If you have followed me in this blog over the last eight months, or if you just know me, you know the one thing I do is tell you what I think. Nobody expects to get too much sugar-coated bullshit from me. Can I bullshit with a sweet smile when I need to? Hell yes. But I won’t do it if you are my friend.
So here goes. I’m going to share my thoughts here and they will probably piss you off, but they are mine, and I need to share.
The suicides of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington have affected me, but not in the way you are thinking. I don’t know their music. I am not feeling the loss of their talent the way many of you are.
What is affecting me is the aftermath of their suicides and the way we talk about it. I want to start right here by saying that I absolutely know nothing about their struggles and lives and reasons (as I said, I don’t even know their music). Here, I only talk about myself.
I have suffered from depression. I remember in a way “coming out” in the early 2000s to my family and friends by telling them about my diagnosis. Many were not surprised. Many could see a pattern in my life that might have shown I was always functioning a little “off” or “below the normal.” But when major depression hit, out of the blue, when I had so much going for me, that was different.
It was hard. I nearly lost Adam. He stuck with me. I combined drugs and therapy and made it through to the other side. But in all that time, I was never once suicidal. Ever. I was immobilized by depression, able to work like I always did, but paralyzed by the rest of my life. I still had no idea why people would kill themselves.
And then Adam died.
I don’t know what depression is like for others. All I know is that for me, the major depression I suffered years ago is a soft roller to shortstop. Grief is the line drive to your body in The Drill (shout out to my CP pitchers). And you miss the line drive. You miss the out to first. And everyone is telling you to get back up for the next one. You get up. But you are never as good again.
I know what it is like to contemplate suicide. I know what it’s like to be on the edge. Without many of you, who reached out with texts and calls and coffee, I would be gone.
I’m not saying I’m happy about it. I still often want to just die. It’s a lingering feeling you have with this kind of grief. It comes with exhaustion about living. It’s more than the exhaustion of trying to put everything into my job, take care of the animals and the house, still keep my friends… that is exhausting, but everyone has that. It’s just a feeling of a lack of purpose to all of it now. That I’m going through the motions of life. With Adam alive, everything I did had a purpose. It was to get home at night and be with him. It was planning our future, seeing our future with everything we did.
So living now is exhausting. Living will be exhausting until I find some sort of passion again. If I can.
And this has only been eight months for me. Not years.
With all this, I have a rationality about me that keeps me sane. My mother is my safe haven now. But my father was the one I think who taught me to just look at life with the level-headed common sense of an engineer (if only I had gotten his sense of spatial orientation). This rationality allows me to believe that it might not always feel like this.
But not everyone has this. More importantly, not everyone will have it. Ever.
A friend told me “you would not be a candidate to answer the suicide hotline” right now.
This is true. Because I couldn’t talk any developed adult out of it. (Note: none of what follows applies to young people who aren’t adults with fully developed brains. I would wear myself out talking them out of suicide.)
In my darkest days, I asked my friends “Why are you stopping me from killing myself?” Because to me, their decision to keep me alive only appeared selfish. You don’t want me to die because YOU WILL FEEL BAD. You will feel like I do. So instead you say “It will get better, don’t kill yourself.”
But you don’t know that. What you do know is that you don’t want to feel like I do. You want to go back home to the people you love and forget about the pain someone else is in because it’s too hard. This is normal.
Who is selfish then? The person who dies by suicide? Or those of you who fight so hard to keep us alive and suffering?
The time to help others contemplating suicide is not after a celebrity kills himself. The way to help others is not by telling us “it will get better.”
It’s not better, guys. You only get used to carrying the pain around.
I’d like to say I can’t imagine what these musicians were feeling. But I can. Because if the first few months of how I felt after Adam died is the way some people ALWAYS feel, then I can imagine.
I’d like to say the answer is just keeping being a friend. Keep remembering your friend is in pain. But that’s not always going to work. Sometimes, you just can’t stop it. Sometimes, you just don’t know.
Adam slowly killed himself. I could not stop it. I know that. But I will always feel a guilt that I should have been able to do something. We want to be the savior.
Sometimes you can’t be.
I would be remiss if I did not add this: If you are contemplating suicide, there are people to talk to. I’m not a professional. I’m just dealing with this shit. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Call me and we’ll find a professional together. If this sounds like the antithesis of what I just wrote, it’s because, shit people, life sucks. Let’s try to figure out a way to make it work.