Linkin Park, Mental Illness, Music and Therapy

Why I’m Grieving a Man I’ve Never Met

Disclaimer: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the NL 24 Hour Crisis Line at 1-888-7374668.

It took me a week to finally put words on paper.

It took me days to finally come to terms with the fact that one of my biggest role models and idols is gone. I spent several nights this week crying myself to sleep at the thought that I lost one of my favourite people to listen to on repeat.

Chester Bennington’s death struck me so hard I felt (and still feel) devastated.

In learning of his death, I was thrown right back to a time in my life where I too had contemplated taking my own life. Chester’s death brought back memories that I didn’t want to remember. Famous or not, when someone dies so tragically, it’s easy for my own hurt to resurface –  a painful reminder that it could have been me. I was physically and emotionally distressed Thursday evening. I had so much of my own pain wrecking havoc on my mind, and then trying to fully grasp that Chester had died, I honestly didn’t know what to do with myself. I spent hours curled up on my couch, crying hysterically because I was so upset.
And to some people, my feelings were taken as a joke. It’s not like I knew the man. It’s not like I ever got the chance to meet him or he even knew I existed – but all of that doesn’t matter. Whether you were a fan of Chester Bennington or not, the man took his own life. The man felt so desperate that he saw no other option except death. And as someone who has been down that road before, tell me how I am not supposed to be upset. Suicide is never a laughing matter – or a selfish one at that – and unless you experience that sort of desperation (which I would never wish on anyone!), you cannot begin to comprehend just how terrifying those moments are.

Because no matter the person or circumstance, suicide is this – brutal and tragic. I’ve been there. I have done things to myself that could have put be six feet under. Regardless, Chester’s death would have upset me anyway. I had been a die-hard fan for years, but as a person who has talked about his own struggles with addiction and depression (through childhood abuse of his own), it is always devastating to learn that someone had lost their fight. For me, it will always be painful when someone choses to take their own life. The man was not selfish, but to die by your own hands, that sort of pain always resonates deep inside me. I’ve been there, and it’s a painful reminder, and I will not justify the hurt I feel for him.

(And to the few good friends who did reach out to me Thursday to check on me, I truly do appreciate you!)

I had and will always be a Linkin Park fan.

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Like many people my own age, I discovered Linkin Park in middle school. I was a young kid trying to comprehend my own abusive situation, and one day will hiding in my room, I saw the music video for “Numb” for the first time. And in that moment, everything seemed to click. That’s exactly how I feel! If it wasn’t for Linkin Park, I don’t think I would have been able to put my true feelings into words –  at least not for a very long time.

My best friend at the time had their cd Meteora and I asked if I could borrow it. I spent hours curled up on my bed, blaring that cd through my walkman. (Yes, iPods weren’t around at the time). In some way, every song on that album spoke to me. It took all the hurt and pain I was feeling and put it into words. It described to me the anger, the sadness, and everything in between.

With one song, I was an instant fan.

And I didn’t care if no one else liked Linkin Park. I knew maybe four people who liked their music. Even my parents didn’t understand it at the time. My sister got in trouble to listening to Eminem, I got in trouble to listening to a singer screaming at the top of his lungs. And even if I resorted to stashing their CDs under my bed, I didn’t care if I was the only one that liked their music. I was a fan and nothing was going to change that.

Instead of putting up posters of Justin Timberlake or The Backstreet Boys, I was putting up pictures of Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda. In art class, I was drawing pictures of Linkin Park. I was constantly scribbling their lyrics in the corners of my exercise books in class, and at one point I seriously contemplated getting the Linkin Park logo tattooed on my body (because I am, and will always be, that die-hard fan). I had watched every possible video on MuchMusic and MTV that involved them. I saw every interview, and even learned all their birthdays. (Yes, I was an obsessed thirteen year-old).

But as my own childhood abuse raged on, music was the only thing I truly found comfort in. My family was oblivious to what was happening, my friends didn’t believe me when I told them the things my father was doing, and I was terrified of my teachers finding out the truth. I was isolated for a long time, and in those dark moments, the only comfort I had was Linkin Park’s music. Whether it was sobbing uncontrollably to “Easier to Run” or screaming into my pillow, rapping out Shindoa’s hard lyrics to “Figure 0.9”, their music was the only therapy I had at the time.

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Iridescent – Linkin Park (Transformers 3)

But despite all the hurt I felt, I was always pumped every time they put out a brand new cd, and you can only imagine how excited I was when Linkin Park was contracted to produce music for the Transformers movie franchise. I had my friends drove nuts with how often I talked about Linkin Park and their music. At the end of the day, I was LP obsessed. Even when I moved away to go to university, it actually shocked people how much I loved – and listened to – Linkin Park. I was a quiet, cute, tiny person – so I guess to catch me screaming LP lyrics at the top of my lungs in the shower was a bit shocking – and probably alarming.

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Best 19th Birthday gift ever thanks to my parents. ❤

But I could go on and on about Linkin Park and the impact they had on my life. If you even mentioned the band or any of its members around me, my closest friends would whisper, “Oh shit!” under their breath because I could rant for hours without a single care in the world.

So when LP released their album One More Light this past May, I was probably one of the first to have clicked the pre-order button, and when the song “Heavy” was released, I was floored with how much the song resonated with me. (Just check out my blog post Why I Can’t Stop Listening to Linkin Park’s New Song “Heavy”).

