After nearly 40 years since beginning my journey as a musician, singer and songwriter, I finally released my first Café Society single, "Daylight Storm," on March 15, 2020. While "Daylight Storm" comes across as a melodic, upbeat pop song (which it is), lyrically, it conceals a much darker and doleful composition.
This weeks marks the international month of Suicide Prevention Awareness in many countries around the world. Similarly, this week is observed as Suicide Prevention Awareness Week which highlights Thursday September 10th as World Suicide Prevention Day 2020.
In the coming posts, I will delve into the deeper meaning behind "Daylight Storm," whose cryptic lyrics pay homage to seven of my own personal heroes who—over the past 26 years—tragically lost their lives to mental illness, addiction and suicide. I will also write about my connections to these fallen heroes and talk about my own mental health challenges.
The seven men are: Chris Cornell (Soundgarden), Robin Williams (American actor), Kurt Cobain(Nirvana), Anthony Bourdain (American chef, author and television personality), Vince Welnick(Tubes/Grateful Dead), Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots/Velvet Revolver) and Chester Bennington (Linkin Park)—as seen above in the illustration by Venezuelan artist Evelitze Álvarez. A likeness of myself represents the eighth face in the illustration. In the coming days, I will pay homage to the memory of these men, all who hold a special place in my heart for the contributions they made to their art and who inspired my own journey as an artist and creator.
But today's post will focus on my own personal journey—one that I speak of all too rarely—having experienced firsthand a lifetime in the throes of mental illness, depression and suicidal ideation. I will also briefly outline the inspiration behind my writing this song, the death by suicide of a personal acquaintance four years to the very day before the recording of "Daylight Storm" on March 1, 2020. It wasn't until the death of my estranged biological father in August 2018, that information about his family history of mental illness starting coming to light as I began connecting with members of his family who I had never met nor been in contact with until a month or so before his passing. And it was that information that allowed me to begin connecting the dots to my own past history of mental and emotional disorders.
While having what you would call a fairly normal upbringing, my youth was frequently interrupted by periods of depression, anxiety and acting out. From the time I was 11, I began seeing the social worker and psychologist at my elementary school in Chicago. At 13, I attended weekly psychotherapy sessions with an odd little man who obsessively ate pistachios and exhibited a peculiar verbal tic.
During my late teens and twenties, I had recurring episodes of panic and anxiety which, on more than one occasion, led me to reach out for professional help.
While my afflictions weren't debilitating and allowed me to function without the need for medication, in my late twenties—just as I was finishing my undergraduate studies at DePaul University in Chicago—I was hospitalized after being rushed to the emergency room during an epic panic attack, the first I had ever experienced of that magnitude.
After that incident, I was advised to consult with a psychiatrist who immediately placed me in his care and prescribed a treatment of medication which would go on—despite my opposition to taking pills—for a little more than a year.
While the medication seemed to put my panic and anxiety in check, the myriad of side effects from the antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication I was taking—fatigue, nausea, confusion and insomnia—began taking their toll until I soon began weening off the pills. In my late 30s, now living in Valencia, Spain, I again went through a period of depression and anxiety and was placed in the care of a psychiatrist who recommended both Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and medication.
Finally, in my early 50s, and living in the Netherlands, I once again sought professional help to curtail my occurrences of anxiety and address my lifelong indisposition towards hypochondriasis. Recently, I have undergone two rounds of therapy with two different psychotherapists (the most recent being in early 2020), each lasting about four months before I voluntarily discontinued the treatment.
In this series, I will fondly remember and pay homage to the memories of my seven celebrity heroes and recall the unforgettable early morning hours of March 1st 2016, when I bore witness to the aftermath of a suicide, literally feet away from where my family and I slept during the ordeal on a day I will never forget as long as I live.