(aka, how podcasts filled the holes in my life)
This is a wholly uncreative idea, but it’s one I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while, so whoops, uncreative time.
I started listening to podcasts about five years ago, back when I was a tiny high schooler. I started in the most stereotypical way: listening to Welcome to Night Vale. I quickly fell in love, listening to it with my mom as we painted my room bright purple. I even got to go to one of their live shows (I still have the t-shirt). But I never strayed past Night Vale’s borders. I didn’t really feel the need to.
That would all change my second year of university. I moved into a house half an hour away from campus, right near a bunch of student housing. Which meant that an hour of my day was now spent standing on a very crowded bus, dying of boredom. I quickly ruled out books, since it’s hard to read when you’re trying not to fall into somebody’s lap due to the erratic motion of the bus, and I got pretty bored of my music after a couple of weeks. So, I decided to try out a couple of new podcasts, specifically the two new shows from Night Vale Presents: Alice Isn’t Dead and The Orbiting Human Circus (Of the Air).
Alice Isn’t Dead didn’t turn out to be my type of show, but The Orbiting Human Circus was incredible. It had only just started airing, so I decided to check out the tumblr tag to see if anyone else was listening. What I found as a treasure trove of recommended podcasts, each more fascinating than the last. I subscribed to ten new shows that night. I thought it was a lot at the time. Ha!
I spent the rest of that year looking forward to my bus rides to and from school because it meant that I didn’t have to feel guilty for listening to podcasts. I crammed listening time in wherever I could. I stuck to most of the big ones at the time: Wolf 359, The Bright Sessions, The Penumbra Podcast, ars PARADOXICA, you know the ones. I spent Boxing Day listening to the show that would change my life and barely registered it because I was already flipping to the next show in my queue. I got my friends to take quizzes on which Wolf 359 character they would be. I stayed up late reading fanfiction and looking up fanart.
It was glorious.
OH SHIT SOMETHING BAD HAPPENED
My life kind of fell apart over the summer of 2017. Let me explain.
I’ve had depression and anxiety since I was a kid. For a long time, I wasn’t able to take any medication for it because I can’t swallow pills. I also didn’t want to go back into therapy when I moved for university because I hadn’t found it helpful the first time (my own fault). For those of you who like equations, here’s one for you: depression + anxiety - meds + stress of university + stress of living on your own for the first time + unbearable roommates = ?
If you solved that correctly, then you’ll know that I was a whole mess just waiting to happen.
Second year was kind of awful because of the above mess, but it went out with a literal bang as my friend group imploded, leaving me a literal wreck. The only good thing in my life was that my parents were coming down to move me and my best friend into our new apartment and then we would have the entire summer together. That thought got me through the last two weeks of April.
So did The Bridge.
I must have relistened to The Bridge at least a dozen times during that period. It calmed me down from panic attacks and kept me moving forward. It gave me strength during those two weeks, as well as the summer that would come. You see, my bad luck continued as I struggled to find work and lost my irl best friend only a month after losing the online one. I began having a hard time leaving my apartment to buy groceries or go to therapy (a trend that would continue into the fall semester). Any time that wasn’t spent applying to jobs or sleeping was spent relistening to The Bridge or writing fanfiction for it. It got me through the worst four months of my life, until I finally felt strong enough to start again. Even if starting again only meant listening to The Far Meridian (a show that helped me when I struggled to leave my apartment).
I don’t think it would surprise anyone to hear that the fall semester was also rough. Like, super rough. Like I spent most of that semester with headphones on because of crushing anxiety hard. Podcasts blocked out all the noise that made me want to flee home, and they were a distraction from the endless stream of “I can’t do this” thoughts that flooded my mind.
Eventually I got put on meds that I could take and it worked reasonably well, got some decent therapy, and began feeling like I could do things beyond just listening to podcasts on repeat. That was when I found AD twitter.
My love for the audio drama side of twitter cannot be overstated. It’s filled with so many lovely individuals who just want to shower everyone in love and joy. AD twitter’s focus on love and positivity - coupled with meds and therapy, because “happy thoughts” is not a cure for depression (not that I’m cured) - has been such a huge help for me this year. Being surrounded by people who only want to do good, who want to make a real difference in people’s lives makes one feel powerful. They’re the sort of people who make you feel like you can do anything. Like start a biweekly newsletter. Or even make your own audio drama.
AD twitter also has a whole bunch of queer people. It’s given me trans role models, people I can look up to and hope to be in five to ten years time (some of y’all are old, I’m sorry). They’ve given me characters who are like me, places I can run to when the real world gets to be too much. It’s given me a sense of belonging that I haven’t felt… ever.
Sometimes the real world is just… a lot. And while I’m doing much better now, sometimes (a lot of the time) I still need to just curl up in my bed, slip on my headphones, and lose myself in the middle of the ocean.