This is the post I’ve been avoiding writing for a long time.*
With the news of Chester Bennington, best known as the singer and songwriter of Linkin Park, having recently taken his own life at the age of 41, depression and suicide are once again in the forefront of the news. People are sad and grieving, sharing memories of his this person affected them and offering hopeful words to anyone who might be struggling with similar thoughts or feelings.
Whenever I see people sharing words of encouragement like, “Just talk to someone,” my first thought is always that this person, who surely means well, does not understand the first thing about depression.
Depression isolates you into a vacuum, making you feel like you are totally alone and helpless. It also tricks your mind into believing that no one cares about you, and anyone who says or acts like they do must be lying or have a hidden agenda. But on the outside, you appear to be fine, because it also masks or explains away many of the symptoms. This is why so many people are surprised when someone they knew (or someone famous) attempts or commits suicide.
Depression doesn’t care if you’re rich, successful, or have things other people want. For a long time, even after being married, having kids, and having a stable job, I still felt the effects of my depression with the addition of guilt and shame for thinking I shouldn’t feel this way anymore. I had, at a young age, what some people spend their whole lives searching for: a family who loved me unconditionally. Feeling like that wasn’t enough only made me feel worse and constantly wondering why I couldn’t just “be happy.”
It took her a few weeks to put words to how she saw herself. She had to dig through a few layers. The top layer of her life seemed very ordinary. She was married with kids and had enough money to pay the bills. Depression always seemed to be nipping at her heels, but maybe she was just a little tired. Peel back that layer and you heard anger. It seemed to be directed at everyone. But there was more. The next layer revealed her habitual cutting. She had been so discreet her husband didn’t even know about it and, in some ways, she herself didn’t even know. Then there was the next layer, “I am disgusting.”
Welch, Edward T. (2012-04-30). Shame Interrupted: How God Lifts the Pain of Worthlessness and Rejection (p. 31). New Growth Press. Kindle Edition.
Without burying the lead any further, I have never attempted suicide in any way. But I spent a lot of lonely nights in my teenage years thinking about how I might do it if I ever had the “courage” (which is how I referred to it). At the same time, I know people who have attempted it, and I cannot even begin to imagine how they must have felt in order to do something so desperate.
Honestly, one of the things that kept me from taking that next step was thinking about what an inconvenience I would be for my family to have to deal with the aftermath. I know that’s terrible to think about, but I thought it would be much easier for everyone to simply hide away and try not to bother anyone with my pain. But I was also fully convinced I would have to bear that burden my entire life, however long I lived.
So I got really good at hiding. Sometimes I hid by blending into the background; other times I hid by standing in front of people, becoming the center of attention.
The reason I mention Chester Bennington and Linkin Park is that they were the first band I listened to that made me feel like I wasn’t alone. I know a lot of other musicians my age who also struggled with depression around the same time who were helped by his music, so it is with great irony and extreme sadness that we have to accept this reality.
The unfortunate truth is you never know who is suffering or why. It could be the person you love the most in the world or the person who is treating you so unfairly because they are struggling to breathe every day. If that isn’t a good enough reason to try to treat all people with love and respect, I don’t know what is.
I don’t know if depression is a disease, or if it can be cured or just managed and medicated. When I feel it coming back I look for the triggers in my life that could be causing it to return and just run in the opposite direction. I am lucky to have people in my life who love me enough to keep me hopeful about their future, even if I can’t say the same about mine. But in a way, they are tied together, and my belief in that has kept me going so far.
I can only hope it continues to do so.
*special shout out to John Saddington for inspiring me to be more open about depression and suicide.