Have you ever been cracked?
Have you ever been barely able to get out of bed in the morning because... you just can’t?
Can’t live up to the expectations.
Can’t take care of anyone – not even yourself.
Can’t put on pants.
You’re trapped in a million little pieces scattered on the floor. You don’t know if you’re waiting to be put back together again like Humpty Dumpty or if you’re waiting to be tread into tiny grains of sand by the unyielding boots of others.
That photo on your wall from senior year with the wide grin and radiant eyes is an image of a complete stranger.
You’ve rallied so many times; it’s impossible to build up the strength to assault the demons whispering in your ear, hanging onto your pants legs (hence no pants), and shuffling your feet.
I’ve been there. Lord, have I been there.
Here’s how I got out of the wasteland:
No "April Fools".
The seed was planted long before, when I was still the girl in the photos with her arms slung around new friends in new places. A simple song download by an indie band from somewhere in the middle of the country. Not my usual style but I liked it. Even though it was about drag racing, it spoke to me. I listened to it over and over when I felt like my frustration and anxiety needed an outlet.
“Light ‘em up, and watch me go!”
Years later, on the cliff of a failed marriage with a 10 month old child caught in the wreckage, it was me too afraid to sleep at night. Too beaten down to believe that I could be anything good. Ever. Too scared to do anything but focus on my child and getting us on our own.
My big brother stepped in as he had so many other influential nights in my life and took me out to do something I had never done before: drink (legally) at a bar and listen to live metal bands.
At a time in my life when everything was Dave Matthews Band, the music (and alcohol) was bracing. Everyone knew each other and seemed like a family with my brother as a kindly if creepy uncle. Between rounds, I tried to hide away. So scared. So unbelieving that I could find any sense of belonging amongst these people.
And it happened.
One band in particular captured me from the very first note. In the madness, I felt the power of the guitar seep through my pores. The bass and drums rattled my chest cavity. The vocalist’s growls mirrored the pain I felt.
I felt validated.
I felt understood.
I felt an iota of strength that was buried deep inside of me awaken...
One of my tiny pieces began to rumble.
It didn’t happen all in one night.
I looped this music whose roots had been in the song I had downloaded years earlier. Many others found their way into my rotation:
An all female metal band whose songs were brave and daring. They told me that I was beautiful because of what I had been through, not in spite of it.
A country/metal mash-up band who reminded me of days along the river and reminded me that I was a bad mamma-jamma.
Mainstream classic metal bands who taught me that life isn't supposed to go the way you planned.
With each one, they delivered a powerful message:
FIGHT. YOU MATTER.
They gave me the tenacity to completely rebuild myself as someone new.
Made of metal.
So if you are in pieces, take heart. Fortification is coming, and it may come from the most unlikely of places.
Disclaimer: I actually wound up marrying the bassist of that magical band, and we found out that he was ALSO in the band with the drag racing song all those years ago! True story. You can't make that up.
Here's an old band photo: (My very talented husband is on the far left.)
Mandy Peterson is the author of "Before I Shatter". She is also a mother, wife, librarian, book reviewer, and self-proclaimed chocolate connoisseur.