Let’s Have A Real, Raw Talk About Suicide

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The subject says it all. This post will contain real, raw, vulnerable talk about depression and suicide. You have been warned.

In the wake of Chris Cornell’s death being ruled a suicide, there has been a lot of talk about the subject. This great article talks about “When Suicide Doesn’t Make Sense” and really got me thinking. I realized that the Chris Cornell situation resonates with me more than usual. Because I too have felt that darkness and I believe that I too fall into that category of people where others would be horrifically surprised if I ever committed suicide. I don’t think anyone would say or think “Well, it’s sad, but not surprising. He was someone who seemed to have a lot of demons to battle,” or anything.

Now just to head off any alarm bells or concerns, I am fine and I honestly don’t think I could or would ever kill myself. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about it. That doesn’t mean I haven’t laid in bed at night and just wished for a quiet death in my sleep and to not wake up to another day. I have felt that darkness. The darkness that is a lie but seems so real. I have called a suicide prevention line. I have composed suicide notes in my head and once even wrote one out, not because I actually had intentions, but just to see if actually writing it helped as an exercise, or an emotional purge like many say journaling can be. I have contemplated the ways in which I would do it if I ever did. The most painless. Ways in which I would just disappear and never be found and no one would know what ever happened to me. I have fantasized about running away and starting a new life under a new identity and “Heath Allyn” just becoming a mysterious unsolved disappearance (though when followed through, this idea is laughable to me as I could never do that either).

When Owen Wilson attempted suicide, many had the same reaction as to Chris Cornell. Wonder and disbelief. “But he’s rich and famous and has a great life!” At that time, I was lucky enough to also not understand. I didn’t condemn him or judge him at all, I just didn’t understand what could have possibly driven him to that. Then I distinctly remember a day not too terribly long ago when I came to the realization that I now understood. I didn’t want to. I longed for that time when it was a completely alien concept to me, but now the understanding was there.

I think a key point that people don’t seem to understand is that when people are driven to suicide, it is usually because the person legitimately feels like everyone and the world in general would be better off without them. It is a delusion but it is not out of selfishness or weakness or whatever other stigmas exacerbate mental illness and its ramifications. In fact, this is one of the key details that tells me I am not in danger of becoming another victim of mental illness. The fact that even in my darkest hours, I could never kill myself because I know how much it would devastate those who love me. There’s been times I felt trapped by that, in fact. I didn’t want to be here any more but I “couldn’t do that to other people.”

I am generally a truly, genuinely positive person who strives to be a shining light in the world. I constantly work on myself and have come a long way. It’s not a front or a happy face I put forward to the world, it is truth. Few see, experience, know or hear about the darkness I’ve experienced and that’s why I think my suicide would fall into that category of shocking and unexpected. I don’t write this for sympathy, pity or because I need help or anything. I write this for everyone out there fighting their own demons and battles to let you know you are not alone. Every single person you see is probably fighting some degree of unknown, unseen darkness. People that you would never expect have anything in common with you. It’s a tragedy that help is so hard to get in this country and usually the hardest for those who need it most. I love therapy, but I can’t afford it. That’s probably a pretty common situation. But keep fighting. Keep searching. There are many avenues. Talk to friends. Call a hotline. Try yoga. Read Eckhart Tolle. See a psychic. Read a book. Listen to music (that battles the demons, not that feeds them). Watch movies (again, seek out material that helps support you, not that helps you spiral).

One thing I find so interesting about the human psyche and depression specifically, is that it is self reinforcing. It makes you avoid all the things that would help (out of protection for itself, I suppose) and seek out that which feeds it and strengthens it. I don’t care who you are, the world is not better without you. It needs you. If we can each bring even a tiny, dim light, together we can be a supernova. We can defeat the darkness, though it will try its hardest to convince you otherwise.

RIP Chris Cornell

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I first heard of Chris Cornell somewhere around 1990 when Ben Kent, the drummer for N The Rutz, the band I was in, was a HUGE Soundgarden fan. I have since and always will associate Soundgarden with Ben, who is still one of the best drummers I’ve ever played with. I understand the darkness and how life can just seem too hard to continue at times. I’m sorry the darkness won this battle with Chris.

Here’s my tribute to Chris Cornell. This was my favorite song of his, “Can’t Change Me.” I hope he will excuse the sloppiness as I just learned it today and this was the 2nd time I ever played and sang it but it’s about the tribute and not perfectionism (which is hard for me to let go of, even though I know that way lies madness).
#ChrisCornell #RIP

Dream Theatre 36

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I dreamt that my friend, Mical, got me an invite to a special VIP house party. Turns out Madonna was playing the party and everyone was super excited except for me since I’m not really a huge Madonna fan. She started the show outside and seemed disappointed at the small crowd but then she got inside the packed two story house and was visibly surprised by the huge crowd there. I was at an upstairs railing looking down into the living room where she was performing.

