i want to preface this by saying that this piece will talk about suicide, self-harm and depression, and that writing it is hard for me, so it may be hard for you to read. that being said, i feel like it’s important to talk about these things. i am by no means an expert on any of this stuff and i can only speak to my own experience. i'm not trying to diagnose anyone else any type of way, i just know that people generally don't commit suicide because things are going great for them and they're super happy.
chris cornell committed suicide today. when i first read about it early this morning, my heart dropped. my dad was very into grunge during my childhood, i grew up listening to soundgarden and my dad and i LOVED temple of the dog. i moved to seattle when i was 18 because of how cool hole, nirvana, soundgarden and pearl jam made the pacific northwest seem. to this day, grunge is one of my favorite genres of music, singles is one of my favorite movies and i love soundgarden just as much as i did when i was a kid. and also, i don't like to think about people that i love being in pain so to wake up to this news... i was crushed.
when i was a small child, suicide wasn’t a thing my parents or my schools ever talked to me about. i vaguely knew what it was, but it never seemed like something that would affect me or have anything to do with my life. i didn’t understand why i felt the way i did about my life and wasn’t diagnosed as having depression until well into my adulthood. i didn’t know that the way i felt was due to a condition, i just knew that i felt different. when i was in fifth and sixth grade, i got really into good charlotte and linkin park and taking back sunday. i started going to my first middle school, i didn’t have any friends, and i got beaten up a lot for being different (i wore baggy pants aka jncos, had short hair, wore a lot of black clothes, got asked ‘are you a boy or a girl?’ and thus was tormented for not following the correct outfit specifications for my gender), which led to me having to change schools in the middle of sixth grade.
i got to this new school and i made friends with a girl we will call dinah, who showed me headbangers ball and got me into “cooler” music, like marilyn manson and slipknot and things that, you know, mallgoths would listen to. dinah and i had also both grown up listening to grunge, and we both loved nirvana. i remember we took a white t-shirt and cut it up to make matching arm bands that said ‘RIP KURT’ on them and we would wear them to school every day.
i felt so different from everyone around me except for dinah, and she felt the same way about herself and me. dinah used to cut herself, to try to relieve the pain she felt. i started to as well, a little bit at first but deeper and deeper over time. i was 11 years old the first time i truly felt like i wanted to end my life. i still have a big scar on my forearm from that day, but i survived. my mom obviously saw the wounds, and the fear and anger and sadness i saw in her eyes scared me into not attempting it again for many years.
it must have been two years later that one of my mom’s best friends killed herself. i loved her. she taught me how to play hockey. i had spent years around her. i never expected it.
the next year, one of my dad’s best friends killed himself. i was devastated. i called him my uncle and he was my very favorite person. he taught me to ice skate and always took me to hockey games and he took me to see my first star wars movie in theaters. i thought he was the absolute coolest person i had ever met, and he even lived with me and my dad for a long time. i couldn’t understand why he would end his life. i couldn’t process it. it’s hard for me to even be talking about this now. i just could not accept that he was gone.
despite having attempted suicide myself at a young age, i still didn’t understand what depression was or how it functioned or why something felt so wrong with me. i didn’t realize that other people felt the same way. i didn’t realize that that was probably also how my parent’s friends had felt.
a few years passed before my next suicide attempt, and by that time i had a ton of friends in the punk and hardcore scene, but i felt just as isolated as i had when i was 11. i had vicodin from an accident or something, and i took a bunch of them at once one night and hoped to die, but… i woke up the next morning and just threw up and went on with my life. for me, things always seem a lot worse at night. in the light of day, i feel more capable of dealing with my problems.
by the time i kind of understood that i had depression, i was in college, and i was blessed with a wonderful psychology professor who then taught an abnormal psychology class the next semester. she was very open about her experience with depression, and i learned so much from her and will always be grateful for her openness. so, when i was living in seattle, and i got the news that my best friend had died and that it was considered a suicide, i was better prepared to understand her motivations behind it. her and i had talked a lot about our mental health issues, and i knew that she felt a lot of the same things that i felt. i had just talked to her the day before, and nothing had seemed any worse than at any other time. she overdosed on drugs, and i personally think that it was an accident, but i also know that she had often talked about wanting to die. we had talked about how we both wanted to. if it was an accident, it probably had to do with the fact that she didn't truly want to live and was being careless with her own life, something that i am also guilty of doing. there's a part in grey's anatomy where meredith's therapist says to her, "you know people run away from this line between life and death. you seem to stand on it and wait for a strong wind to sway you one way or the other. you're careless with your life. you're not slitting your wrists but you're careless... and if you don't watch out, one of these days you're going to die because of it."
