Posted in This Is Real Life

Suicide Prevention Day

Yesterday was World Suicide Prevention Day.

What many of you don’t know is that 6 years ago next month, I lost my little brother to suicide and life has been a struggle since—for my entire family.

What none of you know is that for a few years, I hated him for doing it because he took that option away from me. I had always assumed that at some point I was going to be my family’s monumental tragedy, that of any of us, I was going to be the one they’d lose. I’ve struggled with major depression since I was 4, and it only got harder as I got older. When I lost my brother, it put me in a very hard position because it meant that no matter how hard it got for me, no matter what happened or how desolate I felt, I had to go on. Losing Matthew destroyed us, and I couldn’t do that to my family again. Not again.

So I fought to make my life better. I fought until my present looked better than my past, until I thought I had a future worth working toward. Until I thought I had a life worth living. I have fought so hard to get here, and I continue to fight because my brain chemistry makes me want to fold up and call it a day. My body is imbalanced and it makes everything harder. But still I fight. Why? Because I choose to. Because I have a family that loves me, even when they don’t understand me. Because I have people who need me, and age has allowed me the knowledge that I am not as easily replaced as I used to think I was.

If you are struggling, it’s okay. If today you are losing your battle, that’s okay. Life is hard. It has always been, and will always be hard, but frankly, it’s worth it. The world is a beautiful place, despite being filled with horrible things, and you have a future worth working toward. You are deeply loved even if you can’t see it. You have worth, even if you don’t feel it. It takes time and effort and frustration, but when you get to a better place, it’s worth it. It’s so worth it. To look back on your struggle, even if you are still struggling, and to know that you had the strength and the will to get through all of that and make it to where you are now—it’s empowering. We are all stronger than we give ourselves credit for.

So far your track record for getting through bad days is 100%, and I think that’s pretty awesome.

 

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Posted in This Is Real Life

Warped Tour Ain’t What it Used to Be—Hallelujah

I started paying attention to the punk rock scene when I was in early middle school, about the time that my clinical depression really started to rear its ugly head and I found that the Top 40 scene just didn’t represent the feelings that were wreaking havoc in my head (and it was getting annoying, besides). Bands like My Chemical Romance (now unfortunately defunct) and AFI took over my music library, and before long I had branched out into [a few different varieties of] metal and screamo, hardcore and varying strains of punk rock and alternative.

And then I discovered the music festival to end all music festivals: Vans Warped Tour.

Dish Network used to feature FUSE, which was covered with WT programs in the summer, and my only lifeline to culture that didn’t involve cowboy hats or country music. At that point, Warped was almost entirely metal/core and grungy punk rock outfits that were a little on the stripped out side. Pennywise, for example, was a staple (but it’s been a long time since then and I don’t remember other names, although I could probably hit up the Google). Since then, Warped Tour has morphed into something a little different, something a little more inclusive, maybe. The metal and the hard rock and the stripped out punk music is definitely still around, but it’s scheduled alongside pop punk and hip hop and EDM, straight up pop music, etc.

Warped Tour has become something new entirely in the past 10 to 12 years, and although there are probably some purists who are really strung out about it, I think it’s great. Hip hop and rap have infiltrated almost every genre of music we care about, just like EDM/dubstep or even autotune, so it makes sense to start including some of those acts in the Tour. There’s more genre crossing-over now than I feel like there ever has been, especially in the punk rock scene, or, more aptly, the Vans Warped Tour scene.

So what does that mean for me? It means that now, more than a decade after I discovered the event that made my heartrate increase (in part because I was a 9 hour drive from the nearest event location, and there was no way for me to get there since my parents just didn’t understand–#growingupemo, right?), when I am finally able to attend a date, 1800 miles away from home, I’m looking at a group of artists that represent the diversity of my current music library, which has been developing over the past several years. It also means that there’s a significantly more mixed type of attendance at events, people who are there for entirely different scenes but all for the same reason: because live music is the shit. As a student of American culture and sociopolitics, this is exciting.

