What #MakeChesterProud Means to Me as Someone With Mental Illness

It’s an odd feeling when someone you idolized but didn’t really know dies by suicide.

I will be honest, I have avoided all things Linkin Park for months unless I was in total control of it. I’ve cried when Linkin Park songs came on in clubs, I’ve shut Facebook when a news story about Chester appeared, because it was too much to deal with. I have just recently watched the memorial gig on Youtube, after Mike Shinoda released his EP, “Post Traumatic.” When Chester died, it felt like hope had died with him. It has taken me a while, but I finally see how wrong that is.

Chester was always open about his mental health and his struggles, but he still managed to be someone who prioritized peoples’ joy and well-being. When I met him in 2014 in London for “The Hunting Party” album launch, he was running late for an interview. People were trying to usher him out of the building as soon as he had finished the Q&A session, but he made time to take pictures with everyone, give out autographs and then go around the room talking to each of us personally. He wanted to talk to us, not at us, about the album. Not out of some sense of ego, where he wanted to hear our compliments, but because he genuinely, earnestly wanted to see if we enjoyed it and to share that with us. That was Chester Bennington.

A man so humble I remember reading an interview where he was confused at the idea he shouldn’t wait in line at Starbucks. A man who knew the power of spreading joy to others even during times a dark cloud hung over him. A man who turned his fame into a driving force for good through charity and positivity, when he could have done nothing. A man who never took his fans for granted and wanted each person to feel acknowledged. A man who wanted us to be able to talk freely and openly about mental health.

When we think of making Chester proud, it is these ideals we need to uphold. You don’t need to donate money or volunteer time to continue his legacy. Every time you ask a friend how they are and listen, you are making Chester proud. When you let yourself feel happy after a long struggle, or forgive yourself for making mistakes, you are making Chester proud. When you give yourself a break because you feel it all starting to get too much, when you take time for self-care, you are making Chester proud. When you are kind to others and kind to yourself, you are making Chester proud. When you reach out to a friend for help or see a doctor, you are making Chester proud. One small action at a time, we can change the way we look at mental health, and how we all treat ourselves and others. To me, #MakeChesterProud is about hope in the midst of great darkness.

“The one thing can’t be defeated is love.”

Together we can change how we collectively look at mental illness, and how we treat those around us.

Image via Linkin Park Facebook page

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