Chris Cornell: When Suicide Doesn’t Make Sense

Sometimes, people commit suicide and we are able to make some sense of why it happened. It’s scary and upsets our world, but on a basic level we think we understand.  Robin William’s suicide comes to mind. He had a history of depression and his health was failing. Oh how we all wish he could have found more help, but I don’t think it was as much surprising as it was devastating and sad for the millions who loved him when he died.

Then there are suicides that make no sense. The idea doesn’t fit with how we see the individual’s personal life or fit with how they describe their life in public.  The partner or other loved ones are shocked and usually vehemently deny that the person was acting suicidal. Society likes to look for something deeper when they hear that the person wasn’t outwardly suicidal. A possible secret life or maybe the person was lying to everyone.

I have a different opinion based on very personal experience that I would like to share.

There are many kinds of suicides. Some are societal or culturally based and accepted such as seppuku, part of the Japanese samurai bushido code of honor. For some, suicide is an act of loneliness and despair that fits with what is actually happening in life. This is suicide in reaction to life events.

Then there is suicide from an ill brain. I call this brain chemical suicide. These are the people who ‘have it all.’ Who are getting their jobs done and sharing their lives with the public. People like Chris Cornell.

How can people who seem to have it all possibly take their lives?

In order to answer this question, we need to better understand suicide as a symptom of an illness. Instead of thinking of suicide as a conscious choice that happens when someone doesn’t want to live anymore, we need to see the other side of suicide. The kind of suicidal life I experience.

Suicidal thoughts and behaviors from an illness.

You can easily read about me online. I’m one of the top bipolar disorder writers in the world with over 450,000 books sold. I teach bipolar disorder management. I’m incredibly open about my daily struggles with this illness. By any standard, I’ve got my bipolar act together. My relationships are stable. I teach the people around me to help me. I get on with life despite many physical health obstacles. I help others who are suicidal. I know what affect my suicide would have on my readers. You would think this would keep me immune from suicidal episodes.

It doesn’t.

Last year I moved to the South of France to reach a dream. I did it! I started school and began balancing my work and school life. It was going well. One day, I was sitting in my room in Cannes. I could literally hear the waves of the Mediterranean sea outside my window. I saw gorgeous orange and yellow buildings with clay tiles. I heard the amazing sound of trains traveling from Paris going by my window. It was heaven. I had been a bit depressed for a few days, but just assumed it was from the big change I had in life. Overall, I knew I had made the right decision.

And then, I heard a overly persuasive voice say, “Julie, jump out of your window. Jump out now.” At the same time,  I had an intense feeling and belief that all would be better in my life if I just killed myself. It felt as real and normal as having an inclination to go to the beach. There was nothing and I do mean nothing personal in my life to justify this kind of feeling. If you looked at my life in the moment, it made NO sense that I was suicidal.

But there was something in my brain that made sense of the situation. My mood disorder comes with suicidal depression. It gets triggered. I don’t have to be down or upset. It just happens when it gets triggered. It feels as real as breathing. I hear the voice, have the thought and in my case see a movie of myself jumping all at once. Something in me simply yells, “Do it Julie! Do it!”

It’s visceral. It’s magnetic and hypnotic and REAL. Brain chemicals are far more powerful than any drug and when mine go off, I get suicidal. I’ve come close to dying many times.

A few minutes later, the suicide plan I created for myself 20 years ago allowed me to see through this chemical episode and I got immediate help. Not everyone has a plan to counteract chemical suicidal thoughts, but I do.

When you don’t have a plan that helps these sudden and inexplicable suicidal thoughts, the resulting suicide can never be explained by what is going on in life.

The chemicals win in these situations. The illness wins. It’s not about killing ourselves. It’s about an illness killing us.

That is a different kind of suicide.

I am not a likely suicidal candidate if you look at my life. But I am a likely suicidal candidate if you look at my illness. There was nothing going on in that room last year to in any way explain the thought of jumping out my window, except illness.

I remember sitting there alone, after I had the thought that I was going to jump out of my window. I started to cry and I said to myself, “Oh my God. I’m a lot sicker than I thought I was.” It took me a few days to figure out that I was having a chemical brain reaction to a new sleep medication. I stopped the medication and the suicidal thoughts were completely gone in two days. I was very suicidal for a week and could easily have died at one of the happiest times of my life.

Chris Cornell talked openly about depression. It’s an illness that never really goes away. We can perform through it. Have kids and write books and songs and make millions happy with our work, but it’s always there for some of us. We understand this about diabetes and heart problems and some cancers. Why can’t we understand this about depression?

You may read about Chris Cornell and ask yourself, “How could someone who is married with three beautiful children, in one of the biggest bands in the world, who had literally just finished an incredibly successful live show go to his room and kill himself?”

If he has a brain like mine. He was sick and his brain was triggered into a suicidal episode.  It may have had nothing to do with his amazing life. Sometimes an illness is simply stronger than the person. Sometimes medications mess with our sensitive brain chemicals.

