by Alyssa Ward, Phd, LCP
I’ve been thinking about Chris Cornell’s suicide a lot. I had a conversation with one of my best friends about this yesterday and I felt the urge to share. Let me say first, I don’t know if Cornell was depressed–we don’t know what was going on or all the drivers, but my friend was asking why people want to die.
As I tell the teenagers suffering with depression every week–depression is a trickster. Depression is a narcissist. When depression takes residence it’s like the person is inhabited by someone who is not their true self, who whispers awful things to them all day.
Depression sucks a person wholly into themselves like a trap, like a dark box where they can’t see out. All they can sometimes see is themselves, and their pain, regret, shame, loneliness, grief, longing. People with depression feel like a burden and they often consider suicide a favor to the rest of us who “won’t have to deal with them anymore.”
Depression tells us we are imposters, that everyone else must be lying because we know the secret–we are just a ball of pain that isn’t worth anything.
That secret is, of course, a lie
I sit with people in that box many hours of the day and I try to hold the light for them, and it’s a great honor to do so.
Sometimes people want to die because they have all the feelings. Some people, and I consider myself in this category, feel the world very deeply.
I believe this is a gift from God, but unharnessed it is dangerous.
We laugh really hard and cry really hard and we have extra invisible antennae that keep us attuned to the feelings of others. This can be an incredible gift when harnessed, and it is part of how I developed my skills as a therapist.
I have never, ever wanted to die–not even for a minute. But I know what it is to feel the pain and the joy of the world in a way that can be both exquisite and overwhelming. For some of us, this gift comes with extraordinary creative abilities. Not for me but I put my beloved brother, father and mother in that category.
I come from a family of feelers who are musicians and poets and artists and I wish everyone could see their art.
Chris Cornell had all those feelings and they were revealed in that unbelievable voice and his songwriting and the way his art touched people so deeply. People like Cornell who have the greatest intensity of feelings, potentially make the greatest impact with those feelings, but also carry the burden of them over time.
Rest In Peace, Chris. I hope those feelings are with you across the bridge, but in the most sublime sense. And I hope your children and loved ones hold onto your art as a reminder of the beauty of feelings and how they open us up to others when we express them in healthy ways.