Quitting while you're ahead

In the book Don't All Thank Me at Once: The Lost Pop Genius of Scott Miller, Brett Milano tells the story of Scott Miller, leader of the bands Game Theory and the Loud Family. Have you heard of them? If not, that's not surprising. One of the main points of the book was how Miller never became as well known as many of his contemporaries. Miller wrote great songs and, like many talented musicians, deserved to be famous, or at least better known than he was.

I was strongly affected by reading the book. I felt that I understood a lot of what Miller went through and what I perceived to be his thought process. I feel the same way as he did about music, have always sought people who were as passionate as I am, and have never found them. I understand his bafflement that others can't see how wonderful it is to make great music and that it's worth the effort to try to have that music heard more widely and indeed to make a living at it. I also understand writing songs that come out of real experiences, songs that are sometimes cutting, sometimes even cruel, or at least seem so. Writing songs, good, bad, and ugly, is that way songwriters deal with their lives.

Scott Miller ended his own life in 2013. As much as I related to his story, I am not him. But the similarities are striking, similarities that include thoughts of suicide. That is want I want to deal with here. You have been warned.

Miller's suicide stunned everyone, including his wife. Those close to him knew that he had lived with depression for a long time, but no one anticipated him making an early exit, especially at a time that he seemed to be doing well and to have plans for a new recording.

I have read that people don't commit suicide when they are in the depths of depression. That makes sense. Taking your own life requires energy, and you don't have any when you're at the bottom. I have also read that the time when depressive people commit suicide is when they have just come out of a hole, when enough energy has returned. They said that about Kurt Cobain.

Maybe it's true for some. But I have a different idea.

Be aware that while I do have thoughts about ending my life, I have never gone so far as to make an actual plan. Even much of my thinking about it is more along the lines of "maybe everyone around me would be better off if I were gone" or "I'm making so little difference, what's the point?" That's not even close to a plan. I have managed to muddle along thus far in my life and imagine that I will continue to do so.

Still, there are times, more than I would like, when thoughts about shuffling off this mortal coil are strong. Certainly that's not when I'm in a serious, draining funk. But for me, at least, it's not when I'm coming out of a funk either. When that happens, I feel hopeful. Even a tiny bit better is welcome and keeps me going. No, the times when the thoughts are strongest is when you might think suicide to be the least likely: when things are going well and I'm feeling very good.

How can that make sense? Why would I think about suicide when things are good and I'm doing well? It's called going out at the top. I hate depression. I hate the lows. I hate the lack of energy. I hate the sadness. I struggle against it. I don't do suffering very well. So when I'm feeling good, I don't want it to end. I don't want to go back into the deep. I want to die happy.

From what I know, Kurt Cobain was actually in a pretty good place just before he left us. He had his troubles with his wife Courtney Love, but that was ongoing. He dearly loved his daughter Frances Bean and loved being a father. As is the case with many men, being a father gave his life a purpose that fulfilled him in a different way than music. Maybe he was afraid of losing that. By committing suicide, of course he did lose it. But he wasn't around to know.

Is that similar to what happened with Scott Miller? We might never know. If his wife Kristine knows, she's not telling, and that must be respected. But maybe it was precisely because his life was at a pretty good point. He was married to a women he loved and who loved him, and they had two daughters whom he adored. He was a good father. He had a good life. He still had a fanatical cult following, and he was planning a new project. Did it all seem too fragile to him? Was he afraid that things would go bad again? Did he want to nip a decline in the bud?

I don't know. But I can't imagine that I am the only person who gets stronger suicidal thoughts when things are good because of fear that the good won't last.

1 comment:

Coline said...

Winter blues, I need more vitamin D.