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

 

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?