Didn't see it coming ...

Disclaimer. The following contains some strong and possibly probably offensive words. When it comes to topics like addiction, depression, and suicide, I tend to speak the language of the broken and the hurting. There are certain elements of the human existence which escape the normal realms of my linguistic abilities. There are maladies in our lost world that do not deserve my politeness or my eloquence. Consider yourself warned.

Today is a day that Linkin Park fans should have seen coming. Or at least we can make that determination in hindsight. Still, the headlines were shocking. To lose Chester Bennington so suddenly and without any hint this would (or could) happen.

image courtesy of the indie spiritualist

Yes, he struggled with addiction and alcoholism. Yes, he fought his demons to get clean and sober. Yes, he had a rocky relationship with his fame. Yes, he had a painful childhood and years of pent up anger. All signs pointed to someone who battled depression and anxiety. After all, Linkin Park’s breakthrough single found Chester singing the opening lyrics, “I cannot take this anymore.”

On the other hand, he was a man who was loved by his family and his bandmates. He was a man respected throughout the industry. He was a man who inspired and encouraged a legion of fans.

As is often the case, the smile he wore disguised a darkness in side. It was a mask to cover the fragile real person inside who was on the verge of collapse. He managed to channel his rage through his songs where he’d sing and scream and emote as if performing with his band was a cathartic counselling session. For those of us who found his music at the right stage of our lives, Linkin Park was a form of therapy for us too. We found solace and solidarity in these songs.

After the suicide of yet another of our musical heroes, we engage in the only form of grieving we have available. We return to their songs and mourn the loss of someone we never met. While we didn't know them personally, they helped us get to know ourselves better. So that is how I spent my evening: listened to Linkin Park and cried. And in the middle of all of it, I could see a pattern I had not noticed before. Their music continually evolved, but if you pay attention, Chester’s pain is woven into their lyrics throughout their history.

Sixteen years ago, they released the single ‘In the End’ where Chester sang “I tried so hard and got so far, but in the end it doesn’t even matter.”

A year and a half later, the first single on their second album contained the chorus, “I wanna heal, I wanna feel what I thought was never real, I wanna let go of the pain I’ve felt so long, I wanna heal, I wanna feel like I’m close to something real, I wanna find something I’ve wanted all along, Somewhere I belong.” I listened to this song in tears today realizing that he never healed. He couldn’t let go of the pain. He never found that thing he wanted.

In 2010, the song ‘Waiting for the End’ came out, containing lyrics from Chester, “All I want to do is trade this life for something new, Holding on to what I haven't got.” Fifty-one days after Linkin Park released this single, my grandfather passed away. This song helped me cope and grieve, and even now I am crying as I type. I will always think of Grandpa Casey when I hear this song.

Four years ago, LP collaborated with Steve Aoki for their twenty-fifth single, ‘A Light that Never Comes.’ As that song played this evening, I broke down. Chester’s limited contribution to this song found him “Waiting for a light that never comes.” And I couldn’t escape the thought that the light never came.

I’m at a loss for words. Another headline of another dead rock star in another tragedy that could have been avoided. I am sick of this shit. We, as the human race can do better. Depression does not have to be a terminal disease. Drugs and alcohol do not need to be life sentences. We need to address the mental health crisis in our nation with serious and deliberate efforts. Because depression and suicide is not just something for the wealthy and famous. It affects us all. I’ve lost good friends to suicide and I don’t want to see it happen again.

So I have a message for death: fuck you. And suicide? Fuck you. Depression and addiction, I love my friends too much for you to take them from me so fuck you too.

We are all flesh and bone, damaged and weary. Yet I hold on to hope in this beautiful messed up world. There's a Linkin Park lyric that says, “This is not the end.” And I believe that. If you’re feeling like you’re waiting for a light that never comes, please don’t go. There is help. If you are in pain, you're not alone. If nobody else is listening, come find me. I’ll be here.

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