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“I’ve Never Known Trust Like the Nine”: A Writer’s Journey Through Self-Reflection via SLIPKNOT

When I was 15 years old, I tried to kill myself. It’s not something I am proud of, but it’s very much a part of who I am. My mother, who was, unfortunately, abusing meth at the time, thought that because I wouldn’t listen to what she said, the natural way to respond was to tell me that my father wasn’t my real dad. It crushed me and the only thing that felt like a good way to silence the pain, was a bottle of pills. What I didn’t get was that at 15, you don’t realize that your stomach will hate you, the pain won’t go away and that if it HAD worked, that all I would have done was give temporary problems a permanent solution. I didn’t have anyone to talk to about what I was going through, I had spent every day since I was seven years old, wondering what I had done to deserve the things that were done to me as a child. As a victim of sexual abuse as a child, I didn’t know how to cope with it. I acted out. I was a brat to family members, self-centered and full of attitude, because the pain and the anger I felt, had no platform to address it.

I was never good at talking to a psychiatrist; it was never something I could do without feeling exposed and embarrassed. I’ve always used films and their characters as ways to live and survive vicariously through them. Laurie Strode has and will always be my biggest hero and rightfully so, especially given David Gordon Green’s 2018 Halloween film. It was wonderful to see a character I had spent my entire life feeling close to, finally addressing her trauma, because I still find it impossible to do. Halloween has always been my series when it comes to losing myself in film. Art is beautiful and when you find that section or film or band that speaks to you and helps you cope, helps you deal with and helps you confront and defeat those demons, it’s a profoundly special thing.

Slipknot has been that for me when it comes to music. A band that has given a voice to the anger and sadness and pain and so many other things that have been infinitely difficult to get through. If Halloween is the film that speaks to me as a survivor, the music of Slipknot is the voice that I and so many other listeners sometimes feel that we don’t have. The voices dying to get out and the voices that just want to SCREAM.

The crazy part and something that seems to be a recurring theme in my life, is that in the middle of feeling like my internal self is screaming and dying to get out, something always happens: When I need it the most and when I am looking for an artistic outlet to give a voice to that, Slipknot releases a new album. It’s been that way for the last decade of my life. I was going through a pretty bad spot when All Hope is Gone came out and in spite of how intense that year was for me, songs like “Till We Die,” and especially “Dead Memories” spoke to me and gave me words to focus on when a lot of childhood trauma began to resurface. Lyrics like “And when I got away, I only got so far. The Other Me Is Dead. I hear his voice inside my head…” brought me to tears. It’s hard to deal with PTSD and the remnants of something brutal, but having that album come out at a time when I found myself crumbling, it changed me.

In 2015, a very toxic marriage I was in was coming to an end. I had spent years hating myself because of the situation, it was as a very defeating thing to be in and for a long time, it murdered the idea of being happy for me. I was miserable and I had spent so many times trying to make something work 100% for the sake of my children not having to go through the pain of a divorce. I had gone through that as a kid and it was so hard, so I never wanted my kids to go through the same. But by 2015, I wasn’t even a glimpse of myself anymore. I felt empty and cold, brutally cold. I didn’t know who to talk to, but like clockwork, the Iowa crew released an album (.5, The Gray Chapter) that while meaning something completely different to them, meant addressing the death of the situation I was in and addressing the emptiness and personal hate I held against myself. The moment I heard the album’s opener, “XIX”, I knew my newest therapy was there, ready with open arms and screams.

 “With my face against the floor,
I can’t see who knocked me out of the way.
I don’t want to get back up,
But I have to, so it might as well be today
Nothing appeals to me,
No one feels like me
I’m too busy being calm to disappear”

That spoke to me on such a profound level. It was exactly what I felt at that moment. It was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. In the middle of that album, something stood out to me the most. I was listening to The Gray Chapter on repeat around that time and there was one line that I noticed while looking at my children. That one lyric reached out of the speakers and went directly into my soul, giving me hope.

“A long time ago we discovered that nothing could stop us
This hasn’t torn us apart so nothing ever will.”

That moment changed my life. I knew right then and there, that no matter what was in front of us, that my son and daughter would make it through whatever was thrown our way. It was us against the world and we would be ok. I had walked away from what was holding us back, I had pulled the proverbial plug on something that had brought me only pain and suffering and the future was wide open.

