(Trigger warning for childhood sexual assault, depression, suicide (I’m fine, I promise!) and addiction)
It’s easier to run
Replacing this pain with something numb
It’s so much easier to go
Than face all this pain here all alone
So, it’s been a while since I’ve posted here. Things got a little hectic and I’ve been dealing with some things, but today some news came through that gutted me: Chester Bennington took his own life. Now, this may not seem like a big deal, but Chester was a CSA (childhood sexual abuse/assault) survivor, along with being a recovering addict and someone who was mentally ill. The songs he wrote along with the other members of Linkin Park were literal life savers for me, because in his songs, I heard the pain of what he’d been through. Their music came at a time in my life when I was dealing with the exact same things he’d been through.
I am a recovering addict (six years sober this year from addictions that started in my teen years). I battled crippling depression and suicidal ideation throughout my teenage years as well. What triggered all this was CSA and a very abusive relationship during those years.
I came very close to ending my own life numerous times. I even swallowed a bottle full of pills thinking it would kill me. Thankfully, my body rebelled and I threw them all up, leaving me feeling ill but still alive and thankfully, without any permanent damage. But even though I went through therapy and rehab, I never talked about it, because my mother didn’t believe me when I told her that her ex-fiance and best friend had sexually abused me when I was 11.
I’ve only ever given the details of what happened to one other person, but I can’t keep it to myself anymore, because in the wake of Chester’s death, I’ve come to realize that silence, bottling things up, can kill, and if putting my pain out there helps even one person, then it’s worth it.
(BIG trigger warning here, description of the assault)
Arnold* had dated my mother when they were young. She was in her teens, he was in his 20’s (predatory behavior for his whole life right there). They broke up before he was shipped out to Vietnam, but remained friends.
When I was growing up, he was a constant in my life, coming to visit my mother, trying to act like he was my father by yelling at me for things that, in his eyes, I was doing wrong. I never really liked him, and he tried to buy my affection by giving me things like home-built computers. He’d also touch me inappropriately, most often on my ass, but claim it was playful goosing, which my mother found hilarious. I only now see that he was grooming me, and that she was probably so indoctrinated that it was okay because of his predation of her.
Take everything from the inside and throw it all away
‘Cause I swear for the last time I won’t trust myself with you
I was 11 when it happened. He had rum, and offered me some. Being a kid, I thought it was cool that an adult was offering me alcohol. I was young, and I’d led a VERY sheltered life (Catholic school, a helicopter mom who wouldn’t even let me walk to a friend’s house a few blocks away in a suburban neighborhood (the same woman who I’ve only recently realized is a raging narcissist)) so I drank some mixed in with Pepsi.
I don’t remember much, except for him being very inappropriate with how he was talking to me.
I woke up the next morning, sore everywhere between my legs, not knowing why. Hell, at 11, I barely understood what sex was or how it worked, and I didn’t know what rape was.
I started having nightmares soon after that of a huge figure looming over me and hurting me. I didn’t know why until I was older.
I started drinking sometimes after that. When the nightmares got bad, I’d sneak a slug out of the same bottle of rum he’d had me drink from. It stopped the monsters in my head.
I got a heart full of pain, head full of stress
Hand full of anger, held in my chest
Blood sweat and tears
Nothing to gain
Everything to fear
At 14, I had a nervous breakdown. I’d been changed by what happened to me, and became more withdrawn than before, making me a target for bullying. The weight of the assault along with my peer’s mockery drove me to try to end my life, and even though I wasn’t caught at the attempt, I ended up reaching out to the only teacher I felt I could trust.
She called my parents, and I ended up in a mental institution. While there, I revealed a family friend had hurt me, but I never explained how. I did, however, tell my mother, who called me a liar and said that Arnold would never do anything like that, and how dare I lie to try to cover up that I drank.
I realized that no matter where I was, I wasn’t going to be okay, and thought that no one would ever believe if my own mother couldn’t. So, I put on a happy face, faked my way home, and kept carrying that burden silently.
I found new friends outside of the school, and ended up befriending a friend’s boyfriend who was 10 years older than me. He was really nice, we’d hang out…and one day, when we were smoking weed together, he raped me.
Clutching my cure
I tightly lock the door
I try to catch my breath again
I hurt much more
Than anytime before
I had no options left again
At 15, I went from Catholic school to public school, and fell in with a mismatched group of misanthropes, stoners, musicians…basically the fringes of the school. Within this group, there was a boy who knew exactly what to say, how to treat me to make me feel like I was worth something. It seemed too good to be true, and it was.
Everything was fine until I smiled at a guy friend. The boy I was dating yanked me to the side by the arm hard enough to bruise me, then threatened to beat the shit out of me if it happened again. I started crying, and he stormed away. Later, he apologized, saying he loved me so much and if I just remembered that it’d all be alright. As any abuse survivor knows, it’s never okay when that happens, and it never starts being okay.
I went to his house later that day, and we smoked some pot like usual. I was in a traumatized state and didn’t want to have sex. He did. He decided what he wanted was more important, and he held me down by the neck and raped me. I don’t remember if I cried through it or not, I just remember dissociating and feeling as if I was watching everything from an outsider’s perspective.
I started into a downward spiral during this relationship. I was drinking all the time, smoking weed laced with opium (his older brother was a dealer), doing acid, anything to numb the pain from the cycle of abuse and rape. I wanted out. I wanted it all to stop. I tried to OD on opium but the bastard caught on and stopped me.
