I was at work when I found out Chester had passed.
I didn't know it was him at first - I looked down to check my Twitter feed, saw a tweet referencing an artists' suicide, and then someone asked me a question. I put the phone down, tweet forgotten. It wasn't until I got home and saw my entire feed flooded with the hashtag #RIPChesterBennington, every other post quoting Linkin Park lyrics and linking suicide hotlines.
It's hard for me, even as a writer, to put into words exactly how I felt - how I feel - about Chester's suicide. I spent a large part of my childhood with Linkin Park. I adored them in middle school. I knew every word to every song, and I can't count the number of lined paper journals I filled with poetry while listening to their albums on loop. I can't say I was know-all-the-members'-names obsessed, but I loved their music, and so I loved them.
From that perspective, I'm absolutely heartbroken.
From another perspective, the perspective of a person who has struggled with major depressive disorder and all the baggage it drags, the perspective of a person who has had suicidal thoughts circling my head, the perspective of a person who has mapped my survival through art, I'm torn apart.
And I think what hurts more is knowing that, although now my entire Twitter feed is packed with get help and open a conversation posts right now, those sentiments will fizzle out. Just like they did after Chris Cornell. Just like they did after Robin Williams. The conversation dies, and people go back to their lives, and then another person takes their own life. The cycle goes on. It goes on because we let it. It goes on because we let the conversation drip into nothing, evaporate, and let the gray-cloud stigma of mental illness linger until it bursts over another person.
The stigma is so strong that people like Chester Benngington, who have support systems at their backs and resources at their fingertips, don't feel safe enough, secure enough, confident enough to ask for help.
The first time I told someone I was suicidal I was in my general practitioner's office, finally seeking help for my then-undiagnosed depression. My doctor asked if I had ever had suicidal thoughts. My mom was sitting in the corner, watching me, and I couldn't bear to look at her when I said, "Yes."
And honestly? If my mom hadn't have taken me to the doctor that day, I'm not sure if I would be here right now, mourning Chester's loss and writing this. I wouldn't be me, at least - not this me that's self-published books and is finishing college, even considering graduate and, God, post-graduate programs.
I might not be me today because back then the stigma of mental illness was cloaked around me. I was a college student, right? Life was supposed to be hard, right? There was supposed to be stress. There were supposed to be bad days. I was supposed to deal with it. If I couldn't, then I was somehow defective: I was weak; I wasn't smart enough; I was whiny; I wasn't good enough; I wasn't trying hard enough. Anything that went wrong was my fault. If I was depressed? It was my fault. It was because I did something wrong. I never considered the possibility that I was actually sick until my psychiatrist explained that the brain gets sick just like every other organ, and that it wasn't my fault I had depression any more than it was an asthmatic's fault that their airway inflames. I can't control it, but I can treat it, and I can make it better.
I don't know Chester's situation. I don't know who he might have sought help from, if he did at all. I don't know if anyone around him saw the signs, or if he hid them so well that no one had the chance to. I know that he struggled with addiction. I know that he was open about that. I know that he wanted to get better, and to be better, and that he used his experiences to fuel his art. I don't know if he even saw this coming. The signs don't seem to add up - he was having a great year. He seemed happy, positive, bursting with excitement, bursting with life.
Maybe he was holding his feelings so close to his heart that they shattered it.
Regardless of all of this, it's utterly heartbreaking to know that he found this world so overwhelming, so full of hurt, that he couldn't bear to be in it anymore.
And I also know that he has offered us to chance to try to help people like him. People like Chris Cornell, and Robin Williams, and people like me, too. But we can't let the conversation die. We can't cast this net out to sea and let sink, and drown, and die. We can't let the stigma brew hurricanes over our heads.
Talk about mental illness, because the people suffering from it might not know how. Talk about resources. Talk about hotlines, and online services, and local services. Be open. Break down walls. Do it for Chester, because it in the end it does matter; in the end, he matters. We all do. We all have a chance to help.
Rest in peace, Chester Bennington.
I pray that you find peace in the next life.