Last night Facebook was blowing up with posts about the death of Chester Bennington. For those that somehow happen to have no-one in their Facebook feed that listens to Linkin Park, Chester was the singer (not the rapper). He was found dead having committed suicide. If talking about suicide and depression make you uncomfortable, you may not want to keep reading. Consider that your content/trigger warning.
Almost no-one sees it coming when a celebrity, a loved one, or a pet kills themselves. Yes I said pets. When I was a child my pet goldfish, Freddy, jumped out of his bowl. It may have been just coincidence that he landed under the heater, but there’s no way to know. I’m sure my dog Teaser would’ve chosen to end it if she could. She was suffering from leukemia and we didn’t even know until after her second ear-infection surgery was refusing to heal.
My cockatiel D’mingo flew into a mirror while I was on holiday in Edinburgh. This angry little bird never really settled in. I have no idea what the little guy had been through. We looked after him as best we could ever since he showed up on our doorstep. When we went on holiday months later, it may have been longer, and left him with a friend after getting his wings clipped. Who knows what he was thinking when he freaked out and flew into the mirror so fast it killed him. Maybe he thought it was an open window and was just trying to escape, or come back to us. He must have been pretty desperate to be able to do it despite having his flight feathers removed.
Depression sucks. On bad days it physically hurts. Not like a wound or a bruise, but an all over numbing prickle from your scalp to your toes. It’s not just feeling sad. This pain doesn’t make much sense. Especially when I was a teenager. I didn’t really know why I felt that way. I would hurt myself to mask the pain with a physical injury I understood.
Accompanying the pain are the thoughts. All the reasons that life is pointless, the behaviours and personality traits that you’ve judged to be defects. The physical flaws. External reasons too, like the job that leaves you too tired to write, the relationship that fails to satisfy the gaping hole in your chest, or the house that’s slowly falling apart and you can’t afford to fix.
Sometimes exercises like the Tim Ferris’ fear-setting (described in the video below) can help, but it’s a recurring battle. Involving yourself in projects and goals can help keep you going. Keep you occupied and distracted from the dread that comes creeping back. I’ve used several strategies like Tim’s to keep going, and I’m always looking for more Ted Talks and books to help me learn more, and to try and use my own depression to drive me.
We make a choice to keep going, hoping that tomorrow will be better. Most of the time it is. You feel better and get on with life. In my case I try to use these better days to get a little closer to my goals. I know that becoming a ‘successful author’ won’t put me in a blissful state of perpetual happiness, but at least I’ll have achieved something. I’ll still have to fight the thoughts when they come. The absolute certainty that, not only will I not be happy but there’ll be all new challenges to face. All of which will fade to nothing once I’m dead.
I hold on to the hope that it will be worth it, that my actions and decisions will make the lives of others a little better. Prove to friends who are losing the battle with depression and anxiety that it’s possible to make your mark and be someone worth remembering. Even that is a futile exercise. Da Vinci, Shakespeare and Mozart are remembered, but no-one knows who they really were. There’s no-one alive today that remembers the sound of their laughter, or what they liked to eat.
Some of use choose to end it. To stop fighting and let the pain win. I understand the urge. It doesn’t seem to matter what you do, depression is only a few steps behind. Reminding you that, no matter how good things are going right now, your old wounds aren’t healing, and it will only take the slightest bump to set them bleeding again. It’s tempting to blame these wounds on other people, but they’ve always been there. It’s just existence. The solution seems obvious. Stop existing, stop the pain.
Chester’s lyrics helped many of us feel less alone. Like we weren’t alone. Like someone else felt and understood the pain of living. Loneliness is a big trigger for many of us, so we search desperately for people like us that will hear us and understand. Friends, romantic partners, family, fans, or even pets. Your tribe. The people that are supposed to hold you up when your down. Most of the time, when you think you’ve found them, they have their own problems. You end up having to be the strong one for them, and sometimes they’re too broken to reciprocate, or you feel it would be selfish to even ask them for help.
I don’t have answers. Just more questions, and the one very tempting solution. The one that we tell ourselves is a cowards way out. A selfish act. It’s true that other people will be upset, and even offended, by your death. We’re taught that life is precious, and yet there is life everywhere, continuing despite us. What so special about one person?
Morbid curiosity and responsibility is keeping me going. Everything I experience gives me something to write about. Thought I may find that everything I write ends up being about depression. I’ve already noticed that my stories often feature death and disappointment.
Most of the songs I’ve picked for this article are Linkin Park’s earlier material, but these two here are from their latest album. Despite the change in style the theme Chester is singing about remains consistent, which tells me he was still fighting the depression that had plagued him his entire career. He had a family, he had success and fame, and in the end it didn’t even matter. However, he left a mark on the world before he left. I will to.
I’ll feel better tomorrow. As long as there’s a future there’s hope. What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. I can make my life better as long as I’m alive. Today it sounds hollow, but tomorrow, who knows? Maybe one day I’ll have had enough for now, I have a series of books to help make. Obligations to fulfil. People to meet and fall in love with. A life to live. It had better be worth it.
Afterword: This is not a cry for help. If anything it’s a battle-cry. A call to arms. An honest confession of how I’m feeling (today) so that others like me don’t feel so alone. I don’t need to talk, I just did. If you need to talk though, go for it, maybe others like us will hear you and feel like they have somewhere they belong.
I’ll miss you Chester, but I heard you, and I understand.