So as we start saying goodbye to a clusterfuck dumpster-fire of a year, I myself will personally say goodbye to this particular article series seeing how, much like time is a flat circle, I felt like I’ve told this story one too many times. It’s a daily reminder of how not to try to live my life again, or at least a good decade of it. Up until this particular point in my life, I thought I had bear witnessed to some pretty dark times.
The next particular 6 years would be me being a white-hot blade constantly being hammered at it on the forging iron itself. And not with ease or precision. But with a constant battering of deafening blows of life throwing obstacles and just about any and every excuse for me to damn-near send me to the psychiatric ward. And it did. Between 2003-2009 was a 6 year long maniac-depressive race for me to find myself. These particular ages of 21-26 were what I would call the absolute worst that I’ve experienced in terms of mental, physical, and emotional health. So let’s get onto the jamz that somehow managed to pull me thru and keep me on a somewhat sane level of reality but also had me questioning it at the same time.
One of the biggest things that was going on was the rise and popularity of Metalcore. That and in my particular area of Lakeland/Central Florida, Emo/Scene/Post-Hardcore, whatever you want to call that. I absolutely loathed this. I fucked hated every second of it with a passion. It still pissed me off quite a bit like with any underground maniac at the time. And with the country being ruled by a Republican government at the time, I in my warped little head of mine thought the best way to counter-act and react to all of this was to act like it was the fucking 80’s all-over again. And in some weird catch-22 situation, I learned MORE about the roots of extreme music. I started being retrogressive and listening to 80’s underground Thrash/Death/Black metal bands, particularly the bands from the tape-trading circuit. Master, Death Strike, Repulsion, Insanity(California), Pentagram(Chile), Slaughter (Chile), Massacre, early Death, early Sepultura, and even going further into Thrash Metal and discovering bands like Vio-lence, Dark Angel, Possessed, Razor, Protecter (Germany). I was pulling a Fenriz on everyone in late 2002, very beginning of 2003. And goddamn it was fucking exciting. It was the polar opposite of everything that was going on around me.
On top of this retro-active wave I was riding, I also was discovering more about the early UK Anarcho crust/Hardcore/Grindcore scene of the 80’s and the Swedish and Japanese scenes. Bands like Amebix, Gauze, G.I.S.M., Anti-Cimex, Doom(UK), Black Uniforms, Rudimentary Peni, Hellbastard, the list goes on and on. The internet was starting to come together and I started talking to more and more fellow maniacs that shared the same ideas and feelings as me. Again whatever was popular at the time, we went in the opposite fucking direction with middle fingers in the air. AOL and Yahoo Metal chat rooms were the place to be for this and even on the then Myspace message boards. Websites such as Anus.com (American Nihilistic Underground Scoiety) had such limited information about bands of extreme music and crappy fucking 30 second Real Player clips of Mayhem’s “Freezing Moon” or like a crappy 1 paragraph trying to describe Ildjarn, so when websites/online fanzines such as Voices From the Darkside and even Metalion of Norway’s infamous Slayer ‘zine started doing these retrospective articles and reviews of all the stuff from the 80’s it was brand-new to young testosterone-filled dudes like myself. It was a breath of fresh wind. Total an complete antithesis.
Sweden was a being a hot thing to rip-off to no end. With the wave of Metalcore and Hardcore bands basically doing their best to be the next American version of At The Gates or In Flames. It generally pissed me off because it seemed like no band, no matter what they did could not fucking get it right. For every 1 half-way decent song by some American band,there were a thousand fucking imitators. One of the best examples I would always use was The Crown‘s 5th and best fucking album, “Crowned In Terror” as an example to recommend to the falses and kids that went from Korn one year to Shadows Fall the next. I figured if they couldn’t handle something as well-produced but firmly rooted in Swedish Death Metal outside of the then popular-yet-overly ripped-off Gothernburg sound, then they didn’t have a hope in hell. For me it was again, in true metal head jargon, “No wimps. No false metal.”
Between me completely immersing myself in my studies at going to college, holding down shitty part-time jobs by working at gas stations and even the one summer I was a lifeguard, and me immersing myself in constantly discovering new music or music I have never heard or listened to before, what led me down the path to that depressive streak? What was going on that started this downward spiral for me? Well the culture that was happening was not a particular favorite one. It had started in the early 2000’s and continued into this softening of the human spirit, including mine. It also brought up the coming-of-age story that happens to a lot of young men where the country calls them for their volunteering to the call of duty. I answered it. I was 21 in 2004, still living with my parents in our really nice townhouse apartment. And into my 2nd year of going to junior college for journalism, the cracks in me were starting to show. The previous year I had found myself enjoying the fruits of my post-high school graduation which meant partying. Partying at my level meant a very unhelathy love of Jagermeister, painkillers/opiates(Hydrocodone, Vicodin, Percocet), muscle-relaxers(Soma), and benzodiazapems(Xanax, Valium). I wasn’t at full-blown addict stage, but I had partied enough to where my grades were being affected and so was my mood. I personally felt like I was stagnating. Constantly caught in a dismal depressing fuck muck that I could not get myself out of. So what did I do? I dropped out of college and enlisted in the US Army active-duty. Which was the the craziest fucking thing I did at the time. Call it a chance to prove myself to myself or sheer dumb bravery or whatever you want to it. But I had to do it. At that point, there was no other option for me. This option did not come without it’s consequences.
