Tales from the Jugular

Heavy Metal Therapy: Part Deux

By: Greg Watson
Published: Friday, January 2, 2015
[ The following column contains content about the writer's sexual abuse during youth and deaths in his family. It's being posted uncensored as written. --Editor ]

So, I had been talking with Frank and Eric a few days ago about writing a piece about how metal is therapeutic and healing for those that are truly into the genre. During our discussion, it was mentioned that Frank did a piece about it years ago (TFTJ-72). This is my version.

Think back for a moment about the first time you heard your first note of heavy metal. Remember the feeling it gave you, that euphoric lift that rose from the core of your soul and erupted out of you like a primal scream? For years, metal has evoked reactions of every sort from its dedicated followers. At any given metal show, chances are good you'll see someone crying or someone screaming along with the lyrics. Everyone's experience with metal as some sort of therapy is specific to that individual and is something that cements that person's relationship with metal that much more. What follows is my story of "Heavy Metal Therapy".

"Heavy metal has been there for me through countless points in my life, points where I knew that I had something that would always be with me and make me feel stronger, more alive, and give me the hope that I needed."

About 20 years ago, I went through a very difficult situation, especially given my age. When I was about 12, I was sexually abused by my babysitter's son. At the time, I didn't really totally grasp what had happened and as the years wore on, I began to slowly realize what had happened. There are lots of parts that I remember and some parts that I have blocked from my mind. The brain is a wonderful and mysterious thing to allow you to have access to certain memories and have the ability at the same time to block out parts that don't need remembering. But it all started very suddenly and at first, I didn't really understand what was happening. Most of the time, I'd be lying in the floor watching a movie and he'd come up beside me. Before long, his hand would find his way down my pants and he would begin rubbing me. It wouldn't last long in the beginning, a few minutes here and there and then he was gone.

But then as time wore on, the abuse began to get lengthier. The touching would last longer and become more intense. And whenever I started to get uncomfortable, he would climb on top of me and pin me there. When he climbed on top of me, he'd start grunting and thrusting a little. Pretty soon, the only way I could get him to get off of me was if I called for one of my friends or my babysitter. I would leave the babysitter each and every day, screaming inside, wanting to say something to my parents but never really being able to. I'd go through school knowing that every day, I'd have to go to my babysitter and face this inescapable nightmare again and again. At this point, the abuse had become a daily ritual, almost a sort of sick, twisted routine so to speak. I would get to my babysitter's place, go outside and play with my friends and inevitably run out of energy and have to go inside. And it was like clockwork. Like a hawk chasing a mouse, he would swoop in and the attack would take place. I had learned by this point to just go to a safe place and think about anything other than his hands on me or his body on top of me.

The last straw for me came on the day that he tried to make me touch him. He was on top of me as had become the norm and then he got up. I thought it was done for the day and got up to run upstairs and get away and he grabbed my arm. I turned around and he started pushing my hand towards his pants. Now, I didn't know a whole lot back then ‘cause I was just a fucking child but I damn well knew that what he was wanting me to do was wrong and wasn't going to happen. So, I called for my friends and one of them hollered at me that they were upstairs and I looked at him and said "Let me go, I'm going upstairs". He let me go but the look in his eyes is something I'll not soon forget. He looked as though he could kill me. I got upstairs and was talking to the friend who "saved" me. Then we started looking for another friend of ours and couldn't find him. So, I quietly crept down the stairs to the basement that was our usual hangout and found that the guy who had been abusing me had my friend. I called for him and he came running up the stairs. We went back in one of the side bedrooms and I asked him if he was ok. He shook it off and said that he was fine. I told them that this had been going on with me for a long time and to my surprise, both of my friends admitted the same thing.

I was shocked. Here were two of my good friends admitting that they had gone through the same thing and I never knew! I said to them one of us needed to tell our babysitter. Then I heard a voice behind me say "Tell me what?" and there was my babysitter. So, I told her exactly what happened and I remember that she ran out of the room crying and called for her son. She asked him when he came upstairs and if what I had told her was true. He said it was and then she started crying harder. Next thing I knew, all of our parents were there and we were all told to go outside and play. I later found out that the other parents were basically interrogating my babysitter about how this could have happened. I also found out that my other friends' parents were telling my parents that it was partially my fault that this happened to my friends because I didn't say anything sooner. So, all of us were moved to different babysitters, some of us were removed totally from the circle altogether. Some of us lost touch; others of us kept in touch but it was never the same. My friends, with the exception of two good friends, all avoided me like I was a freak or stricken with leprosy at that point. The person that perpetuated the abuse against us went to court but because he was a minor, he was 17 at the time, he was only given community service and had a restraining order taken out against him.

