How Chester Bennington Is Still Saving Me as Someone With Mental Illness
I know people don’t get it. I see the side-eyed looks, and I see the patronizing smiles.
“Why has it upset you this much?” I hear them silently wonder. I didn’t know him, after all – what was he really? A singer in a band I liked?
But to so many of us, Chester Bennington was so much more than that. He was eloquence, and light, and hope personified. When we were children, teenagers, adults, who didn’t understand why we felt the way we did — why our minds worked the way they did, why it hurt so much in ways other people didn’t want to know about — his voice brought to us the embodiment of everything we felt but couldn’t articulate.
Before social media took off, before people talked about mental health openly… for perhaps the first time, we were not alone. Other people out there struggled too. A lot of them, as it transpired. He brought us music, he brought us community and he brought us acceptance.
Most importantly, to me, he brought me hope.
Here was a man who had suffered so much, who still suffered, who had triumphed over his addictions and mental ill health to become a hero to millions around the world. He taught me it could be done — that our journey was not predetermined. When I thought I wouldn’t, couldn’t possibly, get out alive, his voice told me there was hope.
So when he died as he did, it hurt more than I think people on the outside looking in could ever hope to understand. I mourned for him, but I also mourned for myself and for that hope. It confirmed, to me, every single one of my worst fears — that this was my end, too. That it is inevitable. Nothing I can do will ever let me outrun it; sooner or later it will catch up to me. In my darkest moments, I still believe that, and I wish I didn’t.
Chester Bennington was my hero, an insuppressible bright light in this world; maybe it was unfair of me, of us, to pin so much on Chester. We hear these people — people who we hold up as so much more than us — sing about things that feel so deeply personal, sometimes we forget they are people like us, and we don’t own any part of them, even when they give us so much of their soul in the way Chester did. People who are so open about their mental health, people who tell you when they are low, people with a “good” life and a loving support network aren’t “supposed” to go like this; it feels like life reneged on some unspoken deal.
The loss of Chester devastated a community, but it also brought out the best in us. I have seen so much goodness in the past year. Strangers who feel like family, bonded in the same strange grief that nobody understands, lifting each other in the darkness. That is Chester’s legacy. That is my new source of hope.
Chester saved me before I even knew what it was I needed saving from. He gave me a past, a present and a future, and I know I’m not alone in that. There are likely hundreds, maybe thousands of people who exist today because of Chester Bennington, and those like him.
I think someone like Chester Bennington creates ripples of change that never truly leave us; they create a permanent mark on the world. He saved me then and he’ll keep on saving me. In every song, in every kindness shown to one another, in every advancement in mental health awareness, he’ll continue to save those of us who sometimes need a hero.
If you are struggling, know you are never alone. There is always hope, if you can just hold on long enough to see it.
Image via Linkin Park YouTube.