As a lifelong Linkin Park fan I was unsurprisingly saddened by the death of Chester Bennington. A man of incredible talent, a man whose lyrics touched the hearts of many people from angst ridden teenagers to deeply depressed adults, to someone going through a rough time. He was a man with his demons and certainly had his struggles like we all do. I’m not going to go in depth on Chester’s life here because that’s not what I’m writing here.
His suicide will have struck a chord with many people as it did with me, not just fans of his music. You’ll know if you’ve ever been there, teetering on a knife edge just how difficult it is to make the decision to keep battling on. People with chronic depression or frequent bouts of depression become worn down. It makes you tired, tired of fighting, tired of living. I’ve attempted to explain this feeling to people who’ve never felt it and they always look confused because they can’t understand. This only makes it harder.
The poor advice you get offered only compounds to make things worse. That is pointing out everything good in your life, it makes you wonder why you can’t be happy with this. Then there’s the tough talk of ‘just get on with it’, cheers mate, I never thought of that. We all know the awful ‘help’ people offer that just acts to hurt more.
It angers me so much just how misunderstood depression is, I hate having people out there tell people like me and maybe you that we should just get on with things or suck it up. Or being told we’ve got a good job, relationship, kids, house, loads of money etc. ergo in their eyes we have nothing to be sad for. Unfortunately the only way I have found with dealing with this deliberate and willful ignorance is to ignore it. Which is hard when you’re in a low mood. Amazingly enough I find it’s your loved ones that hurt you the most in these situations with their lack of understanding or maybe even caring.
I have a good family who care about my depression and want me to open up to them but I also find it so extremely agonisingly painful when I explain my illness and get confused or blank looks back. It’s not their fault, it’s the fault of society, why are children not taught in school what depression does to people? Help them identify it and help others have some empathy. We still live in a society full of ignorant and downright hateful people toward the mentally ill.
The reason I’m discussing this is because we are often told ‘speak up about your problems’ but when you are depressed and you speak up about your problems, you are very often misunderstood, derided, put down, have your issues talked down and it can make you feel worse. It can make you feel alien to finally open up and be totally written off or misunderstood. Don’t get me wrong now, it’s important to just get things off your chest and hopefully like me you can find one or two people who will understand or at least be able to practice empathy.
Unfortunately I don’t believe this campaign to get the mentally ill to speak up is actually working, I don’t believe it’s changing mindsets at all. Or if it is, it isn’t enough. So many people still hold the incorrect view of mental illness, they still can’t tell the difference between when they are nervous for a job interview and your crippling anxiety. They still can’t differentiate between when they are sad because they failed an exam or their pet cat died and when you have serious, crippling, paralysing depression. This is a serious issue and I don’t think the onus should be on the mentally ill to have to fight against a tsunami of ignorance and hate.
It’s about time governments, schools and international organisations start educating people on what depression and anxiety actually are. It’s about time people are told they aren’t depressed when they are in fact somewhat sad. It’s about time people learn they do not have anxiety because they are sweaty before a job interview. Until people’s fundamental views of mental health are changed or formed when they are children then the mentally ill are pissing into the wind when they open up to talk.
Some of the comments toward Chester Bennington online were absolutely reprehensible. The amount of hateful animals out there who called him selfish for leaving a wife and children behind is shocking. They don’t care about the pain he was in, the suffering and they don’t seem to realise that to leave loved ones behind is so excruciatingly painful that to decide it is better to leave them behind than to remain shows the depth of depravity that depression plunges its victim to.
Some people kill themselves because their empire collapses, some kill themselves because they lose millions on the stock market, some kill themselves in puerile drunken escapades and what scares me is that millions of people can’t differentiate these people from people who have been worn down for years by depression. They can’t and more importantly don’t care to be able to differentiate the difference between this and the suicide of someone who has battled something far worse than they could ever imagine. A battle that may rage on for decades and eventually perhaps those small victories that you used to cling to become pyrrhic victories and that is when someone has had enough.
Depression doesn’t care if you’re rich, famous or God himself. I have often thought if I won the lotto how it would change my life and you know what? The more I think about it, the more I realise that after I got over the excitement of buying an entire animal shelter and starting a sports car collection I would still be manically depressed. Why wouldn’t I be? Money isn’t my problem, relationships aren’t my problem, a crap job isn’t my problem. My problem is I have a disease that eats away at my mind every single minute of every single day from the day I was born and it will continue to the day I die. But if a billionaire kills themselves can you imagine what people online would be saying? Can you imagine the vile and putrid hate poured upon that person?
The world and a family lost an inspirational man on the 20th June 2017. He’s not the first nor will he be the last person to end this way. But all I want to say to end this article is this; anyone who ends up committing suicide is so unbelievably strong most people will never be able to comprehend their strength. To fight every single day, every minute of your life is exhausting and to win that fight once is tough but to do it daily is unimaginable. So by the act of defying their disease so often shows great character and strength. I find it sad that when people do end up committing suicide the comments of ‘selfish’ are always far more ubiquitous than comments about how strong that person is but I can assure you, strong is the most apt word to describe these people.
My thoughts are with Chester Bennington at the moment and I hope anybody else struggling with their demons can just keep fighting for one more day.
Tomorrow could be the best day of your life. But if you give up now, you will never find out.