So basically, this pervert fucked up my mind and the minds of my friends and our lives and all he got was a slap on the wrist. As a 12 year old, I was enraged and screaming for justice. Why did he essentially get away with it? Should I have just waited a little longer until he was older? Did I make a mistake in not saying anything sooner? I don't know the answer to the first question to this day. As for the others, those are both an emphatic--no. If I had waited any longer, who knows who else could have become the next target? And had I said anything sooner, the outcome with him wouldn't have been any different and I doubt the reactions of my friends' parents would have been any different. We all went to therapy for a while after all was said and done and during therapy came the hardest realization that I had to deal with. Several of my friends went around recounting their abuse but it was only a handful of times. I found out both from my friends and from recounting my abuse that I was his favorite. That and this whole situation was something a 12 year old shouldn't have to contemplate or endure.

Years afterwards, the memories of that experience manifest themselves whenever I see that subject in the news, in a movie, on TV, or I even read about it. I would have to excuse myself from discussions about that subject in my high school and college psychology courses. Over the years and thanks to the help of therapy with a trained professional and through the healing power of metal, I've been able to come to terms with it so I'm not so self-critical of my role in that ordeal. I still have a discomfort about it that will never go away but I'm much stronger now than I was then. Whenever those feelings do come back though, I'll crank up "Disciples of the Lie" by Iced Earth, "Yesterday Is Dead and Gone" by Arch Enemy, or "Sin City" by Upon A Burning Body to help chase them away.

A sampling of what I listened to:
. Altar - Hypochristianity
. Angel Dust - Beneath the Silence
. Arch Enemy - Yesterday is Dead and Gone
. Children of Bodom - Hate Me!
. Demons & Wizards - Fiddler on the Green
. Epica - Tides of Time
. God Dethroned - Loyal to the Crown of God Dethroned
. Iced Earth - Watching Over Me, Melancholy (Holy Martyr), Violate
. Iron Maiden - The Trooper
. Judas Priest - Victim of Change
. Morbid Angel - Fall from Grace, Chapel of Ghouls
. Opeth - To Bid You Farewell
. Pantera - Walk, Domination
. Queensryche - Breaking the Silence, Screaming in Digital
. Sentenced - No One There
. Six Feet Under - No Warning Shot
. Slipknot - The Heretic Anthem
. Soilwork - The Flameout
. Symphony X - When All Is Lost
. Upon A Burning Body - Sin City
When 2013 started, I was on top of the world. I was expecting a daughter, I was enjoying my new job, and things were going really well. Then the ship started to list a little but I figured it would right itself. Before I knew it, that list turned into a full blown panic when my wife’s father went in to the hospital. He had some health issues before but nothing as serious as what he was dealing with now. Initially, the doctors just thought that his blood pressure was too high and that his gout was flaring up. After further testing, they realized that his kidneys weren’t operating properly. So they put him on medicines to try and help fight the infection in his kidneys and help them start working properly again. At first, it seemed like things were on the uptick. His levels improved and his kidneys seem to be functioning like normal again. But just as quickly as things got better, they went back to being as if he hadn’t even had any medicine.

At this point, the hospital where he was staying felt that it would be in his best interest if they transferred him to a long term rehab facility so that he could be in an area where he could get some additional focus on his kidneys and be in a place that was more suited to take care of him. After he was moved to Lynchburg, things really began to rapidly decline. His kidney function came close to non-existent a couple of times. They limited his liquid intake and severely restricted his diet. Then slowly he began to show signs of improvement. While up there for a visit one day, a kidney specialist came in to talk to the family and explore what sort of options were available. Basically, he said that my father in law needed to go on dialysis to keep his kidney’s functioning. My father in law adamantly refused because he didn’t want to live his life like that.

After that was settled, things really started to decline rapidly. He became very foggy headed and incoherent, nothing like the lucid, clear-speaking man that I had known for 6 years. He became very quiet and disconnected, so much the opposite from his outgoing, bubbly personality. Eventually, he was moved back to a facility closer to my mother in law and in an area he was more comfortable with. Once there, you could begin to see the signs that this wasn’t going to end well. We would go up every weekend for visits with him. Any changes that took place, my mother in law was quick to let us know. The last visit I had with him was one that will stick with me for a long time. He was in a particularly good mood that day, talking and carrying on like he normally did. My wife and I together shaved his head because he said he wanted his hair shorter like mine. As the time came for us to head out, we all said our goodbyes. At this point, he hadn’t been talking as much as he had when we first arrived. I shook his hand, told him that I loved him and that we’d see him next weekend. When he shook my hand, he gave it an extra squeeze and when we looked at each other I knew that would be the last time I’d see him alive.

About two weeks later, I got a call from my wife telling me to get up there as quick as I could after work. I was speeding on the way up to the nursing home, thinking in my head “Just let me get there and see and talk to him one more time, please”. When I was close to the nursing home, I called my wife to let her know and she said she’d meet me outside. When I pulled in to the parking lot and saw her coming out, I knew something wasn’t right. Her face was tear-stained and I could tell by her eyes that things weren’t good. When I got out, I said let’s go in so I can see him and she just broke down and told me that he had passed away while I was on my way up there. I threw my keys into the car in disgust and started crying. Though he wasn’t my biological father, Ron was very much like a second father to me and the pain of losing him hurt tremendously. I also felt incredibly awful for my wife that I hadn’t been there with her and her family when he had passed. After we left the retirement home later that night, I went for a drive and ended up listening to the song “The Answer” by Ashes of Ares over and over. I was desperately searching for an answer for why he had to be taken away from us and that song just really seemed to be what I needed at that time. I never figured out that answer fully but that song definitely gave me some comfort. The day we had his funeral service, I played “Watching Over Me” by Iced Earth in honor of him because I know that he’ll always be watching over me, my wife Jenny and her mother. I miss him terribly to this day and though he’s no longer with us in this world, I know that wherever he is, there isn’t a dry eye in the place because he’s making everyone laugh so hard that they cry.

