Chester Bennington, Clinical Depression and Triggers

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Chester Bennington, Clinical Depression and Triggers

By Annamarya Scaccia 07/23/17

Like the late singer, my mind can be described as “a bad neighborhood,” one that’s filled with emotions and thoughts that want to drag me down.

Image: 
Chester Bennington wearing shades looking downwards
The author reflects on the personal impact of Chester Bennington's death by suicide.

I have a normal routine.

I wake up around 6:30 in the morning and pour myself a mug of coffee. Maybe I’ll eat some breakfast, too — a bowl of cereal or a frozen waffle, nothing too fancy. Then I’ll plop myself down on the couch, turn on the television, and catch up on whatever show I’m binge-watching that week. I’ll have an hour or two before my toddler son wakes up and stumbles into the living room, still in his sleepy haze.

Those moments alone in the morning are precious to me. It’s the only time I can let go of the other Annamarya — the one who seems untroubled to the world. I’ve lived with depression since I was a teenager. Every day, for nearly two decades, has been a struggle to pretend I’m fine — to curl my lips into a smile, to laugh, to be interested in anything. I flood my emails and texts with exclamation points and “okie dokies.” I’ll tell you “I’m alright” when you ask me how I’m doing. I’d like to believe I’m high-functioning, whatever that means.

Underneath that veneer, though, is a girl lost in the crowd. She feels unwanted and unloved, circling the outside of groups she’s not good enough to be in. Still, she continues to move through this world with the hope that everything will work out in the end. That she will not succumb to these thoughts in her head.

And I know that’s what they are — just thoughts, not truth.

But then I read the news on Thursday that Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington died by suicide at his home in Palos Verdes Estates, California. The singer was just 41 years old, seven years my senior. He left behind a wife of 12 years — the length of my current relationship — and six kids.

Bennington’s death triggered me, just in the way the deaths of Chris Cornell, Stevie Ryan, and Lee Thompson Young had. These incredible people were all so young, with decades left to make moments and memories. Yet, they’re gone, painful voids now in their place.

And I can’t help but think, God, do we ever make it?

Do we ever live long, happy lives?

***

When I was first diagnosed with clinical depression as a teenager, I was prescribed Prozac. But it didn’t take me long to stop taking the medication. I didn’t like how numb it made me feel.

You could say I wore my emotions on my sleeve until I was in my early 20s. Back then, in the nascent days of my depression, I cried publicly, I broke down publicly, and I vented publicly. An old boss described me as a tornado — someone who creates a mess, but always leaves her mark.

Slowly, though, I started shutting down. As the years passed, I spoke to people less about my darkest thoughts. I found that it was easier to complain about my relationship troubles than it was to talk about how much I hated myself. Revealing your partner’s indiscretions doesn’t leave you nearly as vulnerable.

For a long time, I didn’t manage my depression. I just pushed it down deep, where the light couldn’t shine. Instead of talking, I threw myself deeper into my work. I zoned out on television more often. When I exercised, I went so hard that I would faint. Working, television, exercise, those were the ways I would self-medicate. And I sometimes still do, even though I went back on antidepressants two years ago. While going on medication has helped me feel far more productive and far less lonely, it’s still not enough to dissipate this cloud of sadness hanging above my head.

Throughout his life, Bennington struggled with addiction and recovery. So had his close friend Chris Cornell, who would have turned 53 years old on the day the Linkin Park frontman died. As research shows, substance misuse and mental illness have high comorbidities, with alcohol and drugs often used to self-medicate. In other cases, drug use can bring about or worsen symptoms of depression and other mood disorders.

In a way, Bennington and I really aren’t that much different from each other. Like the late singer, my mind can be described as “a bad neighborhood,” one that’s filled with emotions and thoughts that want to drag me down. I want to think that I’ll walk out of there, bruised but intact, and eventually find my way home.

But recently, I found myself fighting against this intense need to disappear. Not to die, not to end permanently, but to shrink myself to the point where I’ll no longer be seen. A symptom of my depression is this unrelenting belief that I’m worthless — that this aging face, this sagging body, this awkward personality are all burdens to other people in my life. I look in the mirror and I see someone who is less than, who’s not significant enough to be remembered.

To disappear would be to spare the people I love.

To be clear, I am not experiencing suicidal ideation. I don’t have a desire to die. But I will always have that thought in the back of my mind—the one that comes to the forefront whenever I learn about someone’s death by suicide.

Do we ever defeat our demons? Do we ever survive?

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