I debated on whether to post this particular blog; the subject matter is dark, my opinions will probably be misconstrued as selfish, but in the end…it doesn’t even matter.
My heart is heavy by the recent passing of Chester Bennington, lead vocalist for Linkin Park. Chester is a lyrical mastermind in my opinion and the fact he committed suicide is not only bothersome, but also poetic justice for his lyrics. I am not here to glamourize suicide by any means. But lately that seems to be the go-to for those suffering from depression. Suicide is robbing our world of some of the most talented artists. The first to come to my mind is Kurt Cobain (but I know musician suicides go back further than 1994). But more recently suicide has taken two of my favorite male vocals – Chris Cornell and now Chester Bennington. My Gent said last night, “I thought everyone wanted to be a rock star…” yet here we are in the aftermath of losing another artist to suicide.
Depression is no joke. Depression is more than “being sad.” I know because I’ve been there. I didn’t commit suicide – obviously – but I did find my rock bottom of my depression. And while it wasn’t on the same level as suicide, it was enough for me. But I am not here to go into detail about it. I am here to tell you about why Chester’s passing feels personal to me.
In my late teens and early adult years (roughly 2000 – 2005), I suffered from depression. I am thankful and proud to say I eventually overcame it. During my battle with depression I mostly felt that no one understood what I was feeling or what I was thinking, but to the credit of those closest to me (at that time and still) I didn’t exactly vocalize it. I didn’t understand it myself sometimes and I was afraid of admitting it out loud. Linkin Park released Hybrid Theory in 2000, at the onset of my depression. It is 100% cliché, but it’s the truth…it saved me. Music has always been – and will forever be –my therapeutic escape. Someone people hear the music, but I hear (and feel) the lyrics first. Chester’s lyrics understood me. They clarified what I was feeling and what I was thinking. I didn’t feel alone after listening to Paper Cut, Crawling, and In the End. These songs are catchy, sure, but they are anything but sunny. And oddly, that’s what I needed at that time. I needed to know that I wasn’t the only person feeling/thinking what I was and more importantly the lyrics seemed to speak what I was too afraid to say. Over the years, Linkin Park grew in popularity and released several more songs that I related to. I admired Chester. I related to his lyrics, I felt connected by them, I felt comforted, and I held their meanings close. I am not trying to compare my depression to his, because his life story is much different than mine, I get that. But those songs seemed to be my inner dialogue set to rhythm. They made me feel…better, stronger even.
If you know about Chester’s past, his committing suicide doesn’t seem so shocking. His younger years were trying, horrific, unimaginable, and for lack of better word, depressing. He also used music as an escape, like a lot of people do. But his decision to end his life leaves me feeling angry…with him, at the situation, all of it. I am angry with him because for the last 17 years I heard a side of him that seemed so strong. I am angry because he gave up the fight, like he was lying, like he was his own worst enemy. I am angry at the situation because what he feared the most eventual captured him. But I am mostly heartbroken that he felt taking his life was the only solution. He affected and inspired millions of people, yet he felt not a single person could save him in return. It breaks my music-loving, lyric-beating heart. As he would say, I’ve become so numb.
I won’t pretend to understand what goes through the minds of those contemplating suicide or even Chester’s mind. Again, I realize I did not personally know Chester Bennington or Chris Cornell or even Kurt Cobain. But I knew their music and music is a large part of me. A musician is just that, they make music. But a true artist pours his/her heart and soul into every song, and to quote the legendary Johnny Cash’s first producer, “that’s the kind of music that truly saves people.” That’s what Chester was to me. So Chester, thank you. Thank you for the music. I only wish I could have helped you the way you helped me and countless others. May your heavy soul finally rest in peace.
I couldn’t help Chester, but maybe I can help someone else. I urge anyone contemplating suicide to please, please, please reconsider. You are not alone. You are not misunderstood. You are not forgotten. Your life matters. Below is the number to a suicide prevention hotline. Please call. 1-800-273-8255. Because in the end, it really does matter.
To those battling depression, whether your inner demons are big or small, ask for help. Depression doesn’t define you, and it doesn’t have to consume you.