I went to Mansfield with my boyfriend, and we were late, because mornings are hard. But we got there in time for Hands Like Houses, which is one of the handful of bands on my “Absolutely Cannot Miss” list (one of whom I missed. #Sadface). Aside from their perfect hair and adorable accents, the Australian outfit absolutely killed their set Tuesday afternoon. Trenton Woodley has a voice to make a girl swoon (not to mention a smile), and the energy they presented was infectious. It was definitely the best way for us to have started the day—and their announcement probably helped. New album in November—wut wut!

We went straight from HLH to Riff Raff. Now that’s a transition I never saw coming, lemme tell you. We didn’t stick around for the whole set because we had other places we needed to be, but we were there long enough to watch the energy of the amphitheater completely shift over, which was fascinating from a sociological standpoint.

We watched The Wonder Years and Man Overboard play pretty solid sets on the Shark and Unicorn Stages respectively before August Burns Red tore it up. There’s something deeply satisfying and enjoyable/amusing about watching the higher pitched screams come out of this brunette’s mouth. I don’t know quite what it is, but every time I watched him scream I just grinned like an idiot. It was a really good set, and even though I don’t really listen to them on my own, I was suitably impressed.

At this point, I split off to go watch Slaves on the Kevin Says stage because they were at the top of my “Cannot Miss” list. I discovered Slaves and Jonny Craig JCMeabout the time that I was going through a really rough breakup in January, and their album really helped me through it. It wasn’t that the lyrics were relevant, or even that I could connect to the messages so much as it was a body of really gorgeous work that featured strong emotion and a struggle. I don’t pretend to know Jonny Craig or his struggle, nor do I pretend that his music “saved me” because (1) I didn’t need saving and (2) I always do that myself, but it was a soundtrack of deeply emotive struggle and it came into my life right when I needed it. He was nice enough to take a picture with me, and then to humor me and hug me, which made my whole damned day, even though it probably wasn’t REALLY that big of a deal. It just felt like it to me.

Anyway. <cough/> I stood front and center for the Slaves set, up against the barricade, because that’s straight up my favorite place to be. (I almost never get to be there when at shows with other people because I’m respectful of my companion’s space and comfort, but it always makes me a little sad to be as far back as is desired. Oh well.) It was short, but it was really powerful, and the crowd responded really well to them. There’s a lot of conflict surrounding this band and particularly the vocalist, and while I can see where it comes from and why, but… that’s another subject for another day.

The only thing I’m upset about regarding the Slaves set is that it was at the same time as the Icon for Hire set, and they were another band on my “CANNOT MISS” list, and… <sigh/> I had to miss them. #Bigoldsadface. I expect that they’ll be back, though. I mean, I did move to a cultural epicenter. Hurray for civilization. Moving on.

TheKenneths1

I was actually pleased to see The Kenneths (although I really only just saw them while we walked past on our way to something else, because time) on Warped this year as well, because it’s really a fall back to the aforementioned stripped out punk rock that Warped used to be chock full of. They’re a London-based outfit, and man, do they look their part. Mohawks and grungy, ripped clothing all the way. They were a unique unit amidst the rest of the acts I encountered in Mansfield, which is maybe sad from a nostalgic standpoint, but I feel like, based on the exploration I do in the scene (of which, I admit, there hasn’t been nearly enough of lately because life post-university is weird), that section of the scene has grown rather small. It’s becoming phased out, in a manner of speaking, although I will never call it obsolete. As long as there are listeners, a genre is never obsolete. Besides, they have things to say and a solid medium with which to say it. More power to them. They’re good to watch live, too, what little I saw.

I introduced my boyfriend to Silverstein, who were a staple in my high school playlists, while we waited for Senses Fail, per his request. The SF vocalist has recently come out as Queer, and took the set as an opportunity to remind people that homophobia/transphobia/using “faggot” as a pejorative is really shitty, and that anybody who didn’t see a problem with it should really just leave, because punk rock is and has always been about uniting the counter cultures and representing the people that the mainstream neglected. (It made anybody who left at that point look a little suspicious, haha.) Knowing about the recent ongoing drama with Attila and God only knows how many bands in the scene, it came off a little pointed, a little more angsty than it otherwise might have, although I certainly can’t blame him for his frustration and hurt.
I’m going to immediately point out that I have no idea if Buddy Nelson had Attila in mind or not, because I don’t know anything about that relationship or if there even is one, and I’m not going to make any further comments about Attila because I am not suitably placed/informed to make comments.

