“Rock” music. Simultaneously my oppressor and my escape, we have an unusual relationship. Going from “anything with a strong beat will fill you with demons” to “oh hey, I just bought the newest VNV Nation album!” may seem extreme, and I admit that I sometimes suffer from whiplash, but at the same time it’s been a very freeing evolution and something that mirrors my general escape from my childhood/immediate family.
The first memories I really have about specific music was trying to defend myself at a camp-out.
I’d been found crying in a dark place by myself, and my fellow campers [all the same general age as myself, 9-12ish] didn’t believe me that the song made me cry because it reminded me of a friend who’d died. The song was played at his funeral. It was the first example of exactly how strongly music hits my emotional centers – and for that song, having to “prove” it made it hit me all the stronger in the following years.
Following that, the next set of memories is about music being “awesome” – or rather, not. The cult we were in at the time were very adept at using the “Sunday morning worship” to twist us this way and that, and I can distinctly remember how you could tell what the sermon would be about by the first half of the very first song of the day. I remember dirge-like music playing as we lined up in a school’s gymnasium to “repent of our sins.” I remember the slightly happier songs that the children danced to. I remember everyone in the room being scathingly rebuked because one of the singers had dared to say that a song was “awesome” – because, you know, only God is awesome. Never anything else, even a song literally praising his name.
The music collection at home wasn’t too much better. Michael Card. Sandi Patti [maybe… if we were lucky]. Some random Maranantha song tapes. Plenty of classical. That was about it, that I remember. I had very little interest in music outside of that, for the most part, simply because I didn’t know anything about it. There was the usual hush-hush about KISS and Marilyn Manson, stuff like that, but it was all mostly above my head. Then, I was introduced to DC Talk and Michael W Smith and Steven Curtis Chapman. My brain just about exploded from glee – finally, something that fit me!
I could put my emotions onto these songs and I could finally understand things about what I felt that I never could before.
See, I have bipolar disorder. I have rapid and multiple mood swings, from seriously depressed to extremely manic, and until that point, none of the music could encompass either end of the curve. Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt [because Jesus!] – to steal from Vonnegut. Any emotion other than happiness and joy was Wrong. You were a bad Christian – nay, a bad person, if you weren’t always basking in the love and companionship of Jesus. Being human, though, that wasn’t possible. So I struggled along in my lonely childhood self, trying to deal with these big emotions and not having anywhere to turn.
And then lo, DC Talk and “Jesus Freak.” They were my introduction to a larger world, and were, in fact, the very beginning of my long and slow departure from the church.
Teenagerhood hit. I was “rebellious,” according to my parents, and it was all because of my music. They had it backwards, of course. I was in an abusive home situation and I had found an escape in the music that expressed all the emotions I was feeling and allowed me to survive day after day, because there was nowhere else to go. Once again I was stifled under the “no emotions except happiness” expectation – which became more and more difficult the worse my bipolar got. It’s very hard to be “blissfully happy in Jesus” when one day you’re suicidal and the next you’re on a cloud and can do ANYTHING! that you could think of. I hid my music and snuck it as often as I could [or dared… woe betide me if I was found listening to [oh my!] Superchic[k] or the Newsboys or [quadruple gasp here, people] the Cruxshadows.] All of the songs that I listened to held deep emotion and symbolism for me, and allowed me to blindly feel my way through the disaster that was my home life.
There were fights about the music. My mother tried to convince me that rock music was of the devil. She emailed me all these “studies” about plants and rats [and since those have been addressed elsewhere on HA, I’ll refrain from doing so here], talked about the “demon beat,” and tried to take my CDs away. Fortunately, by that point, there was the internet and it was easily accessible. When it got really bad and my parents tried to take that too, I was attending the local community college and could use their computer lab to retrieve what I needed.
Eventually, I escaped. Barely.
When I got out of their home, I stopped attending church, I stopped seeing them, and I fairly quickly stopped identifying as Christian. My music needs changed – from the “life sucks and God’s still there for you” of the Christian rock world to the “you’re alive, you’ve survived some awful shit, and you’re still here” of VNV Nation, the Cruxshadows, Linkin Park, movie soundtracks, and so many other artists I can’t even list them. For the longest time, my playlists were nothing but loud anger and rage. I had to purge that from within myself eventually, I knew, but at the time all I could do was cope.
I was sexually assaulted at work. More rage and bitterness. And the music was there.
I was extremely sick and almost lost my job. And the music was there.
I moved halfway across the country. And the music was there.
I was raped. And the music was there.
I had a psychotic break… and the music was there.
Four years later, I had enough, and said “this anger, this bitterness, this rage and hate and harm will not be a part of me any more.”
And the music was there.
It was there as I burned out the bitterness, screaming my tears of pain to the heavens. It was there as I sobbed in my friend’s arms. It was there the nights that I woke up screaming from the nightmares of the pain and the terror.
And the music was there when I finally broke through and let the love out.
Maybe it’s about the time
To let all of the love
Back in the light
Maybe it’s about the perfect place
To let go and forget
About the hate
Love into the light.