Later, after the concert was over, they were playing music over the sound system and I heard a little bit of my song “Infinitesimal” begin to play. This wasn’t super surprising since I knew I had submitted all my music to possibly be part of the mix, but then somehow it wasn’t my actual song, but some random radio promo I’d recorded using that song and so everyone was very puzzled by this weird promo, like me doing a DJ break on a radio station talking about upcoming events and such. I was also puzzled as to how this mix up had occurred and how the hell this random recording got in there.

Creatures of the Night…

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I’ve always skewed toward a vampiric schedule when left to my own devices. I find it interesting though in that it’s very dichotomous and sometimes I feel ambivalent about the late hours.

On the one hand, part of me feels alive and like there’s so much potential. Most of the world is asleep and it’s almost as if time is frozen in a way. A time to dream, whether you are awake or asleep. There’s not much actual “action” you can take, especially anything involving regular businesses or most people, but you can hope and dream and maybe work on some projects yourself.

But on the other hand, I feel tired and unproductive. Like a child I don’t want to go to sleep, yet part of me does. All potential is frozen in amber. It can feel lonely and foreboding. Sometimes even hostile or threatening. For the most part nothing can be done until tomorrow. No answers or progress will come.

It can feel like so many things all at once. A paradox. Yin-Yang. Will tonight be a friend? An enemy? A lover? An obstacle? Some mix of many elements? It was made for dreamers like me. Not all dreams are good. And without actions, dreams remain ephemeral, ethereal and amorphous. Like grasping at mist.

Dream Theatre 35

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In this dream, Robin Wright and I were in love but she was married to Mark Knopfler, guitarist for Dire Straits. The tone of the dream was strange as if maybe it was a movie. In this love triangle, Mark was not a good spouse. He was mean and grumpy. The three of us were there finally confronting the situation. Mark pulled a gun on me and then Robin pulled a gun as well, with the intention of using it on either of us if we tried to kill the other. I wrestled Mark’s gun from him and as a show of good faith to Robin, I set the gun down by her. Mark then left grumpily and Robin and I decided to run away together. Then we had hot sex on a table. I win!

It was later brought to my attention that there’s a strange connection here as Robin, of course, played Buttercup in The Princess Bride and Mark composed the score for it!

Artificial Intelligence Christmas Carol

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There are many articles such as this one and this one about The University of Toronto using something called “Neural Karaoke” to feed a computer images and then have the computer compose a song from that image. One of the results is this AI composed Christmas Carol.

I immediately knew I had to do a rendition of this wonderful song that some find incredibly creepy. So first I made some simple notation which you can download here to hand out if you want to play and sing this new perennial favorite.

Then I recorded a fully orchestrated version of the song, which can be heard here.

Happy holidays and may they be filled with lots and lots and lots of flowers.

Accolades Are The Dessert, No The Sustenance

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I’ve received many congratulations on my B. Iden Payne nomination, which is absolutely wonderful and I am very grateful and honored. But I’ve also seen a lot of people bummed out by not being included.
I have a very complicated relationship with awards and such for this reason. For every person that wins (or is even nominated), there are countless great, talented people who are not. So a handful of us feel really great, and a whole lot of others feel not so great. Some people don’t care. Some take it in stride. Some are bitter. There’s a whole range.
Look, I am thrilled and honored to be recognized for what I feel may have been one of my best stage performances of my 34 year acting career, but PLEASE know that these things are the icing. The dessert. They cannot be the sustenance which you need to feel nourished and validated, They are based on opinions. You just have no way of knowing what went into these thought processes.
We are human. We have egos. Most performers are particularly sensitive and want to be loved and validated and accepted. It’s a strange field in that artists are generally vulnerable and sensitive and yet have to work in a business of rejection and often feeling overlooked or unappreciated.
As long as there have been awards there have been feelings of bias, popularity, scheming, machinations, shenanigans and chicanery, or schemachinaniganery, to quote myself from the La Fenice show, “The Sparrow of Roma.” But in the end only a drop in the ocean of artists get recognized.
If it happens to you, enjoy it! I’m not saying shun it and say “down with The Man and the system!” Enjoy your accolades! But don’t let it or the lack of it define you. It doesn’t. I guarantee you there are brilliant, talented geniuses completely unknown and unrecognized. Yet. It’s a long game. A game of persistence. And most importantly, it’s about the work. Again, we are human so don’t ignore any feelings of disappointment. Acknowledge them but keep your head down and do good work. Enjoy any fruits than come your way but don’t get lost in the chase and addiction to them. That way lies eternal bitterness and unhappiness.
Also we are a community. As hard as it can be, learn to genuinely celebrate your peers and colleagues. Share in their happiness. Let your work and the experience of doing what you love be the meal, sustenance and nourishment. And when there is dessert, savor it and enjoy the hell out of it. But know that it is fleeting and ego fattening so it should only be a treat.
We are all in this together. Keep creating. Do good work for the sake of the work. And believe me I know how hard it is. Again, for perspective, I’ve been acting for 34 years and only have had a handful of “desserts.” And I don’t think that’s because I’m not good at what I do. So I’m going to enjoy this dessert, and get back to doing the best work I can do in everything I do. And I hope to work with you.

