Last Thursday, Chester Bennington was found dead. The lead singer for Linkin Park hung himself after a long battle with Depression.
I typically avoid talking about celebrity deaths for a variety of reasons, but this one hit me harder than most. The primary reason is because Linkin Park has been hugely influential in my personal and professional lives. I discovered Linkin park watching an obscure satellite music channel (I want to say Much Music USA?). Just randomly on while I was doing something else, the video for One Step Closer came on. I remember noting the cinematic beginning and everything coming to a halt. It was one of the first times in ages that as song or a band really hit me. After the video was over, I was hooked. I had to buy Hybrid Theory off the internet (the first time I’d done that, to show you what kind of a philistine I was) because nobody was carrying it in stores yet. There was this brief window where I had discovered a band no one had heard of (at least no one I knew). Of course, Linkin Park would blow up, and as well they should. Talent and innovation were not things they lacked.
Linkin Park would release Reanimation, a remixing of songs from Hybrid Theory. To this day, it’s one of only three albums I would honestly call a masterpiece. Ever played that game about giving aliens the best human culture has to offer, or what album would you save from a burning music store? Reanimation would easily be one of my answers. Subsequent albums wouldn’t succeed in catching my attention (I haven’t bought anything after Meteora), though individual songs would blow me away (New Divide has probably never left my daily playlist).
Linkin Park would influence me professionally, finding ways to inspire so many of my artistic endeavors. The advent of my serials (starting with Teach The Sky) was the result of Linkin Park’s new approach to hard rock (though I don’t care for the moniker ‘nu metal’). At that time, web comics were becoming a dominant artistic force and I wanted to compete. Seeing Linkin Park (and others like them) re-inventing musical genres was encouragement to try something new (actually really old, but I digress). Their music would drive my work, influencing my serials and my novels. Very long-time fans may have heard whiff of my (still-unreleased) trilogy, War in Heaven. Much of that series was inspired by Linkin Park, as were re-writes of Crossworld. I don’t think I’ve done a single project that didn’t take some inspiration from at least one Linkin Park song.
The second reason Chester Bennington’s death has hit me is because of my own struggles with Depression. My diagnosis was suspected as early as 12, with symptoms manifesting as early as 5 (not an exaggeration). My clinical diagnosis came when I was in my mid-twenties. That was when I was put on medication, the success of which has waxed and waned. More than a decade of being unmedicated took its tool. The music and lyrics of Linkin Park, and of Chester Bennington’s voice, gave some manifestation for my Depression at a time it was worsening. Songs like Super Xero/By Myself and Crawling gave me some catharsis.
Lastly is because this tragedy mirrors the death of a personal hero of mine, Chris Benoit. The professional wrestler’s murder-suicide rocked the world, and me as well. I’d looked up to Benoit since I’d first seen him in the squared circle and while I didn’t seek to emulate him, I was frequently inspired by him. Much of my modern work ethic was directly the result of following his seeming example. His death, and the ghastly horrors related to it, shook me to my core. For his life to end mirroring a singer I so admired chills me.
I’ve studied philosophy off and on throughout my life. All disciplines come down to ultimately one big question. Meteorology might be ‘where does the wind come from’, economics might be ‘how does money move through the system’, etc. In philosophy, I think the most basic question is, ‘Is life worth living’. Ask anybody with Depression and they’ll likely tell you the jury’s still out. In all my study of philosophy, I’ve yet to read one that adequately answered that question for me.
Likewise, my relationship to suicide is complicated. I’ve lost one friend since the 2016 Election, and talked down two others. I’ve seen friends deal with it more than once, some successfully. I’ve come to that edge more than once, and tried to take the leap once myself. It may offend moralists, but I can’t stand before anyone and say ‘suicide is wrong’. I’d be lying if I said so. But while it may not be wrong (I’m not saying it isn’t, just that I can’t firmly make that claim), I can firmly and truthfully say it isn’t right.
I’m going nowhere with this. I’m in pain at the loss of an icon I so respected and admired. In times of pain, I turn to what I do best and that’s write. So I’m writing. I hope reading this is bringing you some comfort, whether this tragedy or another is what’s causing you pain.
If you are dealing with Depression, or depression, please know that you aren’t alone. There’s more of us than you realize. And odds are, that’s not encouraging to you. It probably makes you sadder to know there are others in pain like you. But look at instead that there are some who have been dealing with it longer. We can commiserate with you. Maybe even share a coping strategy or two you haven’t found yet.
And if you’re considering suicide, please don’t do it. I can genuinely say that the world is a better place with you in it. I probably can’t even begin to imagine the pain you’re in, or for how long you’ve been enduring it. I can’t speak to your circumstances or what it might take to make things right. I won’t talk down to you about it, or post placating numbers about ‘if you want help, please call…’. I know the Suicide Prevention Hotline can help, but I will instead say that I don’t want you to go. I don’t want you to commit suicide. I don’t want you to die. I don’t know you and I don’t need to know you to know that. I don’t want you to die. The world is a better place with you in it.
As for Chester Bennington, I never met the man. I’d wanted to go see Linkin Park in concert. Now that won’t happen. I regret that. I don’t know why he did it ultimately, but I hope whatever he needed, he found.
If you think you need the same thing, I say again, please don’t. Wait. The option will always be there tomorrow, but the circumstances that make a change you need may be as well. Please don’t do it. If you feel like talking will help, you can call the Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Call it or dozens of other services that can and will help. Or you can email me, Rvaldrich@gmail.com. I can’t do much but I can listen. I will listen because I don’t want you to die.
Please be good to yourself.