Musician Before the Music

“Crawling in my skin, these wounds they will not heal.”  Chester Bennington

“People have to remember we are human beings.”  Chester Bennington

TRIGGER WARNING: post about mental illness and suicide

Lyrics from Heavy off the new album One More Light:  I don’t like my mind right now/ Stacking up problems that are so unnecessary/Wish that I could slow things down/ If I just let go, I’d be set free.”    Heavy by Linkin Park

Chester’s band mate said Chester was in a bad place the day they wrote this song. Chester actually told the band he wasn’t well and he was feeling like his life was too heavy. He said, “I’m NOT fine. I’m NOT ok. Too much stuff is happening to me. I just feel underwater.”

Album titles from last album One More Light:

Nobody Can Save Me

Good Goodbye

Talking to Myself

Battle Symphony

Invisible

Heavy

Sorry for now

Sharp Edges

Halfway Right

One More Light

Chester was crying for help, but I think everyone was used to him using his writing and music to help them through the tough days.  Here’s the thing:  his music helped countless people feel less alone and it helped them to deal with their demons.  The question is:  Did it help Chester?  Perhaps the writing was temporarily cathartic, but the pain doesn’t go away.  Chester was open about his sexual abuse, his addiction, and he talked about his mental illness freely. I don’t know if he was getting help, but I do know that he was hurting so badly.  I watched an interview he did 4 months ago and he said his head was a dangerous place to be and he shouldn’t spend time there alone. He literally pointed at his head and said, “My skull is a dangerous place.”

There is only so much writing, screaming on stage, alcohol and drugs, and pounding his mic stand into the floor that can keep the demons away. I too connected with Numb and Crawling. Perhaps we are grasping onto the music and its meaning for us, that we are unintentionally not aware of the musician’s suffering and pain.  This is where we need to put the musician before the music. I write poetry and most of it has been depressing and that’s because of my issues.  When someone reads my poetry they love it and feel emotionally connected to it, but I don’t feel better; my demons aren’t gone. Maybe Chester’s band mates and family did everything they could to help him, and it just couldn’t stop his pain. Nobody wants to die; we just want the pain to stop and sometimes suicide seems like the only way out. The pain becomes too unbearable to live with; it reaches a point where you have to stop it, and you truly believe your family will be better without you.

In this case, Chester talked about it all and that is the first step; I don’t know where he was in his recovery or support for his mental illness.  When I saw the news I felt it so hard and deep and I thought, no not another one. I’m sure it was not a coincidence that he killed himself on Chris Cornell’s birthday. And now we will have another funeral of a troubled 41 year old man.  I don’t know how to stop it; I do know there are lots of resources out there, but people have to reach out for help.  If someone really wants to die and there is no part of their brain that says Whoa call someone, then they will succeed.  Whenever I feel suicidal I still have that little part of my brain that says call someone. I know I am at high risk for suicide, and I know that the hotline and the therapy and the meds could one day not work and that scares me.

I’ve been processing this event by talking about it and my good friend asked the right question.  She said, “How has this impacted your mental health? Do you need support?” If you just say, “How are you?” you will usually get a basic answer like fine. It is very easy to hide that you are not fine; I did it years ago in an ER.  The doctor said, “You seem fine,” meanwhile I had just attempted suicide the day before.  Please don’t say that phrase to someone with mental illness. One reason is it’s insulting because yeah I seem fine, but you can’t see inside my head where I’m not fine.  Another reason is because it’s frustrating to hear it and you just want to scream, “I’M NOT FINE!”

This post may seem all over the place, because it is another way for me to process Chester’s death.  I don’t have any answers, but I do think we need to put the musician before the music.

 NATIONAL SUICIDE HOTLINE:  1-800-273-8255  NOTE:  They spend time talking to you about what is going on and try to help you move through it and return to your life.

“If we look outside ourselves to find love and peace we will ultimately fail.  It has to come from within.  Lead by example.”  Tweeted by Chester on May 23rd 2017

 

Epic Night

 

U2 Live at Met Life Stadium Thursday June 29th, 2017

” Our prayer tonight is to have an epic night, one of those nights you hold onto forever.” Bono  *PLEASE CHECK MY NEW DOMAIN NAME AT THE BOTTOM*

I’ve seen U2 every tour since the 80’s and they never disappoint, but this tour was the 30th anniversary of the Joshua Tree Tour.  This full circle moment has a special meaning for me. 30 years ago I went to the concert with a bunch of people all piled into those big old cars; we were teenagers headed to the Meadowlands to rock out to U2. We had on our long coats with the sleeves rolled up, and various buttons on our coats, such as: Why Be Normal turned upside down, U2 buttons, Anarchy buttons, and any other button that said we are different and we like it. In addition, we all had our high top converse on, mine white canvas with writing all over them. We were sitting on laps and drinking tall boys, and Pink Floyd was playing on the radio:  “I need a dirty woman.”  I was sitting on John’s lap and I was in heaven.  At the show whenever U2 played a classic we screamed and hugged each other; this man was my first real boyfriend, and today my child’s father.

