Right from the getgo, I want to be clear, this is not my argument for suicide. I’ve had a few days to ponder Chris Cornell’s death, and I thought I would need a longer time to talk about it, but fortunately someone wrote this and wrote it well so I don’t have to deal with that side of it. The broader picture, the external, the historic significance.
This is about the internal. This is the subjective. This is my brain’s argument. You can call it depression, but honestly I’ve never known any other outlook, at least not since puberty, so it’s hard for me to separate the depressed perspective from the normal. This is my normal.
First, on Chris Cornell: He gave me permission to sing. Ever since I got my license I’ve been a private singer. Anywhere I drove solo, I’d play a mix of artists whose notes I could hit, or mostly hit, or enjoyed trying to hit, but I never sang in public or in front of others with any seriousness because I knew and I know my voice is not radio-quality. I have pretty good pitch recognition, but my voice isn’t strong or flexible enough to be a lead singer, and it wavers too much to be a backup, but in a bar, with low expectations and an audience with even a minimum buzz, I can do alright. The first song I ever did was Audioslave’s Like a Stone, and believe me I was scared, I’m getting the nervous twitches now just thinking about it. But I fought those demons by following Chris’s lead, by singing it like he sang it, which is with the urgency of immediacy, declaratively. Hey universe, I’m here, I’m here right now, in this moment, and I’m calling for your attention, please. Not cocky, but plaintive. A prayer to communicate.
Once again, I feel like I should stress this because people worry, I am not in need of help and this is not a cry for any. I started taking Lexapro in December of 2013. It has helped, especially for the first year or so, but I’d made my decision to live years before that and I haven’t changed my mind, nor will I. I am three and a half years in, which I consider to be the nascent stages still of finding the right medication, and I’m contemplating a switch to Prozac after talking with my new doctor, a nice man in fatigues on the military base, where I’m sure they take depression very seriously. The Lexapro might not be right for me. Or anyway, my brain seems to have found some holes in the system.
The brain is a tricky foe. Over the years I have rejected the notion of faith, of belief without evidence, because in my teens and early twenties it seemed faith was the source of all misery. I was never excessively picked on or bullied, never told outright that my existence was extracurricular and unnecessary. I was loved and valued and acknowledged. As if to balance out all of my positive reinforcement, my brain became preoccupied with the unspoken negation to all the evidence provided. My successes seemed to roll off my back, and the painful moments lingered long afterward with aftershocks of unsourced darkness, sometimes for days.
The article cited above talks about a “breaking point” for people with depression, which I think is an oversimplification. If I had to guess, Chris’s actual breaking point happened a few years ago with the reformation of Soundgarden. An important part of keeping my emotional core rooted in logic is that the future is worth sticking around for. I waited until I was 34 to get married, I was in no rush. Same with kids. I want to be a father but I enjoy having that be something for me to look forward to. Chris had accomplished so much, not just by surviving the grunge apocalypse of the early nineties. He had a family, children he loved, he was a philanthropist, so I hear. He’d seen the world. What else could be done. How about get the band back together. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Everybody wanted it to happen, nobody thought it ever would, but he pulled it off. Then one night he’s playing a show in Detroit and it’s hitting him heavily that getting the band back together was actually not so insurmountable a mountain as he’d imagined, and the repetition is weighing on his mind, he’s feeling his age, he feels like an impostor, a pathetic imitation of his former self, that middle age man who buys a convertible and cruises the strip with the top down, hoping the hotties will see him but choose to ignore what he too is ignoring.
You get broken long before you’re convinced. Broken is succumbing to the belief that you have reached your maximum potential. This is faith I’m talking about again, an unfounded sense of hopelessness. Broken happens long before acceptance, and broken can be resolved. I have been broken, a couple times in fact, and it’s taken me years both times to climb the logic ladder back out of it, but it can be done, and in fact the second time I got out relied heavily on the first. Which is why I DON’T NEED HELP RIGHT NOW PUT THAT PHONE DOWN, I’m telling you, I am fine, and I will remain fine. If I don’t get my medication right, I fully expect to be broken again in the future, but I am not afraid of it. I know how to wait it out.
The medication I suppose is just greedy on my part. I don’t like my thoughts dwelling in the existential. It’s tiresome. Because my brain now knows faith in my own worthlessness doesn’t play anymore, it likes to pretend it’s on the side of logic. It tries to figure out suicide logically. Obsesses over its every mention, like it’s a puzzle that can be solved if only it remains in the back of my mind for long enough. The first year or so of Lexapro those thoughts died down significantly—ha! accidental pun!—but anymore it feels a lot like the old days. Post-faith but pre-medicine. The argument is back.
Everything is terrible in the world right now. We’re watching a dictator take the reigns and the people tasked with stopping him are on the payroll. The world is overheating, terrorism is expanding, your job sucks, any sort of difficulty presents itself and the brain likes to remind you, hey, you know, you don’t ACTUALLY have to solve this problem. Logically speaking, you can go into as much debt as you want, drive as fast as you feel like, drink as much as you are able, and it really doesn’t matter because all of these problems are based on the assumption that you must continue to exist. And you don’t. Not at all. Oh you’re supposed to mow the lawn today? Well how much does that lawn matter if you’re dead? You probably should move off the couch for the first time in six hours, oh ho ho buddy that would be the least of your issues if you broke your water glass and slashed into your wrist-vein like you’re digging for gold.
You can see how tiresome this becomes. It’s not logic, but it masquerades as such.
Which isn’t to say there aren’t any logical reasons for having one less human on the planet. Overpopulation, resources, the inevitable pain and destruction and waste the comes with being alive, all of that. It’s just that you can choose to make your time here worth the burden, and that right there is the winning argument on the large scale. Me-as-human gets to be here if I’m doing my best to earn my keep. Me-as-me, there isn’t any logic to ceasing to exist, as there isn’t for anyone else. Even Roger Ailes didn’t have to die a contemptible shit pile. That was all in his power to remedy, and he didn’t, and good riddance.
All of this is to say, we can’t know what caused Chris to kill himself, but it is terribly sad, and I am in mourning. I would wager that that last show in Detroit had something to do with his being convinced. Sorry, Detroit, not your fault, you didn’t break him but you did convince him, incidentally, I’m just saying some personal association with playing this show in this city with this band severed the final thread. Also I don’t mean to rain down on faith as a concept, either. A lot of good people make a lot of good decisions based on their faith. I would imagine some people can close their eyes, block out logic for a while, and feel a comforting, meandering warmth flow through them, something like peace, something like grace. It’s just mine works differently than theirs. So to all those who share my unfortunate faith, I say this: stay strong, stay logical, wait it out. It will get better. It always does.
Also dying doesn’t look to be any fun at all. All it takes is a bad coughing fit and every gasping molecule I get into my lungs in the immediate aftermath is a revelation.