Remembering Chester Bennington

I’ll never forget being a teenager, lying there in my bed watching MTV, when MTV was actually MTV. Meaning that they actually played good music videos. It must have been early morning I remember seeing Linkin’s Parks video for the song One Step Closer.  I was hooked from the first sound of the guitar, the break down and the perfect hybrid rap Rock vocals. The lyrics hooked me as an angsty teen. The lyrics were speaking to me in a way nothing else could.

I was a fan and will always will be. There was not a LP album that I was not a fan of. To be quite honest though, it was the lyrical depth that drew me in. The fact that the band was armed with a great live show was even better. I had never gotten the chance to see the band live, but I remember seeing them live on a show called Reverb Nation. There was so much emotional connectivity with the crowd, it was all so intriguing and inspiring to me.

To think that someone like Chester, or any member of the band could command such attention. When ever I was sad, depressed or angry it would be linkin park that I went to the most. The interesting thing is though, even through Chesters heavy, dark and even hopeful lyrics. I never truly connected that fact that he struggled with depression or mental illness. In my young mind at the time, I thought he was only telling stories of people that he knew.

There was no way he could be depressed right? I mean he was a world wide celebrity and had everything it seemed. That the was the younger, less wise part of myself. Now that I am bit older, I realize that it is truly possible to have everything and feel like you have nothing at the same time.

In my own journey with depression and anxiety, it was the lyrics of Chester B that gave me the room I needed to give voice to what I was feeling on the inside. I was never blessed with the chance to meet Chester, and tell him thank you for his words. And that I in some ways considered him a friend.

On a personal level, I often feel so up and down. Happy one moment and either want to scream or cry the next. I have had a handful of psych professors tell me that life, for most is very up and down or much like scribbling on a piece of paper. But thats never been a soothing or satisfying response for me.

The more I listen to the lyrics of Chester, the more I sense that he was truly crying out. Duh right? As a psychology major though, I have learned to pay more attention and see more deeply into a person. Are they truly happy when they smile or is there more going on below the surface?

Better yet, are we happy in a public setting and then fall apart behind closed doors? It’s almost been a year since his passing, and I honestly cannot believe that he is gone. I keep waiting for some FB article to pop up saying that he is alive and well, much like 2 pac. ..

But I guess that a big part of me is still in denial, that he is truly gone. All I know is that, we cannot afford to keep losing people this way. Regardless of what we believe about life. We must be willing to ask and have uncomfortable conversations, about how and where we are at in life.

We have to be willing to say **** the stigma behind talking about depression and suicide, for it is the only way to break free. We have to be willing to say enough is enough.

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Reflection on Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month

 

March is cerebral palsy awareness month, I’ve made a few posts on FB but I thought that a full-length post would be  good as well. I have lived with cerebral palsy (cp) for 30 years now. Yes, I’m 30 years of age, but I don’t feel it or look it. For that, I can thank the genetics that is in me. Cerebral Palsy is a condition that I have, not who I am.

Cerebral Palsy may be an extension of myself, but it is not who I am. First and foremost I am a child of God, who is loved from the earth to the heavens. This is where my identity lies. God knew my small frame long before time began, he wonderfully made me and gave me worth and dignity.

Having cerebral palsy then is a way that he has gifted me to reach out to others. It has allowed me to empathise with those who feel lonely, hurt and rejected by society. I can honestly say that if I didn’t have cerebral palsy, I probably wouldn’t have as big as a heart for people as I do now.

If anything, I probably would be more selfish and self-focused than I already am. That being said, there are many dark days that come with having this condition. There are many days that I wish I was different or like everybody else. Meaning that I wish I could run, walk and sprint. There are days when I cry out to God wishing things were different.

In these moments of self-pity and feeling of  helplessness, I ask the “what if?” and “why me?” questions. We all ask these questions, so to an extent its okay, God can handle these questions. Cerebral palsy is in no way easy to live with, it has taken me quite a long time to be at peace with myself, God and others.

The biggest truth that I can leave you with is that God loves you and created you with passion and purpose and no one can take that from you. People may not understand what we go through, they may even make fun of how we are. But I fearlessly proclaim that you’re loved beyond anything you could ever long for. Even in the times when you feel most alone, the most rejected the most misunderstood you’re loved.

I’ll be honest, there have been times where I have wanted to die. Just to be free from this body full of scars, but some how God keeps this smile on my face. But I say again, you are loved . Never give up the fight. Chase your dreams. Don’t be afraid to wear your heart on your sleeve, be who you are.

Another truth I submit to you is this, you are not a burden. If people do not make time for you, if they do not take the time to get to know you. That is merely a reflection of them and has nothing to do with you. Futher more, do not be afraid to love, do not be afraid to speak hope and encouragement. I truly believe that we can be the change we want to be in the world.

It may seem like you get nothing back in return, but as it is quoted in the movie Gladiator: “What we do in life echoes in eternity”. Do not shy away from pushing yourself physichally, I have been doing Brazillian Jiujitsu for almost 6 years and CrossFit for almost 2-3 years. With both of these elements in my life, my body has never been stronger. Even when doctors told me I wouldn’t be able to do much on my own, even when teachers told me I wouldn’t amount to much. It is by Gods grace I am who I am.

The same reality can be present in your or own life, you just have to take that small step forward. That might require asking for help, swallowing your pride and letting others be your teacher. It might require you sitting down and discovering your dreams and who you are as a person. Regardless, you can rest assured that there is no glass ceiling over our heads precerebral_palsy_awarenessventing us from conquering the obstacles that stand in our way.

Be well my friends.