This anniversary brought up so many emotions for everyone. His sister was with us at the original show too; she was 12 and I was 18.  John and I try to keep our relationship only about Maggie; we are not perfect so sometimes we veer off into other topics, but much less than we used to.  I didn’t tell him I was going to the show and I wondered if I would see him and his sister that night. Well sure enough, as I’m tailgating in the parking lot with my friend I get a text of the original ticket stub from 1987 and I say to myself, “Is he here?”  So I text back a picture of the stadium with the word here.  He sends back the same picture and it says, “Same view.”  I begin to feel overwhelmed and excited at the same time.  My friend shows me where their car is based on the photo; we were just aisles apart.  We go back and forth with things like: “Where are you sitting?”  “I’m outside buying my shirt.”  Beth and I have tickets in the 341 section, nosebleeds and we couldn’t see the gigantic screen which is a huge part of a U2 show. After about a half hour I get a text saying, “You want an upgrade?”  Quick note here: John always gets tickets and always gets good seats for all concerts. He tells me to meet him outside my section and as I walk towards him he hands me two tickets and says, “First mezzanine, second row.” I literally said, “What? How?” and my mouth dropped open.  Then he hugged me and kissed me on the cheek and said have fun.  I go back to my friend and tell her where we are going and she is elated.  The Lumineers are still on stage so we run downstairs to our new seats and we are amazed at how close we are. Then John and Dierdre come in front of the mezzanine and say hi; it was so great to see Deirdre.  She and I were yelling “30 years!”  And we blew kisses.  John and I haven’t hugged in probably about a year. Everything was happening so fast and adrenaline was flying. Turns out him and his sister are in the Red Zone, right next to the stage.

When U2 came out I could see Bono and he could see us; it was pure joy.  The band was on fire; they played hit after hit including the entire Joshua Tree album, with lots of visuals and inspiring messages on the screen.  I literally jumped up and down and screamed and sang for almost 3 hours.  80,000 people all singing in unison; it is a spiritual experience. Sometimes Bono would say cut the music and we all just sang together as he watched with admiration.  There was a girl next to me that came from Mexico to see the show; she said it has been her dream since she was 15 years old and tonight her dream came true. I told her I was so happy for her.  We often were jumping up and down and yelling at the same time.  This moment made me stop and think about immigrants; it was very poignant to have this experience with her at a U2 show as we go through these tenuous times in our country.  She was so fun and grateful and I’m glad I was blessed enough to sit next to her.  She taught me a lesson; I’m just like you. I love U2. I love America.  Dreams come true in America.

So now I have my ticket stubs from 1987 and 2017.  My friends were concerned about John and I hugging and I told them it was because of the nostalgia and I felt strong enough to experience it, yet know that he can turn around and be an ass next week. The difference is now I know that; now I know that John who gave me tickets is a good part of John, but the lying and manipulating parts of John are there too.  Being at this show was fantastic, and seeing John and his sister made it even more special.  U2 actually played a song that he and his sister danced to at our wedding.  But I felt no longings, no I miss him, no awww; I just felt grateful. Lately I have been integrating my past into my present life; my therapist says that is healthy and healing.  She says rather than cut things off mentally, it is better to learn how to include them in my life today, and to honor them and understand they are part of the fabric of my life.

Well I definitely fulfilled Bono’s prayer that night; the feelings were visceral and pure bliss.  It was one of those life changing moments in life that I will hold onto forever. Bono also said, “Our prayer tonight is rather than being used or using, that you are useful.”  When he says these prayers, it’s like he is setting an intention for the evening.

The next day I woke up without a voice, the humming still in my ears, and I think I lost 5 pounds!  I went home and I sent John a text thanking him and telling him it was great to see him and his sister.  Bono also said, “So it’s been 30 years and we’ve changed, but we’ve also stayed the same.”  So true.  John and I will go back to our co parenting, and he never texted me back, and I am totally fine with that.

Epic is an understatement. Mind blowing. Inspiring. Freedom. Joy.

IMPORTANT:  NEW DOMAIN NAME:  tracihalpin.blog

My Story

Recently I was encouraged to tell my story. I know I have been open with you about many parts of my life, but I feel the need to tell my story. Buckle up.

