TW: Self harm
It has been well over a year since I last posted - two calendar years, in fact.
On my last post, I suffered what I felt was an attack from an "anonymous" poster. I had been recently hospitalized within the prior year for suicide, and because it was clear that it had been someone close to the situation and my life, I took it quite personally. They were most likely right about a lot of it and I probably deserved it (I deleted it immediately so I unfortunately can’t remember); however, I felt that it was a very hurtful thing to do to a recovering person, and it ultimately staggered my self confidence and my return to health over the next year.
It triggered me deeply, as my father had recently passed away, with whom I had a really trying relationship - or lack thereof – and I was dealing with this and the new knowledge that I was not the only child he had sired and abandoned. I felt victimized because I felt a general lack of concern for my happiness and well-being from those that were close to me, which was a very large part of what drove me to destruction in the first place, and perhaps the worst part was that I was still so ashamed of my weakness that I didn’t feel that I could defend myself publicly.
However, I kept it with me. I ruminated on it. They were right, after all - I had victimized myself this whole time. I had become nothing but a jester, a commodity to expend, and a stranger to everyone I knew, and it was because I had actually become a stranger to myself. The mask I wore to succeed became inseparable from what my true identity was, and I imploded, which truly was no one else's fault but my own.
This is when it dawned on me. Mental health is not your fault but it is your responsibility.
I had always felt that I had good intentions, but as we know, the path to hell is paved with those. What was now clear was that in all this time I had spent victimizing myself, I had been affecting others the same way – and such an epiphany had never set upon me in such a way before or since. I had been drunk with philosophy and insecurity and vanity and whatever else I could get my hands on, chemical or otherwise. I had acted so selfishly and been in denial about it. I had lied to myself. I had outlived all my heroes, yet I claimed that heroes didn’t exist. I became afraid of growing old. I started feeling the cold pangs of failure paralyzing me at the precipice of the eternal abyss before me, penetrating my bones, invading my soul. I slouched toward oblivion. I whispered a prayer into the earth, to every god, to the Great Nihil, to no one in particular. I confessed to myself my sins, became contrite with anxiety. I began to hold myself accountable. I began to grow up.
So my redemption began. I made it my philosophy to control my mood and to engage in conviction and mindfulness with everything I did from thence-forth. I learned that you can’t engage in anyone else’s healing if you aren’t actively engaged in your own, and vice-versa. I called up my exes and apologized for being an antagonist. I found a great woman to love, to whom I devoted the next year, to showing love and healing with – of whom I am mourning the amicable end of my first healthy relationship with. I paid my personal debts, however dubious and ill-deserved I might have felt, just because pride is foolish and I had been wrong before, after all. I reconnected with my old bandmates and many friends, and I apologized for who I was when I was manic and depressed, when the abandoned child in my heart that is now no longer alone was speaking for me. I've definitely had slip-ups; I have taken an ugly, unbecoming and scornful tone with some, and have since apologized profusely for the venom of my scorpion tongue. I continued my spiritual practice of anonymously doing random acts of kindness for those in need and not telling anyone (though I guess this counts). I began therapy and medication, eventually settling on lithium for a year before being done with it. And best of all, I stopped feeling sorry for myself and taking myself so damned seriously.
A year and some months later, I am here at my keyboard reflecting on the time between my last entry and now, finally able to return to it without chagrin or fear, with a feeling of renewal and freedom, ready to allow myself to be vulnerable again, with the understanding that I am owed nothing and the ability to accept myself as imperfect. I still experience ups and downs, but they are not anything like they were before.
To any who read this and have put up with me until now, I just want to say thank you for bearing with me – I am a work in progress and your support has been what has brought me back from the brink of oblivion, where I have sworn never to tread again.
And last but not least, if you or anyone you know is going through a hard time with their existence, by all means please come back with us and talk to someone. Here is the hotline in case no one happens to be available, but feel free to drop me a message as well if you should feel so taken.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Reverend Stephan Sams
Hello, world. It's October - a spiced, autumnal crisp is on the wind. The earth is in repose, draped in long shadows and dusky tatters. It has a been a moment since my first contribution to this, as I have been busy getting my life together. There have been some big things happening, and being the proud master of my own web domain, I feel as though I have a space to be candid and speak to those who are indeed curious about my endeavors.