Divisiveness

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about divisiveness and how it has always been a major hot button pet peeve for me. I hate it with a fiery vengeance. This also applies to “snobbishness” which is really slightly different flavor but can also fall under this category. I heard a podcast recently (either Radiolab or Invibilia, both of which I highly recommend) where this woman was talking about being bullied as a child. They delved into this angle on how a lot of bullying isn’t even really about being mean or disliking the subject but about how it’s a bonding tactic for the bullies. I see this a lot throughout humanity. People who feel part of a community or bond together by pointing at those “others,” whoever that might be.

Naturally, I’ve seen this acutely leading up to this year’s presidential election. I’ve seen it my whole life in regards to music, movies and all art. “Oh, you like THAT band? HA! They suck! Your taste sucks!” It seems a very common thing these days for people to regard their opinions as facts. It came up in a friend’s post linking to a comedy video about how lame cargo shorts are and how women will find you unattractive if you wear them. I see it in the fact that 90% of my girlfriend’s social activities are “girl’s nights” or”girl’s weekends. Now it doesn’t at all bother me that she goes to these, it’s more that it so rampant and needs to be a thing. I’ve never in my life wanted to have a “dude’s night.” When I want to get together socially it includes all my friends, so it’s true that this is a thing I just don’t get or understand at all, having no parallel or equivalent urge myself.

I’ve seen it with the crazy, viral popularity of Pokemon GO. As fast as it became omnipresent across all demographics, it spawned sour haters and “I don’t play that stupid kid game crap.” I personally loved to see this phenomenon because it seemed the opposite of divisive to me. Suddenly I saw people of all ages, religions, genders, races, professions, etc., all getting out and having fun and sometimes talking to each other. Families. Friends, Groups of strangers in the same area. It made me happy in this world full of divisiveness. Until it also became a tool for others to be divisive and point and laugh and deride.

Deep down, I think we all just want to be loved and accepted. Some might deny that, even to themselves but I think it’s a basic human trait, and when we don’t feel loved or accepted, it hurts even if it’s something stupid like “I like cargo shorts” or “I play Pokemon GO” or “I love Styx,” all of which are true for me. Then something occurred to me today as I was walking. It wasn’t a new though, so I guess it re-occurred. While it always sucks in a way, you could view things like this as a natural filter in some instances. If that person you like doesn’t like what you wear, play, listen to, etc., then as much as it may feel bad in the moment, maybe it’s better to just let those natural filters work. That is, of course, a vast oversimplification, but a principal to think about any time that situation arises.

I mean it may suck if someone I work with on a project doesn’t like me or feels they don’t click with because of some subjective opinion or preference of mine, and in some situations maybe that doesn’t affect their professional opinion of me, but in others maybe it does. And if it does, then as much as it may suck to lose that gig or whatever, maybe it’s for the best.

I try my best to foster unity among all that I meet. I don’t always succeed. I am a passionate person and sometimes I can’t keep my damn mouth shut and contribute to divisiveness but I at least try to keep a vigilant eye on that and strive to perpetually improve. So I apologize for all the times in my life I’m sure I’ve bonded or laughed at some “other’s” expense. It’s not a good thing to do. I’d rather all of us laugh together and not to the detriment or anyone or anything else. It’s much more fun that way.

Flipping The Script

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I recently listened to this episode of the Invisibilia podcast about “flipping the script.” I don’t want to give everything away because you should really listen to it but the basic concept is that most of the time, humans exhibit “complimentary behavior.” Meaning if you’re hostile to me, my instinct is to be hostile to you. If you are nice to me, my instinct is to be nice to you. It talks about some very interesting examples of “flipping the script” or breaking that instinctual complimentary behavior. Such as when a gunman interrupted a dinner party to rob everyone and was invited to sit down and have a glass of wine. Or the story of a town in Denmark where many teens were going over to radical terrorist groups and the story of one in particular that shows how more terrorists are probably created by being harassed, oppressed and unfairly labeled as such by bigots than by any religious beliefs or active recruiting by the terrorist groups themselves and more so how a few police officers made a huge difference by “flipping the script” and reaching out with kindness to Islamic teens who had come back from Syria.

