I was sitting at the microphone preparing to record a news package when the breaking news alert went off.
Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington had killed himself at age 41.
I felt like someone kicked me in the face with an NFL lineman’s cleats. (You ever seen the size of the feet on those guys?)
I literally last night was screaming along with “Breaking the Habit” (a Linkin Park song) last night as I was driving back to my apartment. The idea that the guy singing that song would literally be dead within hours of my singing that never once crossed my mind and frankly, spooks me out a little bit.
But this post isn’t about Chester, or the band, or his death directly. This is about the responses I saw on social media.
Immediately my timeline flooded with comments from friends about Chester’s death and his choice to commit suicide. As I read post after post, I had a very strange feeling: anger. At suicide? Yes, but I always hate suicide so that wasn’t strange. At Chester? Yes, but any time someone ends their life I have a little anger toward them for that particular choice they’ve made. No, the answer was at friends who were posting a central theme…
If you’re feeling that depressed, reach out!
Some of the messages had phone numbers for suicide hotlines with them, some did not.
If you’re new to this blog, I suffer from serious depression and have for most of my life. I’m on medication, I see a counselor…but the battle still rages. There are nights (like tonight as I type this) where the walls of my apartment feel like a tomb and the silence of living and being alone can be overwhelming. The darkness seems to be an unstoppable fog that is squelching the lights I have turned on.
It’s a night where if I wasn’t so dead set against suicide or self-harm I would be in danger. I do praise God that He has put me in a place where those things are not options at all.
But this is where the “reach out” irritates me significantly and as the night goes on and I see more Chester related posts saying to “reach out” the angrier I feel right now.
People tell you to reach out…as long as it’s not to them.
I had a day a few months ago I had a day where I was really fighting my depression and I had a very long, unavoidable drive. Hours and hours in the car, alone, and the loud music just wasn’t helping me escape the pain.
So I tried to reach out.
To over a dozen people I know.
None of them had time to talk to me.
Now, it’s logical to say they all had things going on. They did. I don’t expect friends to sit by the phone waiting for me to call. However, outside of one guy (who was out with his family when I called and bothered to check the next day, unlike everyone else who didn’t answer) I don’t usually call people to talk. I’ll text, message through Facebook, etc. Send them messages of encouragement to try and boost their day because I don’t get them in mine. (God worked me over a few years ago and showed me that encouraging others can help me overcome down days. Strange to say that pouring out in your weakness can help but many times it does.)
So the fact I was calling them should have been a red flag that it wasn’t just an ordinary situation. I don’t call just to ask them how the weather is where they are unless it’s my parents who take great pleasure in telling me how much cooler Pennsylvania can be in the summer than Nashville. The folks I did reach had some excuse why they couldn’t talk such as watching TV with their spouse, or they were eating a fast food dinner or getting ready to take a shower.
I feel like burden on my friends already most of the time (side effect of depression) so I would just say “ok” and let them go. Should I have said something? Probably. But when you feel like a major burden to them just by calling it’s not really conducive to you wanting to reach out further.
So there I was…driving alone at night down a twisty, very rural patch of highway with literally no cars around for 15-20 minutes at a pop.
I could see where someone in my state could have very easily turned off onto one of the little fire roads and done something stupid.
And people would have said things like “why didn’t they reach out?”
It’s easy to throw up a suicide hotline phone number and to tell someone to call those lines. The problem with that is you can get seriously depressed, seriously beaten down and not be considering suicide at the moment you want to reach out to a friend to help lighten the load. The power of a conversation in taking off the pressures and stresses and lifting someone from the muck is immensely bigger than most people could ever know.
We just want to talk to a friend. Someone we know, trust, care about and who usually brings us joy when we hear their voices.
But when we reach out, we get voice mail. Or told they’re really too busy to talk. Or they have to get their laundry done.
So, a little plea from me to all of you who post “reach out” on social media when situations like Chester’s happen in the world. If you make those posts, expect a friend of yours who is struggling with these kinds of things to reach out TO YOU. They will get the impression that you really do care about people who are in a seriously depressed situation and when they find themselves ready to slam their head into the wall they will call you. When you tell them you’re too busy (when you’re just doing something like watching TV) it’s a slap in the face and makes them think you really didn’t mean it about their reaching out…and that your “reach out” is nothing more than “reach out to anyone but me.”