Confessio Mea: My Summer of Recovery

[Editor’s Note: The following may contain triggering mental health content.]

For the past few years, my life has been defined by music.

It started off innocently enough; one summer evening at the library I picked up Metallica’s classic 1984 album “Master of Puppets.” This happened in my junior year of high school, and I was blown away by what was on the record. Powerful drums, soaring guitars, passionate vocals; it had everything a disgruntled teenager could ever want. It offered a sense of rebellion in an all too boring and stable world.

From there, the way I listened to music changed. I was just a surface level fan for most artists I listened to, but now I wanted to dive deep in their discographies. My metallic travels led me to the thrash metal band Slayer, who were huge for me. “Reign In Blood” is one of the greatest thrash metal albums of all time; it’s compact brutality never ceases to amaze me.

“Reign in Blood” also opened the doors to the world of death metal and black metal, two genres that I still listen to and love. Celtic Frost’s “Into the Pandemonium” and Opeth’s “Blackwater Park” were wake up calls for me, and I continued to dive deeper into the world of metal. From album to album the things I listened to got weirder and stranger. Metal that blended classical music, jazz, circus music, even noise and drone were becoming common in my ever expanding discography.

However, I soon hit a brick wall in terms of discovering new music. I was at my limits with metal. I had listened to nearly every metal micro-genre under the sun. So, what now? Cut my losses and just be happy with what I had? 

Anyone else would have done that, but I didn’t feel satisfied with the hoard that I had amassed. I needed more variety in my musical life, and that’s when I turned to the internet to help me out. I managed to get my hands on a massive collection of music recommendation charts, compiled and created by the denizens of the internet.

Literally every single genre imaginable was covered between these charts. I discovered underground legends like Swans, Death Grips, Lil Ugly Mane, MF DOOM and Ween.

I also rediscovered artists that I originally overlooked or simply fell out of favor with. David Bowie, Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, Talking Heads and Tom Waits were welcome re-additions. Kanye West was also someone I got back into during this time. “Yeezus” and “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” became  my all time classics.

This was the trajectory of my life between high school and the end of my freshman year in college. I would hunt for new artists, let them sit in my discography, and chip away at it one day at a time. Then, it all got derailed.

My freshman year was rough. Academically, I was doing fine. Socially and mentally however, I was beginning to crack. I was rooming with people with whom I didn’t have too much in common and I wasn’t sure how to put myself out there, leaving me isolated. I only had one person that I could truly call a friend, and while that helped, I didn’t have any other person I could talk to. 

During the weeks leading up to finals week, my father nearly suffered a serious heart attack. I couldn’t even react properly because I was working on a huge paper for a history class. He’s doing fine now, but I’m not going to lie when I say that I wasn’t terrified for him the next few weeks.

I tried to use writing as an outlet, but I couldn’t find the passion. 

I hadn’t realized it yet, but I was depressed. I was beginning to have suicidal thoughts that were growing more intrusive by the day. It was like deadly white noise going off in my head all of the time. Sleep hardly provided shelter from it.

Eventually, it culminated in me having a full scale breakdown one morning. 

I was taking a shower, trying to convince myself that everything was okay, that I was perfectly fine, before being hit with a vision of me necking myself with my own belt. I screamed and hit the shower wall. It was all I could do right then and there.

This is what they call, “rock bottom.”

I finished up my shower and rushed straight to the health center. I needed help before things got even worse, and I was lucky that they were so accommodating. I talked with the on-site counselor, and we agreed that I needed professional and consistent help at home. 

My mother picked me up, and not long after we arranged to meet with my therapist. I still see him and I plan on seeing him for the near future. He has become someone that I wholeheartedly trust and admire, and I’m glad that I met him.

I told a few of my closest friends about what had happened, and being the amazing people they are, they offered their sympathies, support and love.

My father and mother supported me and still support me to this very day. I love them dearly. My brother and sister don’t fully know what’s going on with me, but they have inklings about it. They’ll grow up and do great things. I’m sure of it.

Beyond all this support, was the rocks that I clung to at rock bottom. Aside from a weird newfound spirituality and faith, it was my love for music that helped me. One thing that kept me going was the fact that if I left this world too early, I wouldn’t be there to experience new music. 

I remember when I first discovered Lift to Experience and their “Texas Jerusalem Crossroads” album, crying along to “These are the Days.” I remember eagerly waiting for “Ye” to drop, and after it did, I remember belting out the lyrics to “Ghost Town” one desolate drive home from work. I remember listening to the “Blade Runner” soundtrack, and feeling humbled as “Tears in Rain” played. Countless songs and albums got me through the day-in and day-out mental war in my head, and for the most part, I won. I still have my struggles, but they’re minor compared to how I felt that God-awful morning. I’m stronger now, and I’m ready to tackle this year as a sophomore and as a member of The Oracle staff.

And with all that, I have a few thank you’s to make. 

Thank God for giving me strength. Thank God for Richard, Vinny and all my friends at home. Thank God for Halle and the friends I made here at New Paltz. Thank God for Charles. Thank God for my family; my siblings Jason and Kaitlyn, my parents Todd and Sharon. Thank God for the people that I couldn’t mention on this limited piece of paper.

It also goes without saying that I thank not just God, but I thank these all of these people for being themselves and just being there. If they weren’t, I don’t know what I would have done.

And, of course, thank God for music.