*trigger warning: depression and general fucked-upness follows*
Join me in a bit of time travel. Let’s go back about seventeen years. I was eighteen years old (Jesus, why does that make me sound old?). I was mentally in the darkest place I had been in up to that point. I don’t usually speak of this time, so for some, this may be news. But, that ends tonight.
I hadn’t quite figured out how to live with the loss of my grandmother. I was bullied, relentlessly, every day in school. I was called every name in the book except nice white girl, which I very much was. Due to this, I was quiet. Not shy, just never felt worthy of talking. I had very few friends with whom I could enjoy life and be myself without much worry about judgment, but if I am being honest, I assumed they were judging me also. I knew I liked boys, but I also knew that I had liked girls, too, and I wasn’t sure what to do with that one. I had crushes on people I ought not to have crushes on, and unrequited was the only relationship status box I could punch.
If I would have had seven stitches of self-confidence back then, I would have had the strength to ask for help – to cry out that I knew I was fucked up inside, but I didn’t know how. I didn’t know that I could say a word because back then, mental illness wasn’t a thing we were aware of. Boys would be boys. Girls were bitches. Everyone else was weak. No one could win. I acted like I was fine when inside, I was a mess. An absolute mess. It was awful. I felt hopeless, truly helpless, and worthless. I was a wreck.
So, I did what kids did back then. I sat in my bedroom and wrote incredibly shitty poetry while listening to music as loudly as I could while imagining various ways I could end my life. And that was how I saved my own life. I’m here because music was there. Writing is something I have always been good at, and I am here because I was doing it then. As I wrote and listened, life seemed more worth it. I got stronger because those words – those artists – gave me the strength to live. I couldn’t do it on my own and didn’t know how to ask for help, so I did what I hoped would work…
In 2000, a good friend of mine gave me a copy of Hybrid Theory by a band I had not heard of until then, Linkin Park. I heard this guy named Chester Bennington tell me that it was okay to be fucked up in the head, that I could still be alive and feel the way I was feeling, that I wasn’t a freak – I was fine in being not fine. There was something inside of me that pulled beneath the surface, like he said he had, and he had also felt insecure. But, he was clearly a successful musician, reaching out to millions, and if he could pull his shit together long enough to live and keep going, then man, I could, too. Something in his voice made me know that even though he had pain, he was going to be fine. And I would be fine. His voice was unlike anything I had ever heard, or will ever hear again. His words gave me the strength to know that I, also, could live and find a place for my head. I would also find somewhere I belonged.
I saw Linkin Park live a few times. Their sound was pure addiction – energy, smart, driving, light with dark edges. Their stage show was remarkable. I am pretty sure I had more than one of their t-shirts and a hoodie, though their whereabouts are long gone. I bought their CDs, and I still have them to this day. Hell, I still follow them on Instagram and Twitter! I was just looking through his Instagram a few weeks ago, commenting on how silly he could be sometimes. I mean, so full of life. So silly.
So, when the news came in that he had died by suicide this morning, I was completely knocked sideways. I fell into tears. I remembered his voice telling me that he was one step closer to the edge and he was about to break, but he didn’t…until he did.
We may never know why today happened the way it did, and we don’t need to. It’s none of our business. We only need to know that it happened, that he fought and fought and fought so hard and was weary, tired of the fighting. And the only way out of the fight was a permanent one. And it’s not our place to judge, just to remember that we never know what is going on behind someone’s smile, someone’s laugh, even someone’s tears.
When the people we turn to when we need a little saving end up leaving us, what can we do? We fucking live, that’s what we do. In spite of the challenges we face in our own lives, we fucking live. We live large because that is what those people would want for us. They would not want us to face the same dark hallway that they have walked – they would want us to fucking live. Suicide is not a sign of weakness, so we must not let it make us weak, either.
So, that’s what we do. We cry. We laugh. We mourn. We celebrate. But, we never forget that we get to fucking live. And that, my friends, that is the gift. It’s hard. It’s SO hard sometimes, but we honor those people and their gifts and we live for them. I still have dark moments – I don’t think anyone is ever bright all the time, anyway – so in those dark moments, I remember to try to live a little louder that day. I must. So many depend on it. I depend on it.
Life is energy, and when one life ends, their energy is dispersed into the Universe. Their light does not go out, it goes on. So, we have to carry the light for Chester Bennington, and those others we have lost for whatever reason.
I remember feeling completely helpless. Hopeless. Broken. And it was Chester who told me it was okay to not be okay. I have to remember to be that voice for others as well, as often and as loud as I can be (and I can get quite boisterous). So, my friends, it’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to be a little fucked up in the head. Show me one person who isn’t.
So, for you, Chester, and for others we have lost along the way who we have turned to at one point or another for a little bit of saving, I give you my promise to live every single moment like it’s the most precious fucking thing I have ever touched. I will live. Promise.
Until we meet again, Chester. I’ll keep on living.
Find my cousin Kevin, please. He’s been gone four years today…
But, I can’t lie, this one fucking hurts.