I’ll never forget the sound of the piano intro. I was 13 and in my boy band teeny bopper phase. But there was something about that song that caught my ear and my heart. As I navigated through my early teens and the struggles, pain and many emotions that come along with being a teenage girl, I found an outlet I didn’t know existed: Music.
Kids are mean. Downright mean and I do believe it has intensified and gotten worse since I was younger. I was bullied a lot in my teen years for anything and everything that was thought of. I grew up in a large family, I am the oldest of 8 kids and was 16 when my youngest sibling was born. I was home-schooled. I went to church. I lived in a manufactured home park so I was labeled “trailer trash”. I’m Italian and had (and still have) a big butt. I was a tomboy so I hung out with the “cute and popular” boys and girls hated me. And they made sure I knew it. It was awful.
I started dealing with depression when I was 14 and if you have depression, especially as a young person, then you understand that it’s hard. Not only are you learning how to navigate through the many emotions and phases of young adulthood, but add depression into the mix and it’s the perfect storm. Most days, I didn’t understand what I was feeling, thinking or going through. I just knew some days, life felt so hard that I didn’t know if it would get any better. But I found comfort in music, specifically, Linkin Park. Their music was different than what I typically listened to. But their words and music gave me comfort. They helped make sense of my thoughts and feelings, especially ones that I didn’t even understand. The screams of Chester Bennington gave me comfort when I couldn’t scream myself. It was knowing I wasn’t alone in my pain. I wasn’t alone.
As I have gotten older and became both a wife and mom, the challenges of life have shifted. Some things have gotten easier, other things have become more difficult. But the pain and struggles of depression have always been there. Especially the last couple years. But Linkin Park’s music has always been there and has always brought me an escape from the pain and struggles.
I was walking into a restaurant with my husband to pick up our lunch when I received a text from my brother at 2:21pm. It was a link to TMZ with the headline, “Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington has committed suicide.” I gasped and my heart stopped. My husband asked what was wrong but I couldn’t verbally say anything. I felt a rush of emotions I can’t describe. It was like the world around me stopped. I wanted it to be a fake headline, a sick joke that someone started. But the more I searched online, the more I realized it wasn’t fake and it wasn’t a sick joke. It was real. Chester Bennington died by suicide.
I hate when I hear someone say “committed suicide”. As I have come out of my postpartum depression and anxiety, although I still struggle, I have become a huge advocate for mental health, specifically maternal mental health. I became certified in mental health first aid this past winter and I am planning on attending a workshop in suicide first aid. The biggest take away I have learned is how we view mental illness and suicide. The reason why I don’t use the phrase, “committed suicide” is because typically when you hear the word commit, it is being used to describe someone who has committed a crime. A person who has killed themselves didn’t commit a crime. They completed suicide. They died by suicide. Most people who take their own life, don’t do it because they are selfish. They don’t take their own life because they see it as the “easy way out”. They do think of their loved ones, but not in the aspects how much pain they will cause them, but how much relief it will give them because a lot of people suffering from mental illness, including myself, see themselves as a burden. Most people who complete suicide are people that are in so much pain, are so deep in the darkness of their mental illness(es) that suicide appears to be the only way to relieve the pain.
For myself, the hardest part in all of this for me is having to talk about it with my 10 year old Monkey man. Linkin Park has been one of his favorite bands since he was 6. (Clean versions of the songs 😉 ) It’s challenging for me as a mom to bond and connect with him and music has been something we can share together. We may not always have talks in the car but we sing songs together of music we both love. Linkin Park has been one of those bands. Although Monkey wasn’t with me when I received the text, he was in the car with my friend and her son and it came on the radio so quickly, that she didn’t have time to change the station. So he heard and my friend did an amazing job talking to them about what they heard and I am so thankful she took the time to talk with them.
But call it mother’s intuition, I knew Chester’s death was having an affect on my son. I could see it in his face and his mannerisms. So last night in the car, while we listened to Linkin Park, I turned down the volume and I said, “I know you heard about Chester’s death, can we talk about it?” and he put his head in his hands and he cried. And I cried. And we talked. I talked to him about how it’s okay to be sad, even though we didn’t personally know Chester. I talked to him about the importance of talking to someone when you have bad days and feel down. He said he heard someone say Chester had depression and I told him he did. I told him that sometimes people are in so much pain, that they believe dying is their only option for peace from their pain. So we sat in our driveway, we cried, hugged and mourned together the loss of Chester.
I have cried a lot over the last couple days and it’s felt weird. I never had the honor of personally meeting Chester although I did have the privilege of seeing them in concert. It is still one of my favorite shows to date. The energy Chester as well as the rest of the members of Linkin Park put into the show was unlike anything I had ever seen before. But it’s definitely a weird feeling to mourn the loss of someone you never met. But Chester had such an impact on my life through his music. His music got me through some really dark moments. His music help create a special bond between me and my son. His music inspired me. He inspired me. I wish Chester could have realized how madly and deeply he was loved, wanted and needed. How thousands and thousands of people are mourning him, most who have never even met him, but he helped them through his music. I wish he knew that it can get better. That there can be peace and healing from depression.
I have lived through some bad times. My postpartum depression and anxiety almost cost me my life. It could have been me who died by suicide. Every day isn’t always easy, but I have found hope, healing and peace through Jesus. It hasn’t been easy. Some days I even questioned if He existed. But on my knees, in the darkest of my moments, I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s been a process. It has been a journey of finding the right sources to help me. It’s not like I woke up one day and was cured. It doesn’t work like that. I’m on supplements that I will take for the rest of my life. I can’t eat certain foods or drink certain drinks anymore. I have regular therapy sessions and I advocate for mental health. I talk about mental health A LOT.
We HAVE got to get better about breaking the stigma around mental health. We simply can’t afford to watch more and more people die by suicide. These are lives worth living. Chester was worth living. YOU are worth living.
Please know you are never alone. If you or someone you know is struggling or contemplating suicide, please go to the nearest emergency room or contact a qualified crisis line, such as the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255**
RIP Chester Bennington 03/20/1976-07/20/2017