bedside in the morning. Every day isn’t perfect, but there’s definitely something perfect in every day.