For Chester Bennington

There are a lot of celebrity death hoaxes out there.

I really wish this was one of them.

Chester Bennington, the lead singer of an absolutely amazing musical group known as Linkin Park, was going to die of something someday; I know and accept this. Barring some phenomenal breakthrough in science, every single person that I look up to and cherish will meet their worldly end. It is still sad to know that this person will no longer be generating new memories, new wisdom, new beauty and art, and it is sad that those that know them intimately will no longer have their smiles, their laughter, their corny jokes and snide remarks, but we can give life to everything that they had given to us priory and keep the memories, the wisdom, the music and the art living on. It hurts, no doubt, but it can be understood and accepted.

But when a person dies younger than they should, especially by suicide, it’s all that much more crushing.

Because no matter how painless the actual method of execution may be, dying of suicide is by far not a painless death. Suicidal thoughts are agony, and it’s crushing to know that people that we care about have felt that kind of emotional agony.

I’ve never carried out a suicide attempt to the point of potential fatality (I did tie a scarf around my neck and to my dorm room bed post once and rolled forward in my desk chair enough to tighten it, but I released myself before I was in any very imminent danger of death–but I say this knowing that accidental hanging and death by autoerotic asphyxiation can and do happen), so I cannot testify to the mindset of someone who is actively in the process of ending their life, of someone who stares into the open door of death and decides that there are ready to walk through it.

But I can testify to feeling so hopeless about yourself and your place in the world that you legitimately, wholly believe that you would do more good to the world and to those you love by leaving than by staying, to feeling the weight of all of your fears and sadness and guilt and self-loathing strangle you and, in that moment, be certain that the pain will persist, if not increase, until you stop breathing, and I can testify that this feeling is one of the worst feelings that a human being can feel.

I can testify that it is very possible to have a super loving family and an amazing life partner and so many opportunities ahead and still have the weight of that despair and that anguish drown all of that out to the point where none of that matters anymore, where all that matters is that you’re in pain and that you’re causing those around you to be in pain and that you never want this pain to be felt again and that the only way to do that is to not exist enough to feel that pain anymore.

I can’t imagine what anguish it is to feel that strongly enough to actually die from it.

Knowing that anyone has ever felt and still is feeling that badly is enough to make suicide extremely tragic.

That this happened to someone who brought so much joy and awesome into your life…

Linkin Park was one of the pinnacles of my adolescence.

When I discovered the song “Breaking the Habit” by them, the first song I ever heard by the band, I played it on repeat for days. So much so that my stepmother eventually snapped and yelled at me and declared that she’d pull her hair out if she heard that damn song one more time.

So then I played it on repeat through headphones.

It’s not like I’ve ever had a drug habit to break, especially not at twelve years old. But that song helped me articulate, if only in my own mind, thoughts that I didn’t even fully understand that I had until I heard them.

Memories consume
Like opening the wound
I’m picking me apart again

I ruminate a lot, sometimes to the point where it is very similar to picking actual wounds into my being. I open and re-open and re-open emotional “wounds” by thinking and thinking about things that are in the past and/or that are out of ny control. “I don’t want to be the one

I don’t want to be the one
The battles always choose
‘Cause inside I realize
That I’m the one confused.”

It wasn’t news to me that I was a confused little girl (heck, I’m still a confused young woman), but hearing it in a song somehow gives this feeling a different solidity about it. There is also something cathartic about the occasional “Why me?!” Why do I struggle so much with anxiety and managing my emotions and remembering to do some things and keeping the friends that I make when so many people don’t? Why these battles, indeed?

I don’t know what’s worth fighting for
Or why I have to scream
But now I have some clarity
To show you what I mean

It’d actually be a few years before I gained the “clarity” that I was seeking back then as to why I am the way I am, so emotional, so clumsy, physically and as a person navigating the world as a person, so unsure, so easily a disappointment to others. The idea that I was autistic was bounced around by this point, but it didn’t really grab hold until I was seventeen and informally diagnosed with Asperger’s.

But that I might one day have that clarity gave me hope where it was otherwise running thin.

I don’t know how I got this way
I’ll never be alright

I think even then, not knowing some things about myself and about neurodivergence that I do now, I knew that, deep down, a lot of the things that I disliked about myself or that confused me about myself were a part of the “being me” package.
So, I’m breaking the habit
I’m breaking the habit
I’m breaking the habit
Tonight

There were a lot of habits that I wished I could break back them. I probably haven’t broken most of them–I’m still pretty much the same obsessive, awkward, crybaby, confused hot mess that I was back then.

Though I’d like to think that I’m more accepting of the fact that i’m an obsessive, awkward, crybaby, [now just a tiny bit less] confused hot mess and that I’m better at navigating the world as this mess that I am.

