In the wake of Chester Bennington: an Open Letter to Those who Don’t Understand Depression.

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The morning after the news broke of the world’s tragic loss of brilliant, yet long-suffering, Chester Bennington, social media accounts were flooded with messages of sorrow, sympathy, prayers, and love for him and his family.

There were many beautiful sentiments and feelings that none of us can properly describe, but the attempts were heartfelt—and, for a few days, we (as a community) mourn him together.

We find some comfort in our shared grief—some solace in the tears we shed collectively.

But, for every 10 loving comments posted, there is also a hateful one. And, I can’t comprehend how—in a moment of such deep heartbreak—anyone can have anything negative to say. But…they can—and they do.

People call his act of suicide one of selfishness.

They label him a coward. They ask, “What kind of father would just leave his children behind?” They claim killing yourself is the easy way out.

They say he had everything in the world, so why would he do this?

People had the same response recently, following the death of Bennington’s close friend, Chris Cornell. The masses take to their online soapboxes and preach the same misguided arguments every time anyone, especially a celebrity, commits or attempts suicide.

As someone who has suffered from and battled depression, I want to help others understand it better.

Depression is not “sadness.” It isn’t just feeling low, and it isn’t something that the perfect family, or money, or success can protect or save us from.

Depression, to the point of being suicidal, is a detached numbness that seeps into your pores and into every cell—and, for a time, becomes you. It paralyzes you with its weight and the pain that takes up residence in your very bones and organs, and it metastasizes through you like a cancer.

It leaves you a vacant shell of your previous self that is only filled with a despair that oozes thickly through your veins, replacing the blood that once sustained you.

When I was deep in depression for a time—lying in my bed, wishing the ground would open and swallow me—did I think of the people I would leave behind if I were never to wake up? Of course, I did. But, in my deadened and emotionless state, I couldn’t access my usual, “normal”  feelings, nor those of my family.

I couldn’t imagine that my kids or husband would miss me. I couldn’t imagine that anyone would even notice. It wasn’t that I didn’t care, it was that I couldn’t care. That is what depression does to you. Normal emotions, including the capacity to feel the potential emotions of others, can’t be accessed.

In the past few years, we’ve brought awareness to so many causes and illnesses, and we’ve done so much good by doing so. Cancer awareness. Autism awareness. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) awareness.

Robin Williams committed suicide following his battle with depression caused by Parkinson’s and Lewy Body Dementia. And now, we understand that a little bit better. But every time someone is criticized for committing suicide, we go a few steps backward in our quest for awareness.

Can you imagine if we supported cancer victims through their fight, but then got angry and blamed them if the cancer took their life? This is the same thing. We simply can’t support and have empathy for people with depression, but then withdraw that support if they contemplate taking their life.

Cancer kills—and so does depression. And both of those groups need our understanding.

We, humankind, have got to stop the shame of mental illness.

Its victims deserve the same respect and support that we give anyone with a life-threatening disease. Because, like cancer, depression can be life-threatening—and just like cancer, it’s nobody’s fault. Every time we criticize someone who chooses to end their own suffering—calling them selfish, instead of giving them our empathy and compassion—we keep this cycle going.

We keep the stigma alive.

So, I ask each and every one of you to take a moment to stop and understand that you have no earthly idea what that last level of hopelessness feels like (unless you’ve been there), and to remember that you cannot judge until you have walked in another’s shoes.

I don’t know what it’s like to face addiction on a daily, hourly, minute-to-minute basis as Bennington did. I don’t know what it’s like to have been molested repeatedly as a child, as Bennington openly discussed.

I don’t know what it’s like to have fame and celebrity and not to have one single solitary moment of privacy or peace from it. Not to be able to walk freely through the streets without people staring at me. Not to be able to go to dinner or to rehab or to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting without my suffering making the news. To publicly go through the motions of living with a smile plastered on my face.

There is so much trauma and tragedy in the lives of others that we can’t begin to imagine. And maybe you have gone through addiction, or abuse, or depression, or something similar—but none of us have experienced it in the same way that Chester Bennington did.

And, since we can never truly know what he felt, we need to acknowledge that there are states of consciousness that we can’t possibly grasp.

From that compassionate and humble place, maybe we can begin to be part of the solution.

To the Bennington family and those affected by his death: May you, with time, find the peace in life that Chester never did.

I pray he has found peace now.

 

~

Relephant:

In the Wake of Chris Cornell’s Death: a Letter to Artists & Broken Souls.

