When you think about it, you realize that at some or the other point in time, all of us, every single one of us, in the comfort of our rooms, of our solitary corner, and in the discomfort of our loneliness, our desperation, our misery, have listened to Hybrid Theory and Meteora to try and get through what seemed to be an endless night filled with hopelessness and desolation, a night that kept reoccurring continuously in a phase of our lives where we were angry at the world and the people in it, angry at the lives we led, angry about our inability to make sense of what we were doing with it, and yet we were still alive at the end of the night and that was there was something about Hybrid Theory and Meteora that helped us survive that horrible night.
Was it our strength that got through all those nights? Were we still hopeful of what was there in the future when we were living those nights and survived through them? Was the fact that Hybrid Theory and Meteora sounded radically different from what we’d heard until then that kept us alive to fight another day? Or was it that those albums validated our issues, our troubles, and brought them out to the world for people to listen and connect to?
I remember the time when I was 14. I was in school. I spent more time panicking and trying to make sense of the world and failing and getting depressed. There was no reason for me to be that way. I had awesome people around me, both at home and at school. Everything seemed to be going fine, nothing was out of place. But I was miserable. Everything seemed like it was falling apart. I had friends, but I wondered if they were people who actually cared about me. I used to practice smiling at home. I used to talk to myself as I cycled to the school. I looked from heights and wondered how the world would be if I fell. I never had any hope of escaping it all. I felt trapped, felt lost. It sounds dramatic, but that’s because it is. The anger, the frustration, the sadness, the pointlessness of existence, everything made its way to staying there inside my head. Each thought was a scar. A painful reminder of a horrible time.
There was no way out for me. I couldn’t talk to anyone, I couldn’t trust anyone. People had their lives and there was no place for me. I was possessed with a problem that I didn’t fully understand. That’s when I took up writing. I tried to express myself in the little English I knew back then. Written word was how I survived. The first year of writing barely helped. It did nothing. I didn’t know what I was trying to achieve by writing. It just helped me learn to channelize my mental state onto a paper. And then I started listening to Linkin Park. Then the truth dawned upon me. I wasn’t writing to learn to distract myself. I wasn’t writing to try and get people to listen to me. I was writing because I was hurt, and because I really wanted to get better. Linkin Park made me realize that writing was how I could try and repair my mind. Restore my confidence. Heal myself.
Linkin Park was how most of us made through that phase of our lives. We had Chester Bennington, a man in whose voice you could feel the agony of being in pain and also the joy that comes with helping people reach the end of worst nightmares. A man who sounded as sharp and painful as an expert swordsman’s sword dancing and fending enemies with ease and grace while getting hurt. We were living in the dark, we saw no end to our sadness and the darkness that we lived in, and Linkin Park came along, with Chester at its helm, to let us know that there was light somewhere out there, that we are not alone, that they were here for and with us.
Depression is a terrible thing. It is traumatic. There’s no other way around this. Depression is real. It is right there, it is an actual thing that affects people. The emotional damage caused is unquantifiable and immeasurable. As the lyrics in Papercut put it, it is a whirlwind inside of the head. A voice on the back of the head, screaming in the silence, whose echoes remain resounding forever. A numbness in the brain, and yet there is pain. You can feel it. It is there. A living, breathing entity that exists solely to rip your peace apart and introduce to your brain the element of chaos. It is a very steep downward spiral from there. The descent into darkness. There is nothing more horrible than what is at the end of the spiral.
Chester battled these demons. His past was filled with some very horrible incidents, and he explored very dark places mentally that no one should ever have to. It’s not something that I would wish even for someone I hate. Over the last two weeks, people have been saying that Chester has lost the battle against depression. He hasn’t. Chester is a survivor. A man who’s been battling it day in and day out for over 20 years. We owe to him and to ourselves to recognize the man’s struggles and to not label him a loser, because he isn’t. He was a survivor. He was a hero. Our hero.
If you were exposed and brought up in the places and the circumstances I was brought up in, you would realize that depression is not something that’s taken seriously here. It is a world where a boy is expected to be strong. Masculine. Devoid of pain. Absolutely fearless. Nerves of steel. No emotional outbursts. He is supposed to be a strong gentleman with welded tear glands; whose brain is calculating, always in the right direction, and immune to any kind of emotions that might bring about tears. For the society here, depression is just an imaginary thing. There is no acknowledgement of depression.
In a society like that, growing up is hard. Impossible to a certain extent. This was a society that told me that crying is a sign of weakness. That I was to hide any feelings that I may experience, especially if it was a negative feeling. In a society like this, I had Chester Bennington. A man who screamed with the fire and the passion of a thousand suns; a man who made me realize that it was absolutely acceptable to be myself and shout and scream whatever I wanted and needed to.
Linkin Park helped me get myself back when I was mentally in the worst shape I’d ever been. The band gave a shape and a body to my thoughts. But Chester was the one who gave that shape a life. He voiced it, he sang every word like he meant it. He jumped and screamed and twisted and shouted like he was fighting something. An invisible force. He fought for me, when I didn’t even know what I was facing.
I find myself wondering what was going on in his head in his final moments. No one will. We can, at best, make educated guesses. But there’s no closure there. None at all. There is no closure in uncertainty, none whatsoever in living with a theory whose legitimacy can never be established. However, there is a sense of closure in his music. Sit, play Linkin Park, listen, and sing along with Chester. No matter who you are or what you like in their body of work, there is something there for everyone that will help you cope with what has happened.
It’s been close to two weeks but the pain isn’t subsiding. It only increases with every single time I listen to Chester’s voice. I resonate more with the songs than I did before, but now there’s the emotional instability that comes with the painful realization that the darkness has taken over the man who brought my problems to light. The reality from my life that I map to the songs is easier to accept than it was before I started listening to Linkin Park. Everything from Hybrid Theory to One More Light has a personal significance to me. A part of my life is associated with each album, each song. The reality is easier to face with the help of Linkin Park’s music. Chester Bennington did what he had to. He channeled everything that he had been through, and made his life his body of work. Nothing can be greater than an artist whose work is a reflection of himself, whose work resonates with hundreds of thousands of people across the world.
Chester. I have been trying to write for two weeks now. It is so hard. I cannot get myself to put together sentences without getting sad. I didn’t know you, but you knew me. I wish I could’ve help you, Chester. I’m here because you were here for me. Chester, you have left behind reasons to be remembered, to be cherished, to be loved. The sun hasn’t and will never set on your music, Chester. Thank you.