In late 2012, I found out that my wife was pregnant and you couldn't have knocked the smile off of my face if you'd hit me with a sledgehammer. I was going to be a father finally. I had always dreamt of this day and it had finally come. As the pregnancy wore on, some complications arose and things got very tense for a while. Then one day, I get a call at work and am told by my mother in law that my wife is in the hospital and I should get there ASAP. So I get to the hospital and find out that she's gone into labor a full two months before she was due. They transported her from one hospital to another one that was more equipped to handle premature births. The doctor came in and went over everything with us and explained how the C-Section would work. I got in to the scrubs I had to wear and went in to the Operating Room. While the doctors are cutting my wife open, I'm sitting there holding her hand telling her everything will be fine and not to worry. Then, I see them lift our daughter up and a huge smile comes to my face. My daughter was finally in the world and in a short while we would be holding her, marveling at how beautiful she was. While they resumed the task of stitching my wife back together, I kept thinking that it was really strange that I hadn't heard our daughter cry out or make any sort of sound. Then I hear the words "defib" and "crash cart" and my heart starts to sink.

All the while, my wife is asking me how the baby is. I tell her she's ok but I can't see her, which I can't. The doctors working on my wife keep glancing back to where the baby has been moved to and the look in their eyes worries the hell out of me. Then, the attending doctor comes over and asks me if I want to see our little girl. I tell her I do and as we walk over, she puts her hand on my shoulder and tells me that she's very sorry, they tried everything they could but she didn't make it. At that instant, I feel as though I've just taken a cannon ball right to my stomach. My wife asks me what's wrong and then I have to do the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. I tell her that our daughter, whom she'd been carrying inside of her for 7 months, didn't survive. The rest of that morning and the following days are a blur. I went through every conceivable emotion possible during the next few months. For me, having the catalogue of my metal collection at my disposal was an immense help. I would listen to “Fiddler on the Green” by Demons and Wizards, “A Question of Heaven” by Iced Earth, “Beneath the Silence” by Angel Dust or “To Bid You Farewell” by Opeth to somewhat soothe the extreme anguish that I was feeling. When I would get angry I’d blast “No Warning Shot” by Six Feet Under, “Hypochristianity” by Altar, and “Sin City” by Upon A Burning Body to quell the rage that was boiling inside of me. Probably one of the biggest songs that helped me through this ordeal was “When All Is Lost” by Symphony X. The lyrics and the song itself would give me a bit of direction when I felt so hopelessly lost. Lost as to why Lily wasn’t here, lost as to what to do to try and begin to move forward with my life, lost as to feeling that I had not only failed my wife but failed Lily as well by not being able to make things ok and for her to still be here today.

There's nothing that can ever truly quell the pain that comes from losing a child. I honestly hope that no one reading this ever has to go through that and for those of you that have, know that you have a kindred spirit in understanding the excruciating pain that is caused by a loss such as that. Even though our little Lily didn't survive, she still touched the heart of me and my wife. Getting to hold her was both incredibly beautiful and tragically painful but was something that I'll always carry with me. To this day, I still struggle with knowing that our chance at being parents was cut short and the joy that comes from that was ripped from our grasp. But I also realize that Lily wasn't meant to be part of this world, she was meant for something better. And with that knowledge, I'm able to be at peace with the fact we don't have our daughter with us today.

Heavy metal has been there for me through countless points in my life, points where I knew that I had something that would always be with me and make me feel stronger, more alive, and give me the hope that I needed. People can say that heavy metal is horrible, evil music that is going to send your soul straight to hell. To those people, I say that metal saved not only my soul, but my life. I know without a doubt that if it weren't for heavy metal, I wouldn't be here today writing this column and still enjoying the things in life that I love. Music can truly set you free. I have seen it with my own eyes and experienced it myself. So, I just want to take a moment and say thank you. Thank you to all the artists who have created the music that has become a part of me and allowed me to find myself. Thank you to Eric, Frank and Troy, the guys who started this website and were generous enough to allow me to be a part of the ride. You guys have helped that love stay alive in me and given me opportunities that I can't even begin to thank you enough for. To all my fellow metal heads out there, thank you for loving our music and being the greatest fans in the world. Within all of us there burns a fire that is permanently stoked and kept ablaze by metal. I know that for years to come, my being will be strong and proud because of heavy metal.

So everybody, throw up the horns, break out your air guitar and stand up and shout and let every voice be heard!

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