My story is that I live with mental illness. I live with bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and tons of anxiety.  I had anxiety and depression when I was a child, only I didn’t know what that looked like. I used to get anxiety at night when I was in bed; my eyes would pop out and my heart would race, but I didn’t know what was going on, and I didn’t tell anyone. I cried every day of my life until I moved out at 21. At age 14 I attempted suicide by taking a bunch of pills in the cabinet. I got sick during the night and nobody knew what I did. Fast forward a year later, and I had a very bad night with my dad. He was hitting me in the face as I lay balled up in a fetal position on the floor.  The worst part was that he kept moving my hand off the side of my face so he could hit me.  Later that night I told my parents that I had attempted suicide.  They didn’t understand so they did nothing.  I often wonder if my life would be better if they had gotten me help.

At age 20 I attempt suicide again while I am away at SUNY Cortland. I was home for break and I planned it ahead of time, so I took all the Tylenol I could find in the house. When I got back to school that day I started taking the pills by the handful. The ironic thing is that I was walking around talking to people as I was swallowing the pills. I went to bed and expected to die. I woke up hours later with severe stomach pains and then I started throwing up. I told my roommate what I did and she called the EMT. I locked myself in the bathroom and I kept vomiting. They kept trying to get me to come out and I told them to leave me alone; I just wanted to throw up in peace.  I heard them say they were going to take the door off, so I opened the door.  I was put on a stretcher and transported to the local hospital. I remember all the students standing in the hallway as I was wheeled into the elevator.  Too much time had passed so my stomach couldn’t be pumped.  They put a tube in my nose and down into my stomach to give me medicine to counteract the harmful effects of the Tylenol.  It hurt so badly that I dug my nails into the nurse’s hand;  I remember her recoiling back in pain.   I spent a few days in ICU, and then they put me in the locked psychiatric unit. My friends came to visit me, which was nice.  My parents got me transferred to a psychiatric hospital at home. I was taken in an ambulance; it was a 3 hour drive.  Later I found out my mom and my boyfriend at the time packed up my room and brought my stuff home.  I stayed for a few days and then I did outpatient therapy for a year.

I went back to school near my home and I got my teaching degree. I was an awesome teacher. I worked in the inner city schools for 5 years; those were the best and most difficult 5 years out of my 20 year career, which came to an end in 2014.  I had a nervous breakdown and entered the hospital the next day.  I learned coping skills like DBT and they put me on lithium. I slowly started to feel better.  Some days we got to go outside; it felt so good to feel the wind on my face and the warmth of the sun. I would take the soft green felt blanket, they gave us, and wrap myself in it and sit down in a lawn chair and just take it all in; after a bit we would get the wave from the nurse that it was time to head inside.  I spent 9 days in this hospital and I was lucky because it was a top psychiatric hospital and my insurance covered all expenses.

I tried to go back to teaching, but I relapsed, so I had to take an early retirement.  I have not been working and it is very hard some days; I miss my old life. I miss my home and my career; I miss who I used to be. I’m living with my parents while I wait for my case to be heard again.  In the meantime, I have become a mental health advocate. I went back to my college and spoke to the students. I went to the state capital last year and spoke to congressmen, and lobbied for mental health bills.  I am a volunteer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I am part of the committee that plans the out of the darkness walks. In addition, I make phone calls to my senators and send emails to my representatives. I have also had an op ed piece about mental health published in the local paper.

My doctor does her best to keep me stable, but bipolar is a moving target. I just had a manic episode. Do you know what it’s like to want sex so badly that you are thinking of going to pick up a stranger?  It is hell. Bipolar and hypersexuality go hand in hand.  Not everyone talks about the sex part, but I’m an open book.   I usually know when it’s coming because I can’t stop thinking about the cute guy at the store, or I cannot focus on anything because I am fantasizing scenes in my head. Usually I take extra medicine and it goes away, but the last one was a tough one. I had to take lots of extra medicine to squash it, which it did, but it left me like a zombie the  next day.  Then I saw my dr and she made some med adjustments.  Med adjustments are the worst because you don’t know if they are going to help you or hurt you.  Well this time it was the latter; I was dropped so low that I couldn’t function and while walking down the road, I thought I could just walk in front of a car and all this pain will be over.  My daughter is the only thing that keeps me alive some days.

Right now I’m okay.  I am using my tools; in the hospital they taught us to carry a tool set with us, like stones, or messages, or pictures etc.  Mine has roll on Nag Champa to quell my anxiety, a picture of my daughter when she was 5, a cross, stones, a prayer, and a crayon because I love the smell of crayons.  I meditate every day and that really helps with my anxiety.  Meditation helps me to feel grounded and focused. I have been doing lots of guided meditations on you tube and kundalini meditations. I take classes and I write and I read lots.

