Monday, May 2, 2011

Tragic Endings That Could Have Been Avoided

Let’s talk seriously about Kurt Cobain and Ernest Hemingway for a moment. Both these men had a lot in common in that they both were serious substance abusers, and Hemingway was believed to be bipolar. Kurt Cobain was most definitely bipolar. Granted, suicide was rampant in Hemingway’s family, but Hemingway lived a full life. He was always a heavy drinker, and finally succumbed to alcoholism in his later years. He also suffered from severe depression.

Kurt Cobain had a slew of substance abuse problems, the worst being his heroin addiction. So what did these two men have so much in common? The answer is that they lost faith in their ability to create. Hemingway never left a suicide note, but he did say the treatment he received for his alcoholism and depression ruined his memory, thus his ability to continue writing.

Cobain wrote in his suicide note that he lost his passion for his music and art, and felt as though he were a complete fraud. In one of the last lines of his suicide note he wrote, “I don't have the passion anymore, and so remember, it's better to burn out than to fade away.”

And, finally, both these men used shotguns to blow off their heads, probably the most violent off all suicides possible. What makes all this so terribly tragic is that neither of these men got proper treatment for what they suffered from most. Granted, their substance abuse problems were serious, but if their bipolar disorder had been addressed, perhaps Cobain could have reinvented himself and found his passion again. And maybe Hemingway might have found a way to continue living his life with a modicum of dignity for all that he accomplished, and perhaps if his alcoholism were brought under control and his bipolar disorder was properly addressed, he could have kept on producing.

These are questions that will never be answered. The truth is, 80% of all men who suffer from bipolar disorder are also substance abusers. Many don’t get help, so they self-medicate, making matters worse, until the inevitable happens—an overdose or suicide.

Cobain’s legendary vocal ability and guitar work will live on forever, as will Hemingway’s brilliant stories, but the tragedies of their untimely endings should be examined more closely to prevent something like this from happening again. Some say that with great genius comes a heavy price, but look at Einstein, probably the greatest genius known to mankind. He was forever an optimist and his quotes live on in the hearts of many. My favorite being, "Imagination is more important than knowledge."

Love to all!

James M. Weil

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