On the 18th of May, 2017 Chris Cornell hanged himself in his hotel room and on the 21st of July, his good friend, and fellow stellar vocalist, Chester Bennington did the same on what would have been Chris’s 53rd birthday. Fuck.
The thing about suicide is that it often defies logic and evades explanation. Its victims are as varied as the bright, brilliant colours of a coral reef, dazzling in their diversity. Those whose lives suicide snuffs out prematurely often appear to have little in common. A heroin addict in Seattle and a single mother in Oslo. A bullied teenager in Toronto and a proud grandfather of six in Berlin. Suicide is indiscriminate in its selection and terrorisation of its victims. And make no mistake, they are victims.
I was moved to write this, as I saw so many heinously insensitive remarks made about both of these remarkably talented men who recently lost their lives. I’ll sum it up for you to save you the distress of seeking out these comments yourself. Mostly I read reactions about how these men were both selfish to hang themselves and that, because they seemed to embody what we as a society define as success, they were lucky and had no reason to end their lives. I call bullshit. On all of it.
Suicide gives no fucks about your bank balance. Nor does it fucking care about your children. The thoughts that take control of your mind, like an invisible and highly destructive parasite, can’t see past the reflection in the mirror. You are you, but not quite you. You can’t reason with suicide because you don’t know it’s there until it’s worn you down, over months and years, to an unrecogniseable stain and the only way out of that hell is to be dead.
Suicide is not a solution. It is not a choice, it is the absence of choice and the acceptance of all that you know, which is that you should not be breathing. You have no value, no place and every day is a hellish dance around the many obstacles standing in your way to oblivion. You do not see a way out because you aren’t looking for one.
To the people who think that those who are suicidal don’t think about their friends and families I tell you now, you are wrong. It is those obsessive thoughts about how you are somehow doing them a disservice by living and that the space you take up could be better used, or wasted because you don’t deserve it. You cease being flesh and bone and blood and become other. Once you have made that transition the thoughts come more frequently and are easier to accept, and digest. They become your nutrition. You think no one will mourn you because you are not you. You are not anyone. You are not.
Mental illness can break you and make you a prisoner in your body. Over time it can replace your mind with a poison-soaked sponge and fill your veins with tar. It can animate your limbs, breathe and do a damn fine job at imitating you so you still look very much alive, but you are being inhabited. You have become a host.
There is no “weak” and “strong” these are not words that should exist when describing anything other than lawn furniture. Certainly not people. People who may be walking past you right now or sat next to you on a crowded train. People who share your space at work, in class, in your bed, on this planet. Everyone is unique and we’re all doing our best to adapt to the lives we have and to navigate all the clutter, mess and chaos.
Suicide is a cunt, but its victims deserve our compassion. People who survive cancer are brave and those who live through unimaginable car crashes are heroes. Just like people who die from cancer are brave and people who perish in unimaginable car crashes are heroes. So why are the people who don’t survive mental illness selfish and those live through it, and with it, crazy or pathetic?
Every death is tragic. Every loss is worthy of mourning and reflection. I want to honour not just these two high-profile men, but the 6,000+ people (4,500 men) whose lives are claimed by suicide in the UK each year. Suicide is the number ONE killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK. Let that sink in.
This judgement culture isn’t helping anyone. Social media has allowed us to connect with each other in ways we never could have imagined just 30 years ago. But why, when we are connecting, is it often so cruel? My thoughts are with all the families and friends who have lost someone to suicide, but my thoughts are also very much with the victims, who deserve this consideration.
Here is a list of suicide prevention helplines should anyone need them. And because this blog was heavy af, here’s a GIF of sassy Obama on a pizza. You’re welcome.