After Senses Fail, we caught the end of the Four Year Strong set before Pvris hit the Unicorn Stage and stole the whole damn show. Lyndsey Gunnulfsen is gorgeous and has one helluva voice, and, if I’m going to be fully honest, they were probably my favorite performance of the entire day.

We pretty much ended the day with Bebe Rexha, with whom I have a sordid love affair. Just kidding, but seriously, she’s kinda bomb. Infiltrating the mainstream by writing songs for a ton of hit artists including Eminem and Rihanna (e.g. “Monster”), David Guetta and Nikki Minaj (Hello “Hey Mama”, wherein she actually BebeRexhasings the hook), Bebe (pronounced ‘Bee-bee, fyi) is probably the most “pop”-esque artist on the Warped Tour lineup, alongside Metro Station, who were in the Top 40 a few years ago. (Oh my God, wait, wasn’t that in like, 2008 or something? Uff dah). At least of the names that I know (and I’ve looked into almost all of them). Bebe writes some really strong lyrics and some hella fine hooks, not to mention infectious melodies. Her stage presence was a little sporadic, but it made sense all the way through. She hit the stage in a leather jacket over her crop top and leggings, and I don’t know how she kept it on as long as she did. I was dying in shorts and a tank top all day. (Granted, I’m from the Midwest, where heat does not invite humidity to play. This whole being hugged by the air thing takes some getting used to.)

That was pretty much our day in a nutshell… a long… explanatory nutshell… =D haha. It was a really great experience, and it was definitely worth the wait. Warped Tour isn’t what it was when I discovered it, but I reject the idea that it’s a problem and celebrate the evolution of the scene. Anybody who knows anything about me knows that I’m all about evolution and growth, and not just on a personal level. Warped isn’t just an annual series of events, it’s a culture, and culture that refuses to evolve with its members is a culture that eventually phases itself out of existence. Letting Warped breathe is the only thing that will allow it to continue, because, lets be serious: being a hipster is fun, but only when there are events that like, you know, alive.

PS–I was taking these pictures on my phone, so the quality really isn’t that great. I wish it was better. But I am (somewhat unfortunately) not a professional photographer and therefore lack a good camera. Maybe someday.

Live Music and Hearing Loss Go Hand in Hand

Last night, the Captain and I attended a concert at The Hub in Fargo for The Used and Taking Back Sunday, with FRNKIERO ANDTHE CELLABRATION as the opening act.

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“FrnkIero andthe Cellabration” is the solo side project–now only project–of the former-rhythm guitarist and backup vocalist of My Chemical Romance, Frank Iero.

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Frank broke out with his solo project Leathermouth (LeATHERMØUTH) about 7 years ago, but didn’t release XO until 2009. Apparently he’s got another side project, but I don’t know anything about it, and then this Cellabration business is brand new, with an album that just released in August of this year.

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100_0035Frankly–and yes, I did do that on purpose–they’re not that great. I mean, they aren’t terrible. They’re certainly better than Leathermouth was, although that didn’t take a whole lot. To be honest, I really feel like Frank was better off as a backup vocalist. Don’t get me wrong; I initially really wanted to like his stuff because of who he was, but I couldn’t get behind it.

They perform well enough, I suppose, but when between songs they stopped to talk to the audience, it made me giggle because he’s still just as awkward as he always seemed on camera. Standing up on the second level–which is a series of 3 or 4 bars and therefore requires one to be of age–the BF and I stood at the railing and were sarcastic assholes the entire set, just quietly, and with each other. I really did enjoy watching them, though. It was cool to actually get to see him perform, considering that I’ve wanted for years to see MCR in concert and now never will. Damnit anyway. I don’t think that I’ll be making a repeat appearance, though.


