This is an especially difficult subject to weigh in on because my own family has a history with it. I’ve lost at least two relatives to suicide and there’s a good possibility there’s been more. (Travis isn’t one of them but I can’t say that with 100% certainty.)
It’s been less than a week since Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and Audioslave died of an apparent suicide by hanging after taking an excessive dose of Ativan. There’s still a lot that we don’t know and I won’t try to speculate on it. I’m not even altogether convinced that the death was a suicide. At this point, everything we know is in this Rolling Stone article. What follows might sound like I’m making assumptions about Cornell’s state of mind at the time of his death. Please be assured I’m not.
I am, however, making assumptions about the attitude of a percentage of Americans toward the act of suicide. It’s an attitude that I think further stigmatizes mental illness. What follows is about suicide as it relates to mental illness because it’s almost always related to mental illness.
When we memorialize someone who has committed suicide, there’s usually an outpouring of support for the family and friends of the deceased.
Then there’s a backlash from people that say the act of suicide is “selfish” because they’re leaving behind a family that’ll have to pick up the pieces. Or they say “they took the easy way out” as if it were actually easy. “Act of cowardice” is another one.
There’s also a school of biblical thought that suicide is “the unforgivable sin.” I’m not sure where it comes from, but the Bible doesn’t say much on the subject. I think some theologian tried to put 2 and 2 together at some point, came up with this idea and then it grew legs. I also think this line of thinking contrasts directly with the doctrine of free will that John 3:16 refers to.
Selfishness is what causes someone to cheat on their spouse. Mental anguish is what causes someone to end their life. And the “free will” ship has already sailed. A suicidal person doesn’t understand consequences. The illness and/or addiction is dictating the terms.
Depression and anxiety are feelings that everybody feels at one time or another. It’s a damn shame that they’re also the names of mental disorders. Mental disorders are a medical problem that require medical treatment.
If you don’t understand this concept, then congratulations. Sounds like you can do a pretty good job with the stressors of everyday American life. Sounds like you can also handle major life changes pretty well too.
You’ve never felt adrenaline that makes you feel like the inside of your chest is burning. You haven’t had racing thoughts that you’re unable to stop. Haven’t been awakened by these same thoughts. You also haven’t felt any of these symptoms day after day and not known how to stop them. You wouldn’t know that these symptoms can lead to hallucinations. You also wouldn’t know that dealing with these symptoms for a prolonged period would make someone want to end their own suffering.
Since this site is kind of about Travis and my relationship with him, I’m going to make this personal for a paragraph or two. I was an 18 year old kid in Marine Corps Boot Camp in San Diego when I first heard about the music coming from Seattle. A 13-year-old Travis usually sent me one letter a week to let me know what was going on with the Houston Oilers and what was going on with our favorite metal bands. One of the letters mentioned a really cool new band called Nirvana that he was really impressed with. I got injured and discharged in a matter of months and came back home to Austin.
When I got home, I found out my favorite bands like Metallica, Guns’N’Roses, and the Cult were still huge with the rock crowd, but the names getting all the MTV and Rolling Stone buzz were new names like Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, and Nirvana. A slightly familiar one named Soundgarden had gotten astonishingly heavier since the last time we heard them. Saying this band sounded like Sabbath and had a singer like Zeppelin was an understatement. They put elements from these bands together and made them their own. And their singer was a bona fide Rock God (notice the big “G”) cast from the same mold of guys like Plant, Daltrey, and Jagger. Soundgarden was the Seattle band that we Weiss boys identified with the most.
In case you’re a baby boomer and not real familiar with Gen-X music, I just compared Chris Cornell to Robert Plant, Roger Daltrey and Mick Jagger. If you’re a Gen-Y’er or millenial, these kind of guys just doesn’t exist. (And it’s a damn shame….but that’s another blog entry for another time.) He was the kind of frontman that men wished they could be and women wanted to meet backstage.
Hope Travis knows to tell him that I was a fan.