Just Hold On - Remembering Chester
By Tina Blacksmith

I remember listening to Linkin Park every day.  I would sing along with Mike because it was easier than singing with Chester.  Then as I got older, I stopped listening to them and found other bands.  So when I saw the headline on July 20th, it was a total shock.  Chester Bennington dead at 41.  I knew nothing about his battle with mental illness or addiction, his struggle to just hold on.  All those memories of blasting their music came rushing back and it was overwhelming to realise he was gone.

Their lyrics helped so many people

Chester was abused as a young boy.  During the time I listened to Linkin Park, I did not know this.  If I had known, it would have changed how I listened to them.  It would have given me a greater appreciation for those lyrics that helped so many people going through terrible times in their lives.  It would have helped me to just hold on, because I was going through so much.  I wonder if Chester really ever knew the impact he had on people.  I wonder if he knew that he saved lives all across the world because he helped those people realise they weren’t alone.

When you’re young and go through something traumatic like abuse, it changes you.  When you hit a child, the physical pain is over pretty quickly, and when you call a child worthless they may cry or feel sad for a little while.  But in the long run those memories haunt us.  If there is one thing I wish people understood about childhood abuse, it’s that the physical scars aren’t the ones that hurt us most.  It’s the mental ones.  It’s the self-defeating thoughts that race through our minds every day, multiple times a day.  The social anxiety you get when talking to people you’ve talked to a billion times, all because you were never taught how to form proper relationships or have meaningful conversations.

“Just get over it!”

You feel like a loser because you think you should just “get over it” like so many people tell us but you don’t know how.  You distance yourself from your spouse because you feel like a burden and don’t want to unload your negative thoughts onto them.  When it’s really bad, it’s feeling like the world would be better off with you gone.  Abuse literally changes your brain.  It leads to mental illness, like depression or PTSD, and can also lead to drug and alcohol abuse.  In Chester’s case, this is true.

In videos Chester always seemed so happy, so full of life.  He’s laughing and smiling.  Maybe that was his way of trying to keep just how hurt he truly was on the inside to himself, his way of trying to just hold on.  I know how much pain he was in because I’ve been there.

You feel like you are drowning

You can feel good one day and the next, it hits you like a tidal wave.  Imagine you are swimming.  You get pulled under.  Your lungs start to fill up with water.  In relation to mental illness, the water is those negative thoughts that creep into your mind.  The ones that tell you to just give up, that you’re not worth the effort.  The ones that can hit you out of nowhere.  Those thoughts are the ones that can make you feel as though you are drowning.  Like you have an anchor tied to your waist and no matter how hard you try to just hold on, you can’t reach the surface again.

After I learned of Chester’s death, I got into this funk for almost a month.  I didn’t feel like doing anything most days besides sitting on the couch and dwelling on my past or the thoughts in my head.  August 17th rolled around and the day started off fine.  But that evening, this intense feeling of emptiness came over me.  I had already cried a few times that day but this was my first time ever curling up in a ball on the couch and crying until it felt like I couldn’t cry anymore.  I didn’t feel much of anything.  It was the lowest I have ever felt.

Burdens from my past

After having a talk with my husband, I was able to free myself of some burdens from my past that had been weighing me down and, although I didn’t fully realise it, contributing to much of my pain over the years.  It felt as though a ton of bricks had been physically removed from my chest and I could now breathe.  I learned that you can’t hold those thoughts or emotions inside.  It will eat you up until there’s nothing left.  You must find a way to release those emotions.

I want everyone struggling to realise that YOU CAN DO THIS.  If you don’t feel like smiling, don’t smile. You don’t have to pretend to be happy if you’re not.  Pretending only makes it worse because you’re not validating your true feelings.  There are millions of people in this world who are struggling just like you.  YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  Although some days you will wake up and think “What’s the point?”, you can make it through those days.  You will have days where you don’t shower or change clothes, but HOLD ON.

Just hold on

I beg you to just HOLD ON because a bad day is just that: a bad DAY.  Every day is a new beginning.  You have the chance to do something different.  It will be so hard in the beginning but the first step is the most important step: putting one foot in front of the other and realising YOU are in control, not your mind (although your brain does like to trick you into believing otherwise). I wish Chester could have realised this.  I wish he could have realised that although the bad days never completely go away, there will be good days too.  There will be days where you laugh until you cry, days where you paint or draw a beautiful picture, days where your dog or kid does something to make you smile, days where you think to yourself, “This was a great day”.

When you have a bad day, try to think back to a good day where you had fun, and tell yourself “I WILL have more days like that”.  Please realise that you are worth it.  You will have to fight like you’ve never fought before but it is worth it.  You can get to a place where you look forward to living but it all starts with you: you just have to hold on and fight.  Fight like the warriors I know you all are.

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