Yesterday, Internet hero, Aaron Swartz, committed suicide in his NYC apartment. He was 26 years old.
As I was reading Cory Doctorow’s obituary of Aaron in my kitchen, the local indie rock station here in Minneapolis started playing Elliot Smith’s “Miss Misery“.
It is one of my favorite songs of all time, despite its unfortunate connection with Good Will Hunting.You had plans for both of us
That involved a trip out of town
To a place I’ve seen in a magazine
That you left lying around
Elliot Smith, of course, committed suicide himself in 2003 when he was only 34 years old.
It was serendipity at its worst.
I have never lost anyone close to me to suicide. A friend of a friend here, an acquaintance of an in-law there. But I find the news of someone’s suicide positively chilling. Whether they are an athlete, or a distant acquaintance, or a celebrity.
Local journalist, Larry Oaks, shot himself in the head few weeks ago. 52 years old, accomplished, a loving family – and yet things were so dark in his world that he saw no way out.
And that’s what I find chilling.
I have had hard times. I have gone weeks when I didn’t think I would ever see the sun again. Most of these days were before I met my wife, who pulled me out of all it 13 years ago; but in the last 18 months I have felt this awful tug of depression pulling at my sleeve. Like nighttime being dumped out of a sack onto a summer’s day.
But despite all of that, I have never even contemplated suicide. Ever. It has never really been an option. Not even close.
And so to even begin to imagine the level of darkness and misery a suicidal person needs to be experiencing in order to follow through with the act chills me to the bone. It’s incomprehensibly horrible what must exist in their minds.
Cricket has a relationship with suicide. With depression. Though I think it is more tenuous than people think. Depression and suicide are epidemics in modern society – and they pervade all professions, not just cricket, but law and medicine and sales and everything else.
But the numbers do not lie. Over 150 professional cricketers have committed suicide. And ten times that number have been diagnosed with Depression or Anxiety. And ten times that number have probably suffered with undiagnosed versions of both afflictions.
Some say it is the nature of the game. That you only get so many chances. That you could wait for hours, days, to get into the crease and then fall to the first delivery you see. You could wait hours, days, in the field, for an opportunity for a catch, only to let the ball slip through your fingers.
But all sports have their pressures. And all sports have their suicide victims. But in cricket, players have fewer chances at redemption…maybe.
But it goes much deeper than the game they play. To think otherwise is to demean their deaths and the deaths of all the other suicide victims who didn’t play professional cricket.
Victims of suicide experience a darkness that none of us can possibly understand – and hopefully never will. It has nothing to do with getting out for a duck or a dropped catch – it is a disease that infects to the deepest core of its victims. And it is chilling and awful and tragic.
The only connection that exists in reality and in fact, is the connection between depression and retirement, forced or otherwise. When players leave a game that has been their entire life for 30 years, a very large part of them dies. Forever. Sometimes, athletes overcome that loss. Sometimes they do not.
I had more I wanted to write here about cricket and Depression and suicide. But I think I said that all that needed to be said above: a darkness we will never understand.
Get help if you need it, everyone. Please.