We all have inner-demons that we battle with. We can’t prevent it from happening but we can choose how we deal with it. My coping mechanism is music.
I was bullied a lot as a kid. I was called some horrific names and was somehow the target of many pranks but my definition of bullying at that time — or what warranted an act to be considered ‘bullying’ — was when it was physical. Mine was mostly verbal abuse, so, I didn’t think to talk about it — you can’t blame me, I was 8! But I felt angry all the time.
I didn’t feel like I had anyone around me that I could talk to, but music was always there for me to listen to; at that time, it was Linkin Park’s.
The first time I heard the electric bass riff in ‘Papercut’, I felt a rush of energy that I wished lasted forever. I hadn’t heard anything like it before and I couldn’t believe how quickly it took for me to become invested in this band — just one single in! Okay, maybe Chester’s red mohawk and overall appearance had something to do with it too but it was his voice that I fell in love with first, I swear.
Then, they released ‘One Step Closer’ and when I heard Chester Bennington scream “shut up when I’m talking to you,” I was convinced that these guys understood all that I felt but couldn’t articulate myself.
All we played at home was Hybrid Theory. My mom, sisters, and I each had about 3 copies of the album — not because we were closet hoarders but because we’d play it to the point that it would get scratched badly, which made it unplayable. So, we’d buy new ones to replace it. During our last spring cleaning, we counted about 20 copies for both Hybrid Theory and Meteora alone. Crazy? I think you mean ‘dedicated’ (but also, yes, sort of maybe a little extreme).
The aforementioned albums became such a significant contribution to my personal development that I wouldn’t know who I’d be today if I hadn’t listened to ‘A Place For My Head’ as many times as I did; or what my anger management would be like had I not processed it through listening to ‘Hit the Floor’ about 30 times a day, and ‘Numb’… man, fan or not, there is no way that that song has not resonated with every single person at least once in their life.
My all-time favourite memory of Linkin Park though, was their concert in KL back in 2003. It was a family affair; everyone from my cousins to my older relatives to my siblings and even my mom went for that concert. We sang and screamed along with Mike and Chester (first name basis ‘cos we were buddies, obviously), then, faced the next week with sore throats and no voices. It was one of the most energetic crowds I’ve been in — at one point, I remember the crowd was singing so loudly that we couldn’t hear their vocals at all.
To have witnessed them perform during the peak of their career was one thing, but being able to singalong to the songs that kept me company when I felt isolated is something I will cherish for as long as I’m here.
When the news broke out that Chester had passed away, I was in shock. I texted my friends and hoped it was a hoax. This can’t be real — this guy can’t leave. He was working on songs. He tweeted in May that he was on a roll with songwriting and that it was only the beginning. What happened between then and now? Why did he want to leave? He should’ve stayed. He should be here.
I was in denial for a couple of hours. I wanted this to be ‘fake news’. Then, Mike Shinoda tweeted that it was true. I felt as lonely at this instance as I did when I was a kid, only if I listened to Linkin Park now, it’s not going to have the same effect as it used to. Not for a while, at least.
Some days we can mute the voices in our heads but there are days when the dark thoughts consume us. It happens and it’s okay. We’re humans, our mental strength isn’t going to be at its best all day, everyday. That being said though, when it’s not, it’s vital that you reach out to someone when you feel like the noise is becoming overpowering.
Sometimes it’s easier said than done. When our minds are on hyperdrive, it’s difficult to steer it in a different direction but trust that you can reach out to someone to help you do that. If you’re not comfortable speaking to friends/family about mental health issues, or if you’re not qualified to give someone advice on what to do, there are various outlets and platforms that you can reach out to which we’ve listed below that will help. You are not alone, there’s no reason to be scared to ask for help — it doesn’t make you vulnerable or weak. Everyone needs help sometimes. Even those who give hope to others.
So, thank you Chester for creating music that helped me work through some of the roughest parts of my life, and for being one of the best memories I had of my childhood. I hope you feel better, wherever you are.
If you or anyone you know needs to speak to someone, consider calling Befrienders KL, or get more information — either to understand mental health further or to ask what programmes would be best suited for your situation — from Malaysia’s Mental Health association here. Browse through its directory of organisations here.