Sometime around February of that year, my mom caught on that I was constantly high and sent me to rehab. I came out sober, and that lasted all of a week until the boy wormed his way back into my life when I went back to school. He told me he’d almost killed himself because he thought he’d lost me, and that he’d kill me and himself if I ever left again because the pain was too much to bear.
Somewhere around this time, I discovered Linkin Park. I didn’t know why, but the lyrics in their songs, and Chester’s voice, made me feel less alone. I know my parents chalked it up to teenage angst run amok, but there was something undeniably relatable in their music. It became the only thing that kept me from killing myself.
I didn’t get out of the relationship or the drug and alcohol use all year, until on the last day of school, I grabbed him by the scrotum and told him (in front of a security guard who’d had an inkling about what was happening but no proof) that if he ever bothered me again, I’d rip his balls off. The only reason I had the guts to do that was because my cousin (who would later take his own life) told me he’d keep me safe.
I left school after that, and got my diploma through the GED program. I had the highest score in the area of the state I lived in despite still drinking all the time and getting high whenever I could on whatever was available to me.
And I know I may end up failing too
And I know that you were just like me with someone disappointed in you
My mother wanted me to go to college after I got my diploma. I just wanted to take time and experience life, but she insisted I go because I needed that degree, in her eyes. After all, she’d never gotten to go to college, so I had to be the first. I wasn’t ready by any means. I was terrified. But I was also scared of letting my mother down. She’d spent my entire life convincing me that I had to do whatever it took to make her look good.
Linkin Park came out with yet another album and I bought it the second I could. Again, their music helped me feel less alone. I’d cry over Numb. I’d cry over Easier to Run. He was singing my life. It didn’t cure things, but it kept me from taking my own life.
This was probably the worst idea ever. Take an emotionally unstable person who’s still not sober and put them into a situation that they have no social skills to navigate. I flunked out after one semester that was spent (you guessed it) getting drunk all the time with college guys who made me feel special and being raped twice.
Needless to say, my mother wasn’t pleased. She let me know in every way possible that wasn’t outright berating me, comparing me to my cousins (who’d all had the same downfalls I had, though not all together for any one of them).
I wanna heal, I wanna feel what I thought was never real
I wanna let go of the pain I’ve felt so long
(Erase all the pain till it’s gone)
I wanna heal, I wanna feel like I’m close to something real
I wanna find something I’ve wanted all along
Somewhere I belong
I somehow managed, at 19, to find someone to date who had a friend who was a bartender, and would let me drink at the bar without checking my ID. That relationship failed, and I launched into another one, and then another, all with men I met at the bar. Some were much older, some were nearer to my age, all of them used me, but I didn’t care. I had my medicine, even if I still felt empty inside. The steady supply of drugs and booze made the numbness and pain of being used in every imaginable way by all of them bearable.
But then, I met Jack. Jack was…well, he seemed perfect. Funny, smart, liked my singing, and best of all, he had a steady supply of cocaine. We talked, fell out of touch, and he found me on MySpace. We started talking, then started dating. Life was pretty good. I felt like I had somewhere I fit in when I was on his arm. He was charming. He encouraged my singing.
It wasn’t until about 2 years into things, when we got engaged, that he started to show his true colors, but by then, I’d become so dependent on his ego bolstering, I was willing to put up with his put-downs that were phrased in a way that made me think it was just suggestions on how to be better (for him. Always for him. Never for me).
We moved in together about 6 months after that, and it all went to hell. He became verbally abusive, drank all the time, called me horrible things, manipulated me, but because he never hit me, I didn’t think of what he was doing as abuse. I put up with it because I’d never find someone better, or at least that’s what I thought. After all, when you’re used to nothing but abuse, you think that’s all you’re worth. After another 6 months, we were married.
I sank deeper into depression, into drugs, into everything (to the point of cheating just to try to feel something other than worthless). I followed him out of the city, then out of the state.
5 and a half years ago, he threw me out. I was pregnant, but neither of us knew at the time. He said it was “temporary”. The day I told him I was pregnant, 4 months after he’d thrown me out, he told me he didn’t want to be with me anymore. The day I sent him the ultrasound of my child, he told me he was with the girl (he was 35, she was 19) that he’d cheated on me with and gotten pregnant.
I was devastated, dysphoric, and stuck being stone cold sober against my will. I retreated into music again, and there was Linkin Park, saving me yet again from the brink of death.
It’s 5 and a half years of sobriety from the drugs I was addicted to. 5 and a half years of life lived clear-eyed with 20/20 vision when it comes to the past. 5 and a half years, plus the better part of another 2 decades of living with trauma, all made possible by the music of a man who took his own life today.
His loss feels like a real gut-check because without Linkin Park, without Chester Bennington, I wouldn’t be here today. I wouldn’t be a parent, wouldn’t have the friends I have, wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for the pain in his voice, for what he wrote reaching out to me and letting me know I wasn’t alone.
Yes, I’ve been addicted. Yes, I’ve been beaten and raped and gone through nearly every facet of hell any one person can go through. But I have a wonderful little kiddo that brings joy to my life. I still live with my narcissist mother, but it’s bearable because I know I’ve faced down the worst of the world and come out standing…but that doesn’t lessen the pain of losing someone who, even though I never met them, held my hand through the worst moments of my life and led me to a place where I can now, finally, see the light.
If you’re in a bad place, please, don’t go through it alone. Reach out. Mental Illness Mouse has a great list of resources here, for both US and international folks to reach out to. You can make it through this if you reach out, and I promise you, people care.