I have been living my life and doing things I enjoy. I go hiking now and it feels so renewing; I actually start to crave nature.  I just went to a concert last night (Rise  Against), and I have 3 more coming up (U2, Dalton, and the Goo Goo Dolls).    I struggled a lot with the recent terrorism; I cried hysterically for hours after the Ariana Grande bombing.  My daughter and I have seen her twice.  The benefit concert was so healing for me; I know it may sound strange that I felt so upset but I tend to be an empath and take in all the emotions. I responded as if I was there, which my therapist helped me get through, and now I feel empowered rather than scared.  I am not going to let anyone change how I live my life; I decided I will not live in fear.  Somehow I am slowly starting to accept this new world and I am choosing to spread love and kindness.  At the concert venue last night the whole place was different. They gated in the entire venue, which is outside by the ocean, and there was only one line for everyone to wait on, so you needed to line up early.  They had us empty our pockets and put the stuff on the table like at the airport.  We had the wand go over the front of us with arms out and then the back of us; the guy asked me if I had a belt on because it beeped. I said no and I lifted my shirt, and he said Oh a button!  So I flashed security my stomach…lol   Men had to take off their hats, our bags were searched and there was security and cops everywhere.  It felt scary yet empowering at the same time. I have been checked at a concert before, but the visual of the gates and the change of how we go inside and being checked this time, was a reminder of why we are being checked this time, and why everything is gated in, and why everyone has to line up in one line for the entire venue.  Actually, I was impressed with the changes they put in place.  The show was amazing and I felt so alive.

Well my story is not over, thank God (literally), but hopefully with my choices and decisions it is just a bend in the road. Living a life with uncertainty lurking in the background is challenging, but what else can I do but live my life? So that is what I am doing.

Thanks for reading my story. I hope you are all well. As soon as I get the chance I will catch up on your posts!

Everyone has a story. What is your story?

Long Way Home

screenshot_2017-03-15-10-16-47.pngHere we go again!!!  Goo Goo Dolls are touring this summer with Philip Phillips. I usually go to Jones Beach with my friends, but this year we are going to Mohegan Sun. I am so excited; I’m always excited, but this time is really going to rock. I joined the fan club which gave me access to pre sales. The first day the tickets went on sale for fan club members I was able to get my tickets in 5 minutes. Some people had trouble with their code and getting locked out of ticketmaster. When I put my code in I crossed my fingers, and then it said, You now have access to the pre sale. I breathed a sigh of relief.

This show is also really special because for the first time I bought VIP tickets!! VIP tickets gives us a bunch of stuff, like a water bottle, a signed lithograph, a VIP laminate, and wait for it……….. seats in the 6th row, and……….a meet and greet!!  Woo hoo!!  I am so excited to meet Johnny again. Hopefully he won’t remember me from 2011 when I was creeping on him backstage…lol.  I keep having imaginary conversations with him in my head so I don’t ramble, again.  I’m planning my outfit, hair, presents, hug, pic pose, and what I am going to say. Oh, and I am going to ask for a kiss on the cheek. My friend got one last year; she asked him. I figure if he says no that’s fine, but I can’t let this possible opportunity go by without trying.

The tour is called Long Way Home, which is the last song on Boxes, and they usually close the show with that as an encore. My show is August 9th; it seems so far away. I remember I bought tickets this time last February for last year’s summer tour. I surprised my friend with the VIP tickets; she had no idea I was buying them. I texted her after I got the tickets, and I sent another text, Oh btw I got VIP tickets. She was pleasantly surprised. She kept saying, “We are going to meet them?”  I said yes!!!

I don’t buy clothes or go on trips. I do my own nails and color my own hair. I stopped  going to Starbucks.  Experiences, not things are what make people happy. Concerts and meeting authors and learning new things, and books fill me with joy. Yes I spent a lot of money, and I probably won’t do it again, but it’s worth it. I’ll eat soup and sandwiches for dinner for weeks!

Oh I forgot to tell you, the band is coming out with a new EP on May 12th called You Should Be Happy. The first single is going to drop, as the kids say, March 21st.

Is it August yet???

I’m a Liability

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“They say you’re a little much for me, You’re a liability

So they pull back, make other plans, I understand

I’m a liability. Lorde:  Liability

This is one of Lorde’s new songs from her upcoming album called Melodrama. It is a sad ballad about her first heartbreak. When I listen to this song I feel like it’s about me. I connect with it on every level. Having a mental illness is hard to accept, but what’s hardest is for someone else to accept it. I just started dating and I think this guy has no idea what I’m all about. Is he going to run for the hills when I tell him, if I tell him?

