What Chester Bennington's Legacy Means to Me as Someone With Depression
Anybody who knows me knows that music is a big part of my life. But it hasn’t always been that way. Growing up, the only music I heard was the country radio station my parents listened to. It wasn’t until the 7th grade that I started exploring other genres of music and listening to the popular music of my generation. Linkin Park’s album, “Minutes to Midnight” was released around this time and really struck a cord with me. After all, it was during my middle school/puberty years. I quickly fell in love with Linkin Park. Their music has been a staple of my music library ever since. That is why I am stricken with sadness by the death of the band’s lead vocalist Chester Bennington. Linkin Park is one of my two favorite bands. They are the band I go back to when I don’t know what else to listen to. Their music has always resonated with me and I never thought about why, until today. I realized it’s more than just liking the sound of the music and the rage speaking to a hormonal teenage version of myself — there’s actually a big part of me that relates to much of their music. As I remember the life of Chester, I want to look more closely at what it is about the music of Linkin Park that I see myself in and what messages are present in their work.
As I examine Linkin Park’s career that expand seven studio albums, I start to recognize a common theme among many of the songs: vulnerability. So many of their songs resonate with millions of fans because they are real. Through the years, and to many listeners dismay, Linkin Park has adopted many different sounds and explored different musical styles, but one thing has never changed: they have always been themselves. When you look at their music, it’s easy to see how they draw from their own lives. So many of their songs are about pain, addiction, regret, resentment and wrestling with personal demons. Linkin Park has always been honest in their lyrics. Chester Bennington was open about his struggle with substance abuse. It was something that haunted him for many years. There are examples of this in lyrics from Linkin Park’s first studio album in 2000 to their most recent one that released in May 2017. You can hear his struggle with addiction and trying to recover in Chester’s lyrics for almost two decades.
In the song “Heavy,” Linkin Park’s second to last single, Chester begins the song with the chilling words, “I don’t like my mind right now” and in the chorus he sings, “I’m holding on, why is everything so heavy? Holding on, so much more than I can carry. I keep dragging around what’s bringing me down. If I just let go, I’d be set free.” Those word chill me to my core. In the music video for the song, Chester literally fights with himself. I relate to many of Linkin Park’s songs, but this song really hits home for me. As someone who has also battled depression, I know what it feels like to be your own worst enemy (also lyrics from a different song). I know what it feels like to not be able to trust your own mind, like the world is out to get you. I know what it feels like to be carrying around so much of your own baggage, like everything is so heavy. It’s the worst feeling in the world.
I talk about my own past to be open. For any of my friends and family reading this, I want you to know I am OK. I have fought the dark stages of depression and won. But there are still so many people struggling and having the same battles right now. If you are one of those people reading this, I am writing to let you know you are not alone and there is hope. It may not seem like things will ever get better, but they will. I want you to know I love you, even if I don’t know you. So often we have to put on a fake face and pretend everything is OK, but I want to say it’s OK to not be OK. Depression can hit many people with varying levels of severity, but what’s important to remember is there is hope. Don’t give up. Don’t let it win, you can beat it.
I also want to point out depression can affect someone more than once. I say I am recovered, and from the severe portion of it I am, but I still have my moments. I still have those days when I feel hopeless, when I want to quit trying, when it’s easier to do nothing than try to fight it. I say this not because I want anyone’s pity. My hope is no one loses their fight against depression again. I want to shed light on what depression is and how we can help those who struggle with it. I think being open about it is a start. It is not abnormal to have depression and it can happen to anybody. It does not mean you are weak — if anything, you are stronger because of your fight against it.
If someone tells you they are depressed, please take them seriously. It is so difficult to open up to someone. Sometimes we might try to open up just a little bit by saying something relatively small about our situation, and if you don’t take them seriously, they might not want to open up again. There is beauty in vulnerability, Chester showed us that. Everyone has emotions for a reason. They keep us alive, they are what make us human. As much as I hate my depression, it is a part of my story, but I no longer let it control me.
Chester Bennington’s legacy lives on. His words have touched me as they have touched so many other people. I chose to remember him as inspiring. He was always unapologetically himself and that reflected in his music. I think he was an extremely talented vocalist and songwriter. Most importantly to me, he was honest. I want to end with words from my favorite Linkin Park song, “Leave Out All The Rest”:
When my time comes,
Forget the wrong that I’ve done.
Help me leave behind some
Reasons to be missed.
And don’t resent me,
And when you’re feeling empty,
Keep me in your memory.
Leave out all the rest,
Leave out all the rest.
You will be greatly missed and always in my memory, Chester. Thank you for everything.
Follow this journey on Thoughts by Preston.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
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Photo via Linkin Park Facebook page.