Triggered: When music takes you back to the dark times.

The news of Chester Bennington’s death hit me hard. It hit me so hard that I couldn’t write about it until now. I realize what happened inside me when I heard the news, but it didn’t come to fruition until I found myself in my doctor’s office.

Rockstars often go before their time, it really shouldn’t shock anyone anymore. But it still does. Often times, it shocks us because we connect with their music on an emotional level. Sometimes musicians are the only ones with the words or rhythms that describe the mess that’s going on our heads. This connection leads us to bond with those we never even met.

“Do you know what may have triggered your Anxiety/PTSD?” She asked, with genuine care and concern in her voice. My eyes filled with tears. I tried to fight it but it was out of my control. My heart knows what triggered me. “It’s stupid” was all I could mutter. “It’s really, really stupid” I said again. The room was now a blur, my vision was compromised by tears. I felt alone, vulnerable, and helpless. I took control again, and told the doc, “There’s this lead singer of a band. He killed himself. Since then I’ve listened to the music and it took me back to some of the darkest days of my life, and I’ve had a hard time bringing myself back. That’s why I’m here.” She turned back to her computer and began typing a prescription, but only after expressing empathy for all I’ve been through (please don’t judge, my meds are not narcotics and prescription meds are an entirely different article) .

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The news of Chester Bennington’s death hit me hard. It hit me so hard that I couldn’t write about it until now. I realize what happened inside me when I heard the news, but it didn’t come to fruition until I found myself in my doctor’s office. I was desperately seeking relief from anxiety and PTSD symptoms that were triggered by listening to the music created by Linkin Park. The music took me back to two periods of my life that I’ve worked really hard to overcome.

I listened to the first album by Linkin Park, Hybrid Theory, while I was in the midst of drug addiction. I had a miscarriage my senior year of high school. I abused the Vicodin prescribed to me to deal with the emotional pain and trauma I experienced from the miscarriage and social rejection/isolation. I listened to this album on repeat for what felt like months, while I was secretly snorting pills in my room. Listening to the music reminds me of the tingle in my spine from the Vicodin that I loved so dearly at the time. Hence, the trigger.

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The second album carried me through a portion of my deployment to Iraq. I was now in the Army as a Military Policewoman (oh the irony), and I was “outside the wire” in a war zone on constant missions with the infantry and scouts. Meteora was what I played on repeat this time. I was clean, sober of course, but struggling with the realities of war. Not only was I struggling with seeing humankind at it’s worst, I had a husband there with me experiencing the same thing. Hearing these songs after the breaking news of Chester Bennington’s suicide triggered my PTSD.

Here’s the good news though. I truly believe we are forged by the fire. The fire of these triggers will not consume me like they have consumed so many. While Chester Bennington’s suicide remains a tragedy, it’s a wake up call for those in recovery. Smooth sailing will never last. Triggers will happen and we must face them instead of turning away, which only leads to depression or relapse. Then the depression and relapse leads to suicidal ideation. See the cycle?

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Music is a powerful tool. It can heal, if you let it. It can also trigger repressed memories, situations, and emotions. The musical trigger is often a surprise. Part of a good recovery plan is dealing with those triggers as they come. I have someone in my life who could see I was struggling and encouraged me to get the help needed to get out of the dip, and keep moving forward. A good accountability partner or sponsor can help you recover from triggers too. The key, is to know thyself, and to reach out. I guarantee there’s someone there to listen, even if it’s just me.

I do believe Chester’s soul is resting in peace, and I continue to pray for his family and fans. Tragedy always has the possibility to turn to triumph, this is where hope is born. The triumph in this case is not his life decisions of course, but the impact he has had on his listeners who are in recovery. I hope his death allows those in recovery such as myself, to identify triggers and heal.

In the words of Bono, “Music can change the world because it can change people.”

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Healing Through Art and Nature

When words dissolve somewhere between the head and the heart, what you’re left with is art. Art to me happens to be the processing of feelings and transforming them into something beautiful. Art is what I’ve been up to. I’ve been processing in an entirely new way….through creativity with my hands. 

I seem to have taken a short leave of absence from writing lately.

Sometimes I just can’t find the words for my experiences.

Sometimes words just won’t do the trick. 

Sometimes words are avoided because processing them is just too much.

Sometimes writing might bring me to the brink of a dark place I don’t want to be. 

Sometimes words are stuck. They’re stuck somewhere between yesterday and today, lodged in my heart and head. 

Sometimes they dissipate, they dissolve into something else entirely. 

When words dissolve somewhere between the head and the heart, what you’re left with is art. Art to me happens to be the processing of feelings and transforming them into something beautiful. Art is what I’ve been up to. I’ve been processing in an entirely new way….through creativity with my hands. 

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Some people may see what I’ve been up to and think it’s silly. Maybe even ridiculous. I never set out to be a soap maker, or someone who takes from the land and creates with it. Some of the most creative minds in history never set out to do what they did, but a barrage of experiences led them there. 

The truth is that art, be it in writing or other newly discovered forms, is healing. It helps with my addiction recovery. It helps with my PTSD. It helps with my anxiety. It helps with my depression. As I ride the unpredictable waves of life in recovery, I discover there are many different forms of anchors along the way. Sometimes that anchor happens to be creating something tangible with my hands, instead of stringing words along to form a piece.

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Like most of those in recovery, my personality traits include obsession, perfection, and striving. I’m learning to laugh these off when it comes to putting creativity out there in the world. I fully accept that I am my own worst critic and am constantly striving for success. The trick is not to use other people’s terms of “success” in my life. As long as I’ve processed something through creating and left a tangible piece I’ve been successful. 

Another wonderful way to process things is to get lost in nature. Not literally of course, but figuratively. When I’m at my homestead in progress, Rattlesnake Ridge,  time stands still. I get completely lost in every wildflower sown by my creator. I get lost in every birdsong I’ve been blessed enough to hear. I get carried away by the trickles of water flowing through the creek. You should see the trees. Oh, the trees take me some place else entirely. The view from our future home plot takes my breath away. Every. Single. Time. 

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I don’t know where all this is going, but I know I’m on to something. I know there’s healing in the arts, and healing in nature. I guess I hope one day to be able to offer that experience to those who seek the refuge of nature. 

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Maybe I’m on to something. Maybe I’m completely missing the mark. Either way, I’m healing…and that’s what matters. 

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