I feel like it’s a deep dark secret that I need to keep until I meet someone I can trust. I fear that they will see me as a liability, and pull back and make other plans. At first they say, “It’s okay I love you,” but they don’t know the truth of what this disorder looks like; they don’t know I could be dancing in the light of the kitchen, or I could be crying and unable to function. When I listen to this song I cry because I know that is what I feel and I know that others will feel that way about me.

I walk around life with a smile on my face, but underneath that smile is my secret. It’s a voice inside my head that says, “You are damaged goods; who will want to live in your storm, dating hasn’t worked out in the past, what makes you think it will now?  All the same stuff will eventually happen. You will meet a nice guy and then you will unravel and cross the fine line between excitement and mania. You will feel suffocated. You will feel like you can’t breathe. You will say goodbye and exhale; however in that freedom there is a truth that you are better on your own in order to stay healthy.”  But here I go again, giving it another try because I get lonely, yet I’m scared I’ll unravel like pulling a string in a knitted scarf.

I’m going to try it; I owe it to myself to try again. I’m doing things differently this time. Maybe that will make a difference. I hope so.

Wish me luck!

 

 

I’m Going Through Enlightened Times

5595702-lotus-flower-in-full-bloom-symbolizing-religion-buddhism-purity-serenity-zen-the-summer-season-buddh-stock-photo“Heaven on Earth is a choice you must make, not a place you must find.” Wayne Dyer

Those of you who follow me know that I have been saying, “I’m going through hard times.”  I have shared my bipolar, having to stop working, and moving in with my parents. The other day I was posting on my Instagram and as I looked down and saw those words, I said to myself, “Again?  I am so sick of seeing those words, and more importantly I am so sick of saying them. The truth is I’m not going through hard times; I’m living my life, and it’s going in the direction I am being called to follow, and making space for my true nature.

For at least 7 years I started reading and studying and learning from spiritual thought leaders and motivational speakers, like Gabby Bernstein and Kris Carr. When I stopped working I worked very hard on my recovery, and I continue to do so, but at the same time I was really delving into creating a life that’s always been in my head. I was living it on a small scale, but I couldn’t work full time as a teacher and go full steam ahead to this other life. So little by little I included these things in my life, with books, videos, webinars, workshops, quotes, and I practiced what I was learning. Now that I am not working, I have been able to fully devote myself to this world of motivating, connecting, learning, teaching, writing, and it feels fantastic!  I had a breakthrough: I am where I am now because I am not working. So if I had to go that route to get here, every single step was worth it.  My writing is being published, I am having daily moments of synchronicity, and I have been interacting with these spiritual leaders.  I feel like I’m entering their circle and living my true nature.

Through Gabby Bernstein I discovered kundalini yoga meditation. It drops me so deep into another place; it is transcendent. My first time doing this meditation I had a vision pop up as I was chanting. It was two huge heavy cement doors. They opened up to the outside at the same time.  I looked into the darkness, and I said I am walking through the doors. Since then so much has happened. I have people requesting to follow my Instagram every day. I went from 70 to 100 in a week. I’m not about numbers, and I will only allow someone to follow me that I feel a connection with. Some are authors, public figures, motivational speakers, and spiritual gangsters like myself;)   I believe I am putting an energy out into my Instagram and the world that is attracting like minded people. In March I am going to see Deepak Chopra and meet him, yet another step in my new life.

If you find yourself in a place you don’t want to be, perhaps there is a reason for it. In the early stages of climbing this mountain I struggled so badly. I cried, I screamed, I beat my pillow, I made bad choices, and I thought my life was never going to get better. But through it all I stayed grateful for what I did have in my life. Some days I really hurt, but I found 5 things to be grateful for each night before bed. I trusted that there was a reason for all this turmoil. I knew I just had to keep going. So if you are struggling, please know that things can get better. Try to find things to be grateful for every day.

Miracles are happening to me every day. According to A Course in Miracles, a miracle is a shift in perception from fear to love, or epiphanies or realizations about life. A miracle is realizing that having to stop working is not a tragedy; it is an opportunity to follow my true calling. Take some time to slow down and look for your miracles.

Namaste

Traci 🙂

HAPPY NEW YEAR 🎉

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Happy New Year! I wish you all the best in the new year. Be gentle with yourself and others. Smile more. Make eye contact. Think about what makes you happy. What small step can you take to work towards your desires?  Sing. Dance. Pray. Love. Be grateful 🙏

Traci 💖