096: Black Sheep

Content warning: The following post contains references to bullying, self-harm, depression, and anxiety, which may be triggering for some readers.

“Black Sheep,” Zack Scheibner

Ever since I was old enough to speak, I have been tormented, publicly ridiculed, and laughed at. For some awful reason, I developed a speech impediment at a very young age, and 24 years into my life later, it hasn't gotten even remotely better. 

Ever since then, I have experienced emotionally the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows. The first time in my life that I remember it being a problem was the 4th grade. My nickname was "Professor Quirrell", the professor in Harry Potter that infamously stuttered. Little did I know that this would affect me for the rest of my life to this point.

I am just like most every other decent citizen of the world; I try to be the kindest I can be to everyone, and I accept everyone for who they are. While growing up, it felt like nobody understood me (speech impediments like mine weren't exactly common), and I felt like an outcast from the rest of society. The lowest point that I reached was in the 9th grade, I would get thrown into a garbage can at my high school literally every single day. I just learned to try to accept it.

After the 9th grade, I moved to Redmond, OR which people were a LOT more accepting of me, despite my faults. It was a breath of fresh of air. From an outside look, I had no more excuses to be as self-conscious as I was about my speech. 

I kept thinking, "Wow..everyone is so nice here. Why does my speech keep slipping up?" While the overall experience was positive, it felt like I was constantly afraid of getting bullied or teased again. My speech continued to affect my way of thinking. It was taking over my mind.

I have had many highs in my life--I graduated high school and college, I have fallen in and out of love, and I've gotten to see and experience many cool things, but only one thing in my life stayed constant, and that was music. Ever since high school, music has spoken to me in ways that nothing else could. 

For 20 years, I have been at war with my brain. To the day that I type this, every single day is an individual battle, and I'm afraid that at some point, my brain is going to win. 

In the 9th grade (in the midst of all of the bullying and being trash-canned), I started to cut myself. It was nothing serious--suicide never crossed my mind. I just felt that experiencing physical pain would make me much better off than the mental pain that I have been experiencing every day of my life. I continued to do this until I discovered August Burns Red.

I am a huge fan of modern metal music, and August Burns Red is the only group that I have been able to relate to, and they have helped me through the entire process.

In August Burns Red's "Black Sheep", the lyrics state: "Pain must exist in order for healing to survive, neither one will serve their purpose alone". This message has stuck with me for a very long time. 

There hasn't been a day in 20 years where I haven't been completely humiliated by my speech. It is mentally taxing and has taken its tole on my anxiety.  My speech gets worse because of my anxiety..my anxiety is worse because I'm afraid my speech is going to slip up. 

It is an endless cycle every single day, but those lyrics from August Burns Red have helped me get through a lot of the struggle. If you are experiencing something along any of these lines, I can honestly say that you need to do literally what EVER makes you happy. I have come to terms that my speech impediment may never go away, but as long as I continue to enjoy life in every way I can and enjoy the company around me who accepts me for who I am, it will just make it more and more tolerable.

As August Burns Red also said in "Composure", "Life can be overwhelming, but don't turn your back on the strongest crutch you've ever had". 

For me, this crutch is happiness through friendship, music, and overall positive life experiences.

Every single day, I think about where I would possibly be in life if I would be able to speak normally. I have gotten very bad social anxiety because of all of this, and I am doing my absolute best every single day to combat this. I am terrified to speak publicly to people (including my friends), but in the end, I know that it's all going to be okay. 

I know that it's all going to be okay because without pain, there is no healing. I have learned that you can't ever reach an all time high if you haven't reached an all time low, first. 

Every single day, I think to myself, "Why do I do this? I know exactly what I want to say, but why can't I say it? And why do people tease me for it?"

Through pain, there is always recovery. August Burns Red taught me this, and this band is one of the main reasons that I'm able to stay afloat the way that I do. 

I could have chosen to give up at any point, but I have always chosen to keep fighting,

I am at war every single day with my mind, but I have found things in life that have made me happy, and I combat my social anxiety with personal happiness which has improved my life so much. Whenever I have doubts, I always think about those lyrics and what truly makes me happy, and that alone motivates me to just keep fighting.


About the art:

I actually met Zack during his first week as a first-year at Oregon State University. He was wearing an August Burns Red shirt, and since I was in a metal band, I made sure to introduce myself to him. We chatted a bit about music, and then connected on Facebook.

We would cross paths every now and again on the OSU campus and some shows, but never too much else. So when he reached out to share this story, I was pretty excited to see that he had something to share. But in reading his story, I hated to learn that he has struggled with some pretty painful experiences.

I wanted to do something outside of the norm for me for this project. So I went to doodle something for Zack. I went off of the album art for August Burns Red's album, Messengers, which contains both songs referenced above. The cover is pretty iconic in the metal scene these days, so it was cool to put my own spin on it.

I used a couple black pens to complete this piece and some watercolor reds to give it a splash of color. It was a lot of fun to explore with this drawing.

And interestingly enough, Zack initially reached out to share his story back in July. And i made this piece almost immediately since my drawings often take me FAR longer than my paintings do. But this one flowed so quickly and I got it done pretty fast. So he has had this piece of art for a couple of months already.

Incredibly thankful for having Zack's as our first story for the month of October. I hope it helps someone heal in some way. Thank you, Zack.

- Craig Bidiman.