So it’s been a year since singer, songwriter, musician, Chris Cornell, decided to end his life in the bathroom of his hotel room following a concert in Detroit. Fans at the show described his performance as being a little off and his wife said he was slurring his speech in a phone call earlier that night he was found dead, telling her that he was “just tired” before hanging up.
There have been times that I’ve been at the end of my rope. That in my exhaustion and distress, desperate to end my suffering, I’ve entertained suicide as a quick solution. Just the notion gave me a welcome modicum of peace. The mere idea of a way out. I didn’t necessarily want to die, just for the intolerable, unendurable to cease.
Maybe Chris was just desperate for rest. And had he only gotten that then he’d wake up refreshed and with renewed purpose. If only.
It’s reported that Chris took at least a double dose of Ativan that he was prescribed to treat anxiety. The drug may well have also impaired his better judgement and reduced his ability to ward off self-destructive impulses.
Drugs aside, even just being deprived of necessities like nourishment or sleep can leave one vulnerable to suicidal ideation, too weakened to consider any other possibilities. I’ve been unhealthy in both mind and body when such dark thoughts have crept into my life, bubbling up from a dreadful, primordial undercurrent of not-good-enough-ness. The strength to address and process this seemingly self-destructive aspect of ourselves is why self-care is so important; healthy exercise, food, rest, relationships, philosophy, etc.
Chris Cornell’s music was and remains a part of my self-care regiment, a reminder at particularly exhausted, critical junctures in my life that someone else understood what I felt, who could empathize with and put words, structure, to my experience. It’s medicine of a kind.
Lying on my back, sinking into my futon, staring up through the static at the white stucco ceiling in my apartment upon returning from Target with Soundgarden’s then latest album, Down On The Upside, listening to Blow Up The Outside World while said world turned slowly around me. “Nothing can do me in before I do myself so save it for your own and the ones you can help.” 🎶
Cold, broke and starving in a tiny, moldering camping trailer mere yards from the rest of my family going about their lives, taking solace in Times of Trouble (Temple of the Dog), inspired to not make any life decisions in my tenuous state of mind. “If somebody left you out on a ledge. If somebody pushed you over the edge. If somebody loved you and left you for dead! You’ve got to hold on to your time and break through these times of trouble.” 🎶
Stretched thin, utterly spent, lending the world a faded pallor, grieving the end of and celebrating found liberation from a particularly soul-sucking relationship, singing along to Long Gone (Scream). “And it’s crazy to think that I could be reborn if you saved me. But now it’s too late and we’ll never know.” 🎶
Happily happening upon Murderer of Blue Skies (Higher Truth) on Spotify and nodding along with a refreshing lack of regret. “I can’t wait to never be with you again. And I can’t wait to lead a life that you’re not in. And I won’t break, though I may bend. From time to time I can’t wait to never be with you again.” 🎶
Chris’ music grew and stayed with me over the course a long span of my life. And it shared a marked vulnerable emotional state within me that news (and even reminders these years later) of his untimely passing evoke a palpable reaction to.
When a Twitter notice popped up saying that Chris had died last year, my breath left me. I looked for verification because social media. Wikipedia was already referring to him in the past tense. And in spite of respecting his right to take his own life, I chasten his shit decision to do so (esp. in light of how much he’d done to successfully persuade me otherwise) and grieve the pain in my loss of him to a degree I do few other celebrities whose work nonetheless influence my life.
Chris was exceptionally talented and well regarded among his peers in the music industry, many of whom played tribute covers of the fallen singer’s songs from where ever they happened to be around the world when they heard the sad news.
It can seem strange when people who appear to have everything decide to end it but no amount of accomplishment, no amount of love and certainly no amount of wealth can serve as a reliable bulwark against self-destruction — if anything, we often destroy ourselves to acquire these from others. And there can be a lot of social pressure to appear normal so as not to burden these others with our problems and keeping up pretenses like this can be exhausting, unsustainable. Eventually, something has to give and often does so suddenly, dramatically, shockingly, tragically.
Anyone entertaining suicidal thoughts, I would tell to a) not let their suffering lead them make any big life altering decisions and to b) find another human being (preferably a therapist) face to face to help them identify and actually address what their emotions are indicative of. No amount of drugs or intellectualizing is a substitute for this. If one is able to commit to the fight necessary to end a life then one is capable of seeing said life through just as well. Sometimes we just need a little help to see it.
Among my family, I came to feel like dying and, further when I voiced these feelings, made to feel ashamed that I said I felt the way I did. Ashamed that I couldn’t keep up appearances. That I wasn’t able to meet unspoken expectations. Turns out I didn’t have to die for the feelings of existential dread to stop, the bad relationship did. And when they abandoned me seemingly without a second thought I came late to realize that they had already done so far earlier — my suffering came from trying to hold onto my delusion of who they were supposed to be and led me to believe they were rather than accepting who and what they are.
There is a thread of self-destruction going back in my family generations. Both sides. Mental illness, addiction, suicide. They were all abandoned. The trick, I think, is not to abandon ourselves. Only then can we look after each other.
I won’t speculate as to what Chris’ rationale may have been in his final moments as no more rational sense could probably be made of it than the toxic mixture of emotions I’ve wallowed in and it doesn’t matter in the end because it, indeed, was the end. I’m glad I was able to see him perform several times during his life and I continue to appreciate and enjoy the mark he’s left on my world. I only wish he’d been compelled to stay, not leave so soon. I like to think he found the rest he was seeking and jamming with the likes of Hendrix and Morrison somehow.
“I’ve seen not too much love is never enough. You better seek out another road because this one has ended abrupt.” — Say Hello 2 Heaven (Temple of the Dog) 🎶