I was to be a then 97 Echo, or for those that don’t know, Military Intelligence Officer. I was going to go the safe route and get me a nice cushy desk job in the military instead of trying to be some dumb-ass tanker, but when I injured myself on my last week of boot camp, that completely broke me. I had never experienced defeat like that before. I basically was doing my final 15K mile ruck march up-hill. My Final Training Exercise, or as the Army called it, The Crucible. It was your final test you had to take in order to become a solider and receive your beret and privilege and fucking right to call yourself a soldier. I was carrying a 125 lbs of gear up-hill, overstepped my foot which marching, and tumbled/rolled backwards about a good 10 feet. Totally snapped all the ligaments in my right ankle and injured my back. Made it impossible to complete my crucible and final PT test. I could barely walk, let alone think of doing a 2.5 mile run. After the doctors looked at the mess I was, the suggested to my company’s XO that I immediately be sent back home, completely separated from my battle buddies that I had made friends with and bonded like brothers over the past 4 months. That truly broke my spirit. Adding insult to injury they gave me an ELS discharge which is short for Entry level Separation. it’s a special discharge that is neither honorable nor dishonorable, it basically says you couldn’t hack it in basic training making you look like a fucking quitter and leaving you in limbo as far as any sort of healthcare benefits granted by the VA hospital.
Upon coming back into the civilian world, I was completely and absolutely depressed. I had learned that while I was off playing the hero a good few hundred miles away in Frt. Benning Georgia, coming back home was the hardest. I had to then face my father who was a Marine Sniper in Vietnam and a CW2 Officer and my mother who was a Specialist in the Army as well. I had to face my father’s demons as they re-surfaced, and the news that not only my grandmother had cancer but my dog Sidney, who I had ever since the age of 9/10 years old, had passed away. I went into the Army where life seemed normal and I needed a change, and I came back into what felt like my own fucking war. And it stayed that way for the next handful of years.
At this particular point I was listening to a LOT of Skinny Puppy. Their music provided the only means of catharsis between the issues I was facing both mentally and physically and chemically. I was working a shitty warehouse job as a stocker/receiver for a furniture company that had no heat or A/C where all day for up to 12 hours I would throw my back out from stacking furniture on top of each other all day fucking long, go home, numb myself on a combo of whatever I could find as far as pharmaceuticals I could get a hold of, and then the next day sweat it all out of my system in the intense Florida heat and humidity. In one year after coming back from the army I went from being 6’1″ at a pretty bulky but fit 196 lbs down to a soaking wet 135 lbs. In constant pain. And the only thing I could do was self-medicate my pain and drown-out to the sounds of Skinny Puppy‘s essential 80’s material. The schizophrenic multilayered sounds of songs like “Worlock” defined my multi-layered issues and growing-out-of-proportions chemical dependency and mental issues. Perfectly matched the pace that I was going at life in this manic-depressive spreed and daze.
Another particular album that I felt very connected to was “The Black House” by the US black metal band Krieg fronted by Decibel magazine’s modern-day Bukowski, Neill Jameson. My daily mood swings and mounting stress from life in general all resulted to my experiencing a complete and total nervous breakdown. So much I had experienced up to this particular turning point, for the worst was yet to come, that even though I had no idea what Mr. Jameson was screaming as far as actual words go in the particular song “Ruin Under A Burning Sky” off said album, but that was me. In my soaking-wet drug-induced emaciated state where I resembled fucking Christian Bale off “The Machinist“, I then experienced the death of my father and my grandfather(mother’s father) within a year of each other. Life got even worst. And so did my daily physical pain levels, mental deterioration, violent mood swings, experience of auditory hallucinations and night terrors, family life, and addiction to opiates. Particularly at that point I was doing so much Soma and Hydocodone that it was scary. I’m talking slamming 10-12 Somas on 8 7.5 mg Hydocodones. And I don’t just say all of this for dick-measuring. This is the hell I experienced. It led me to completely snapping at a good friend and I ended up in jail overnight for the first time ever. I was trialed for assault and battery, but because of the situation the judge was REALLY fucking nice to drop it and tell me to stay out of trouble. No charges pressed. I didn’t care. I just wanted to constantly numb myself out and not feel the pain I was going through. And even then it got worst.
