Spending my early adulthood in the 2000’s, when I very first began to branch out away from my mother, music was very important to me. I think the same can be said for most people learning to navigate the world at that phase of their life. Music still holds a very special place in my heart and life (I married a guitar playing audio engineer after all) and learning the news that another influential musician took his own life Thursday morning really hit home.
Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. I wouldn’t call myself a huge fan of their music in recent years as I grew past the angst, anger and resentment which defined my youth but their music was a backdrop for many important moments in my life. I enjoyed listening through their singles and new albums over the years, although I can’t say I purchased one relying on my Spotify subscription instead.
Minutes to Midnight was the most poignant album for me, I think, followed closely by LIVING THINGS several years later. Each album representing a different phase in my life and the battle I’ve endured fighting my mental illness.
Back in Summer 2007 when Minutes to Midnight was first released a plethora of changes were happening in my life. Changes that were necessary but oh so uncomfortable. I could sense the massive shift about to happen in my life, but contributed to cling hard to my denial and superficial happiness. I was very happy on a conscious level. Subconsciously the stress and unresolved trauma was wearing me down. I wanted so badly for the toxic relationship I was in to holdfast, to mask my own internal emotional storm. If we could just get away from my mom, if we could just get our own place, if he could just get back on track after his own turmoil, if I could just find a better job… all of these external things I clung to hoping that they would sooth my troubled mind and soul.
Looking back on it now I can see that what was actually going on was a dissociative defense, denial in other words, an extremely unhealthy coping mechanism. It’s how I survived those tumultuous years in my life, and in 2007 the defenses were beginning to fall. I actually hadn’t thought of this specific moment until I went through Linkin Park’s catalogue Thursday night, but I felt it was worth sharing here.
Minutes to Midnight was released in May 2007. I returned from a family reunion trip to Southern California with my parents and sisters a few weeks earlier. My boyfriend at the time picked me up from the airport and on the drive home we heard the most popular single from the album on the radio. (Yes back in the day when radio was still decent. I feel old?!) We had been talking, but after the song played the car was filled with an eerie silence.
My parents had offered to pay my boyfriend’s way to join us in California for the week, and he had declined. I don’t remember what excuse he gave, but he didn’t want to go. I was disappointed but whatever excuse he gave made sense to me at the time and I didn’t really think too much about it. My Uncle John on the other hand, immediatly knew that my boyfriend was trouble. My dad had talked to him about other details I’m certain, but Uncle John only approached me about one: the fact that he had the opportunity to vacation with me and my family and turned it down.
We were sitting at the kitchen table for breakfast one morning, and in true Twomey, career military, no nonesense fashion Uncle John told me point blank: “Kelli, he doesn’t love you. I know you love him, I know you think he loves you, and hell he might even act like he does most of the time, but any man who turns down a chance to spend the week with his girlfriend and her family isn’t interested in love.”
Then he made some joke about military service and different branches being less than the other. Having served in both the Army and Navy it was expected for Uncle John to poke fun at his fellow serivce members.
The moment passed, and while I didn’t agree with my uncle, his words resonated with me and I confronted my boyfriend on the phone about it later that afternoon. He didn’t really agree or disagree with my uncle. He said a lot, but didn’t really say anything at all.
Now that I had returned home and we were together in the same space after such a confrontation made silence awkward and uncomfortable. On some level I knew my uncle was right. I think my boyfriend knew his ruse/indecision had been exposed too.
It wasn’t until a week or two later that we found ourselves in the car once again. He picked me up from my apartment and we’d made plans to spend my days off together. We were on the interstate and he grabbed a CD case from the back seat; then popped it into the player. It was Minutes to Midnight.
We discussed the album itself for a few tracks until we once again found ourselves in an eerie silence after the album’s most popular single track had played through. My boyfriend paused the music and started rattling off statistics about how women rarely stay with the partner who took their virginity. It wasn’t the first time we’d had that conversation, and I was immediately annoyed with him.
I listened to him; then tried to comfort his insecurities with the fact that he actually didn’t take my virginity but he wasn’t listening. Soon the conversation developed into an argument. He kept insisting that statistically our relationship was doomed before it ever really got started, and I was having none of it. He was trying to avoid the ugly details of our situation, for his benefit or my own I’m not certain, but eventually he just blurted it out: “Okay, so I didn’t take your virginity but what about the first time we slept together?! That wasn’t okay even if you weren’t a virgin. You weren’t ready. You were crying. I hurt you.” He yelled at me.
“What the hell are you talking about? I didn’t cry and you didn’t hurt me. It was awkward, but it wasn’t awful.” I argued.
“No, not that time. I’m talking about the first time.” He insisted.
“That was our first time.”
“That was not our first time.”
“Uh I think I know when our first time was. I was there.” I huffed, swinging around in the passenger seat to face him as our argument grew ever more heated.
“No, not really. The night I thought you were my ex?” He attempted to clarify.
“Oh…” I answered, having not thought about that night in years. “But that wasn’t sex. We didn’t sleep together, so it doesn’t count.”
“Yeah we did. That’s what I’m talking about.” He laughed, out of amusement or nervous guilt I’m not sure.
