Thank You, Chester Bennington
There’s something different about the death of Chester Bennington that hit me closer to home then any other passing of a celebrity or someone I’ve lost personally.
I grew up loving Counting Crows and Alanis Morissette. I would willingly turn off Britney Spears because when I had the opportunity to hear Adam Duritz sing about past pains, it felt more appealing to me. Alanis complained about men, but in a real way — a way that, as an adult, I now see what she means. Linkin Park was among the bands I would willingly turn up on my boombox over any other artist. Chester Bennington’s voice was able to communicate to me a pain I didn’t even know reasons for.
“Numb” was my high school theme song. “My December” gave me hope. “Crawling” helped me when I felt helpless. “In the End” made me feel peace, especially when I tried to learn to play it on the piano. As a middle schooler, to be able to understand a man talking about hiding himself, his memories and how he was constantly trying, and nothing about progress mattered – mattered to me. It made me feel less alone. I painted to “Hybrid Theory,” seeing colors I couldn’t without it playing in my headphones. I drew to “Meteora,” when things inside of me could only come out on paper. I don’t even know how I learned about suicide… but as a suicidal teenager, Chester kept me alive.
His ability to take the human language and create three to four minute stories I could hear and feel deep in my heart and mind while I was completely numbed by medication, made me appreciate who he was. Who his band was. It made me appreciate the misunderstood stories he was trying to tell the world. The struggles he went through himself I was completely unaware of. We didn’t get information nearly as fast as we do now, so knowing any history about Chester Bennington wasn’t available to me.
I wasn’t vocal about loving Linkin Park for a really long time… there was a certain mold you had to fit to like certain music where I grew up. I already had enough of a hard time trying to fit in and be accepted in high school. I kept my love for Linkin Park and harder bands under wraps for years. I would secretly overplay “Numb” until my CD was scratched up in my disc-man. Why did I understand and relate to his lyrics as a 15 year old? As an adult now, and seeing what is possible in this life, I’ve been in pain for a very long time like Chester. I’ve thankfully been able to keep myself going with the help of major key players of loving family and friends. At the end of the day, I really did want to keep going. I didn’t want the pain, I didn’t want the suicide. I wanted to live. Chester made it possible by allowing me to feel less alone for a few minutes.
Unable to grasp emotions as a teenager, with the added intensity of other kid’s energies, bullying, physical acceptance issues and being unable to find the right groups of friends, I struggled. Fear felt safe, because it’s all I ever knew. I experienced verbal abuse from friends, a boyfriend and classmates. I fell a lot, unable to figure out how to find myself again after my walls closed in. It was too much pressure to take. I felt that way so many times before – so insecure.
Chester spoke those words to me as I lived them. I understood. My reality was confusing, and without proper care, it became too much pressure to try and fight so suicide became the only option. So I attempted, more times than anyone on this planet knows. I am the only one who knows. I was ashamed. I was scared. I was sad. I was emotionally drained as a 16-year-old. I didn’t want to keep trying to figure out what was real anymore. So I spent my days trying to never wake up again. Faking “life” became my reality.
Chester Bennington sang about confusion a lot. Wondering, searching, questioning everything, Nothing seemed to fit, nothing seemed to relieve the tension. He turned to self-medication, and so did I. Alcohol made me forget. It allowed me to negate fixing anything even when I wanted it fixed. Imagine being exhausted from life so early on from barely even living a life; wondering why nothing made sense, why nothing helped, but you knew something was internally wrong. That’s not a life. Nothing ever went the way my insides told me I needed it to go. So I felt drained by even trying. A hospital stay, medication after medication, doctors over medicating me, another unhealthy relationship, strenuous friendships, abusive environment after abusive environment – I never healed. I continued to fight on, unseeing, without an emotional mindset most healthy individuals were given during a time when I would just battle myself.
My 20s were beyond a learning experience. Failing 95 percent more than I succeeded. Financial problems, unstable relationships and dating situations, unable to stay in one place for more than two years, aiming to keep myself healthy, but justifying my drinking with the pain I felt on a constant basis. Failure after failure, job after job, losing relationships, losing my mind and almost losing the entire fight. Each time I fell, I wanted to find a way to heal. I wanted to feel, and I wanted to let go of the pain I felt for so long. But again, I would capsize from failure with every attempt to heal. I went into defense mode for over three years which was followed by unemployment and the feeling of being a constant drain – all while being told I’m a gracious, humble, beautiful, kind, successful, genuine person.
I could never believe anything that people would tell me was true. I spent over a decade of my life battling illnesses that needed care I didn’t have access to. The talent is there. The willingness is there. The ability to be the best that I can be is there. Just like it clearly was with Chester. But when something consumes you like sadness, hate, anger, frustration, instability – it’s all too real to even want to stay afloat anymore. You question what’s worth it. You wonder why you can’t stop the bad habits. You question the words you say when you don’t mean them. Options become smaller and smaller, and the reality of breaking becomes more in reach.
When you get to a “rock bottom,” you wonder if there is even an up anymore. You wonder if you’re strong enough to even reach for it. You’re questioning your strength, and you beat yourself even further down because the fight that everyone tells you to have in is completely nonexistent. Yet somehow you get up off the bathroom floor, and try again. You judge yourself that you even got to the bottom of the room and it kills your mind. It forces a perception of yourself into your brain that you don’t even know is creating something permanent. You wonder why you got there, and yet you know exactly why – a sickness. An illness. Bad habits that can’t be broken because you don’t’ know how to break them. You try to catch your breath, and you’re hit with another wave of hate and neglect. And you’re back on the ground. Judgment overwhelms you, and you’re breaking again. The emotion becomes harder to fight. It’s telling you you’re the one at fault, and fighting isn’t worth it this time.
Chester Bennington gave me music and lyrics but I didn’t keep them with me during a really hard two years. Two years of autopilot and being someone everyone else told me I had to be. Everyone became so distant from me. Trust became a myth. My thoughts became heavier every time I tried to get back up. It was out of my control and I was too tired. Too drained, too broken from the battles and the wars within. Not only was I feeling this, but it seems he was too.
Their album release of “One More Light” was a note to all. His pain was too real and he couldn’t escape. I discovered “One More Light” before he left this earth, and it felt like we connected again just like we did in high school — his lyrics breathing hope into my mind, focusing on the idea that I’m not alone in these feelings, and so I chose to keep trying. Life was heavy for me for a long time, and it was for him too. Somehow, in the darkness, my mind was capable of finding a light and I feel the blessing within.
My life has not been my fault. That’s a heavy thing to say, but given the circumstances I now understand after over a decade of fighting to understand, it’s an actual reality. I now have something to believe in, when I spent over 20 years unable to believe in myself. I hope Chester was able to believe in his music like I did. His music and lyrics constantly reached out to me when I felt alone and unloved. His music allowed me to feel understood in a world that was forcing me to be misunderstood and feared. I felt and still feel his pain. I relate to his words daily, and I am saddened he wasn’t able to feel what I do now – pure care, constant recovery and a new peace. I keep his lyrics and his words in my memories, and I will leave out all the rest.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
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