In the recent passing of Chester Bennington, I felt the need to think and reevaluate everything. I have listened to and loved his music when the band he fronted, Linkin’ Park first came to prominence when I was an early teen.
I was moved by the tragedy and it’s hard not to be when his lyrics had become an anthem for the many kids of my generation, including me. I never had my own identity in music until his emergence onto the spotlight. Linkin’ Park was among the first bands that I personally embraced during the height of their popularity, in part due to their musicality and the most can be attributed to Bennington’s stage presence. It wasn’t until much later when their lyrics would start to make more sense to me.
Another great talent lost to suicide. You may wonder, why, what went wrong? Was it drugs or just pure insanity? Or both? It is a lot easier to have an opinion on anything based on how we see it on the surface, but the same approach is likely to fail when replicated on how we perceive rather complex issues that concern us as a society.
The lack of proper judgement often leads to disregard on what could possibly be a perfect opportunity to save someone’s life. But I’d like to think that we have come along way in understanding and dealing with mental issue.
I was raised in a beautiful town in the Philippines. And although I brag that hospitality is what we’re great at (and known for), the stigma and harsher take on psychological crisis continue to get in the way in opening a keen and wider discussion on the matter.
While in the West, seeing a therapist is like another spa-day appointment, it is not quite the same in certain countries where medical accessibility is limited and costly that only the wealthy can pretty much afford. In general, Asia ranks the highest on mental illness burdens and mostly due to a concentration of overpopulated third-world nations that are heavily affected by it.
Despite the open-mind take on the issue in North America, opening up about your mental struggles is always a challenge.
Depression is widely the most common form of mental illness and just like any disease, it chooses no particular societal background. Some profound effects include the gripping feeling of isolation that even when in the crowd it does still make you feel so alone. It’s harder starting a dialogue about it than it actually sounds promoting it. Those who suffer are less likely to ask for help and we often overlook signs either because we aren’t getting the hint clearly enough or simply because we don’t care.
I’ve watched some of Bennington’s last interviews including his tearful performance of One More Light on Kimmel Live, just one day after his close friend, Chris Cornell had ended his own life, only two months before he would also take his own, on the day of what would have been Cornell’s 53rd birthday.
He had, on a few occasions verbalized his apparent struggle dealing with self-inflicted mental tortures and his disinterest to do anything more. It was very loud and clear but apparently not loud enough before he was gone. So, even if help was generously set in place but if through his insistence on not having the desire to live any longer, it is heartbreakingly disturbing but no one could have had control over it.
We often blame it on drugs and fame is always seen as the trigger. But is addiction something that can be adapted or influenced? Or is it an onset of a mental disorder triggered by a substance that’s capable of giving those who suffer temporary relief and contentment? There are varying studies that tie addiction to a psychological disorder which in retrospect, those who are affected by it are more likely to suffer addiction.
I’m no expert. But what makes me somewhat credible to tackle this subject, in my opinion is my own journey dealing with depression as a teen that would continue to haunt me as an adult. Low self-esteem had led me to rough bouts of eating disorder when I was 15. I would look at myself in the mirror, skin and bones having the notion I had accomplished something I could be proud of, but it was also the first (and only) time I would see my mom in tears because of something I had done to myself.
I would start gaining the weight back after an incident brought by severe anemia that would almost put my life to an abrupt end. One day, I lost my motor skills and fell on the ground hitting my head on the pavement. A year later, I would be back at starving myself again and the same cycle would go on for the next 10 years. I have kept it from everyone and I never spoke openly about it. I explored professional help. I’ve tried the risky numbing process of self-medicating for years that would almost destroy me in the process.
A lot of Linkin’ Parks’ songs are heartfelt narratives written by Bennington himself based on his personal angst and pain inside (‘numb’, ‘crawling’). What keeps their music close to my heart though, is that it echoes the voices of youth (like I was), especially those who are afraid of speaking up on what seems easier to analyse when you are not on the receiving end.
His own writing would later on reveal that his artistic presence was merely a cry-for-help, but it was so mesmerizing that we failed to notice his own demons consuming the best of him behind the lively stage persona.
The truth as we know it, we all have tendencies to go through a phase that forces us to believe we’re about to lose our sanity. It takes a lot of courage to open up, thus making you brave if you do. But the real fear comes from silence, that is when you start talking only to find that no one’s there listening.
I am not the one to quote someone for (special) effect but there’s one that I really like from Ian Maclaren, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”.
Let us have a conversation. And if you are going through something, please know that you’re gonna be fine. One catch though. You just have to truly want it.