Seeing red: a remedy with a melody

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Devin Boyer
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Anger is a wildfire. When it’s just an ember, a simple splash of water can put it out. But if you let it grow, it becomes dangerous and tougher to extinguish.

I’ve never been the type of person to express my true feelings to people. I’m stubborn to the core so I bottle everything inside. Not just anger – all of my emotions. I guess I feel as if my problems will burden the people around me. I can’t help but feel this way because I’ve seen it happen with my own eyes.

Over the course of my life I’ve struggled with anger. In the moment I never felt I had “anger issues,” but in hindsight, it’s quite apparent. I would take the yelling, teasing and every confrontation I had like a punching bag. Until someone pushed me too far, I would never push back. I was a like a dormant volcano waiting to set the world ablaze, and I never knew how to deal with it.

As a kid I was afraid. I was afraid if I defended myself, the consequences would be insufferable. If someone punched me, I wouldn’t punch back. If someone screamed at me, I would just stand there. I believe my fear derives from my parents. Anytime I would speak out about something to them, they scolded me for it. It was as if my feelings did not matter to them. I know that’s not true now, but in the moment that’s how I felt. I hated this fear because inside I wanted to unleash my wrath upon those who made me feel small.

One day, I came close.

I was 12 years old. I don’t quite remember what the argument was about or how it started because I completely blacked out. All I remembered was my brother and I at each other’s throats, a very common theme for siblings. Only this time he said something to me that ignited the wildfire. Next thing I remembered was him pinning me against the refrigerator after I threatened to take his life as well as my own. I remember my skin feeling hot to the touch and my face was numb from screaming. As I yelled, it felt as though my vocal cords were ripping apart. After calming down, all I could do is sob. Later that night, my brother told my parents what happened. I went to my school’s guidance counselor the next day.

I talked to him for a good hour about the outburst. It was insightful, but by no means was it a solution for my problem with anger. I tend to reject advice from people because I don’t like doing things unless it was my idea. I knew I had to find my own solution.

It came to me naturally. I was always fascinated by music. The way notes and sounds seemingly fit together like puzzle pieces. It was calming. When I listened to music, I would hear the melody first. Then I’d hear the individual instruments working together to create something wholesome. I’d even hear the ambient noises deep in the mix before I ever heard the lyrics. They were always last to hit my eardrums.

Don’t get me wrong, lyrics are important. But without emotion, the lyrics fall flat. For me, the most important lyrics came from Chester Bennington. His lyrics resonated with me because he poured his heart and soul out with his voice. When I listened to him I could see his voice materializing into a raging fire much like the fire within me. It moved me. He was my hero. I fell in love with Linkin Park’s music from day one. I would close my bedroom door and blast their music on repeat. I would never get tired of it. Instead of exploding in a situation that made me feel angry, I’d keep quiet then go listen to Linkin Park. Chester did the screaming for me.

This method helped my problems, but still wasn’t enough. My fingers twitched when someone yelled at me. A nervous tick was keeping me from doing something stupid. I needed something more active to get my frustrations out.

My friends and I jokingly talked about starting a band. A couple months later we filled our homes with ear-splitting chaos. My first instrument was a bass guitar. After learning the basics, I began dabbling around with a six string guitar and decided to ditch the bass. I was hooked. I’d spend hours in my room strumming away at my cheap, fake Gibson Les Paul. Eventually I became pretty decent at it, but I needed more.

My friend Casey was the drummer in our band. We had countless jam sessions, him and me. I remember thinking as I watched him play, “that’s got to be so much fun.” So I asked him to show me something simple on the drums and from there, I realized what this could do for me. Sitting behind the kit is like sitting on the Iron Throne in Game of Thrones. I felt empowered. I could hit the drums as hard as I want and no one gets hurt. It was the perfect solution for my anger. My control over anger began to emerge and the war inside me began to fade. Whenever I felt my blood boiling I’d simply think to myself, “I get to go play music after this,” and the infuriation would dissipate.

I am not perfect though. Nobody is. There are times when my anger gets the best of me and I still spiral out a little. The shoe sized dent in my car can attest to that. My control over anger is significantly better than it ever was. I’m level-headed 99.99 percent of the time and with little effort, I can bring myself down from things that amp me up. It helps knowing there is something I can do without taking medication to ease my mind. Medication has always been a last resort for me. If there’s a solution out there without the use of drugs, I will find it.

Music isn’t the answer for everyone. I didn’t write this to say it is the perfect solution for people with similar problems. I do want people who suffer from the same issues to know there is always something you can do. You just have to find it. I hope you find it soon.