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Heavy  – Linkin Park ft. Kiiara

2016 was a rough year for me. In April I was so depressed I had contemplated suicide on several occasions. It was the worst PTSD depressive episode I have had in almost six years, and it took almost a full year to sort through the mess my head had created. I struggled for weeks on end to come to term with how desperate my thoughts were. I poured countless hours into journalling and writing because I didn’t truly know how to express that guilt. Then a year later, along came “Heavy” and I immediately felt comfort. Linkin Park did it again! I thought to myself. Another album that perfectly described everything I was going through.

And in a terrible sense of irony, only two months after One More Light was released, Chester Bennington took his own life.

My fiancé was the first to inform of the news. I simple text that popped up on my phone that said: “I’m sorry babe.” All the news reports started rolling in, fans starting grieving over social media, and I sat on my couch, bawling my eyes out as my heart weighed heavy in my chest. It was a terrible day. It’s still terrible.

And much like other people like me, those past moments come back and your stuck in a mindset of battling your own mortality. To see a man who had overcome his own dark past, and struggle with the aftermath, finally lose his fight – it hurts beyond words. Many of the songs on One More Light depict these dark struggles, but they are songs that give a message of hope despite all the pain.

But maybe that’s part of the reason it hurts so much. It was more than just being a crazy, die-hard fan. It was the fact that he also was going through an unimaginable pain. As someone who has found comfort in his words, it’s easy to forget that the person writing those lyrics was experiencing the same type of pain. Whether writing music was therapeutic for him or not, he was struggling. He had demons that were fighting against him, and despite the hopefully message that One More Light delivers, for Chester, maybe it wasn’t enough.

Sometimes people who are battling mental health issues don’t always win, and tragically, many of us lose the fight too early. Maybe that’s why, for someone like me, it hurts the most. Despite all the warnings, despite all the efforts, sometimes we don’t win. That could have been me. That could still potentially be me, and it’s such a dark thought to process. It’s not even a matter of dying, it’s a matter of feeling so isolated and alone, feeling so desperate and out of control, that death seems to be the only option. No one should ever have to feel that way, but it happens, and it’s devastating.

Yet, despite the pain of his passing, I am also reminding myself of the reasons I was a fan.  Looking back, Chester was the reason I fell in love with Linkin Park. Watching that spiky blonde-haired guy with flaming tattoos on his arms screaming at the top of his lungs, singing about raw emotions – that’s what made me fall in love with them. Despite his painful past, he wore his heart on his sleeve and allowed millions of fans to see the demons of his past. He was a person that reminded all of us that despite everything, we are not alone, that it’s ok to feel the way we do. His lyrics taught me that I didn’t have to be ashamed of my scars, and I didn’t have to apologize for the anger I felt about what I went through. A free-spirited person who would dance around stage and jump into the audience, he brought thousands of us together. Not many people in this world have the power to do that. Not many people have the ability to help change lives and make a difference, and whether Chester was fully aware of it or not, he saved so many of us. His music might have been the healing factor someone needed to get help or to reconsider living. He changed lives. He made a difference.

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Chester did all of that – and then some – for me. His music pulled me through the darkest moments of my life, and I’ll be truly grateful for him for the rest of my days. It was more than just being a super fan. Sometimes you have to look beyond the obsession and look at the person. He’s a man I never knew personally, but through his lyrics, I understood his pain.

And even now I feel that this post doesn’t do him justice. Even now, I feel like my words are failing because there really is no simple way to explain how Linkin Park’s music has changed my life. I had so much love and respect for a person I never even met. Above all else, I wish that he was still here, and I could give anything to stop this from happening. But the best I can do now is hope that he has found peace. Despite the tragedy of his death, I will eventually find comfort in knowing he’s not hurting anymore.

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Leave Out All the Rest – Linkin Park

The best I can do now is try to accept my own grief and move forward. Is it hard for me to think that Linkin Park might be no more? Of course, but nothing can change the way Chester had impacted my life. I owe a great deal of gratitude to a man I never met, but forever I will remember how he helped change my life – and at moments, helped save me.

So, who cares if one more light goes out?

Well I do.

Photos courtesy of #RIPChester (Linkin Park’s website).

1 thought on “Why I’m Grieving a Man I’ve Never Met”

  1. I’ve gone over this event so many times in my head since I first heard the news. I was in denial at first—it had to be one of those rumors that some cranky basement dweller started on Wikipedia and the media firestorm exacerbated until—surprise!—the “dead” person pops in on social media and says “Nope, I’m still here, thanks for asking.”

    But when that moment never came, denial turned to shock. No basement dweller rumors, no “fake news” announcements. Shock turned to anger and confusion. And then finally, inexplicable Loneliness with her twin sisters, Fear and Desperation, side-by-side.

    And like you, nobody in my immediate world understood why I took Chester’s death so hard. Nobody shared the teenage comfort found in the anthems of “Somewhere I Belong” or “Runaway.” Nobody shared the hope that came from emerging from the dark period of my life. And nobody understood why I could love somebody I never met, be so wounded by a death.

    But now you. You put it in words. You did for me what Chester did for both of us. You brought forth meaning and understanding where no words could be summoned from within me.

    Thank you.

    Like

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