100_0047-1The Used took the stage shortly thereafter, and as this is who I went to see, this is who I have the most pictures of. I also think Bert McCracken is a fucking boss, but whatever. hahaha.

100_0056-1Also, fun fact, Bert has lost a shit ton of weight since I last saw a picture of him, and he looks fantastic.

I’ve been listening to The Used since like, 2005ish, or whenever the fuck it was that I was in 7th grade. hahaha. It’s so hard to keep track of what years belong to which grades. Meh.

Seriously, though, look at him! He looks fantastic! I couldn’t get over it.

Despite the release of a new album, the band played a lot of old songs from previous albums, like In Love and Death and Maybe Memories, which were released in 2004 and 3 respectively. They played songs off the more recent albums, of course, but it just sort of surprised me how many older songs I got to hear. It was pretty awesome, actually.

I took the videos with the camera my parents bought me for my birthday a couple years back, and I’d never used it to take video before so I had no idea how this was going to turn out. It’s kind of surprising how prominent the vocals are, though. I wasn’t expecting that, I guess.

Here. Have another!

^^One of my favorite songs of theirs, just for the record.


100_0102-1Taking Back Sunday headlined last night, which was cool. I haven’t listened to TBS in years, but I found out last night that I still love the shit out of them.

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Also, weird fun fact: the vocalist looks a lot like an ex-roommate… Wasn’t sure how to feel about that, hahaha.

All I know for sure is that they played “Cute Without the E (Cut From the Team)” and “Liar (Takes One to Know One)” from their old stuff and a brand new song called “Better Homes & Gardens”–unless that was supposed to be the name of an album… I dunno. I told you I haven’t listened to them in years. But they were really great! It was a good time. =)

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And in the blink of an eye–
or perhaps several–
rather in the pregnant pause during which long day becomes longer night;
rather through the oceans of tears, the choruses of broken sobs;
rather between a long series of desolate, restless naps,
and the collective hours on hours of drowning in half-consciousness–
four years have gone by.
In the exchange of a half-hearted smile,
the offer of a hollow laugh,
a joke only laughed at in politeness,
a lifetime slipped through my fingers.
Like sand, like dirt, like water,
time slips away, compresses between my palms, sustains my existence
scratches the skin, stains the fingernails, drowns me daily.
The passing of a single instant
is the passing of 4 years.

No passage of time will ever be enough to leave my brother behind.

Rest in peace, brother mine.

4 Years

On All Days

May 10. It’s been a day of significance almost my entire life, although now its significance has shifted. While for 16 years it was an exciting anniversary of my brother’s birth, the 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th occurrences of this date… they just mean heartache and sorrow, because of a shift from “Happy 19th birthday!” to “He would be turning 20 today.”

Of course, life goes on. Over the past three years, I have had midterms on his death-date and finals on his birthday–but not this year. This year I escaped the dreaded midterm and his birthday is on Saturday. All I have to deal with now is me–as if that wasn’t hard enough–and anything else my personal life throws at me.

Like, for example, the text message I received at a quarter to ten this morning: You know I’m still in love with you.

I can tell you right now that this text didn’t come from my boyfriend, who is currently softly snoring and has been for hours. It came from a friend I met last year via English class. I won’t get into it all, because it’s far too much to recount and it’s excessively complicated. But when we got to be friends, he developed feelings, which unfortunately grew the longer we knew each other. I was, however, in a relationship most of the time we knew each other–although there were two of them. He graduated that spring and moved back home, which is several states away from North Dakota, and then in June he decided to finally come clean about his feelings. By the time he told me he wanted to be my boyfriend, I had already told Kirk that I would be his girlfriend, and chaos ensued. I won’t go into it, but he made me so furious that I was almost content to never speak to him again. Over the next several months, I rarely heard from him, and if I did, the “conversation” was pathetic/short-lived/whatever. And then in November, he got hit by a drunk driver and spent the next four or five months in the hospital struggling to stay alive. Over those four months, his ex-girlfriend (they broke up while he was in the hospital) pestered the ever-living shit out of me about how my relationship was going to fail because it wasn’t with him and blah blah blah blah blah. Generally, her goal was to make me feel as shitty as possible. Like she thought she could guilt trip me out of my relationship and into a new one or something.