None of this information about meeting hostility with love and kindness was news to me, but it did clarify and remind me how much I need to keep this powerful tool in the forefront of my mind. It’s a hard thing to do and something that doesn’t come naturally to most of the human race and is, I believe, a root cause of so many problems and conflicts. I fail at this constantly. Someone says something rude, mean, attacking or whatever, and your chemicals surge and you start plotting how to verbally eviscerate them, shame them, and belittle them into submission. Which of course, pretty much never works and only serves to solidify them in their hostile and opposing position. There is endless evidence in the world, in history and in my own experience and that of others that this “flipping the script” concept works and is powerful (of course, nothing is 100% or black and white) and yet we still don’t embrace it. We give in to our most primitive animal instincts to lash out.

Since this podcast, I’ve been on high alert, really paying attention to these interactions and have caught myself getting caught up in these situations many times. Luckily for me and my highly privileged life, all pretty minor and petty examples (mostly, but not entirely). And I’ve seen that when I can “flip the script,” it changes everything. When I can manage to be kind, calm, generous, forgiving and extend a hand trying to understand, things immediately take a turn. There was actually a fairly volatile social media “discussion” (I use the quotes because on social media, it’s rarely a discussion as much as two sides yelling, attacking, unfollowing and blocking each other), where after a lot of dicey and tense discussion, I did actually manage to reach one person. One person who actually eventually saw what I was saying and admitted that they needed to really consider the other side because they might have been wrong all this time in their hateful beliefs.

I’ve seen it in trivial interactions between Pokemon GO players and haters. “This game is dumb and you people who play it are dumb!” Most people’s first instinct is to lash back with barbs and insults, but in the instances where someone has instead tried to be cool and explain why they like it and think it’s cool and the benefits of it, etcetera, some people have at least stopped being ass-hats about it while others have actually decided they wanted to download and try it.

I recently had a band gig with a very surly jerk of a sound engineer. It threw my whole night off. I could just let go and have fun at the gig and my playing suffered for it. I was just so in my head about what a judgmental, know-it-all jerk this guy was. He had a huge bias against digital gear (which is all I use and am a huge fan of, and I’m no inexperienced newbie). There was a hum which he insisted had to be my gear, despite several facts that easily proved this could not be the case but there was no talking to him because he knows everything and his sound system is worthy of world class touring acts and he knows all there is to know about everything. At the end of the night, I was still irked but I stopped and took and breath and approached the guy and said “Hey man, I’m sorry if I seemed like a dick. I’m not trying to be a dick and I do appreciate your feedback, knowledge and opinions,” and started a dialogue with him. Immediately, the entire tone shifted and while it wasn’t a 180 degree shift where we walked away best buddies or anything, it was a huge difference and diffusion and suddenly he seemed at least open to discussion as opposed to a brick wall with no flexibility or room for discussion.

Again, “flipping the script” is not easy. In fact, it’s very difficult, at least for me. But I’m hoping it’s like a muscle that can be trained and strengthened, because I have no doubts in its effectiveness even if I suck at it. At least I’m aware of it and always trying to have that awareness and vigilant eye on my interactions. I hope you will too. If more people would, I think it could change the world. And that’s not hyperbole.

Dream Theatre 33 and 34

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In Dream 33, Wade Rowland had just got his basic blue business checks in and a lot of money for artistic endeavors and gave me a bunch of checks. One for $300,000 and one for “7pm” among them for my musical services past and upcoming. I naturally figured that the 7pm was a mistake. Also he said that Elton John loved all his Earl Arbuckle songs and wanted to do an upbeat dance cover of one of them (it had a title in the dream but I can’t remember it). Elton had also hand drawn an album cover for a home made mix CD of Earl’s songs that he’d made.

In Dream 34, the old “teeth falling out” cliche made it’s second appearance for me. I was on set, shooting a movie. They were gearing me up for an action scene where I was sort of dressed like some kind of soldier or navy SEAL type person. There was a white head covering, kind of like a ski mask that was supposed to just leave the eyes uncovered but this one was too big and stretched out so it was sagging and not covering my mouth. I had suggested pinning the top/back in such a way that remedied the situation. Next thing I remember, I was in the house I mostly grew up in until I was about 18, and my teeth were all loose and starting to fall out. Alarmed, I called my doctor who happened to be Dr. Drew. Needless to say, he was very concerned. He asked if they were only falling out on one side, because if so, then that was a sign of testicular cancer and I should get checked for that immediately. I told him that no it was just one side, but all over. Then he was just silent. Uncomfortably silent. And I kept trying to get him to say something. I was saying something along the lines of “What? What is it? Am I dying?” I could tell from his reaction that it wasn’t good.

Then I woke up.

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