On Chester Bennington, Who May Have Saved My Life
"Chester's death was the turning point for change in my life. While I still have, bad days, bad weeks, I now have strategies in place to help me cope with the bad times. I no longer worry that I won't be able to come back."
The week before Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington’s death, I was lying on my bed, staring at the ceiling, listening to Hybrid Theory and thinking about being dead. Not about dying, not about death itself, just casually thinking to myself that if I were to die, I wouldn’t really mind.
In the midst of another PMDD flare up, in the worst year of my seven-year battle with chronic pain, I was home sick from work because the combination of pain and rage-fuelled anxiety of pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder (or PMDD) -- basically PMS on bath salts -- had made me a prisoner of my bedroom.
I hadn’t left the house in days, and although I knew that my period would soon start, bringing with it a 10-day reprieve where I would mentally be able to feel like myself again, it seemed that every month these cycles were getting worse, and with no end in sight, despite my many, many, many doctors and specialists, I didn’t want to do it anymore.
It’s not that I want to DIE, I thought to myself. I just… don’t want to live like THIS, and if this is the only option… where does that leave me?
Filled with resentment and bitterness for the situation I found myself in, Hybrid Theory spun on and on, as it had done so many times before, and continues to do now.
I woke up to the news of Chester’s death on the morning of the 21st.
Oh. I thought. That’s so sad.
As the news sank in over the morning, a dark cloud settled over me. I cried on the way to work, listening to the same albums I’d had on repeat the week before in a new light, paralysed from listening to anything else.
The voice of the albums that had offered me companionship in my misery, my “hey, we’re all in this together” albums was gone. My companion was gone. As I sat at my desk cycling through album after album, I considered all the times they’d been significant; through break-ups, through the end of friendships, through a period of under-eating and excessive partying fuelled by a desire to see how close to the edge of no return I could get without losing myself completely.
As the day went on, I found myself needing an outlet for my grief, turning to Twitter to find other fans as devastated by the news as I’d been. They weren’t hard to find. The outpouring of sadness washed over my feed -- from fans to non-fans, from regular people like me to Rihanna herself, it seemed like the music of Linkin Park had been significant to people everywhere at some point of their lives.
I scrolled through an endless stream of people expressing what Linkin Park and Chester had meant to them during the hardest parts of their lives, before stumbling across a link for a live Discord chat run by fansite LPLive, set up for fans to support one another. Discord is a platform originally designed for gamers to LiveChat with one another, kind of like a huge MSN group chat with separate sub-rooms for specific topics.
I’ll just take a quick look, I thought, clicking through the steps to set up a profile. If it’s weird or too much I can just leave.
As it turns out, it wasn’t weird, or too much. In fact, in the coming weeks, it was exactly what I needed. A place for my head, so to speak. A place where my grief over a celebrity I didn’t know -- or even realise meant so much to me until it was too late -- wasn’t weird, where everyone was in it together, lifting one another up, sharing stories and making each other laugh. I spent countless hours in there, talking to people, offering whatever advice or encouragement I could, and making friends I’ve kept to this day.
More than that, though, it was as I listened to the albums while telling other people that therapy was a great idea, encouraging others to seek help, that I realised it was time for me to do that for myself.
Although it wasn’t my first time going to therapy, it was the first time that I’d been willing to recognise that I didn’t just need therapy to help me deal with my chronic pain. My mental health problems had been there long before I’d developed chronic pain, and as the albums of Linkin Park took me back -- reminding me of all the times they’d been so necessary -- I realised just how long I’d been denying that to myself.
As Frank Guan so perfectly articulated in his piece for Vulture:
"Most people are in more pain than they permit themselves to recognise. What his voice opened, in brief moments, was the possibility of facing that pain directly — if it couldn’t be overcome, it could still be survived for the time being, and the time being is all that music has.”
So, off I went. I started seeing a psychologist, who taught me how to meditate. I started journaling, I started anti-depressants -- something I’d been against after prior bad experiences -- and found one that’s been a godsend, not only for my mental health but for my pain, also.
Little by little, month by month, things started to get easier, and while I still have ups and downs, bad days, bad weeks, I now have strategies in place to help me cope with the bad times. I now have the ability to catch these 'downs' before they spiral out of control. I no longer worry that I won't be able to come back from it, or that everything will continue to get worse until I can't deal with it anymore.
Although my pain is still ongoing, I look back on this time last year and see Chester’s death as the turning point for so many changes for the better in my life. Last week, I had a checkup with my GP, who said I was “doing great” and that he was really proud of me. It was so nice to hear, I could’ve cried.
My story, however, is far from isolated. In fact, there are so many stories from other Linkin Park fans who have been on similar journeys this past year that the hashtag #MakeChesterProud continues to be populated daily by fans who are doing their best to make Chester’s legacy live on through them.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, dial 000. If you need help and advice, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636 . A range of suicide prevention and mental health resources based around the country can be found here.
Feature image: Getty Images