TW: suicide, sexual abuse, depression
Linkin Park used to be one of my guilty pleasures. Even in my teens I was a bit ashamed to admit how much I did love their music. To my punk and metal friends- that would make me a poseur. To my friends in the popular crowd- that would make me an angry metal head. But after Chester Bennington died by suicide, I’m no longer ashamed to be a Linkin Park fan. It’s not just in honor of his death, but because it wasn’t until then that I learned that Chester was a fellow survivor of childhood sexual abuse. In solidarity of his struggles as a survivor, I am no longer a closeted fan.
When I discovered that Chester was a survivor, I finally understood why his music meant so much to me. Their album Hybrid Theory helped me through one of the most challenging moments of my life. I was thirteen and my parents had just found out that my sister molested me. My parents didn’t punish my sister for this, however, they punished me. They started to control who I talked to and who I befriended, causing me to be isolated from my friends. I was basically locked in my room for months, desperate for an escape. Angry music like Linkin Park that I could play so loudly in my room it permeated throughout the house became this escape.
Like Chester my parents weren’t there for me. We were also both abused by someone older of the same sex. He has mentioned in interviews how confusing this was for him as a straight man. But, unlike Chester, I am queer. I will never know if my abuse caused my sexual orientation, something that will haunt me forever.
I learned about Chester’s abuse in his death announcements. I also learned about his years of drug and alcohol abuse, something that also hits home with me. But when I went to read these articles, I expected to be sad because another person died by suicide. As someone who has suffered from depression since I was a preteen, it always hurts to hear about a suicide because there’s always the thought in the back of my mind that it could’ve been me. But I wasn’t expecting to be reached as a survivor. It stings. His voice, his lyrics, his music gave me peace, and gave me validation to my experiences, all before I even knew I had this connection with him. So many times when I thought about ending my own life, his music saved me. But it didn’t save him.
So, I revisited Hybrid Theory when I learned of his death. His suffering and my suffering began to creep throughout my apartment.
In “Points of Authority,” I heard our anger toward our abusers-
You love the way I look at you
While taking pleasure in the awful things you put me through
You take away if I give in
My pride is broken
In “Runaway,” I found our yearning to escape-
I wanna runaway
Never say goodbye
I wanna know the truth
Instead of wondering why
I wanna know the answers
No more lies
I wanna shut the door
And open up my mind
In, “Place for my Head,” there lied our frustration at a world that refused to listen-
I wanna be in another place I hate when you say you don’t understand
I wanna be in the energy not with the enemy a place for my head
But it was when I listened to my favorite song from Meteora, “Breaking the Habit,” that I began to feel the same despair I felt in my teens. It was an anthem that echoed my thoughts every time I cut myself when I was younger. Many think self-mutilation or self-injury is a stepping stone to suicide but that is most often not the case. For me, it was about putting the pain I felt somewhere physically on my body so I could actually feel something. I was also suicidal and attempted once in high school by overdosing on ibuprofen, but that’s not what cutting was for me. It was about not being alright, not understanding why I’m the one that battles always choose. As I listened to that song, with Chester’s death haunting me, it dawned on me how much things often do not change. I’m almost 28 now, fifteen years after my parents found out I was molested, a year after I was sexually assaulted by men I met at a hotel bar when I was out of town at a conference. Why am I the one the battles always choose?
And sadly, as I sat there wondering what’s worth fighting for, I was reminded that Chester broke the habit.
But there was one particular stanza that made me want to cradle Chester- and my fellow survivors- to try to erase years of pain and self blame. Toward the end of the song he sings,
I’ll paint it on the walls
‘Cause I’m the one at fault
I’ll never fight again
Because this is how it ends
At that moment, I realized things do change. I’ve been in therapy for a year and one of the things I have worked on is self blame. Slowly I’m letting go of the idea that all of this – my abuse, depression, self-mutilation, assault, feelings of helplessness – are not my fault.
I don’t know what ultimately led to Chester’s death besides depression, and I don’t know if he ever did accept that it was not his fault. But he did die because of his suffering and I wish I could tell him, remind him, that his pain is not his fault. Because I can’t talk to him, I am sending that message to my fellow survivors: It is not your fault.
To Chester, I hope you found a place for your head.