Obviously I feel bad that this guy has feelings for me that I can’t reciprocate. I’ve been there–repeatedly–and it sucks every time. Every time. So when I got his text message this morning, the only thing I could reply is “I’m sorry.” There’s nothing else for me to say. He wasn’t supposed to fall in love with me, and it’s not my fault that he did. I will take the blame for my own naivete. That I will own. I have to–I’ve been looking back and realizing that I did a lot of things out of straight naivete that I really probably shouldn’t have done. Said things that, in retrospect, I definitely shouldn’t have said. Because I never realized that they meant the things that other people assumed they meant.

10 May is never a good day for me anymore. I try to treat it just like any other day, but a day with real significance doesn’t just fade out.

I Can’t.

I don’t have a therapist. I don’t see a grief counselor. I don’t see a psychologist/psychiatrist. I know that I need to, but I stll can’t make myself do it. It isn’t because I’m afraid of a stigma–I have too many friends ‘on the couch’, as they say, for that. The human condition frequently requires a sounding board that sometimes intelligently answers back.

But I’m too stubborn for my own good, and so that leaves me on my own to deal with my shit. And I’m telling you guys, I have a lot of shit to deal with. It’s not just being a victim of familial suicide. I have anxiety and clinical depression, and there are other things I’ve been through that I can’t admit to publicly. Life hasn’t been very good to me.

Don’t get me wrong. I have a loving and supportive family. My parents are always behind me and will love me to the ends of the earth. I’m also relatively smart and talented, and at least somewhat socially capable. But it’s the rest of life that’s trying to kill me. I know it.

From a very young age, I’ve struggled with depression. When I was in elementary school, it manifested in a way much different than it has since. It’s hard to explain, really, but I think it was tied into my inability to socialize successfully with my peers. I learned recently that I was ostracized because the popular girl in my class was jealous of my pretty, long hair, and so everyone followed her lead and disliked me. It’s much more complicated than that, of course, but that’s where it started. The loneliness that ensued probably triggered a lot of my depressive states, but I’ve worked too hard to forget my childhood that I can’t adequately speak about it anymore.

My first fight with suicide happened in eighth grade. I spiraled down into this deep blackness that I grew unable to see out of. There was no light in any peripheral direction and everything seemed hopeless. It wasn’t that I didn’t have friends, or hobbies, or things I enjoyed, or that things weren’t going well. It wasn’t that I didn’t have things going for me. Depression doesn’t work that way. Depression says nothing matters, you don’t matter, life doesn’t matter, why bother? Depression says Who cares, Why care, What is there to care about? Nothing matters. Anxiety joined in and threw me panic attacks that made me want to die.

I started hearing voices in my head telling me to do things like take a handful of pills for that headache that’s probably just dehydration, to ‘accidentally’ slice open my leg when I was shaving, etc. It was winter by then, so roads were often icy, and it started to get so bad that one morning I realized how easy it would be to just end everything by turning the wheel and swerving into the semi passing me on my left. My brother was in the car, and we both probably would have died, and that doesn’t even count the semi-driver. I won’t pretend that it didn’t scare the shit out of me. Because it really, really did. I didn’t want to die. Part of me did, because thanks depression, but I really didn’t. I was holding onto the idea that eventually life would get better. It had to. Eventually I could leave that shitty-ass town and life would get better.

I came out of that depression cycle approximately all at once, seemingly out of nowhere. But the next one wasn’t far behind it. And I really mean it wasn’t far. Within two months, I was right back in the throes of depression, and it wasn’t any easier than the previous one–although I consider it a minor victory that I haven’t heard voices since that first one. The next voice I hear, I’m throwing in the towel and getting professional help. I haven’t got time to deal with schizophrenia on my own. Not happening.

