Music. It’s something that engages a part of us that is hard to reach and hard to understand. It’s something that speaks of empathy and survival and joy and deep sadness. It’s something that gets us when nothing else does. For that reason, the response to Chester Bennington’s suicide makes sense. The soundtrack to so many people’s struggles has been Linkin Park, and the empathy and hope music helped plant in them may have been what got them to and through another day.
I’ve been thinking about it a lot, to be honest. I’ve been thinking about the first time I saw the music video for Numb and felt like it wasn’t just me who was struggling. I remembered going for a run and listening to Breaking the Habit as I literally ran from my self-harm. I remember it all well and the lyrics often penned by Chester Bennington were a key marker of those moments.
And yet, the words he wrote that were enough to get others through another day were not enough to get him through another. He could not speak to himself and push himself to survive just one more day, one more breath, one more step. And that’s a thought that should shake us.
Mental health is becoming something we speak of openly, but I find myself wanting to slip into telling a story of victory – when in fact, the final victory over depression won’t be won until Jesus returns. This mental illness gripped me for years and these days it occasionally reappears, grabbing onto my heel and slowing me down and sometimes making me fall face first into the concrete. It’s hard to shake off and it could still come back when I do shake it off. I tell a story of victory because I don’t want it to be something that defines me, and because I fear that others will think of me as fragile if I dare admit that daily I have to take steps to keep it at bay.
And you know what? It’s okay that my story is one of daily effort. It’s okay if yours is too. I remember a long walk with my now-husband when we were first dating. We walked across Anzac Bridge and through Pyrmont one Friday night and talked about mental health – what it was like before and what it is like now, and what helps on a bad day and when helps keeps bad days at bay. James turned to me at one point and said, “I respect you more than ever now. I had no idea that you had to work that hard to make sure you stayed okay.”
Don’t be afraid to speak up about what you need and what you do to stay okay. Share it with those close to you. Share it so that they can stand with you, and don’t think that it’s because you’re fragile – it’s because you have the strength to let people in, and to let them stand with you. You’re not made to stand alone. You’re made for community.
I’m sad about Chester Bennington, but I didn’t know him. I’m sad because someone who helped me fight could no longer fight himself. But I’m hopeful that maybe, just maybe, this tragedy will remind some of the many who spent years in the past with Linkin Park reminding them that they weren’t alone in the battle that it’s okay to keep fighting.
Who cares if one more light goes out…?
We all do.