Lifting the Stigma: We’re all just Learning to Deal with the Ups & Downs of Life.

Breaking the Stigma: Therapists have Mental Health Issues Too.

~

Author: Amy Bradley 
Image: Flickr/Chris Parker
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy Editor: Travis May
Social Editor: Callie Rushton

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Chris Lunsford Jul 27, 2017 3:39pm

People don't care until your dead. No one visits you until the funeral here they cast judgement.

Amy Bradley Jul 26, 2017 6:17pm

You're absolutely right, Marion. Blessings to you, too. �

Amy Bradley Jul 26, 2017 6:16pm

Thank you, Jolene! xo

Marion Peck Jul 26, 2017 4:01pm

Depression is something we should never judge. Pain people go through. God bless you.

Jolene Adams Punches Jul 26, 2017 5:15am

God bless you Amy for this!!! Truly eye opening and sad. There are so many illnesses that are misunderstood And I appreciate tour kind, open and honest point of view.

Kristen Erwin Jul 25, 2017 10:54pm

Well said.

Amy Bradley Jul 25, 2017 8:08pm

Donna, I'm so sorry for your loss and can't begin to imagine the pain and helplessness you've felt both before and after the passing of your son. Using your experience to help others in similar situations is an courageous and honorable thing. At the end of the day, what can we do with the difficult and tragic things we experience but use them to help others? Sending you love as you continue on your path. xo

Donna Boni-Molinaro Jul 25, 2017 6:59pm

I am a mother who lost her son to passive suicide. I watched him fade away right in front of me. Reading your article I found myself agreeing with many things you said. I tried everything to help my son but he couldn't overcome the sadness he felt. I live my life as a testimony of his life. I am learning about mental illness and I comfort those who are trying to work through their sadness. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

Amy Bradley Jul 25, 2017 4:40pm

I completely understand that worry. And to be honest, I don't think any god would withhold forgiveness for someone suffering any life-threatening illness. I would think that He would want us to do the best we can given everything we've been given and for that, we are loved.

Joyann Mihaljevich-brand Jul 25, 2017 2:54pm

I know depression is a mental illness, I just hope that god forgives them for what they did, I hope there soul isn't in hell for eternity

Steve Howard Jul 25, 2017 4:24am

Thank you for liking what I had to say Amy. I thought you might delete it because of my strong and unconventional views. We are all fucked up lovable human beings. All of us. Love is the answer. Always. Love doesn't care how many times we have fucked up. It's unconditional. If one is feeling love suicide cannot happen. Love in all its forms is the solution to suicide. Sometimes a healthy fear of living as a ghost can help too, especially when times are dark and out hear feels closed.

Amy Bradley Jul 25, 2017 4:11am

Thank you, Traci, for reading. �

Amy Bradley Jul 25, 2017 4:10am

Thank you, Steve, for sharing your difficult experience with everyone. All the best to you on your journey.

Amy Bradley Jul 25, 2017 4:06am

I'm so glad to have helped. All the best to you and your mother. xo

Traci Clevers Wright Jul 25, 2017 1:37am

Thank you.

Sarah Vatnsdal Jul 24, 2017 9:48pm

Amy Bradley thank you, you are a very kind hearted person. I fight the battle and take all the help I can get. Sometimes the path I'm on doesn't seem to be the right path and I have to change paths. I had a very close friend who had the same battle, unfortunately she lost her battle in 2009. Just recently I got a tattoo in memory of her. She's always in my thoughts. Thank you for your kind words and I will remember them for life! XO

