Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Suicide Epidemic

Every time I hear of a suicide, my heart, and my mind immediately take a step back to February 8, 2016, the day my best friend Joe decided to end his life. The feeling was like being hit by a speeding truck, knocked unconscious, and left numb for days.

There seems to be an alarming increase in suicides among celebrities. At least from my point of view, which is that if there is one suicide, it's an alarming increase. Now I don't care much for the cult of celebrity, and have other works I intend to publish regarding that subject. However, Robin Williams was one of my all-time favorite actors. His portrayal of the Genie in Aladdin really lifted my spirits during a very difficult time after my high school graduation. 

The latest celebrity to surrender to despair was rocker Chris Cornell. I have been a fan of Chris Cornell from his days with Temple of the Dog, through his solo work and work with Soundgarden and Audio Slave. After high school, the grunge era hit it's peak. Whereas I was into hip hop and R&B in high school, it was all about grunge in college. I had purchased the soundtrack to the movie Singles long before ever seeing the movie. That's where I learned about many of the grunge bands. I can remember Smells Like Teen Spirit was really popular while I was in high school, and Pearl Jam, at least their first album. But once I started college, I couldn't get enough. Still to this day, when I listen to the Singles soundtrack, it still reminds me of driving home at 2:00 am from my girlfriend's college, especially in the fall. Many good times.

This article is not about music. It's not even about Chris Cornell, but more so about why he, and so many other prominent celebrities would choose to end their lives when they're so successful. Take Robin Williams:  funny, successful, family man. Yes he had a wicked drug problem in the 70s, but he was able to pull out of that and make so many people laugh, and so many wonderful movies. Why would you want to kill yourself if you're a millionaire with a mansion and a yacht and whatever else, and everybody loves you? How are there celebrities like professional loser Dustin Diamond still skulking about LA? Everything that guy touches turns to manure.

The answer to the question is that not everything about suicide, about mental illness, is circumstantial, nor is it always a matter of finances, nor status. I say this a lot. And I will say this until I'm blue in the face, and when I die, I will have this etched on my head-stone. 

In my experience, in my darkest depths of despair, most people who tried to help, made the assumption most of the time, that the problem was superficial. "What are you depressed about?" was a question I /was asked most often. I was never able to pinpoint one particular detail, nor two or three for that matter. I mean, there were a lot of things:  having to live with my parents in my 30s; being heavily overweight; not able to hold a job, to name a few. I thought for so long that if I just had a lot of money, if these things would just go away, I wouldn't be depressed anymore. In retrospect, no amount of money nor circumstantial upgrade would have made me feel better. The problem was much deeper. The problem was how I felt about myself. I didn't think I had any worth. I honestly didn't think I added any value to anyone's life, not even my own. That's when I started thinking about suicide. I didn't understand how my parents could tell me how much they loved me and that I am an important part of their lives, while at the same time telling me that I was a financial drain and that they would do anything to get me out of the house including threats of eviction. Where's the value in that?

I really believe that the circumstantial details become pieces of a larger problem that is both tangible and intangible at the same time. And the real danger starts when you can't tell the difference, that is, when you can't see that the problem lies in how you feel about yourself not what you have, or don't have for that matter; when you lose sight of your own value, and the enrichment you provide in the lives of others.

I imagine suicide to be a room with two doors opposite each other:  the door in which you enter, and the door which ends your life. There is only one rule:  you can only exit through one door; either the door opposite to you, or the door you entered through. So many people I know have been in this room. I have been in this room. If only people knew that they never entered alone.