Life Is Beautiful

(Content Note: Mentions of suicide, self harm, and drug use.)

I was 11 or 12 years old when my brother introduced me to the song “Life is Beautiful” by Sixx: A.M. I was depressed and didn’t want to be alive anymore; I found solace in that song.

Will you swear on your life that no one will cry at my funeral?”

There was a part of me that wanted to believe that life truly was beautiful, but I couldn’t see it. Instead, my brain twisted the lyrics into a suicide note. I imagined my mother crying at my funeral, but I didn’t want that. Instead, I wanted my family and friends to be happy and live fully, knowing I was free from the burden of life.

I was too naive to understand this song was actually written about Nikki Sixx’s recovery from a heroin addiction. But I was somehow old enough to be tired of life. It felt like I was dead inside and I hadn’t even made it to high school yet. However, the music made me feel as if I was somewhere in between life and death. I was drowning in a pool of melancholy, but it was okay. I could feel something.

You can’t learn to tell the truth until you learn to lie.”

Around the same time I became enamored with “Life is Beautiful,” I wrote my first suicide note. I don’t really remember if it was originally meant as a suicide note, but it was concerning enough to my friends that it got back to my mother. She was upset, so I realized I couldn’t say anything about being depressed. And so the lies began.

I hid my self-loathing behind sarcasm and fake happiness. I began to self harm and hid that behind my sleeves. I hid inside myself for years; eventually I realized I was a shell of everything I could be. So I decided to tell the truth, thinly veiled within my own music and poetry.

“You can’t live until you die.”

Eventually, I found other music to fall in love with and “Life is Beautiful” fell out of my regular rotation. Until years later, when I noticed The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack in my recommended albums on Amazon. I bought it, and all of the feelings from when I was 12 flooded back.

Maybe I never developed a drug addiction; maybe I was never actually on the brink of death. But I lived inside of a suicidal mind for the majority of my youth. My brain felt like it was in a stare-down with death for years.

Just open your eyes and see that life is beautiful.”

Listening to this anthem of my adolescence again at 19 and hearing something other than a musical suicide note was breathtaking. For the first time, I heard what Nikki Sixx was trying to say. I haven’t experienced nearly as much as he has, but I’ve experienced enough to understand.

Life is filled with pain and disappointment. You can shut it all out and be numb to everything, or you can face the hurt and enjoy the good experiences. There’s not a lot I know for sure, but I definitely know this: it was only after I spent years living as someone who was already dead that I began to realize how beautiful life really is.

This post contributed by Sam, who blogs at Life of an Average Introvert. You can follow her writing on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

TWLOHA: World Suicide Prevention Day and Music

The music community, and especially the rock community, has become inextricably tied to the mental health conversation in America. And it’s a time when that conversation is more urgent than ever before: the suicide rate in the United States has risen 25% in the last 20 years. That tragic number has been felt in losses of rock icons Chester Bennington, Tom Petty, Chris Cornell and Jill Janus.

As we mark 2018’s Word Suicide Prevention Day at the start of National Suicide Prevention week, TWLOHA‘s music and events coordinator Elizabeth Wilder took some time to share about this year’s campaign and the unique role music has to play.

Can you share a little bit about the idea behind this year’s World Suicide Prevention Campaign theme, “Tomorrow Needs You?”

Every year we come together and brainstorm different World Suicide Prevention Day slogans. In past years, we have pulled from books and blogs and quotes from people who have had close ties with To Write Love on Her Arms. Finding the perfect slogan or theme is all about connecting with an audience. What is going to draw people in? What is going to get people thinking? And more importantly, what will engage people?

“Tomorrow Needs You” hit us and it stuck. It’s an opportunity to allow people to look forward, to see the future and know that it’s bright. We hope that this phrase can let people know that they’re never walking alone.

A really fun moment that has set this year’s campaign apart from years past has been the raffle of the signed soccer jerseys. How did that come to be, and what impact has it had on TWLOHA’s overall aim for this year’s fundraising?