Throughout high school, I spent more time fighting with depression than I did free from it. Even my writing reflects it, if you can find it scattered through my stuff. I’ve done a pretty solid job of finding and destroying most of my early writing because it’s terrible. Don’t get me wrong; I had moments of brilliance, but they’re so lost amid the crap that they’re hardly worth finding–and they’re far from usable it’s pointless to save them.

My senior year of high school, my younger brother committed suicide out of the blue. We’d been watching him for awhile ages before it happened, but at the time, he’d seemed to be doing just fine. It really came out of nowhere. He’d been making plans for what he’d do after graduation. And then just suddenly, he was gone. My life fell apart. Completely. I spiraled so far into depression that I didn’t even know which way was up. And, truth be told, even though I have high points and periods where I don’t feel completely helpless, I don’t think I’ve really made it all the way back out of that depression. My life is still in pieces, although I’ve gathered up as many of them as possible and hauled them along with me, because what else am I supposed to do?

I am still frequently suicidal. More often than I care to admit, actually. The last time it was bad was the week before finals last semester, and Captain and I damn near had my ass committed to a psych ward. Frankly, I’m still not convinced I should throw myself in one for awhile, but I don’t know that I can really afford to do it. But then, how much more of this can my mental/emotional health really sustain? I’m hobbling along–even though I argued with my mom over it this weekend. I’m hobbling along through life because I can’t figure out how to walk, let alone run or fly. I don’t think she really understands that the things I’m doing aren’t what’s holding me doing. I’m so broken-hearted on so many levels that I just can’t do it. And I’m trying, I really, really am. But it’s so hard. And the medication helps balance the brain chemistry enough to carry on, but not enough to actually feel good. I don’t even know what “Happy” actually feels like. I know what shadows of it feel like. I know what it can feel like because I’ve had fleeting glimpses. But I’m so far from it that I don’t even know what to do anymore.

I do the things I enjoy. I go to school. I learn things. I love my boyfriend. I go through the motions of everyday life. But happy? Do I even have time for happy? It just seems like it takes so much effort. People patrol my Facebook page because they’re worried about me, and although I get really annoyed by it all, I understand why. I have these moments of clarity where I get it. I do. But I don’t think they really understand the depth of the cracks through my heart. I haven’t yet found a glue strong enough to hold me together. Sometimes my emotional/mental turmoil is so bad that it turns into a collection of physical pains, and that’s when I seriously just want to lie in bed forever and neglect everything. I lose my purpose and forget why I give a shit about anything. It’s so hard to give a shit sometimes.

I read stories in which people lose loved ones, and even though I’m not emotionally invested in the thing, I still sit and cry because it prods a wound that hasn’t healed yet. You can cover a cut with a bandaid, but it still hurts when you poke it. I hurt when you poke me. Anywhere. With anything. It doesn’t even matter anymore. I would say that I’m desolate, but there are parts of me that aren’t.

That’s the complicated part of depression: you’re never all any one thing. You’re bits and pieces of yourself held together by a name and a timeline where some of you goes one way and some of you goes a different way. Which doesn’t account for the rest of you not going anywhere. And those parts vary in size day by day. You can’t really generalize your emotions when you have depression, because you feel a thing, but you don’t; you want a thing, but you don’t care; you know a thing, but, then again, what’s it even matter? And that inability to be wholly anything is what really bothers me most of the time. And even though I try–really, truly do try–I frequently just… can’t.

Spring Break

So spring break started for me at exactly 1:50 p.m. today, which was 100% awesome-sauce, because I’m going to London tomorrow. AAGGHHH LONDON!! A;SLDK!@$;OSID(#&!!!!! Super exciting. One of my dreams has always been to go to London. I really wish I was going to be there longer, but c’est la vie. Another time for sure.

Class requirement includes a travel blog, so if you wish to follow it, it’s at http://emilymellundlondon2014.blogspot.com and there will probably be posts up nightly. But no guarantees. Depends on what’s happening.

So there’s that! If you care.

I’m just super excited.

And ridiculously exhausted, actually. I need to go to bed. Oi.