Once again we do one of our mundane and all too frequent checks of our phones to be greeted with gut-wrenching news.
Yesterday I was waiting for my friends before heading into the BLINK 182 show at O2, scrolling so not to feel awkward that I was on my own in this vast space full of logo’d excitable music fans. Then I saw ‘it’ on my timeline, my heart started bursting out of my chest in the same when the home phone rings late at night and I know it can only be sounding to deliver bad and life changing news.
The same thoughts and hopes we all have when we see news that feels unbelievable, shocking or frankly unbearable, were ignited. It can’t be true. There must be a mistake. It’s a hoax or distasteful rumour.
Then you see a respected outlet or closely connected human confirm it to be true.
This one has hit me particularly hard. I had been really upset that I had not to been able to go to their recent shows in London, but had comforted myself in the thought that their would be another chance – which we sadly now know not to be the case.
Although I had a brief meeting with Chester a few years ago in London, and felt a knew a bit about who he was through friends of mine who knew him well, I always hoped I’d be able to talk with him further via an interview. I had always connected with his lyrics and the emotive quality of his melodies always tugged hard, so I think I’d made an assumption that with my inclination to struggle with life, that I would ‘get’ him and the way he thought…however naive or silly that may sound.
As I listen intently to his songs today and force my parents to do the same by putting them on the TV in the lounge, the lyrics sting prophetically. Although I’d listened to some of these songs for 17 years I don’t think I’d really heard them till this chillingly melancholy day.
He has always told us how dark things get for him, but I guess like many I somehow believed with arenas full of adoring fans, a nice house in LA and an extensive and loving family would somehow mean he was fixed or had just enough to cope. I can’t believe I thought his life was safe from the deathly potential of mental health issues, when I know from my own life how factors external to your mind aren’t enough to always ensure your capable of sticking with life on earth. Why do we find it so hard to really grasp that Depression doesn’t discriminate, even when incidences like this keep on happening? Having things or being seen a certain way doesn’t gift immunity, in fact it can often compound the issue.
If you have success you fear losing it and the rewards it brings. You worry about letting people down. You have a pressure to better yourself with each thing you do or create. You feel anxious you might tarnish your existing legacy. You’re expected to be a good role model and be there for the people that adore you, even when you’re all too aware of your mistakes and less than favourable traits….It goes on. We don’t know what lead to this occasion’s feeling of intense hopelessness, but we know it must have felt overwhelming and pulsed at a time he couldn’t muster sufficient reason or rational.
For me, again it’s not about mourning a perfect being, with a talent that elevated him above us normal folk. I’m devastated for the loss of this flawed being. I don’t mean that to diminish his worth or as any sort of criticism, I simply mean he was a human, muddling through life like all of us, sometimes making mistakes and simply trying to make sense of things.. and himself. I’m sad that things got too much and that he wasn’t able to beat the doubts and demons, and in that moment remember that everything could feel very different in a few days time. I’m heartbroken for his kid’s whose lives will be forever changed and for his wife who will undoubtedly have to try and explain the illogical logically as they continue to ask questions as to why. I’m sorry for his band mates who will have lost a career mate, collaborator, brother and no doubt cause of frequent frustration. But I feel added concern for them as they deal with the ongoing stress of deciphering the best course of action in terms of looking out for their beloved fans and Chester’s legacy.
I tweeted my heartbreak last night, although I’m never completely comfortable with my 140 characters when someone I admire passes. When someone who has a following dies I find myself conflicted, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this. If they’re someone whose work I have enjoyed during my life whether it be their acting performances or their music I feel an intense sorrow, it’s not at all dissimilar to the grief I feel for a friend or relative when they pass. But with this passing I can’t help but feel I haven’t earned the tears, that I’m taking something away from those that did know them on a personal and intimate level. How dare I be utterly devastated? How dare I cry when I hear their song or see their face on a screen? How dare I share the volume of my sorrow with people who may have known him better?
But when you think about the trivial, everyday, routine things we choose to share on social media, it’s inevitable that in today’s world when anything significant happens we are likely to share our thoughts or feelings on it via Twitter, Instagram Facebook etc. It would almost seem odd to not comment on it, silence could be seen as dismissive or uncaring. For me I knew I had to say something, but when I did I had the fear that some people would judge my chosen words negatively.
Some people on social feel they have the right to negate the feelings of people that feel compelled to tweet in light of this news. Many assume it’s people jumping on the grief bandwagon, wanting to make it about them, even outpouring emotions in the pursuit of a retweet. Well there may be some of these we have to give people the benefit of the doubt because only they know the impact the event has had on them. We don’t know how much the song/songs were there at the right time for them, spoke to them when they really needed and made them feel less isolated and alone. We don’t know whether it soundtracked a particularly shaping time of their life, or whether it was an aspect more consistent in their life than family or love. This can’t be a time for assumptions or thinking the worst. If we are to bolster the point of view that it’s important to talk and share, we can’t give people further reason to hold back or edit.