Jamie, our founder, and Ashlyn Harris actually went to the same high school, so the connection has always been there even before she became a soccer icon. Jamie reconnected with Ashlyn a few years ago, and she has always been a big supporter of To Write Love on Her Arms’ mission. We’ve been able to witness the support of the soccer community grow every year, and we’re so grateful for the friendship we’ve been able to nurture. Jamie attended the USA vs. Chile game, where Ashlyn Harris, Christen Press, Tobin Heath, and Alex Morgan all graciously donated their jerseys to raise money for our WSPD campaign.

The response has been incredible. In about a week, we have raised over $30,000 through raffle tickets. We raised our overall goal to $50,000 because of the engagement it had received. We’re so humbled by the ongoing support, and the multitude of opportunities we’ve been able to share with these women.

TWLOHA has done the difficult, valuable, complex work of enduring as a non-profit for over a decade now. What are some of the ways that TWLOHA’s approach has grown and developed over the years?

It’s really interesting to think about how our approach has grown over the past 12 years. I think it’s all about meeting people halfway, wherever that may be. Whether it’s at a music festival, in a school, or at a yoga event, we want people to feel welcome and heard. We’ve learned that mental health does not discriminate. It impacts all walks of life, and we want to be able to feel comfortable enough to share their story. Our mission is to reach as many people as we can, however we can.

The mission of TWLOHA has always been tied to the music community. What makes music a natural fit for the conversations TWLOHA wants to foster?

At To Write Love on Her Arms we always like to say, “Music is a safe place.” We go to concerts to drop the heavy at the door and get lost in our favorite bands/artists. Being able to act as a bridge of hope and help to people in the music scene feels, like you said, a natural fit. We want to connect with people the same way they connect to music. It’s a unique platform that can reach a lot of hurting people. From the beginning we have had such strong support from the music community, and we can only hope that continues over the next few years.

How can music fans specifically engage in supporting the work TWLOHA is doing?

We make it really simple for people to get involved and support TWLOHA’s mission. We encourage people to take a look at our Get Involved page to see how you can bring a message of hope and help to your community. Whether it’s purchasing info cards to hang up in venues and coffeeshops or getting educated, everything helps to start a healthy conversation about mental health. Music fans specifically can host a benefit, which a is a night of song and poetry, to raise awareness and support TWLOHA. We’ve witnessed so many stories shared, and so much vulnerability at events likes these.

What is a good shortlist of resources for those who are struggling or know someone who is struggling?

If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, we encourage you to check out TWLOHA’s Find Help page. We have resources in all 50 states, and 3 different countries. If you’re in immediate crisis please don’t hesitate to text TWLOHA to 741741, Crisis Text Line, you’ll be automatically connected to a trained crisis counselor. We want you to know that you’re not alone, that your story is important, and that help and hope are real.

Ledger Releases Music Video for ‘Not Dead Yet’

Ledger has released a music video for her song “Not Dead Yet,” the lead single from her debut Ledger EP.

The music video debuted exclusively on Billboard.com. The cinematic piece features Jen Ledger in an intense boxing match, symbolizing the fight with paralyzing anxiety that inspired “Not Dead Yet.” You can watch the video below.

 

Ledger created the storyline of the video herself, continuing the same hands-on and deeply personal approach that she’s used in the rest of her creative decisions. “I wrote the song because sometimes life just feels like it keeps kicking you while you are down, and sometimes you feel like you don’t want to get up, like things feel too impossible… There was a moment where I knew I couldn’t let these things completely take me out. I can’t let fear rob me of my own life. I’d rather go down swinging and fight it, even if it is until the day I die. I wouldn’t let it just steal my life away from me,” Ledger told Billboard.