-Brandon

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confronting The Double Standard

 

I can’t pin point the exact time anxiety came into my life; all I can tell you is that it has been in my life for quite some time. From little to severe. Little, as in the nagging feeling inside you that every one is upset with you and it would be better for you not to be apart of human existence. Or on the extreme side of things when your chest becomes tight, your breath becomes short and have a hard time controlling the speed your mind races at. Living with anxiety has seemed like an impossible puzzle in my life. Things seem hopeless when nothing seems to work, right? Even sitting in front of a professional counselor can see like a waste of time. Worse yet, when living with anxiety we can throw depression into the mix. And the both seem to work off each other in strange ways.

At this rate, it seems easier to start digging your grave and laying in it, right? I’m not so sure, you see as much as I am flooded with suicidal thoughts, I don’t actually want to die. I’m actually just scared and don’t feel like there are any solutions to the problems at hand. I think others are like that too, were all scared and afraid to admit that life is spinning out of control. I’ll admit that here and now, I’ll admit that the future scares me and that I want nothing more then to hide from society. But maybe it’s those of us that want to hide that the world needs most. After all the most amazing lessons in life can come from those who we least expect.

Call me crazy, but I don’t think what we need are more suicides, or people living in silence because they live with anxiety, depression or any other form of mental illness. What we first need is the courage to confess that these forms of suffering have had their ways with us for long enough. What we need is for people to actually listen, what we need is for people to jump to conclusions but to seek understanding. I believe were all looking for answers as to why mental illness in any capacity exists and how we can eradicate it from our lives. Some on the endless pages of the internet claimed that they have, whether that is true or not is beyond my knowledge. There’re even those in Christian communities that claim that God healed them of whatever mental illness they were faced with in their lives, whether that is true or not is not for me to know. As a Christian, devoted to following Christ. I do believe that Jesus healed on the pages of the new testament. I even believe that he still heals today, it might just not look the same as it does in various media outlets or conferences. Being a Christian and living with anxiety can sometimes seem counter productive, aren’t Christian’s meant to be the most joyful people alive? Well, that really depends one how one looks at joy. If you presume, that joy is always someone smiling and jumping for joy, I don’t believe that is the fullest reality.

Joy does not always have to have outward expressions; joy can sometimes be a quiet radiance. A knowing that a king knows your pain, that you are loved, forgiven and that the greatest reality is yet to come. As a Christian living with anxiety, I have come to realize that it doesn’t matter how I feel about myself on any given day, it doesn’t change the fact that I am loved and that nothing can separate me from the father’s love (verse here). It’s also tempting as a Christian living with anxiety, to try harder and do more. In order for God to love me. It’s interesting to me how the most well meaning pastors say “if you just made Jesus the center of your life, then you wouldn’t be anxious.” That sounds well and good, but we don’t say that to people who are diagnosed with cancer. In fact that would be a slap in the face, because there are many devout believers that have faced the grim reality of cancer, only to be swallowed up by it. Yet they did not seize in living a life of prayer and various spiritual disciplines.

See the double standard here? We cannot allow it to exist any longer without calling it for what it is. Bullshit.

Dealing With Cerebral Palsy and Suicial Thoughts

Going off my last blog, which discussed the idea of living with cerebral palsy and feeling like a burden. One comment in particular really stood out to me, one gentlemen wrote about how feeling like a burden can often lead toward suicidal thoughts and various other elements like extended bouts of depression.

Suicide first and foremost does not care about the color of ones skin, whether one is skinny or fat or whether on is living with something like cerebral palsy or is paralyzed. It spares no one and never well. So as humans, it’s almost as though we have something that can cause us to relate or open up to one another (if we were so willing). In a sense, it can be easier to say the powerful words of “me too”.

As a person living with cerebral palsy, I have battled depression for over the past ten or more years of my life. And yes, suicidal thoughts have been a part of that. I have even spent days in a hospital, in an attempt to try and balance out the disconnection of my thoughts and brain chemistry. I’m not ashamed or afraid to admit these things, and I certainly do not care if that causes people to think that I’m crazy or weird.

We are all broken people, the simple fact is that we have a choice to confess it, seek help and live in community and transparency. Dealing with both cerebral palsy and suicidal thoughts, can be different in the sense that if you don’t have methods to simply escape for awhile or friends that can care and help. It can be all the more taxing. For people to simply state that depression and suicidal thoughts are selfish, is simply them missing the fuller picture.

People simply aren’t physical beings, or emotional beings and even chemicals. We are all of them at the same time, and we must learn that if one suffers, the rest suffer as well. Having cerebral palsy and not having healthy social structure, can lead to intense loneliness and even despair. Having no one around you that tries to understand can make it all the more taxing.

A pastor once told me that, despite how you feel, you have to step out first and ask for help and community. While that can be extremely difficult, I do believe that he was right. That does not mean then, that a friend, loved one or doctor cannot step into your darkness first. It simply means that most times, it require us to rely not on our own strength, wisdom and courage. But that of the divine, the creator of the universe, for guidance and healing.

In fact, in terms of recovery the very first step is to admit you in yourself are powerless.This is not a popular perspective, but I truly believe that this is where healing and recovery truly begins. Suicidal thoughts do not have to have victory over your life, you are not your cerebral palsy, you are not your thoughts. You are a person with a immense value and purpose.

So I implore you today, whether you have cerebral palsy, or some other condition and have been quiet about the thoughts that fill your mind, please talk to someone, call someone, even a crisis hotline if you have to. Corner someone until they actually listen to you. But do not give your thoughts another ounce of power, for you are far more valuable then all the gold in the world. Then to be constantly haunted by this ugly demon.

Please call this number if you need help: http://www.treatmentadvocacycenter.org/index.php?option=com_content&id=619

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