As a 38-year old man now, I still feel very big doses of depression, stemming from that childhood of molestation and abuse. I spent most of my early adult life abusing alcohol and drugs, in attempts to numb what I was feeling. I jumped into two extremely toxic and abusive marriages because I thought THAT was what I deserved. It’s still very hard to deal with on most days and writing this will only open myself up for more, but here’s the thing, reader: I found something that I hold so very close to my heart and so many other people have found that as well. As silly as it sounds to most, what we have found, and the art given to us to channel your sadness, frustration, and pain into music has left a profound impact on my life.

Five years had passed since the boys in the Knot released a new record. A lot had happened since. I stopped being a slave to addiction, I met someone who helped me turn my life around in such great ways. I got married to easily the most impactful person I had ever met and finally felt so many demons I had fought internally for years, seemed to die. It was great. It was so nice, that I almost forgot how much of an impact Slipknot had been on my life in the past. I interviewed Corey Taylor for an issue of Horrorhound in 2016, but never mentioned how much he and his band had changed my life; no, we just talked about horror, which to be honest, was fulfilling as hell, because the guy knows his stuff. Life was looking like the past full of grief, trauma and pain was over, finally. And then, this year happened.

To say this past year has been a brutal one, would be an understatement. My best friend died unexpectedly this past December. No warning, nothing leading up to it. Overnight, my bud was gone and I felt like there was a hole in my soul. I felt something begin to manifest inside of me: pain, anger. The lyrics to “Skeptic” began to enter my head and that anger and pain began to wrap itself around that song.

The world will never see another crazy motherfucker like you, The world will never know another man as amazing as you.”

I’ve fought that anger for almost a year now and it hasn’t gone away. I find myself upset a lot these days. “How could it get worse,” I thought? In May of this year, it did. My wife and I lost a baby that we hadn’t told anyone we were planning on. She had a name: Juniper Ghost. We drew pictures of what she would look like, we jokingly talked about what kind of kid Ghost would be. It was a massive part of our lives and then on a casual Monday, May 20, our daughter died. We were never able to meet her and a huge part of me died. I still haven’t even tried to process it. I became reclusive from people around me. I was cold and distant. I was angry. So angry. I wanted to burn this world down and I began to almost beg people to mess with me. Any rude comments on Twitter or any other platform was met with a massive amount of venom. I hated everything and everyone because I felt robbed of life. I considered giving up writing, giving up most things and it took a lot to sit back and deal with things.

I decided to drown myself with creativity instead. In the time since I have been more prolific than ever when it comes to writing for magazines and sites about the best genre around. I co-host a podcast that I love doing, called The Pod and the Pendulum (check out our Jason X episode with Dread Central’s own Jonathan Barkan!), and creatively, I am in a very good place. With that being said, on a personal level, I struggle very much, it’s just a part of who I am. Again, like clockwork, when I was at my worst, Slipknot began to announce their new album, the first in five years, We Are Not Your Kind. I needed it. It has been quite easily the most anticipated piece of art for me, it was something I had to look forward to. I knew it would mean the world to me. August 9 could not come soon enough. I needed it.

On July 27th of this year, I was lucky enough to get the assignment to stand ten feet away from the band that had helped me SO many times throughout the past decade. I had my camera in hand, nervous that not only would I get to see one of my favorite bands of all time, but I was given the change to photograph their show, for this article. I knew it would be a big deal to me, that I would be swept with emotions, because as tough as we all pretend to be, sometimes we’re just not OK. I knew the moment the curtains dropped, that pain and anger and sadness I’ve felt all year would be right in my face and I was nervous what song would be played first, as I stood in the photographer’s pit, in San Bernardino.

When the curtain dropped and the band launched right into “People = Shit,” I felt a release. I profound release. I felt something inside of me, the pain was gone for those moments. I grabbed my camera and shot as many photos as I could, each one giving me something to capture. While they may seem like half-assed concert photos, every single one was a big moment for me, because each photo was a release for me. For the time I stood there, I saw the band that helped me so many times in life, so so many times. Through dealing with coming to terms with being abused as a child, through divorces and addiction and through the death of two very important people to me. I will never forget that. There’s something special about those masks. Being lost and empty inside, you want a way to scream and what better way than to live vicariously through those masks. We all wear our own and the band knows that and embraces that. Especially as horror fans. We have never been the cool kids and despite there being a lot of gatekeeper types in the fandom, the horror genre and Slipknot have always gone hand in hand.

I have been listening to We Are Not Your Kind on repeat for two days now and it’s already something very special to me. Thank you, Slipknot for giving this writer so many reasons to come to terms with what I have felt. It has really changed my life and I hope you all know that.

Written by Jerry Smith

Writer. Director. Drinker of Dr. Pepper.
John Carpenter is my religion. 666.

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