I have some friends that are closed off emotionally, who refuse to open up for fear of burdening or judgement…I can only presume as they don’t tell me why. I still love them. Some of the musicians I’ve followed have shared more than those friends via interviews or their music, so although it’s been shared to the masses a closeness and intimacy has been cultivated. For many of the kids and adult crying today they’re mourning a significant part of their history and moments that made them who they are today (I know for many Linkin Park sparked a passion for music which lead to careers in the industry). Linkin Park probably gifted many with a loving group of friends, formed through a shared interest – the heart- rending release from the fan community backs up this theory.
It’s funny how people are more accepting of fellow musicians tweeting about their sorrow just because their position of fame somehow puts them on the same level as the person who has passed. We have to remember they are also fans, just like you and me – you don’t stop admiring people people just because you have a level of success that puts you on a pedestal in the eyes of others.
I sobbed for much of last night, and for a few moments felt shame about that. But before Hybrid Theory I had been into UK guitar based bands, Manic Street Preachers, Stereophonics, Oasis and lots more that went under the indie bracket. At around the year 2000 things changed for me, thanks to Linkin Park and bands like Deftness, Slipknot and Limp Bizkit. I now had music that had melodies, but with grinds, breakdowns and turntable squeaks that would allow me to let off steam too, which felt necessary as adolescent with constant frustrations and hormonal angst. Linkin Park were/are part of a movement which shaped me and lead to me becoming the music obsessed person I am today, and were part of many a great houses party which featured daunting first snogs and acrid cheap bottled cider. As I lay awake making my face increasingly red and streaked with salt lines, I decided that it was inevitable and fair to be overcome in this way, and would allow myself to be upset.
Epidemic doesn’t feel like an ill fitting term for whats happening with suicide. We owe it to our lost souls to take action and make the changes it’s so clear need to happen.
Like my friend Jess Hope from Don’t Fret Club quite rightly tweeted, it’s so important that bands have constant access to help. I don’t know what band that doesn’t have one if not all members in need of some sort of help, and I maintain that EVERYONE could benefit from therapy of some sort. Everyone has faced difficulties or battles or struggles with aspects of themselves. If not they will benefit from learning coping mechanisms for when they do.
My therapist worked with a lot of musicians and would often tour the world with them, so he could be there should they need support whilst on tour and away from their nearest and dearest or simply the comfort and safety of home. Although he was of course discrete and never divulged any information, I got the impression it was a service needed often. A therapist should be considered as normal and integral as a manager or guitar tech. It shouldn’t be a secretive thing some artists do to survive. They shouldn’t feel they have to pretend that their therapists is there in a different role. Managers and band mates should ensure members go to therapy if it’s clear that someone isn’t coping and it shouldn’t be as awkward a conversation as it is for some people today. But ideally we’d get to a place where someone feels they can decide to do that for themselves, in the same way you’d go for dentist appointment or take your car in for an MOT, and when I say that I don’t mean putting it off for months on end.
When I think back to my art degree at uni, I struggle to think of someone that didn’t reveal some torment or struggle when we were forced to talk about the roots and meanings behind our work at the group critiques. During my time at uni I had to help friends and myself through all manner of emotionally scarring events, and our artwork or the fuel behind the pieces stemmed from these, and the way our minds reacted to them. I think people who naturally gravitate to creative endeavours are emotionally engaged. I don’t know whether we are innately a certain way and need to use activity and passion to create, for purpose of venting or catharsis, or whether as artists it’s integral to have easy and constant access to our emotions. Maybe it rests very heavily on the surface of our being, and perhaps sometimes that weight is just to much for our mentally frail-ed selves to take.
Although I say frail-ed, but I don’t want to connote weakness when I refer to people who struggle with darkness, in fact that opposite is true. Everyday that someone gets through when the harmful voices are at their loudest shows an incredible amount of strength. With the effort and toll this takes it’s no wonder our defences weaken at times and allow the voices to get heard. If you’re an honest lyricist and struggle with depression, it can’t be easy performing songs that document some of the hardest times of your life on those days where you don’t even want to open your curtains and let daylight in.
Grieving is a personal thing, we all have our own ways of doing it. Some will find social media, and communication in general, completely impossible and prefer to go over (and over) the realisation in silence or private. Others will feel soothed by sharing the grief with others. Others will take to their canvas or notebook and create words or art to capture the moment at it’s height. Today we may see many create meme’s incorporating some emotive and all to relevant lyrics.
Whatever your way, I think it’s important we are sensitive to each other’s unique responses and coping mechanisms. Don’t think harshly. Disregard scepticism or a point of view that has been jaded by modern times. Of course it’s of primary important that we be sensitive to the nearest and deareast, but we mustn’t cause damage by dismissing or doubting our or other’s involuntary reaction to the loss of a life. As long as we’’re respectful to those who will be at their most vulnerable, explaining that we loved someone or the work they created feels logical and correct in these times, even if the events that lead to us sharing those thoughts don’t.
Talk, cry, share. Whatever you do don’t keep it bottled inside.
‘Waiting for the end to come
Wishing I had strenght to stand
This is not what I had planned
It’s out of my control’