To continue to keep up with Ledger’s musical endeavors, follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

‘Numb’ by VERIDIA: Sonic Solidarity

If good things come to those who wait, then great things might come to VERIDIA fans, who have been waiting four years for a full length album from the electrifying rock act VERIDIA. That full length album is coming in the form of The Beast You Feed, available for preorder through PledgeMusic now. The first taste of The Beast You Feed is lead single “Numb.”

“Numb” serves as an introduction to a new era of VERIDIA. The electronic elements step to the fore, but still with the hard-hitting grit we’ve come to expect. Brandon Brown’s guitars lines are still woven through the mix. Beats laid down by drummer Kyle Levy punctuate the emotional intensity of the message.

That message is delivered by singer Deena Jakoub in tones that range from flawlessly clear to a droning cadence emphasizing the theme of numbing out our pain: “I wanna go numb / ‘Til I feel dumb / Give me more drums / Turn the bass track up / I wanna go numb.”

It’s in these lyrics (and the brilliant way the instrumentation serves their point) that the true identity of VERIDIA stands clearer than ever before. They shed light into some of the darker places of the human emotional experience, offering the perspective of people who have been there. “I realized that in taking action to numb painful emotions, I was also numbing beautiful ones. While trying to numb heartbreak, I was simultaneously numbing my ability to feel the love around me,” Deena shared about the song’s message. “You are beautiful and so is your story. It’s NOT just you, we all numb… and even though I’ve come to realize vulnerability is one of the most valuable relational tools, it doesn’t make it easier. But, I promise, it is SO worth it. I’ve decided to stop letting fear, anxiety, and depression prevent me from having incredible experiences, from loving and truly knowing myself and others. You can find joy, love, happiness, and fulfillment in this life.”

That solidarity will be the takeaway, resonating with listeners for just as long as the throb of the infectious bass line.

You can listen to “Numb” now on Spotify or iTunes.

Stories: ‘Control’ by The Protest

The Song: “Control” by The Protest

 

The Story: “I said for years I needed to stop drinking because it wasn’t good for me. Yet I never was able to,” Courtney shares. “Early 2015 God said it was time to put the bottle down. I told God I thought that was impossible. I told the creator of the universe something was impossible. Over and and over God told me I could do it and that it was time to put the bottle down. Over and over I ignored him.”

That’s where The Protest’s song came in. “I got The Protest’s Great Lengths album in mail. It felt like it came out of nowhere through friends. I stuck it in my car. I decided to drink before church because I thought I could endure it better. So I had a buzz at church on a Wednesday. I got in the car to leave and ‘Control’ came on.”

That experience became a turning point for Courtney in her process of defeating addiction, although it was still a process. “That song became God’s anthem to continue telling me to put the bottle down. I still didn’t listen. I put the album down for a while even because I couldn’t stand hearing God talking to me. July 2015, I finally decided to have faith that if God said I could quit drinking that it must mean I could. I dumped out what I had left of a bottle of Jack Daniels and gave it up.”

You can see some of Courtney’s art inspired by songs like this at Photography Art of an Eccentric Sheep.

If you have a story like this of ways a song has changed your life, visit our contact page or email directly to maryrosenikkel@gmail.com.

Beneath The Skin Launches Subgroup

The non-profit organization Beneath the Skin has launched a subgroup specifically designed for men to support other men. The group is called Men Supporting Men, and you can find it by clicking here.

Beneath the Skin is a non-profit founded by Brittany Mullins, who often works closely with her husband Matty’s band Memphis May Fire to spread resources, merchandise and messages of hope to those in the broader music community. Mentorship is a key part of their structure.

In a post about the new group on Facebook, the organization shared “We our extremely excited to announce that we’ve just launched a male-inclusive subgroup of Beneath The Skin; Men Supporting Men! This group was created to provide a space for the men of Beneath The Skin to find support from other men while also supporting each other.”

You can find out more about Beneath the Skin at beneaththeskinonline.org, and find them on Facebook and Instagram for encouraging content.