My Mother and I then decided to move away from Florida to be with family out in Louisiana, leaving my Grandmother(Father’s mother) behind. She was still going through chemotherapy. The last I saw her she was wearing a wig and crying that her family was leaving her. Even as I write this, it’s hard for me to talk about this. It was the hardest decision I had to make, but I couldn’t stay in Florida. I would have ended up either suicidal or in prison or sticking a needle in my arm for my daily fix. So we went to stay with family in our grieving and mentally unsound state. I was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder and given a heavy cocktail of psychiatric medication including Depakote, Seroquel XR, Cymbalta, and Kolonopin. My family out in Louisiana turned their backs on my mother and I and we were forced into the streets. Homeless for about a month but I was employed at the time so that granted my mother and I to nicely stay at this run-down motel for us to have a roof over our heads. I managed to work my ass-off while being so heavily medicated and save enough to get an apartment but it was Section 8 Housing in the ghetto section of Baton Rouge. Completely surrounded by addicts and drug-dealers. During what seemed like a break amidst all of this chaos that was my life my mother’s mother passed away and then my father’s grandmother passed away a mere two weeks after. That was it. I had had enough.
Despite all that was going on, I had my only source of outlet and place to go to seek refuge: CD Warehouse on College Drive near the LSU campus and the Books-A-Million that was right across the street. For years that was my place to go to escape and loose myself. Every chance I could get either before of after work and my days off from work living in Baton Rouge, I would go there to try and forget the daily shitty fucking wretchedness that my life has become. One album I was listening to a lot was Lurker Of Chalice‘s self-titled album. The nights I spent in pure anxiety I would isolate myself and constantly listen to it, reading whatever book I purchased to keep my mind off the fact that life felt like it was ending and I was only 25 years old. Jeff Whitehead’s music on that particular side-project put into words and sounds that I could never particularly articulate to my doctor. The depressing depths I was going through, the turmoil, stress, mental fragility, and the nights of waking-up in a cold sweats and panic attacks……if I had a soundtrack to perfectly describe that particular time, it would be that. As fucked-up as it sounds, I still listen to that album almost on a daily basis. It’s a personal reminder of what I went through
The turning point in all of this was the night that I had found out from my mother that my grandmother passed away. I broke inside to the point where I wanted it all to end. I had gotten a hold of Morphine Sulphate in the pill form and Oxycotin extended release pills. That night I decided to put myself in a deep sleep. It was the only time I decided to do as something as stupid as take all the psychiatric medication and then take 8 Morphine pills on top of 6 Oxycotins. Basically I had taken enough to kill a human being. But that was not to be my case. I gobbled down a handful of pills and went to bed. I don’t remember exactly what time it was, but it was early in the morning where I woke from a night-terror in a completely soaked state, bed was wet, and had a full blown panic attack. On top I was hearing voices, and frantically running trough the apartment locking the doors, and hearing people pounding on the walls. I had lost it officially. I then went into the bathroom, stripped down, turned on the shower and stood there shaking/trembling probably from some sort of delirium tremors or god knows what else. But I then realized whatever I did, I would not rid myself of my problems no matter how much or what I took. I couldn’t even properly make it look like I committed suicide. I don’t know why I am even still alive after that particular night. Do I believe in a higher power? The jury is out on that one considering what I’ve been through. I’ve been lucky and fortunate to make it this far in life. I moved back to Florida shortly afterwards and moved in to my grandmother’s house I had inherited(where I still live) and lived with my high school sweetheart who helped me get off so much. I give her a lot of credit for putting up with my ass in the years she was with me helping me motivate myself to get better. It wasn’t easy. It hasn’t been easy. Even as I write this I still go through the daily battle of whatever life throws at me. Is there a happy ending to this series of articles? Yes and no. The worst happened but like any person dealing with mental issues or addictions, I still seek help and within the last 3 years I actually got my VA healthcare so I have access to professional therapists. My mother re-married and both her and I were adopted into a family that has shown us more love and comfort than our biological family showed us in our darkest hour. My friends and family have understood my battle and personal war that I’ve gone through and have encouraged me to keep going at this thing and dream that I started back in college. which, as innocent and silly as this sounds, was to be a music writer and basically talk about music and be involved with the music sub-culture even after working for Full Moon productions as a teen and the short time that I wrote for Cvltnation.com when they first started on the internet before they got huge when I got an e-mail and a few other sites that did the same but that’s a completely different story. My writing. It’s the one thing outside of music that keeps me together. As corny as this might seem and sound, Michael Stripe of R.E.M. summed everything I’ve talked about in the song “Everybody Hurts.” The lyrics are true…don’t let yourself go.
Why did I name this series of articles Know Your Roots? Simply meaning, never forget where you came from, where you’ve been, where you’ve gone, and where you’re currently going. There’s no particular song I can sum all of this I have written and told you, I think it’s a rather impossible feat even for me as much as I do outside of my blog on FB and social media. All I know that if there is anyone out there that is currently going through the same situations that I have in the past or if you have a friend or family member or loved one that is battling these same issues, please by all means be there for them and help them be their guiding light in the storm that they are going through. Even if you just have to listen to them talk, it makes all the difference in the world. Don’t be afraid to help and don’t be afraid to ask for help. As Henry Rollins said in the book “Get In the Van“….”I am average intelligence. There is nothing special about me. If I can get this far, I wouldn’t be surprised if you couldn’t get twice as far.”
You know what, fuck it. Keep jamming on.