i’m 26 now, and life is fucking hard. i remember listening to the musical hamilton, and the lyric “dying is easy, living is harder” immediately stuck out to me. existing as a poor person in capitalism fucking sucks. working every day making shit money just to barely be able to afford rent and bills, while you’re too tired from the work you have to do to stay alive that you don’t ever get to do the things that make you happy, and then your shit job doesn’t give you benefits, so your body slowly starts to fall apart, dental work is crucial to human existence but is unaffordable to most people so your teeth break and fall out and you can’t afford to do anything about it, you’re constantly afraid of getting in an accident because you don’t have health insurance or any kind of savings account and you can’t afford time off and would be afraid of losing your shit job, and you can’t afford college or don’t have the time to go because you spend all of your time working to pay your bills and since you don’t have any skills and can’t afford to do anything to get out of low-paying jobs, you’re just stuck in this cycle for years. sometimes decades. just struggling to stay alive. for me, a lot of the time death seems easier than continuing on the path i am on. being stressed out about money and unable to afford to care for yourself and your own body for years is more than any person should ever have to deal with. sometimes i feel like death is the only way to escape. and then there’s depression! which is probably somehow linked to struggling to survive as a poor person in capitalism but is also something that affects even some of the most wealthy people alive- celebrities.
kurt cobain killed himself, i knew that. but it happened long before i was aware of kurt, and i had never experienced what it was like to live in a world where he was alive. but i do remember the day that robin williams killed himself. i was shocked. his movies were a huge part of my childhood and he was always so joyful and he brought happiness to so many people. it was hard for me to understand how someone like that could take his own life… until i really thought about it.
it can be easy to hide your feelings, if you want to and know how to. for me, i’ll bail on plans with everyone in my life, and since i live alone and don’t have family in the area, no one would ever notice if i didn’t hang out with a single friend for a month. sometimes i do go months without seeing my friends. i go to work, come home, bail on people, and wallow in my own misery. and no one knows unless i tell them. usually it’s easy to fake a smile, to screen a phone call and respond with a text so that the person on the other end doesn’t know that you’re crying. if i drink a bottle of wine and fall asleep sobbing in my shower, who would ever find out? it’s easy to hide, and it’s easy for your loved ones to not realize how hard you’re struggling. i was going to kill myself last summer and all i could think about is how long it would take for someone to find my body. not a lot of people know where i live. i’m an introvert and love to be alone, and all of my friends know this. my landlord and i don’t talk much. my family lives far away. my work could think i just wasn’t going to work there anymore. my friends could think i was ignoring them or that i wanted to be alone. what if no one found my body for weeks because no one thought to check on me because i hadn’t shown any warning signs? and as time goes on and we get more and more disconnected from each other, isolation only becomes easier. as we grow older, we get busy and lose touch and maybe we don’t think to check on our loved ones as frequently as we should. when people flake on us, we just reschedule, and don’t think too deeply about it. when people are struggling, we don’t always know if they don’t say something.
and now chris cornell is gone. another person who was a huge part of my formative years and who i love and admire deeply. and most likely, no one saw it coming. i certainly never expected this. but that’s the thing- you never know what someone else is going through, and if you aren’t checking on your loved ones, perhaps they’re hiding their feelings in the same ways that i hide mine.
so, check in with your friends and loved ones. if you haven’t heard from someone in a while or if they’ve bailed on you a lot in a short period of time, try to go check on them, even if it’s just to visit them at work. send them a text and just say you’re thinking of them and hope that they’re doing well. ask if they need anything. pay attention to what they post online, because sometimes you can see beyond the post, if you look hard enough. and, for me, a lot of my friends have mental health issues, and sometimes i forget that not everyone is built like me. maybe one of my friends is suicidal but i don't think they're actually as sad as they are, because i'm used to coping with my own depression. but maybe my friends don't have those same coping mechanisms and maybe they're closer to ending their lives than i expect. maybe they aren't used to feeling this sad, and if i paid a little more attention to them and put a little more effort into our relationship, that could help them out. maybe if they send me a meme about depression, instead of saying 'same', i should ask them if everything is okay. just... take care of your people.
and for anyone reading this who has ever felt suicidal, just know that you’re not weak or worthless, and that life truly can be unbearable. capitalism sets people up for a lifetime of misery. brain chemistry is some shit. life is incredibly, INCREDIBLY hard. like, donald trump is the president and he does his very best to make sure our lives stay hard. wanting to end your life does not mean that you are weak. and i’m not here to tell you that as someone who’s tried to end their own life that i’m so happy i was unsuccessful, because some days i’m not. some days i want to try again. sometimes i just don’t believe that i can continue living life and sometimes i don’t want to. but i will say this- what makes my life worth living are the people i surround myself with. and i’m sure the people in your life are grateful for your existence. i am grateful for your existence. and i think you’re strong as hell for making it this far in life.
i hope that chris cornell, wherever he is, has found some peace.
i hope that we all can find some peace.