I’ve been quiet this past week, but my mind sure as hell hasn’t.
To prefix: I, for the most part, am an introverted, private person. This blog along with a select few posts on Instagram tend to be the most insight I give other people into my life. I don’t like to read other people’s dirty laundry, bad moods, criticisms or shit talking aired on social media. Too many people have forgotten something I learned in elementary school: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Or, as I’ve gotten older, Mark Twain’s famous quote: “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” These are two statements I strive to live by.
Because negativity breeds negativity. It is easy to acknowledge every negative little thing and forget how many positive, albeit perhaps mundane, things happen on a daily basis. For instance: let’s say you work in an office. Your day is going alright, but a coworker is stressed out. They vent to anyone nearby about how much this project sucks, how incapable their boss is, question why the company does things so back-asswards. What do you do? This has now shed light on things you’ve thought about previously but didn’t say anything. Someone else opened their mouth first, and suddenly you have the opportunity to chime in. Now your mental energy has shifted to the negativity. You spend the rest of the day annoyed and stressed out, and anything slightly off skew becomes a trigger deeper down the hole.
Lest I continue to digress… A week ago today, the news of Adrenaline Mob’s accident was filling my news feeds. Rumors started surfacing that the bassist, David “Z” (also known for his appearance with the east coast Trans-Siberian Orchestra), was the one death from the accident. Once his brother confirmed the news, I struggled to process. I’ve had a post drafted that I was slowly adding to this week, trying to answer my own question:
“Why does it suck so much when a musician dies, even if I don’t personally know them?”
I was trying to finish and publish that yesterday, but the news of Chester Bennington surfaced.
“This has to be a hoax.”
The same thought went through my head when I first read about Chris Cornell. Sadly, the sources were real. Mike Shinoda confirmed the truth within 30 minutes and my heart sank into the bottom of my stomach. I scrolled through photos, tributes and short stories friends posted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I purposely avoided clicking anything with sound because I knew hearing his voice would send me to tears. It didn’t hit until I saw a video of live coverage from Linkin Park’s headline set at Rock on the Range 2015. I was there. I had no idea that would be the last time I ever saw Chester. I clicked and didn’t make it 10 seconds in, but I sat through my tears and relived the entirety.
Yesterday evening, I worked up the heart to share something on Instagram, and this is the elaboration of that. I have lived through the passing of numerous iconic artists and musicians over the past couple years. Hell, Chris Cornell’s death was just two months ago. The thing is, not even that hit me like Chester’s death has. I listened to a select few mainstream Audioslave and Soundgarden songs when I was in high school, but I didn’t truly appreciate and respect Chris until I got older. He was a generation before me. Chester on the other hand was the epitome of my middle and high school angst. My best friend at the time had burned me a copy of Hybrid Theory. She brought it to me at school one day and told me I needed to listen to it. She knew me well.
I remember the first poster ever to hang on my wall. We were barely into 7th grade and my friends bought me the dark red Linkin Park poster for my birthday. I proudly hung it centered over my headboard. As I got older, I started losing those friends to the different cliques that form in school. A lot of them fell into the group of preppy, popular people. I was forced to choose between hanging out with them or not, while they cast out my other close friends for one insignificant reason or the next. Real friends don’t dictate who you are and aren’t “allowed” to hang out with, so I too was eventually outcast. A new school popped up in my district in 8th grade, and I lost another half of my dwindling number of friends to the transfer.
By 9th grade, I hated school and wanted out. Writing, history, science and math might as well have been letters and numbers floating in outer space. I watched my old friends hang out, meet boys and get into their first relationships, and all I could do was wonder why no one wanted me. Music became my escape. When Reanimation came out, I pestered my mom to drive me to the nearest record store before school so I could buy it before it sold out.
Even though it was basically just a remix of Hybrid Theory, the new version of “Wth>You” will stick with me forever. I related the song to everything in my life – my lost childhood “pretending to be where I’m not anymore”, my lost friends and failed crushes “even though you’re so close to me, you’re still so distant”, feeling like my parents didn’t understand me “fine line between this and that”… This was the song I sat in my room with the door shut and listened to on repeat in the darkness while I let my own mind fumble over itself.
