On January 26th, Mike Shinoda released his Post Traumatic EP, a collection of three songs which illustrate his grief after the loss of his bandmate, Chester Bennington. I wrote a review shortly after I heard these songs, which I’ve linked here: Review: Mike Shinoda’s EP, “Post Traumatic” is a Game Changer
More recently, on March 29th, Shinoda officially announced his solo album, Post Traumatic, which will be released on June 15th, 2018. The three songs from the EP album, plus two songs he uploaded to Youtube, Crossing A Line and Nothing Makes Sense Anymore, will be on the album. You can pre-order the album here: www.mikeshinoda.com
I can’t say much about a sixteen song album I have yet to hear beyond the five songs he’s already released. I know nothing about the overall sound, what the samples are like, what his vocals are like, any featured artists, or any surprises he might throw at us. The only thing I can say with certainty is that when I hear his new music, even though our experiences are different, the result is the same: we both went through trauma last year, and it changed us.
To get more specific, on May 7th, 2017, my friend Chris died after living with ALS for five years. ALS was a destructive force that tried to rob him of who he was, his art, his love of nature, and his connections with family and friends. That disease created turmoil so intense, that my heart broke for him all the time. I have never felt so helpless as I did while I saw Chris progressing, and becoming more frustrated and angry at what he couldn’t control. I was desperate to help him in any way I could, but my desperation caused a horrible falling out between us. I knew that I couldn’t stay friends with him. I decided in late 2013 to cut off all contact, and it hurt. It hurt a lot. I spent days and weeks second-guessing myself, regretting what I had done, but I eventually pulled myself together and accepted that it was the right choice. What was important to me was that he was happy, and I knew I hadn’t been the kind of friend he needed me to be. When a close friend of mine told me that Chris was in hospice, all of the feelings I’d put to rest came back to the surface in full force, and I went through the cycle of regret all over again. I haven’t been able to completely get out of that cycle since his death.
Then on August 15th of last year, I was beaten on my front porch by two women, one of whom at the time, I didn’t know. The sick thing was that she not only attacked me for absolutely no reason (there are no reasons to attack someone, mind you), and had screamed she wanted to kill me, but she also smiled while she did it. I remember her smiling down at me while she was pounding on my head. The other woman kept pushing me and restraining me so that my main attacker could pound on me more. What got them off of me was my mother pepper sprayed them repeatedly, then pushed my attackers away from me. I was in a fit of rage by that point, and to get her off of me completely, I lifted myself out of the chair I’d been held in, and bashed my hands into her chest. I don’t know if I pushed her down the stairs, but I like to think I did. I was like a wild animal after the assault, and I was practically foaming at the mouth. One of my next door neighbors and her children had been cheering and clapping as this attack happened. I screamed at them to ‘shut the fuck up’. My attacker had beaten me in front of her own children, who had been sitting in a car parked twenty feet away. There is no doubt in my mind that they saw everything. In the minutes after what had happened to me, I was so filled with adrenaline and rage that if she had tried to hurt me again, or if anyone else had tried to hurt me again, I would have tried to kill her or them. I had never wished death on anyone prior to August 15th, 2017.
My main attacker was charged with third degree assault. She got accelerated rehabilitation. Her case was eventually disposed. My mother was charged with third degree assault as well, for using her pepper spray. She was within legal right to use pepper spray, but she was charged anyway, and also given accelerated rehabilitation. Her case was also disposed. You know what I got? A traumatic brain injury. I have severe blank spots in my memory. Some days I remember the attack in full, and other days I don’t. I struggle with words. Sometimes I forget how to write my own name. Normally I learn new skills if I watch someone demonstrate it one time, but since the brain injury, I don’t have that power anymore. It’s embarrassing. I have problems with my balance on my left side. I have lapses in judgement and get easily agitated. The only thing that keeps me from going completely bonkers on a daily basis are adult coloring books, my job working with kids, and my music.
I also bought a bo staff recently, and have started training with it. Not because I’m afraid of being attacked again, even though I am afraid of being attacked again. But because I said fuck you to the brain injury. My ability to watch martial arts demonstrations and pick up the techniques so quickly has been a skill of mine as far back as I can remember. This skill is my pride and joy. In two days I learned the first two spins, though I’m still working on my transitions and speed. It’s progress.
In November of last year, I started working on some music. It wasn’t a conscious choice. I just sat down at my computer, opened up Acoustica Mixcraft, and made an instrumental. Then I made another, and another. And pretty soon, by early January, I had several instrumentals and song ideas. Then I did a cover of Mike Shinoda’s song Looking For An Answer. That’s when I knew that this project of mine had to be a mixtape. My first mixtape. My first music since 2012. To accompany my cover of Shinoda’s song, I also made a memorial video: Tribute to Chris Engstrom I will make more music videos after my mixtape is released on August 15th of this year.
I don’t turn to music to cope with things. I always turn to creative writing. But in my writing, the trauma from last year wasn’t coming out. Everything I’ve been working on has come out fine, exactly as I need it to be written, as if nothing bad had ever happened to me. But in my lyrics, every single thought, feeling and fear I have comes out in full force. It’s practically explosive, and I like it. Some of my lyrics are very poignant and loving, and others are mean and cruel. I’m perfectly fine with them all co-existing on this mixtape. At first a part of me was afraid for people to hear lyrics where I’m rapping about how much I enjoyed seeing my attacker crying, writhing and puking on the sidewalk from the way the pepper spray was burning her face and eyes. But if I’m not honest about how I feel, then my music isn’t going to help me heal. If people can’t see that, and want to judge me for it, then they’re fucking stupid.
Due to everything I’ve been through, I relate to what Shinoda is doing, because I’m doing it too. We both went through horrible things at the same time, and have turned to music to cope. There’s something artistically beautiful about that parallel, especially since we don’t know each other. I find a lot of comfort in knowing that he gets it. He didn’t lose a friend to ALS and suffer an assault, but he gets it. Grief is a creepy, horrifying and dark process for anyone to experience. It’s necessary, it helps us sort things out and heal, but we’re never the same as we were before the grief started. We were brought to our knees.
I have my mother, closest friends, co-workers, the incredible children I get to work with and my music as a support system. Without these people and my art, I would not be able to function. I have a massive amount of gratitude for everything they’ve done for me.