What Chris Cornell's Death Made Me Realize About My Suicidal Thoughts
Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.
As I sit here listening to Temple of the Dog, I realize the reasons why Chris Cornell of Soundgarden’s death has truly shattered me. Aside from losing an amazing talent with the second most powerful vocals (Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder being first, of course), I realize it is not only sadness I feel but fear; fear because Chris’s death actually makes sense to me, and that terrifies me.
As someone who lives with bipolar disorder, depression and hypomania, every second of every day is a struggle. Most of the time people like me present to the world as functional, personable “normal” people.
We work, we socialize, we contribute to society. We are sitting beside you at work, riding the train next to you, waiting on your table at a restaurant, running a meeting in the office.
Our outward appearance relays calm, cool and confident. But inside, oh inside, it is exhausting. With every interaction, there are constant racing thoughts: “Am I making a fool of myself? Am I being inappropriate? I would never be able to do this, that or the other. I am not good enough. Why is he or she being so critical, mean or aggressive?”
Even on our good days, our brains do not allow us to rid these thoughts. There are moments of clarity, but there is always darkness. My fight or flight response tries to take over at least once on any given day. “If I get in the car and drive, all of this will go away. If I leave, so do the problems I cause others.”
The people we love and care about struggle through our mood swings, our excessive spending, our wild ideas and of course our extensive, sometimes outlandish projects. When we want to escape our thoughts, some of us abuse drugs, alcohol, sex. Those are the good days.
Our loved ones struggle through the bad days too by watching us spend endless days in bed, crying, isolated from the world. We try to protect our loved ones from this and spend days on end without talking. We don’t want to share any of this with you because we are certain you will think we are “crazy.” You will think we are weak or we are failures. You will leave us and make all of our fears a reality.
The darkness tells us all of these things will go away if we go away. This darkness can and will eat away at you until you can’t help wonder, “Why am I here?”
Most often we are surrounded by people, friends, family, co-workers. We smile, laugh, talk, make people laugh. What you don’t see is that many times throughout the day and night, when we are alone even for a brief moment, the darkness creeps in. It sneaks up on you and takes over every thought you have.
You know what it is, you push it away and you tell yourself this will pass. Then it sneaks back in. Over and over and over again. It’s sort of like that friend who keeps pushing you to do something wrong until someday you just give in. You know it’s wrong, you know it’s ridiculous and you know what it will do to the people who love you, but the thoughts won’t stop coming.
For those of us lucky enough, we win the battle. We push and fight back, clawing and screaming until it goes away. For now, we’ve won another day. For the rest of us, we surrender. We cannot do it anymore.
What people don’t understand is this darkness we speak of just appears. There is no rhyme or reason. You can be on the highest high, having the best day you’ve had in a long time. You can be doing the dishes, driving your car on a sunny day, reading a book, watching tv and “hello, darkness.” There are no triggers, there is no warning and there is certainly no open invitation.
Because I live with this constant darkness in my head, I understand how Chris Cornell and the many others before him and the many others after him perhaps succumb to it.
To those of us who are still here, keep fighting. Talk about it, write about it. Share your story because each of us can make a difference in someone else’s life. Don’t hide it, don’t be ashamed of it and don’t ever forget that no matter how weak, out of control or afraid you feel, the light you bring to this world is far greater than what you leave behind. You are stronger than you know and although the darkness may never go away, someday it will just be a dim light lingering out on the horizon.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.
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Image via Chris Cornell Facebook page.