With the recent, and high-profile passing of Chester Bennington by way of suicide, the topic of mental health has once again ignited the social media platforms ablaze! With that, I want to share with you a truth. An ugly truth. Perhaps the hardest thing about what I am about to tell you is, that this ugly and poignant truth is, it’s about me.
My name I Matthew, and I have PTSD. For those of you that don’t know what that is, allow me to explain: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a condition brought on by a traumatic or series of traumatic events. This is known as “accumulative PTSD”. Not limited to one specific trauma. It manifests in a broad and limitless set of signs and symptoms. Not everyone who has PTSD shares the same set of perplexing and infuriating ailments. It’s different for everyone. For me, having been abused as a child, and spending time as a soldier, and as a paramedic, I have what seems like an endless supply of things that taunt and haunt me from within. Nightmares are almost a daily norm. For certain, flashbacks are. So are triggers to certain sounds, or scents – oh God, the smells… Horrific.
Suicide is also something that sadly holds hands with PTSD more often than not. I am not diagnosing Chester, that is not what this is about. This is about that truth that I wanted to share with you – the ugly one. I wanted to share this because as I scroll through social media, and read the infinite comments section, regarding Chester Bennington’s death, I am reminded that as of 2017, and how far we’ve come with mental health awareness, there is still so much further to go.
There is an underlying theme to the comments that I came across while on social media, and it is that people have a misconception that Chester was selfish. Selfish for having his life end to suicide. And while I agree that suicide is indeed selfish, Chester was not. Chester, like many, was hurting. You would not call someone with a broken arm “selfish” for focusing solely on the pain, and wishing for it to stop, or would you? And before you say it’s ‘not the same thing’ let me say that I agree with you, it’s not. People universally can see and understand a broken arm. A broken mind however, as you may have noticed, is something that’s a little harder to recognize. Thus, adding to one’s suffering, and pain.
I cannot speak for Chester, and nor do I wish to. Like I said, this is my ugly truth. A few nights ago, after sharing an otherwise perfect evening with friends, sharing laughs and pints alike, it was time to go home. For me, this meant walking a few short blocks from the pub, back to my apartment. I wasn’t drunk by any means, but I was feeling ok. Whatever “ok” feels like…
As I walked beneath a star-filled sky along the sidewalk, I heard a roaring of an engine. I looked up and caught sight of two glowing orbs, affixed to a large, shadowy vehicle on the road ahead of me. It was a semi-truck. The deep growl of its engine increased to a roar as it grew nearer to me. In that moment, I stopped walking and watched as the metal monster made its was closer, and closer. As it did, I heard a voice. My voice – It was speaking silently to me, as if to be hissing like a snake. It said to me,
“Jump. Jump. Do it, just do it. It’ll all go away. No more dreams. Jump Matt. Jump” …
The most frightful part is not that I was speaking these horrid words to myself. It was that I was also explaining, planning with myself, saying ‘I will have to aim for the back wheels. If the driver somehow spots me, they are likely to swerve away from me, and I may miss the front tires. If I dive head first towards the back tires, it will work’ … That, is fucking petrifying!
Please remember that I had shared a beautiful evening with friends just prior to all of this. I was not in a bad frame of mind. I’m just injured, and as such, this is how my broken mind works. Wanting to end the pain I feel almost daily.
My current chapter of life is one that see’s me go from smiling, to crying in an instant. Happy, to bewildered at a moments notice. It is one where on most nights, I am too scared of sleep, to sleep. Imagine that, being afraid of sleep. It can make for some pretty long and dark days.
The truth is, I am injured (even physically, PTSD is also a physical injury. It changes how the brain works) but, no one can see it so, my pain is considered selfish. And the ugly truth is, my injury could kill me and I would be remembered as selfish. I do not want to die but, some days, I really do. Some days it’s safer just to stay in bed. To shut the world out, even if I am afraid to sleep. I am also afraid to jump…
I will not think of Chester as selfish. A previous version of me might have. I have judged suicides as a paramedic before.
I will leave you with this; try not to judge that which you cannot comprehend. Instead, try asking questions. Even if it’s just,
“Hey. How are you feeling today?”
And once you’ve asked – listen. Just listen. Sometimes, that’s all it takes between darkness, and a glimmer of hope.
Rest easy Mr. Bennington. Thank you for your music.