The idea that suicidal ideation leaves people alone when they create a good life is an absolute lie.

The idea that being in love and having beautiful kids you would die for is going to prevent suicidal thoughts is a lie.

Sometimes this illness is too strong and it kills someone just as if that person had died of a heart attack.

I didn’t know Chris Cornell, but I do know why some people who seem to have everything take their own lives. I have no idea what was going on in his relationships, but I do know what was going on in his brain.

I’m often overwhelmed with the doom and gloom surrounding the topic of suicide. The hushed tones and the shame are misplaced. When we understand and treat suicidal behavior as a physical illness we will truly end our suicide epidemic.

When we talk openly about the chemical side of suicidal thoughts, we teach people in the deepest moment of suicidal ideation to step back, just as if they were having the signs of a stroke and say, “Wait! This is not me and it is not what I want. I need immediate help.”

I didn’t listen to the voice telling me to jump out of the window, not because I am stronger than others. I have no more strength than anyone. I didn’t listen because I had taught myself that this is what happens when my depressed bipolar brain gets sick. We can teach others to do the same.

Chris Cornell. You will always be in my memory. You came out on stage in black leather pants with a white shirt and a camel colored jacket. You were fly. The bomb! And then you sang and my brother and I went to another world. You are loved.


Click here to read  Chris Cornell’s Wife Issues Statement, Blames Anxiety Medicine for Suicide “When we spoke after the show, I noticed he was slurring his words,” Vicky Cornell says. “He was different” from Rolling Stone Magazine. 

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Bipolar Happens! Receives Best Individual Bipolar Disorder Blog on the Web Award from HealthLine

I have some great news. My blog BipolarHappens! received a top blog award from the HealthLine website. This is quite an honor and one I want to embrace with great gusto.

Thank you to HealthLine and congratulations to my fellow award winners.

Click here to read the full list of The Best Bipolar Disorder Blogs of the Year from HealthLine and the other great bipolar disorder bloggers including Bp Magazine!


What I Do When I Can Tell I’m Getting Depressed or Manic

1. I feel a bit sad for myself and upset and worried and lonely and scared and bummed out and pissed and…… you get the idea.

2. I ALWAYS look for a trigger. If I can find the trigger, I change the trigger. This is always upsetting because my trigger is usually doing too much work and I LOVE to work.

3. If it’s depression, I do everything possible to stay out of bed and keep myself from isolating. I use the ideas in Get it Done When You’re Depressed ever minute I’m depressed. There are a lot of ideas in this book that work immediately and I truly use them.

4. If it’s mania, I work on my sleep first. If I can’t get it to calm down with my management plan, I take 5mg of lithium orotate and that often knocks is out.

I HATE getting sick. But it’s ok. I will survive. I stop it early now. I am so much better than in the past.

I have to adapt to the hand that life deals me.


How to Say THANK YOU, NO THANK YOU when You Have Bipolar Disorder


Julie, come to the concert with us! We have a box and I know you love the band! You will love it!

Thank you so much for thinking of me. I want to go and the stable me would LOVE to go. Unfortunately, the bipolar me, the one I dislike but have to live with every day simply can’t handle the big crowds. I get overstimulated and this can lead to so many symptoms I simply can’t have in my life right now. I am sad to miss this. I know you are going out to dinner first, and I can definitely join you for that part of the evening. Thank you very much for asking me!

Julie, I don’t see why it’s so hard for you to travel. You love it so much. We are just going for the weekend. It’s the coast and it will be fun. I will drive! Come with us! 

Thank you! I wish with all of my heart that the regular me you see in public is the me I have to sleep with at night. I can’t and don’t want you to have to understand what I go through to be honest- it sucks, but I can say that as much as I want to go with you, I want to be stable more. I have to give up so much so that I can be the friend and family member I want to be. Please send me a video. In fact, a video chat would be amazing. I feel sad I have to miss this. I feel that I miss out on a lot of things, but I can say that I’m healthier than I have ever been since I’ve been really watching my triggers. Travel at this time is too much for me. I hope you have fun!!!

It’s all about trigger management when you have bipolar disorder. 

It’s hard for people who don’t have bipolar disorder to understand that FUN things can make us sick. Triggers are ANYTHING that causes mood swings. There is no positive or negative to a trigger. It’s just a trigger!
Learning to say no in a way that also educates people about how you take care of yourself really makes a difference. People know to keep asking you- because maybe you can go in the future, but they also get to see that you are committed to staying stable so that you can maintain the relationship!
Woo! hoo!


Signs a Loved One with Bipolar Disorder Needs Help

1. Current behaviors are not in line with past behaviors. For example, – a person who has been empathetic throughout life suddently becomes selfish and callous and says, “I don’t love you and never have! You are finally seeing the real me!”

2. They stop paying attention to what has always been important. This can include being with their children. People who once cared about helping animals will forget to feed them or might kick them for example.

3. They don’t listen. And when you point this out, you are always the one with the problem.

4. They simply can’t see that they they are doing or are about to do isn’t going to end well.


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