But there was always the one line in the song that served as my beacon of hope for every day to be better than the last: “No, no matter how far we’ve come, I can’t wait to see tomorrow.” That lyric, Chester’s voice, was a ray of light in my darkness. I haven’t listened to the song since his death yet.
After my Instagram post, I noticed a few friends posting about other people making jokes or calling Chester a “coward.” I (fortunately) hadn’t witnessed any of those comments until earlier today when someone took to my post to state: “Life must be really hard for the rich and famous. They can’t stop wackin’ themselves. There’s people who have cancer that are fighting for their lives every day and most lose that fight, but these poor famous rock stars can’t stop killing themselves. Boo hoo.” I cringed. Paused. Re-read. I collected myself; after all, we’re all entitled to our own opinion. I responded as politely as I could. He certainly wasn’t wrong in the fact that people struggle with cancer and other physically and mentally taxing diseases, but he clearly wasn’t aware that depression is also a mental disorder. A few moments later, he replied again:
“Oh, poor Chester and Chris. Everybody loves me but I hate myself. Get over it. Money doesn’t buy happiness but it does buy things that distract you from shit. The world is a better place without the likes of these people. If you don’t want to be here, fine, get the f— out! You’re wasting space and you’re selfish. These people are among the scum of the earth and we’re all better off without them.”
Abiding by my own rules, I simply replied with, “Wow.” And really, that’s the only response I have. I am mind blown by the lack of empathy and respect people are capable of.
I may not have been as empathetic in a response if I hadn’t happened to catch Zach Myers on a live stream last night. Zach discussed some of his own feelings and thoughts surrounding depression, and he shared that he had never experienced the slightest amount of depression himself. Never once had a thought about suicide. A light bulb went off: I had never even realized that there are people that have lived life without experiencing extreme darkness. Maybe that’s a side effect of depression.
At this point, you might be sitting here thinking: “Lizzy is depressed?” There are maybe six people on the planet that know me well enough to know I ever experienced depression. I feel weird even writing it where I know it’s going to be publicly visible – and this is perhaps part of the problem. Maybe I’m clueless or maybe I deviate from the typical associated stigmas, but I’ve always felt like depressed people don’t want to tell the world. We already feel like we’re enough of a burden, we don’t want to come across as attention seekers on top of that.
The answer to the above question, by the way, is, “No, not right now.” And I emphasize the right now part because it’s crucial. A friend earlier today told me that there is a physical manifestation of depression known as the “Dark Passenger” in the show Dexter (sorry fans! I’m too busy frequenting concerts to have time for TV!). The term seemed entirely appropriate though. The best way I can explain depression to someone that’s never experienced it would be: It’s like having a demon as a side kick. When things are going well, the demon stays locked up. When shit hits the fan, the demon comes out and makes it even worse. Some people (self included) learn to lock the demon up. However, we don’t forget the presence – it’s always there, just waiting for an opportunity to unleash itself. That’s why I say right now. Right now, I love every aspect of my life. That doesn’t mean things can’t change – and this loops back to the beginning about why I do my best to stay positive. Negativity breeds negativity. When one bad thing happens, depression takes over and turns one into one hundred. Spilt milk can turn into an existential thought that leads down the staircase of darkness.
As I wrote the shorter version of the last seven paragraphs, the answer to my wondering about why it sucks when musicians die flowed straight from my heart:
Music connects people.
Though I may never meet the artists I admire, their words speak to my heart and ease my mind.
That’s what Linkin Park did for me. That’s what Chester Bennington did. He’ll never know that his words helped me find the light at the end of the tunnel before the end became the light. I wish like hell that I, or anyone, could’ve returned the favor. Rest easy, Chester. I hope the music on the other side soothes your soul.
If anyone I know is suffering, PLEASE call the suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255 OR reach out to me.
I’ve been there and can say from experience that you are not alone. I care, and thousands of people you’ve never even met care. Your life is the only one you’ve got, and it CAN get better. Don’t throw it out the window for a temporary feeling. <3