How Chester Bennington’s Music Helped Me Survive Depression, Abuse, & Chronic Pain

Guest Post by Kirsten Schultz

Today, we have a guest post from the always fierce Kirsten Schultz.  (Schultz previously wrote a guest post for Fashionably ill, “5 Tips for Dating With Chronic Illness.”  Her Twitter handle is @Kirstie_Schultz.)  These are her thoughts on the passing of Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington who died by suicide on July 20, 2017.  

Trigger Warnings: child abuse, domestic violence, bullying, self-harm, suicide

It’s odd, I know, to ‘miss’ someone you’ve never spoken with. When their life parallels yours eerily and has helped you to heal, though, I think it makes more sense.  I’m far from the only person who is struggling after Chester Bennington’s death.  It’s important that we discuss suicide for what it is and honor the memory of those who die by suicide. It is not a selfish act but a way out of a situation that becomes more attractive the worse our mental and physical health become. In short, it’s a public health issue and we must start treating it as such.

Chester is and will always be much more than the ending to his story, as we all are. He saved lives with his music and being open about his struggles, whether that was about substance use disorder or being a survivor of sexual abuse.

To be honest, he’s always been one of my heroes. I’ve been dealing with mental health issues for as long as I can remember. I was seven the first time I considered death by suicide. Some of that was rooted in being chronically ill at a young age, but part of it was because of abuse I was going through – physical, emotional/psychological, and sexual (the first instance at the hands of another kid, like Chester).

I had been pulled out of school and was now around some of my abusers 24/7, being ‘homeschooled’ by the History Channel and PBS. I didn’t really have any friends who I was able to see now. I had my last doctor’s appointment for what would become 14 years, and was afraid of what my physical illnesses would do to me. For the first time in my life, I was realizing that I had little control over anything.

This lack of self-control I fear is never ending

When I was 13, I went back to school. Untreated chronic illnesses, being homeschooled and overweight, and more all contributed to the bullying and pain I felt. My chronic pain picked up and I was picked on for that because I looked fine. I was alone and scared and hurt, both at home and at school.

On top of that, I learned many of the things my mother taught me weren’t even true.

The lessons that you taught me
I learn were never true
Now I find myself in question

I felt like I was always waiting for the next person to hurt me. My depression got worse and worse. I began to hurt myself, twisting my joints to inflict pain because I knew it wouldn’t leave the same marks as cutting. Hell, my joints were awful anyway because of untreated chronic illness, too – how would anyone know if damage was from that or self-harm?

Cause I’m one step closer to the edge
I’m about to break

When I first heard songs from Linkin Park’s debut album, Hybrid Theory, I felt understood. I could vocalize my pain under the guise of singing (or screaming) along with a song. Someone at school burned me a copy of the CD, which led to countless hour-long showers full of thrashing, screaming, and crying on Sunday nights.

It’s like a whirlwind inside of my head

As I found my voice, I started fighting back against some of the abuse at home. I would get into screaming matches with my mother and grandmother over their abusive tactics, trying to protect myself and my sister. Every time this happened, even into my 20s, I would hear lyrics from Hybrid Theory – the album that helped me find my voice.

You like to think you’re never wrong
(You live what you’ve learned)
You have to act like you’re someone
(You live what you’ve learned)
You want someone to hurt like you
(You live what you’ve learned)
You want to share what you have been through
(You live what you’ve learned)

The day I cut contact with my mother, after years of parenting and trying to help her, lyrics ran through my head:

I tried so hard and got so far
But in the end, it doesn’t even matter
I had to fall to lose it all
But in the end, it doesn’t even matter

Listening to the album now, I’m finding new things and feeling new feels. Some of them are very related to Chester’s life and death.

Chester and Chris Cornell were close friends. Their deaths were similar, with Chester passing on Chris’ birthday. For many of us who have lost close friends, it’s not uncommon to get these feelings around important dates – especially the first ones.

You’re still so distant
And I can’t bring you back

In December 2012, my friend Laura ( died as a result of complications from one of our shared conditions – Still’s Disease. I was completely lost. She was the first person I knew with the condition and we found ourselves by blogging about being rare disease patients. We had also both just gotten engaged and wanted to plan our weddings together.

When her birthday rolled around in July, I made a cake. I cried all day. I checked on mutual friends.

By the time December came around again, though, my depression was worsened by Wisconsin’s shitty weather and a new chronic pain condition. I thought of dying, of joining my friend where we were both away from all the hurt we experienced every single day.

The pace is too fast
You just won’t last

Five years – and lots of therapy – later, I’m doing much better. I still struggle a lot with missing Laura and missing the things we had planned to do together.

It doesn’t mean the pain isn’t still here, though, from any of this. Dealing with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) because of abuse on top of depression and anxiety and my physical health issues. It’s a lot.

Crawling in my skin
These wounds they will not heal

I won’t begin to imagine what Chester was going through or the darkness he found himself in. I won’t even say he must have had PTSD, though it’s common for survivors of ongoing abuse. It’s incredibly difficult to live day-to-day lives when these things creep back in all the time.

What I will do is say that I’ve been in so many similar places and situations as Chester. That’s part of why his death is hitting me so hard.

I hope that he knows how much he’s helped others just by existing in this world and speaking his truth.

Rest in power, Chester.

After my dreaming, I woke with this fear
What am I leaving, when I’m done here?

So, if you’re asking me, I want you to know

When my time comes, forget the wrong that I’ve done
Help me leave behind some reasons to be missed
Don’t resent me and, when you’re feeling empty
Keep me in your memory, leave out all the rest
Leave out all the rest

If you or a loved one is considering suicide, please call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).::
  • 1-888-628-9454 Lifeline Spanish Speaking Hotline
  • 1-877-990-8585, 24-hour Asian LifeNet Hotline, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, Fujianese available
  • or text HOME to 741741 (Crisis Text Line in the United States)



Hi there! I am a patient advocate, writer, and public speaker most well known for my TEDx Talk, “How to Get Stuff Done When You Are Depressed.” As someone who is juggling 5 illnesses: bipolar 2, myasthenia gravis, endometriosis, psoriasis, and asthma, I’m passionate about helping people who navigate life with both chronic physical & emotional pain. If you’re interested in hiring me to speak at your event, check out the CONTACT tab.

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