“No we didn’t!” I continued to protest.
“Okay, Kelli. Enough with the bullshit. We need to talk about this. Our relationship isn’t healthy and it’s because of that night.”
“Because you thought I was her? We already talked about that. Besides that we didn’t even sleep together. It wasn’t our first time, so I have no idea what the hell you’re going on about. I know you were going through a hard time right after your break up. I knew that before we started dating, it’s not a big deal. I love you. I’m not going to leave you.”
“Yes we did! Are you serious right now? You aren’t just bullshitting me? You really don’t remember?” He asked, getting more emotional the longer we continued to argue about it.
“Yes! Yes, I remember that night! I remember you thought I was her, I remember you apologized the next day, but I also remember it wasn’t the first time we slept together. I was fucking there, don’t tell me what happened because I remember what happened! I’m happy with you, the only thing that drives me insane is when you do this. Why you go on about how horrible our relationship is all the damn time. Stop fucking telling me what “really” happened or how I “really” feel. Until we’re fighting about stupid pointless things like this, I’m happy!! Can’t I be happy?!” I screamed at the top of my lungs.
“Okay. I’m sorry. You’re right. You’re right. We don’t have to talk about it anymore. Just listen to this song, okay?” He finally conceded, before reaching down to hit play and allow the music to once again fill the car. He skipped back to one track, the most popular single, and let it play through again.
That was that. He kept his word, never mentioned it again as long as we were together, and in doing so kept my denial blissfully intact.
Later that night he took me to a local park which shares the name of the band. Lincoln Park. After our fight over Minutes to Midnight, I was less than thrilled being brought to the park assuming that my boyfriend was trying to get his point across.
“Well yeah… that’s not why I brought you here. I just forgot about it until we were listening to this, and I think you’ll really like it here. There’s a little pond, and it’s open all night so when you work late and want to go do something when you get home we don’t have to walk around Walmart or Meijer. We can come here.” He explained.
Which is precisely what we spent the rest of that short Summer together doing. It quickly became one of our regular date night hang outs, and eventually became one of my favorite places to spend time with or without my boyfriend along. Whether he planned it or not, the park always held associations with the music. Every subsequent time I drove through the park entrance which bore the name immediately, I thought of Minutes to Midnight.
Thinking back on that park at the beginning of my recovery journey, when the chains of denial finally fell free and I was able to unlock the complete memories of the violent assault my boyfriend alluded to with his confession is what lead me to my second favorite album LIVING THINGS.
There were four albums that really resonated with me over the course of my early recovery. Linking Park’s LIVING THINGS, Blue October‘s Sway, and Hurt Vol I & II. They inspired me to keep going through the pain of severing my unhealthy coping mechanisms and realigning my thought process. The pain of accepting my rediscovered memories that had been repressed for so long. I could go into depth about each track on every album I’ve listed, but I’ve already strayed enough off topic. I’ll focus on LIVING THINGS.
Victimized was my battle cry as I first tried to make amends with my ex, and truly became aware of how abusive many of his behaviors were, how dishonest, and manipulative he could be, and how his behaviors had damaged me even in the midst of what we called love.
Powerless reminded me that as much as I loved my ex, I couldn’t be the one to save him from his past. I couldn’t continue to hold myself hostage and internalize my wounds for his benefit.
Lies Greed Misery spurred some of my initial anger, even though it was fleeting, it began the long process to accepting the difference between violence and healthy anger. I’m still working on this aspect of my recovery, and every once and a while I will return to this track trying to grasp ahold of the feeling of anger.
Roads Untraveled helped keep me from turning the healthy anger into unhealthy revenge or violence. It kept me grounded and reminded me that the damage done between my ex and I wasn’t necessarily permanent. I wasn’t doomed to a life of misery due to his poor choices and behaviors. With a lot of work I’ve been able to rise above it and work past it. There is no reason to grieve the life that I lost when we parted ways. My life now has become infinitely better, and if the time comes when he reaches a similar place of healing, desiring absolution for his transgressions, I would be open to at least hearing him out. The reason I kept and published his thoughts on my recovery journey has a lot to do with this song.
Castle of Glass is another one that has kept me grounded and focused in the midst of publishing all of my recovery here publicly. My ex hates it and by default me for publishing it. If the sentiment he expressed during our conversation in the car was genuine, at some point he did want me to get better. I don’t think he ever expected me “getting better” to include a public blog and book about our life together. It’s not about revenge, and I’ve done everything I can to protect his identity, but I’m still a crack in his glass house.
Both of those albums have had such a huge impact on my life, and it’s difficult to think that the voice behind it all succumbed to the very same feelings that his music helped me conquer before taking his own life. Especially so for me, a casual fan who hadn’t heard anything more recent than Battle Symphony, a song speaking about not giving up, continuing to fight and then all of the sudden tragedy. So often that’s how suicide happens. There is one final great effort pushed forward, but for whatever reason it isn’t enough. I think that’s the greatest tragedy of suicide right there. It’s never the weak who succumb to their demons. It’s the ones who have been fighting viciously for so long that they just grow tired.