Sometimes in the morning I am petrified and can’t move
Awake but cannot open my eyes
And the weight is crushing down on my lungs
I know I can’t breathe
And I hope someone will help me this time
And your mother’s still calling you insane and high
Swearing it’s different this time
And you tell her you give in to the demons that possess her
And that God never blessed her insides
Then you hang up the phone
And feel badly for upsetting things
Crawl back into bed to dream of a time
When your heart was open wide
And you loved things just because
Like the sick and the dying
And sometimes when you’re on
You’re really fucking on
And your friends they sing along
And they love you
But the lows are so extreme
That the good seems fucking cheap
And it teases you for weeks in its absence
But you’ll fight and you’ll make it through
You’ll fake it if you have to
And you’ll show up for work with a smile
And you’ll be better
And you’ll be smarter
And more grown up
And a better daughter or son
And a real good friend
And you’ll be awake
You’ll be alert
You’ll be positive though it hurts
And you’ll laugh and embrace all your friends
And you’ll be a real good listener
You’ll be honest
You’ll be brave
You’ll be handsome and you’ll be beautiful
You’ll be happy

Your ship may be coming in
You’re weak but not giving in
To the cries and the wails of the valley below
And your ship may be coming in
You’re weak but not giving in
And you’ll fight it
You’ll go out fighting all of them


Lyrics submitted by rjbucs28

A Better Son/Daughter song meanings
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  • +4
    General CommentRilo Kiley provides a number of clues that associate this song with bipolar disorder:

    -"And the weight is crushing down on my lungs / I know I can’t breathe"

    Something I haven't experienced (much), fortunately, but overwhelming, immobilizing paranoia and/or anxiety are associated with mixed-state bipolar episodes. Major depression can also feel like physical weight.

    -"Hope that someone will save me this time" / "Swearing it's different this time"

    With the repetition of “this time,” Rilo Kiley implies that the narrator has been in this position multiple times, suggesting a cycle of illness (and, later in the song, periodic rejuvenation). Major depression can be a single episode or it can recur, but a pattern of ups and downs is more consistent with bipolar disorder.

    -"And you tell her to give in to the demons that possess her / And that God never blessed her insides"

    Bipolar disorder has an even stronger reported genetic link than unipolar depression, with 2/3 of bipolar patients reporting a bipolar or depressed relative. Rilo Kiley suggests that, despite the mother’s denial, she too is inflicted with mental illness - "demons... possess her" and "God never blessed her insides." The word "insides" in particular evokes (mental) illness.

    -"And sometimes when you're on, you're really f*cking on / And your friends, they sing along and they love you"

    The expletive emphasizes that this is not ordinary cheerfulness or high energy (being “on”) – the narrator is in fact extremely energetic (“really f*cking on”), as well as exuberant, impulsive, and grandiose, all of which are symptoms of hypomania. The narrator “sings” – a stand-in for any fun, self-confident, spontaneous behavior – and her friends not only follow along but also “love” her. The narrator clearly feels self-possessed and the center of attention.

    Arguably, we all have moments when we feel this way – being a little out of control isn’t pathological – but Rilo Kiley demonstrates a precise knowledge of the symptoms of hypomania, implying all of them within these two lines.

    -“ But the lows are so extreme / That the good seems f*cking cheap / And it teases you for weeks in its absence”

    Again Rilo Kiley has an uncanny awareness of how bipolar cycles function. Transitory hypomania precedes and induces “weeks” of depression. Both bipolar I and bipolar II patients experience much longer periods of depression than hypomania, something like 20:1 depression to hypomania in bipolar II disorder.

    The expletive functions here, as above, to emphasize that these are not ordinary ups and downs. The lows of depression are “so extreme” that they far outweigh the exceptional bliss of hypomania, and in fact render it “f*cking cheap.” Since bipolar patients know that depression typically follows hypomania, that consequence almost completely devalues what was fun about being hypomanic.

    “Weeks” of “lows” is another clue that Rilo Kiley is referring to mental illness as opposed to normal mood variation.