The creation of the subgroup fills a crucial and timely need in the mental health community. Over 75% of deaths caused by suicide in the U.S. are men, with societal stigma making it harder to get support and help. If you or someone you love is struggling, you can find a list of resources here.

Stories: ‘Watch it Burn’ by Disciple

The Song: “Watch it Burn” by Disciple

The Story: For Courtney, “Watch it Burn” became an anthem in the middle of extreme anxiety. “When I first started experiencing an allergic reaction to disposable gloves, it triggered immense anxiety and compulsions. I was terrified of dying. I worried about contamination and infection all day every day. I never felt clean. Yet I was working with urine samples in a lab that probably would glow like the sun in a black light. I was out of my mind with anxiety.”

“For some reason, Disciple’s song ‘Watch it Burn’ is the one that kept my sanity together,” Courtney shared. “It was just something about singing that line, ‘to all the hell inside that’s been controlling me, set it off, watch it all burn down,’ that got me through many bouts of panic.”

You can see some of Courtney’s art inspired by songs like this at Photography Art of an Eccentric Sheep.

If you have a story like this of ways a song has changed your life, visit our contact page or email directly to maryrosenikkel@gmail.com.

Pain by The Letter Black: Melodic Metal

The Letter Black initially became a contender in the Christian rock scene with spots on several major Christian tours, a record deal and their 2010 label debut Hanging On By A Thread. After another studio full-length (Rebuild) and some remix efforts, The Letter Black’s time on a record label came to a close a few years ago. After some time refocusing, they’re back at it with Pain, an album fueled by Kickstarter and EMP Label Group.

With Pain, The Letter Black has stated that they were unified in wanting to pursue a more metal-influenced sound. Opening track “Fear,” which creatively plays with elements that could belong to a horror film soundtrack, sees vocalist Sarah Anthony taking her usual crystal-clear tone and introducing low rasps and scratched screams. It’s this diversifying of her vocal range that most markedly separates this album from their past work, with later tracks like “I Am” and “Breathe” also showing off multiple vocal styles.

Musically, Mark Anthony’s guitar work gravitates towards a raw and grungy sound. The building guitars in “Pain” hit like a powerful punch to the chest. “Tear You Apart” harkens back to some of the best of the post-grunge style of the mid-2000s, with subtle symphonic elements complementing the full-bodied guitar riffs leading into a well-placed solo. Some of the darker progressive metal influences are evident through eerie, borderline discordant intros on both these tracks. Strong melodies hold fast through the whirlwind of guitars and drums, with songs like “Meant for You” offering soaring choruses familiar to The Letter Black fans.

Pain is an album packed with fight songs: anthems pushing back against the harmful opinions of others (as on lead single “The Last Day I Cared”) as well as against our own internal demons. One of the best in the latter category is “Kill the Devil,” a haunting rock epic in which some of the strongest screams on the album push back against addictions and struggles. The source of victory is made clear in “Alive,” a near-worshipful ballad singing out “I feel like I’m coming alive because of You.” Album closer “Holding On” summarizes the core message beautifully over a tasteful fusion of piano and toned-down guitars, declaring “I am barely holding on, but I won’t let go.”

Throughout the project, it’s evident that the group is still flexing their newfound heavier music muscles, working to develop the newfound dynamic of the vocals in particular. A sonic shift, even from one sub-genre to another within the broader spectrum of rock, is a massive creative undertaking, and in places the lyrics feel unusually simplified for the band as they focus on developing their sound. However, the confidence that infuses every track affirms that the steps forward Pain takes are definitely in the right direction.

Pain sees The Letter Black navigating into a heavier rock sound with a sense of renewed energy and intensity that lends fire to the lyrical themes of fighting back against anything preventing us from reaching hope. It’s a refreshingly raw and enjoyable listen, hopefully just the beginning of this next chapter of The Letter Black.

Related Artists: Flyleaf, Spoken, Korn

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