That being said, there is a bit to catch-up on. Firstly, I played in August all around Oregon. My estranged father passed-away and I attended his funeral. I'll write about it on another day, as I feel that it deserves its own passage. I booked a small tour for after the ceremony - a three gig run - and went along on many adventures. I reunited with some old friends, namely The Redlight District's old drummer Tyler "Tyballs" Walicek and his partner Alyssa, my very first drummer Brad Mina, and one of the funniest and most talented comic artists and writers I've ever seen Kelly O'Grady. I tripped-out at a mountain-top renegade above the clouds and wondered if I was possessed or schizophrenic because I couldn't hear my own voice through the hallucinations in my ears. I coasted on fumes back into civilization after getting lost in the woods. The battery in my van was drained completely while I was blasting power metal, and it seemed as though my phone being plugged-in while it was booming in all of it's wailing, intrepid glory was drawing all the electricity from my vehicle. I had to dedicate the next day to changing my alternator and getting greasy with Tyballs. I played in Eugene at Sam Bond's Garage and ended up accidentally getting into no less than three car-chases on my way to protect a stripper from certain doom in Springfield. I played at Taproot Tavern in Salem and almost got into a brawl with rednecks and Tyballs (we would have lost). I played with one of my favorite singers in the world at No Fun in Portland - Sarah Parson, formerly of one of my favorite bands in the world The Lower 48 - and hung out with her and her partner Matt all night and some of the next day. (Do yourself a favor and check out her album Shhh right now, put it on from start to finish, and then come back and read the rest). Lastly, I hung out with someone I consider a hero of garage rock and roll to me - Courtney Taylor Taylor of The Dandy Warhols - and he and his family took such great care of me before showing me his studio and giving me a perfect send-off back to California.
Upon returning, I broke-up The Redlight District. It became painfully obvious that what was once a beautiful avenue of self-expression to carry-through a concept I once saw in my dreams had become marred far beyond recognition and was no longer fun for me. It was clear that the mask that I had created for the character I put forth was causing me to become a caricature in other peoples eyes and eventually even my own. I was becoming not much more than a stranger and a commodity to those both distant and close to me. I felt that when I was in need, many people I thought would be there for me were indeed very much not. I began to struggle with my identity and became more disposed to madness and depression. I became as hard to deal with as those that I felt brought me such deep sorrow, perhaps at times even more-so until I reached a hideous climax, and after a year of trying to care for myself and my health - when it was undeniably clear to me that I had become completely depleted of effort and spirit - I began a hard acceptance of solitude as a healthy lifestyle for me, and with that, I disbanded my treasured creation.
Moving forward, that doesn't mean the death of The Redlight District, for that name and all it implies moves with me, and I don't believe we've seen the last of it - just the last of it for now. In the meantime, I've been doing something I deem much more experimental for me. Inspired by artists the likes of Reignwolf, Shakey Graves, and Tash Sultana who create so much sound as a stand-alone artist, I have been able tap into different influences and take a different approach to songwriting as I'm working with a minimalist set-up and exploring song structures, sounds, and instrumentation in a way I've never displayed or explored before. I also have a few musical concepts that I'll save for when they're coming along. I'm recording a solo album with Ian Thornburgh at Outlaw Fringe Sound. Expect it to come-out in the beginning of next year, followed by a big move from me right after.
Lastly, I am engaged in the Rocky Horror Show live musical in Monterey, CA at the Hoffman Theatre with the Paper Wing Theatre Company. It's a split cast, and I'll post my show dates soon. It is a $30 door, but I have $25 pre-sale tickets. Be sure to get ahold of me for tickets at firstname.lastname@example.org. I've been doing so much research for this role, and even more work on movement, voice, and character amongst other things. This is my dream role, and I want to be the best Dr. Frank N. Furter they've ever seen - a tall order, since all the other ones have been and currently are amazing (do also see Erik Morton's portrayal - he's my counter-part in the other cast and delivers a quite inspired performance).
Thank you for tuning in. I hope to see you all soon.
Reverend Stephan Sams
How quaint - I have a pretty place to write all about myself and it's justified by my vocation. It's a narcissist's dream! But it really is a fantastic and healthy thing for me to have a place to publish whatever musings, anecdotes, or new developments weave through the thick and convoluted mesh of my life and mind. In the future, I will post my works written, musical, and visual. I won't linger too long on personal matters, but I will certainly posit and record philosophical observations and other opinions. I look forward to hearing responses to my posts as well.