    -“Your ship may be coming in / You’re weak but not giving in / To the cries and the wails of the valley below”

    Further evidence of the tension between bipolar optimism - we’re Always hoping for a permanent end to mood cycling - and the very real possibility that a. we will continue suffering “extreme” highs and lows indefinitely, or b. we might succumb to depression and kill ourselves. The suicide rate among bipolar patients is much higher than among those with unipolar depression, perhaps because the cyclical nature of improvements, followed be even worse setbacks, becomes unbearable.

    The mingled optimism and despair in this song seems perfectly remnicient of bipolar disorder, to the extent that I have to wonder whether anyone in Rilo Kiley (or their families) is bipolar. I heard a rumor once that Jenny Lewis herself was bipolar, but I can’t find evidence of it.
    mochajason October 06, 2006   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI don't think the ending is optimistic. I see it as saying she knows she's going to get through her depression because she has before, but at the same time knowing that it will happen again and again...so "the good feels so fucking cheap."
    zeniaon October 04, 2006   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI have bipolar II disorder, and I can honestly say that this is what the song seems to be about.
    LoveisBlindnesson January 28, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General Commentdefinately about being bipolar.. no doubt.

    obvious references to mania and depression/highs and lows.

    hiding your pain to please others.
    the hope to one day be happy.

    so good.
    jessayon April 19, 2004   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis is the song that plays in my head whenever something bad happens or i don't fulfill peoples pretentious ideals.'And sometimes when you’re on
    You’re really fucking on
    And your friends they sing along
    And they love you
    But the lows are so extreme
    That the good seems fucking cheap'
    sums up the whole song for me,soooooo gd.
    '
    rash_decisionon April 08, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentActually, at the beginning I don't think it's a night terror. Because then they'd be screaming, etc.

    "Sometimes in the morning I am petrified and can’t move
    Awake but cannot open my eyes
    And the weight is crushing down on my lungs
    I know I can’t breathe
    And I hope someone will save me this time"

    it's not supposed to be "help me this time", it's "save me this time". And based on what it says, it sounds like sleep paralysis. I've had that before, it's terrifying because it's when your brain becomes alert before you're about to fall asleep, or right after you're coming out of sleep, but your body is paralyzed and usually you feel a huge weight on your chest because you're trying to force yourself to breathe or something.
    FutbolChicaon June 05, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General Commentmockingsmile - Thanks, I didn't see your post 'til now.

    kaleidoscopeeyes8 - Bipolar disorder is often first misdiagnosed as depression, since bipolar people during depressive episodes present with the same symptoms as depressed people. The suicide rate for bipolar disorder is actually significantly worse than for major depression. You should read the parts about depression in Kay Jamison's "An Unquiet Mind."
    mochajason December 19, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General Commentmochajas, I think you're so on the money that I don't have anything else to add. The reason it's much more likely bipolar as opposed to depression because of the lines-

    "And sometimes when you’re on
    You’re really fucking on
    And your friends they sing along
    And they love you"

    -which describe a manic episode pretty spot on.

    zenia, I'm not sure you're really getting the whole picture of what those lines mean. It's really hard to explain a manic episode to someone who's never had them, and they are different for different people to. I know when I get manic "really fucking on" is the perfect way to describe how I feel. It's not just being really happy, you cannot mimic it by, say, eating a lot of sugar. There's so much more to it than that.

    I don't think the character (Jenny?) is necessarily bipolar, though. I can relate to it alot and I'm not bipolar, but I do something called rapid cycling which is sort of like bipolar but much quicker. It's definitely not just depression though, because the narrator feels both high highs and low lows.
    limonyon January 16, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General CommentDefinitely about being bipolar. The first part of the song it's about depression, the second one, about being really fucking on, and the ending, about not falling again in the depths of depression.
    ramirinnnon February 03, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General Commentthe song is definitely about bipolar disorder, the beginning refers to sleep paralysis (which often affects bipolar people)

    it's about the light at the end of the tunnel. you seek treatment in hope of being "better" one day and live up to everything you are expected to.
    flawedddon November 27, 2007   Link

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