How Rock and Roll Saved My Sanity
By Clara Autumn

Rock and roll has always been the theme of my darkest and most mindblowing hours.

There is nothing quite like the pit of screaming metal heads, and the sight of lighters held high like ancient offerings. Here I belonged. Festivals, gigs and grimy rock bars where you stuck to the floor were the places I found solace from the torture that ate at me. By the time I found music that switched me on, I had already had a long path down the dark side of mental illness. By sixteen, I had arms with a map line of deep scars, eight serious overdoses and a spell in a psychiatric unit.

When Things Got Too Much, Rock was There

There was nothing rock n roll about not knowing if tomorrow will be the day it finally gets too much. However I knew that music always affected how I felt. As a teenager listening to the beats of Slipknot and Rob Zombie, my body and mind reacted in a way that I’d never experienced before, and I liked it.

By the time I was discharged from the psych unit, I had defied some of the most brilliant minds in psychiatry. I had  stayed alive. When you have a blank sheet with no other expectations but your presence, that’s one hell of an opportunity to find out who you really want to be.

I started with gigs, my first being Slipknot, Slayer and Circle of 8. As the beat changed and I was at the front of the wall of death, there was nothing but magnificent, brilliant release. This came from running at the other side, merging with people who had a combined love. I would have taken that feeling over making myself bleed, a million times over.

Even Later in Life, Rock Helped Me Through

Years later, I found myself in a marriage that was less than healthy. At the times where I again doubted my mind and my place in the world, I would sit quietly listening to Corey Taylor belt out words that kept me safe from the horrors in the next room. This helped me, though only for a track or two. When my spine was broken following domestic abuse, I would sit for hours with my baby boy Corey, listen to lullaby versions of Metallica. Later with him safely sleeping at night, I’d listen to tunes that made me feel less alone.

Passing On the Light of Hope Through Rock and Roll

I have worked in psychiatry for the last decade, mainly in secure hospitals. I was on night shift the other night when I was asked to itemise the possessions of a guy that was newly admitted. He was a quiet man, who looked terrified to be in the setting that circumstances had brought him.

After writing down every item of clothing he had been admitted with, I noticed something. Among his belongings were CDs of Iron Maiden, Metallica, Bowie, Linkin Park, and Motorhead. We had something in common. That night, on handing him his CDs, we struck up a conversation about Lemmy. We talked about how much of a loss to society his death had been. We then spoke about Chester Bennington. This quiet man said that he didn’t want to end up like him, and he realised he needed some intervention.

Music Has Helped Me Find My Identity

Music has helped me form an identity I am proud of,  and it opened up a dialogue that may have meant more to that young man than I will ever know.

Undoubtedly, rock music helped me carve out a better version of myself. I now wear it like a badge of honour: the tattoos and knee highs of new rock.

I am a self-respecting woman of metal, and mental.

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