And, besides, the music itself is badass.

“Numb” by Linkin Park said what I wished that I had the guts to say to my parents as a teenager:

Can’t you see that you’re smothering me?
Holding too tightly, afraid to lose control?

‘Cause everything that you thought I would be
Has fallen apart right in front of you

(Caught in the undertow
Just caught in the undertow)

Every step that I take is another mistake to you (Caught in the undertow
Just caught in the undertow)

And every second I waste is more than I can take!

And I know, I may end up failing too
But I know, you were just like me
With someone disappointed in you”

Though, interesting bit about those last lines: for a few years, I heard these lyrics as “But I know, you were just like me/And so I’m disappointed in you!” And I felt that strongly; “You’re not perfect either, Dad, and you’ve sad how hard your dad was on you growing up, so why would you be so hard on me if you know how much it hurts?”

I like the actual lyrics better, though, now that I know them. It’s sad to think that my grandparents might have ever been disappointed in my father, especially as he’s always had “it together”; he worked on the family farm as a young child, made money by the time he was twelve, got married to his high school sweetheart soon after graduation and had two beautiful children not long after that (the marriage didn’t last, but they gave it a good, earnest, Christian try, and who could be disappointed in that?).

And maybe the disappointment in, say, my dad not being an academic scholar (he passed, but didn’t perform exceptionally) or in being, well, a young boy isn’t quite the same disappointment that my father felt in having a child that everyone keeps saying is autistic and fearing that this child may never “make it” in the “real world”.

But I’m sure that when my dad did feel that sting of parent disappointment (almost no one escapes it completely, I imagine), it stung deeply, and, as much as I wish no ill had or will ever happen to him because I love him and find him to be an incredible human being, it’s almost comforting to know that at least that he and I have in common.

And though I heard and loved the song then, I’m still gaining so much strength from “What I’ve Done”:

For what I’ve done
I start again
And whatever pain may come
Today this ends
I’m forgiving what I’ve done”

Grant me the serenity to accept what I cannot change, the courage to change what I can, and the awesome music to accompany me as I work on teasing out the difference.

 

The first t-shirt that I ever bought from Hot Topic–and, in fact, probably one of the first t-shirts that I ever bought with my friends without parents or siblings or another adult caretaker accompanying me–was a Linkin Park t-shirt. I was so excited to see a band that I liked (or, heck, knew!) on a t-shirt that I could then wear around and show off. And I wore it. And wore it. And wore it out. It was a nice talking point at times–“Hey, you like Linkin Park, too? Neat!” (or “Oh, they’re a bit overrated.” Well, you’re entitled to your opinion, but I still love them).

Heck, I think that my stepmother might still have that t-shirt in a box of old shirts that she keeps in the hopes that they’ll become a quilt one day. I’ll have to hunt for it if that’s the case (it probably still fits; I haven’t changed size too much since I’ve purchased it and, if anything, it was a little big even then).

Now, Linkin Park is so much more than Chester Bennington, and every single person involved with that group deserves so much praise and adoration.

But Chester Bennington was a large part of what made Linkin Park the Linkin Park that we’ve come to know and love, and his presence will be missed, even as his songs play on and our memories of him live on.

I have seen some call how Chester died “selfish”; “How could he leave his wife and children behind?”

But suicidal ideation–and the mental illnesses that often accompany it–are cruel and strong demons.

I believe that Chester fought valiantly against it. I believe that he fought as hard as he could. I believe that Chester wanted to win the battle against these thoughts, that he wanted to have happiness and peace in his mind and in his life. There’s an interview that Chester did in February of 2017, and even in that interview, he’s fighting, and he’s fighting hard.

That he didn’t win that fight ultimately is no reflection of Chester’s strength or willpower or fortitude; that he didn’t win only shows what a brutal opponent he was up against.

Suicide is not selfish, cowardly, or a sign of weakness. Suicide is sad, suicide is tragic, suicide is awful and painful and nothing that anyone should ever have to experience.

Rest in power, Chester. Thank you for everything you have given me and to the world through your music. May wherever you are now have only everything wonderful for you.

May those that knew Chester, be it in person or through his music, find peace and healing.

And may all of us keep faith that even if the darkness wins against our heroes, that maybe we, ourselves, can honor their memory by keeping up our own fights against the darkness, by picking up where they left off and keep fighting the darkness Crawling beneath our skins with love and hope and support. Reach out if you feel you need to. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255) or chat with them at (http://www.crisischat.org/). Reach out to your family, your friends, your favorite teacher, the co-worker that you dislike the least, to social media, to me, to anyone.

Because In The End, it DOES matter. You matter. Who you are and what you have to offer matters. ❤

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