Earlier this year I submitted a song I wrote to the mods of EDrecoveryprobs, an awesome blog that provides a community of support for people struggling with eating disorders. One of the moderators, Selena, told me they could not share my song because it was full of triggers and helped propagate dangerous ideals. A debate ensued because I am passionate about my work. I didn’t care if they shared my song, but I wanted to understand how I was contributing to the problem—especially when many people with EDs had told me they appreciated the song. What ideals had I promoted in a song that essentially said fuck ideals? What triggers were in the lyrics? What would it mean to write trigger-free lyrics? Is that even an attainable goal given the myriad of triggers that exist? I asked Selena to educate me, so I could write a new, more sensitive song. If I’m not learning about the world while I’m growing musically, then what’s really the point to my project? I think she thought I was kidding at first, but I was persistent, and it paid off. I recently met Selena at a diner, and over coffee she told me some of her story and how diet culture weighs on her and many others. Here were some key takeaways for me:
Though I understand the benefit of silence, I am a musician, so Selena and I dreamed up a safe way to write about this topic. Because writing about abstractions like diet culture and triggers would make for vague lyrics, I asked Selena to tell me what having an ED is like for her. She said, “It’s like having a drill sergeant in my head.” She said the voice is always there, but triggers make it louder. Someone will say a food is “bad” or point out a change in her weight, and the voice will start talking. Over time, she has realized the drill sergeant is just a bully in disguise, pretending it wants to shape her in healthy ways while it really just brings her down. She told me she doubts the voice will ever die, so all she can do is fight back with a voice of her own—a voice of positive thinking, backed by a community of supporters. I can imagine many people can relate to having this drill sergeant in their head, so this metaphor is the backbone of my song for her. I did my best to write lyrics without triggering language, and I even avoided pronouns to make it relevant for all genders. Thank you for being patient and kind with me, Selena. I’ll be a good steward of what you’ve taught me. And to everyone fighting their own drill sergeant out there, tell it Kavalier wants it to shut up. Stream the song/download it for free here. Much, much love. — Kavalier Calm
The voice in my head is a drill sergeant
working to make a better me.
But lately I’m starting to think…
I’ll be in a shop with my mom,
and she’ll say, “Oh, look at those treats.
"I’d really like to have one,
but it’d be bad for me to eat.”
A small phrase is all it takes
for the drill sergeant to wake
and start asking me,
"Are you going to break?"
the voice is just a bully.
Someone will say to me, “You look great
since you lost a pound or two,”
and this back-handed compliment
gives the drill sergeant fuel:
"Remember when you were heavy?
Oh, I remember when!”
And suddenly I believe
I’m headed right there again.
But lately I’m starting to think
the voice is just a bully…
The voice is just a bully in disguise;
it don’t really care
whether I live or die.
How can I quiet this voice in my mind? This voice of shame?
Maybe I should try beating it at its very own game.
I’ll be louder than the drill sergeant with a voice of my own.
I’ll yell: “I’m strong! I’m brave! Now, leave me alone!”
There’s a bright side, a place to be, and I will not be kept out
by words of hate and fear and doubt.
The voice in my head is a drill sergeant,
and I can’t control it.
But I can fight back,
and I will.
My EP For Ellise and my singles The Way You Weigh On My Heart and A Shot and a Beer are available for streaming or downloading (at prices set by the online stores, not me) at:
You can also just search my name “Kavalier Calm” on those sites to find my music. If there’s a song you want that you can’t find in any of these places, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll send the .mp3 to you. Thanks for listening. — KC
I did some street performing for the first time in a long time tonight. Following the CI model, I was there to write songs for people. I wasn’t just an act you walked by; I was one you interacted with. It went pretty well considering the weather wasn’t the best. Here are some lessons learned:
Until next time! — Kavalier