Yesterday was an incredibly emotional day as it were, and then it was made more so following the unexpected passing of Chester Bennington. In a time when it seems as if mental illness is on a warpath with major entertainers, it was a surprise that had stopped me cold.
I always assume that the first time I hear of a celebrity death off of Facebook that surely it must be a hoax. After all, for at least five years now I’ve been seeing the same RIP WILLIE NELSON meme, which I’m pretty sure that he’s going to outlive us all by now.
But after seeing another report, and another, and finally tabloid-with-eventual-news source TMZ had the story. And by then, I knew it was true.
At first, it seemed to be a random event; but as more details came in, it seemingly was planned for a while. Chester chose the day of Chris Cornell’s birthday, and he chose the same method that he had used.
This freaked me out for a few different reasons. But the one fear that always comes back is the realization that if it can happen to someone internationally beloved, someone who has used their talent to create a successful entertainment career, someone who is both a household name and has a family of their own, would it really be a surprise if someone, say, like me wound up doing it?
It’s been a really long time since I have considered it, and I don’t feel that I am in any way, shape, or form at risk. I really don’t; I feel like, at least at this point, it is not a potential cause for concern. But what they don’t tell you about suicide is that it doesn’t just become a good idea one time.
All it really takes is one bad day, and before you know it, you have a thought creep in out of nowhere. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to pursue it, it doesn’t mean that you’re choosing now to make your exit. It just means that somewhere, deep down, that contingency plan never went away. Whether you want it there or not, it is always going to be on the table.
And that is what people who don’t have the urge fail to understand. It’s rarely an impulse, at least, not from what I’ve seen. I’m also not an expert, so I could be totally off base there. I think to a degree everyone has it planned out; how it’s going to happen, when, how, even why.
People think that it’s enough to have a career or a family to hold you back. They become a consideration. In short, it becomes a tradeoff; do I follow through knowing that it is going to completely ruin the rest of their lives, or are they important enough that I continue on?
Luckily for me, it was enough. It was a hard battle, one that took up an entire month. But at the end of it, weighing the pros and the cons, I just couldn’t stick them with it. The idea of my mom or my sister finding me, knowing the unexpected expenses, the lasting emotional impact; I couldn’t do it.
Hurting myself was okay, but it stopped there for me. You find that when you become that desperate to relieve the pain, your body ceases to exist. It’s no longer your body so much as the thing that houses your pain. By that logic, in that current state of mind, the only way to stop hurting is to get beyond your body.
Although suicide is physical, it’s a mental battle. It’s all about your brain kind of reversing course. The self-preservation part shuts down, and in a way, it doesn’t. It’s almost as if your mind sees death as being the best course of action; when you get to that point, it stops holding you back. Your thoughts start becoming more akin to “Well, you know what? If you honestly think this is best, then sure, why the heck not?”
I don’t think we’re going to know too much more about what was going on with Chester. Obviously, Cornell‘s death was a large factor. My friend Allie and I discussed the past album his band, Linkin Park, put out; it was slammed by even long-term fans as being too different. Bennington, in an odd twist, starting fighting back.
Bennington was from that scrappy era of more emo-sided music. Bands that dug down and kept pushing until they had finally made it. They were not record label darlings, they didn’t come from famous musicians discovering them; they fought long and hard until they eventually got the recognition that they deserved. Many other bands from that era had similar tribulations, and almost always the frontman praised their fans regularly.
So to see him turn, that was a huge red flag that I don’t think anyone saw. When an average person speaks their mind combatively, it’s usually in the comment section of a YouTube. When a celebrity does it, however, they’re just being “jerks” and “out of touch”.
The situation also shows why it’s important to reconsider going through with it, because you never know who it’s going to push to follow you. Suicide is a selfish action, but what people don’t get is in that moment, no one else matters. You’re hurting to the point that you can’t look past yourself. The world doesn’t exist; just the pain.
I’m hoping that, like most tragedies, some good comes of this. I’m hoping it finally opens up the floor for real suicide prevention and discussion. Not “this celebrity did it so here’s a hotline number”. Not social media posts of “lol just talk to me!”. That’s not going to happen; those who are at this point already feel alone. They are not going to reach out. They feel that there is no one to reach out to, and by seeing an offer like that, it honestly has the opposite effect.
So what can you do? If you know someone with some form of mental illness, just check up on them. But do so honestly. Don’t let them tell you that everything is “fine”. Really and truly see how they are doing, because you just don’t know when we’re having a bad day, and we’ve gotten pretty good at hiding behind a mask.