On Chester Bennington and My Own Struggle With Depression

Last Thursday, news broke that Chester Bennington had died after taking his own life, following a lengthy, outspoken battle with depression.

The news shook fans across the globe, whose lives had been touched by Chester’s story, his voice, and the music he made with his bandmates.

This isn’t one of those essays where I’m going to write a beautiful write-up on how Linkin Park’s music had helped me survive my younger years, or the fact that he was outspoken about his mental health struggles had helped me go through my own, nor is it about Chester’s wonderfully iconic voice that we will all miss.

I was (I am) a fan, yes. But I never considered myself as someone who was their biggest fan — I certainly don’t feel like I’m going to be able to write anything remotely fair to how Linkin Park’s music changed lives, or how it changed mine.

For me, personally, tracks from “Minutes to Midnight” had a huge presence in my teenage years. I practically had “Bleed It Out” on replay for months, as I’m sure many of us do. Just listening to it these days brings back great memories, and I certainly can’t help but rock out to the song whenever it comes on.

That’s really about the extent to which I can write about the music that’s enriched the lives of many.

When news broke of Chester’s death, it was Friday morning where I live. It was the first thing I read on Twitter that day, as many people have taken to the platform to express their shock and grief.

In recent years, we’ve lost some truly great artists, musicians, public figures, whose diverse works and lives have touched many others as Chester did. I’ve seen an outpouring of grief being reflected in essays, articles and of course there were plenty who did the same when it comes to Chester.

For me, this is the first time I felt moved to write about what happened, as it was a gentle yet powerful reminder of a similar, albeit different, struggle I face myself.

The fact that he committed suicide sparked people’s emotions in different ways. It’s not difficult to miss that many people resorted to calling him a “coward” or “selfish” because he had left behind his kids, family, and friends.

These comments were just so bizarre that all it sparked in me was outrage. It shocked me, really, because I thought at this point we would be better informed on issues of mental health and the struggles that comes with it can drive people to a point of suicide. Call me naive, but I honestly thought that people were better than what I saw in those comments. Even if they weren’t as informed about mental health issues, the fact that they spent time to say such inconsiderate thoughts barely a day after news of his passing seemed incredibly heinous.

It really just points out two main things on first glance; 1) how severely closed-minded society are about issues of mental health 2) how digital literacy (or maybe decency is more accurate here) is still lacking even as people gain more access to today’s technology.

News of Chester’s death devastated me, and many of my friends. We didn’t discuss it — I’m not really sure why — but we sort of mentioned it, and just expressed our sadness a little bit.

Discovering that he had taken his own life, that he had been struggling with mental health (which I didn’t know prior), that he was Chester Bennington frontman of Linkin Park and the fact that I had just recently watched him as a guest on a talkshow and couldn’t get over his infectious spirit and friendship with Mike Shinoda, that Linkin Park just released a new album and they were about to go on tour — all this and more, it brought a surge of inexplicable emotions.

On Monday, Linkin Park released this statement:

I cried reading it, and I’m on the verge of tears just as I am quick-reading it now.

I can’t say I’ve been suicidal, but I’ve certainly thought about the idea of taking my own life. Perhaps this is inappropriate; but I’m glad that the idea of suicide was never compelling enough for me — maybe because I’m afraid of what religion say happens to those who commit suicide — but it doesn’t delude the fact that I have struggled with my fair share of depression, and sometimes it feels like nothing was a good enough reason to lift me out of that dark void.

Depression, I believe, happens differently for everyone. Some of us may not want to admit that we struggle with depression, most of us perhaps can’t find the right words to describe the surge of blues that seem to arrive without warning. But it’s impossible to generalize at all, though we can still derive a common thread from all our experiences (which sounds paradoxical, but I hope that still makes sense somewhat).

Earlier in the week that I learned of Chester’s death, I heard depression’s faint step on my front door. I have gone through a stressful time recently, and it was starting to feel like I’m losing ground. For whatever reason, it didn’t make its way indoor, and hopefully it won’t. Unfortunately, as those who’s been through depression knows, it’s still there, and it will always be there lurking somewhere, and that terrifies me.

When the days are hard, and I feel this baffling lethargy striking me in my very core and infecting all aspects of my life and being, I feel like giving up. I don’t think this always means suicide, but even the lack of willingness to get up in the morning and get on with life, is corrosive to one’s soul. This is a feeling I cannot describe, and I think I’m doing a shitty job trying at all; I sure hope I’m not butchering people’s experiences and struggles with my version of the story. (let me just gently remind you again that it can be different for everyone)

Talking about one’s experience seems like a natural thing to do, but we need to remember that in reality we usually don’t have even remotely adequate spaces to let out our emotions and thoughts. In spite of years of practice, I still lack ease when I talk about what I go through and I still feel insecurity for baring myself so raw even to a close friend. But damn, surely we must realize it’s just one of those things that every person must do in order to survive.

During my school years, I often tell friends to share their struggles and let them know that they have a listener in me. Those were the days when I let people vent as much as they need to, while I, myself, did not do the same to anyone else. It wasn’t healthy, I realized now, but I genuinely felt like it was damaging to keep it all in to yourself though I somehow only applied that principle to others and not I.

The contradiction didn’t miss me, even then. But I couldn’t bring myself to share. It was difficult and rather complex, and even today I still feel like I don’t have the capability to simply explain what’s going on with me.

Thankfully, I’m a little better at sharing these days. I owe it to a bunch of wonderful friends and life experiences that have led me to believe that ‘hey, I don’t have to be in this all alone.’ It’s still hard, and there are days when I’d rather just keep silent about my struggles rather than find an outlet.

I’ve often resorted to writing, or listening to tracks I find healing, and over the years I’ve found ways to cope and deal with whatever I was struggling with. It’s a process.

The thing is, no matter how seemingly transparent people’s lives can be, there’s no way of knowing what they are going through. There’s this sense of nakedness in our world today, especially because we share so much on social media. Almost as if there’s no secret between anyone, and we know enough because people choose to share what they do on the Internet. It’s an incredibly inaccurate evaluation, and we’re prone to make false judgments based off the newness of the digital age itself.

Maybe to you this seems like a far-fetched sharing session, connecting the dots from a musician’s life and death to my own struggles, but to me it seems like there’s a clear connection. After all, isn’t there value in shared experiences?

Upon the release of a statement on Monday, Linkin Park also launched a tribute website for Chester. The site, chester.linkinpark.com, features suicide prevention information as well as fans messages from social media paying tribute to the singer.

In Indonesia, you can try to contact Into the Light through their various presences online; Facebook, Twitter and Website. To my knowledge, they don’t have a hotline and it’s not the fastest way to get help, but I hope it serves you some good when you need it most.

But when there’s no outside channel, please do talk to someone you trust. There are also communities across the country, and around the globe, who are more than willing to be a listening ear or offer you some support.

When I first sought help, it was through a university clinic that offered these services. It was an incredibly strange experience, but to have someone acknowledge that what I was going through was indeed real was certainly one of the things that I needed to hear in order to move forward and find a solution that would work for me.

None of us can truly explain what happened with Chester, because it’s never that simple. I suppose at some point, something broke. He was a survivor, and despite what happened, he survived for as long as he did. We all are, in our own ways.

I hope that we are moving toward a future where people realize how mental health issues can be better addressed through collective awareness, and through communal support.

While mental health struggles remain a very personal experience for many if not all, the stigmas and stereotypes surrounding the issues should be eradicated through a unified effort by all members of society.

Lend a helping hand when you can, and reach out for help when you need it.

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