Opinion

I was lost, uncomfortable in my own skin and using drugs to escape – until music saved my life

Kxllswxtch struggled to cope with depression and anger until he discovered music

Kxllswxtch

Kxllswxtch. Photo credit: Xavierluggage

My name is Jonathan Whitmer, but more commonly known as Kxllswxtch. My music is usually categorised as very aggressive rap or melancholic singing, which is a reflection of all the violence and abandonment I felt as an adolescent. Growing up in an unsteady environment, I lived in Anaheim but also lived in cities around southern California such as Buena Park and Cypress.

My parents got divorced when I was six years old, after physically and verbally fighting from as far back that I could remember. For six years, my two sisters and I lived with our mom until I reached the age of 12. The trajectory of our family took a turn when she faced legal troubles – met with a restraining order imposed by court which ultimately led to our separation. With the idea of foster care looming, as staying with her became impossible and our dad was in and out of jail, fortunately, we found a lifeline in the form of our grandparents who took us in.

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After I moved in with my grandparents, I used a variety of things to cope with my depression and anger such as violence, drugs and music. I began to stay away from home as much as possible, resulting in me staying over at friends houses, sleeping at parks and breaking into abandoned houses to sleep and hang because I didn’t want to go home.

I felt lost and uncomfortable in my own skin.

I started drinking, smoking and taking pills when I was 11 but when I started living with my Grandma at the age of 12 – everything got worse. I ended up getting in a lot of fights because of my temper and pent-up aggression which led me to get arrested and locked up for two months with house arrest and probation at the age of 15.

I was facing years in juvenile hall being charged with multiple counts of assault with a deadly weapon and great bodily injury which were all felonies – but I was able to get them dropped down to a misdemeanour of assault and battery. I had managed to get out, and realised I didn’t want to keep going down this road. That is when I started using music as my scapegoat. Writing poems, finding beats on YouTube and writing songs to them, etc.

Music was becoming my saviour.

I came across a friend that had recording equipment and they let me record. I fell in love with the process of making music instantly. It just took my mind off everything, got all my emotions out and let me live in the moment. I was keeping my mind occupied with recording instead of always thinking of the past.

I was still using drugs at the time, which caught up to me by the age of 19. I was snorting 10-15 fentanyl laced oxycodone pills a day. I checked myself into a rehab when it dawned on me that I was going to end up either dead or in jail due to my addiction. I knew I had a lot more to live for, things such as my little sister, who I was determined I didn’t want to be like me when she grew up. My music career was also starting to pick up pace, so I couldn’t continue down this road.

‌I got out and shut myself from all outside contact because of how depressed and anxious the withdrawals made me. This made me focus more on my music than ever to get my mind off everything. Putting my emotions into words also helped me understand myself and the situation I was in. It felt like therapy to bring my thoughts to life and express my raw emotions on an instrument.

I didn’t expect for music to take me this far, it just became a force of habit writing songs every day to get things off my mind. Songwriting had also become like a diary for me. Today, I still use everything from my past to shape my career. I used my past to my advantage through music instead of dreading over it and latching on to those memories negatively.

Dealing with depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder is always going to be a struggle for the rest of my life, but as long as I get to make my music it’ll be a lot easier than suffering with everything pent up inside me. Even so, I’m thankful I endured all the pain I did because it made me a better, stronger, more empathetic person, a more talented artist and best of all… let me be a part of a community and fan base that can relate to the troubles I went through.

Kxllswxtch’s The Walls Have Eyes Tour begins in 2024. Click here to follow on X or Instagram.

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