Steve Howard Jul 24, 2017 8:00pm

Very thoughtful and heartfelt article Amy and I commend you in your attempt to shed light on the phenomenon of depression. Disease or dis-ease with life at a very deep level is usually caused by a combination of biological, psychological and and spiritual maladjustment. I may be in a position to share a little bit considering I attenpted suicide a good half dozen times when I was in my twenties and have battled through the dark nights of the soul (depression) a countless number of times in my life. I agree with having unconditional love for those suffering with depression yet sometimes depressed people need tough love also. In my experience the current of depression has been so incredibly strong at times that I have had to use every fiber of my being to make major changes in my life. There is no miracle cure for depression. Dr. Peter Breggin wrote a book called Toxic Pschiatry where he coined the term psycho/spiritual condition. The point I am coming to is that we, quoting Sting "are spirits in the material world". The real problem with suicide is that it doesn't solve our problem. It actually creates more suffering for everyone. If I had succeeded in one of my suicide attempts in my twenties I would have left a hole in the heart of all of the members of my quite large extended family. Even if I was depressed and saw nothing but suffering and pain ahead of me for the rest of my life, if I had succeeded it would have been obsession with self and disregard for the feelings of all my family members who would have had to suffer for the rest of their lives on earth with a tragic painful memory of me. To kill oneself is a crime. If one is depressed and kills someone else, society condemns that person. That person is given the death penalty or a life in prison. Although it doesn not seem possible to punish someone who commits suicide from the standpoint of human society, that does not mean that the soul who commits suicide does not have to suffer after the act is has been completed. Don't get me wrong please. I am by no means standing in judgement or condemning those who have taken that step. A few days ago was the two year anniversary of a beautiful young girl's death by hanging. She worked for our Cafe Namaste in Ashland, Oregon and was like a little sister to our spiritual family. I grieved all day remembering her and what a tragic loss it was for her to end her life at such a young age. In my grieving I felt as if could sense her pain. Her mother asked me to hang out with her a few days before she hung herself in the back yard. And I didn't. I didn't know she was suffering so much. I had heard she was diagnosed with bi-polar illness but half the population has that label now. Some people are so sensitive and empathic that they find it hard to live in this world. I am one of those people. My message however is that suicide is not the answer. As long as we have an erroneous notion that life after suicide is a peaceful condition we are not helping those struggling with suicidal thoughts. There are many sages and revealed teachings throughout the world which explain that one who commits suicide will have to spend many years in a ghost body. This is a simple metaphysical law. We cannot see gravity and we do not have to believe in it. Regardless, the law of gravity will act. We may wish with all our heart and good intentions that those who have committed suicide are in a blissful utopia however the mystic teachings of the East explain that if we end our life by committing suicide we will still be conscious and full of sensual desires for a period of time yet we will no longer have the facility to enjoy. We will want to eat but we can't, we will see people making love but we can't, we will be thirsty for water but we can't quench our thirst. THAT is the problem with suicide. My dark nights of my soul have pushed me to go deeper and deeper with my spiritual commitment to life. My message is that we need to wake the fuck up and stop imagining that life after suicide is rosey. You can say that there is no proof that you get a ghost body post suicide. Well I can also say there is no proof that life after suicide is a peace festival. For those who think the scientists have all the answers I feel sorry for you. For those of you who think all the spiritual teachers and teachings the world over are bogus, I feel sorry for you. We go to mundane colleges to get an education to make a living in society, yet when it comes to matters of life and death and consciousness many people in this day and age consider themselves self taught authorities on all matters. I am saying all of this out of compassion for those considering suicide, because frankly, the single factor which has prevented me from committing suicide has been the fear living as a ghost. Last month I was in a holy place in India called Jaganath Puri. For one 24 hour period I completely fasted from all food and water to sense what a ghost feels like. One day is enough.

San Lajoie Jul 24, 2017 6:58pm

My mother suffers from depression and this letter helped me understand it better! Thank you!! xx

Amy Bradley Jul 24, 2017 5:29pm

Amy Bradley Jul 24, 2017 5:28pm

You're welcome, and thank you so much for reading and getting it:)

Amy Bradley Jul 24, 2017 5:27pm

Thank you, Dalia. �

Amy Bradley Jul 24, 2017 5:25pm

Laurie, you are spot on. I read online people blaming drugs and alcohol for Chester's suicide, but what is the root of that addiction? It all leads back to depression. It is a health crisis greater than many realize, and we cannot, as a society, continue poo-pooing it and saying "well, I was depressed, but my girlfriend gives me something to be happy about and live for". No!! If that is you saying that, you have not experienced it, so stop minimizing it! I appreciate your words and insight so much, as well as the work you're doing. Saving individual lives and the families and friends affected by each one. Thank YOU for that. Best, Amy xo

Gretchen Pickett Jul 24, 2017 5:21pm

Amy Bradley Your writing is inspriational. Keep writing!! Much love to you!

Amy Bradley Jul 24, 2017 5:18pm

Renee, I'm so glad it helped you understand! The more we understand what another is experiencing, whatever it is, the more we can help, one person at a time. Thank you. �

Amy Bradley Jul 24, 2017 5:16pm

Well said, Meymoona. I love what you said "depression pulls the self away piece by piece". That's it exactly. One may look the same on the outside, but inside? Others have no idea. Thank you for that insight and for promoting kindness in those with depression. �