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Being a therapist to rock stars

Updated: Jul 17, 2020

One of the many benefits of serving young people is that I get exposed to new music. I recently got turned on to the band, Falling in Reverse. The downside to being my age is that I don’t know how to classify genres anymore. In my day, we’d have said they’re a metal band.

The song, “Popular Monster” grabbed my attention. It reminds me of Linkin’ Park’s song, “Heavy” in that it transparently describes struggling greatly with mental illness. The lyricist, Ronnie Radke echoes sentiments I’ve heard countless times as a therapist.

Maybe someday I’ll be a therapist to rock stars. In the meantime, I’m sharing excerpts of the song (in italics) and how I respond to them as a clinician who specializes in recovery from trauma, addiction, self-harm, and other destructive things that people like me do to ourselves.

Everybody tries to tell me that I'm going through a phase

This is the kind of thing that people who don’t understand mental health say. It’s usually well-intentioned but it’s hurtful – like telling someone with depression to “get over it.”

I don't know if it's a phase, I just wanna feel okay,

“Okay” usually translates to “safe.” It’s having stability and feeling like the floor won’t be falling out from under you. This requires relating to ourselves as we do others and it takes a lot of accountability and support from kindred spirits.

I battle with depression, but the question still remains Is this post-traumatic stressin' or am I suppressing rage

“Battling” depression is exhausting. Holding in anger fuels depression. Rage is a different matter entirely. Rage is so much more than anger. It’s simultaneously experiencing the emotional pieces of surviving trauma: violation, betrayal, pain, sadness, loss, fear, and crushing disappointment.

t's probably 'cuz my demons simultaneously rage It obliterates me, disintegrates me, annihilates me

The most common “demons” I’ve sat with are painful memories and destructive tendencies fueled by rage. If they’re annihilating you, then you’re holding them in. This is the black & white trap we fall into – we tell ourselves, “It’s ok as long as I’m the only one who gets hurt.” It’s not ok, but we need people who can bear witness without being afraid so that we can attain healthy release.

I think I'm going nowhere like a rat trapped in a maze Every wall that I knock down is just a wall that I replace

The maze is being trapped inside our own minds – stuck between dissociating (mentally checking out) and overthinking. The maze is patterns of behavior that harm us. The “walls” are defenses – they’re designed to protect us from the outside world. Sadly, they keep people who love us at arm’s length and ensure that the pain stays on the inside (cue Chevelle singing – “Much like suffocating”).

I'm in a race against myself I try to keep a steady pace How the fuck will I escape if I never close my case?

Closure is a process based on acceptance. Escape is not possible. Resolution is. In the end, it’s about finding ways to live with what we cannot forget and forgiving ourselves for what was the best we could do at the time.

I break down, falling into love now with falling apart

“I want to let go, but there’s comfort in the panic.” – Linkin Park, Heavy

We tend to stay in what’s comfortable & familiar. Growth and healing take place outside our comfort zones. Take the first step and reach out. May is Mental Health Awareness month. Let’s smash the stigma.

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