He Should’ve Taken Lithium, Not Heroin. Kurt Cobain’s Suicide 20 Years Later
What if Kurt Cobain took Lithium instead of heroin? Would he still be alive today? Would it have stifled his creativity? Or maybe enhanced it? Would Nirvana be as great if it continued beyond “In Utero”?
It’s quite possible that one of the reasons Nirvana is so phenomenal is that the band’s lifespan was only long enough to create three albums and a B-sides record. “It’s better to burn out than to fade away,” Kurt infamously wrote in his suicide note, quoting Neil Young.
It’s a little known fact that Kurt Cobain was bipolar. Bipolar artistic figures abound in history. From Edgar Allen Poe to Vincent Van Gogh, Jimi Hendrix to Amy Winehouse. All of them self-medicating bipolar addicts, and all of them died 40 or younger.
We will never know the answers to the above questions, but it is credibly and anecdotally documented that Kurt Cobain was bipolar. There was a monster inside his brain. A monster called manic depression.
Cobain experienced the intense highs and extreme lows of bipolar disorder a.k.a. manic depression. His song “Lithium” describes bipolar to a T, down to the titular drug used to treat manic depression. It runs the gamut from happiness to apathy to sadness, sometimes within the same sentence. However, there is no evidence that Kurt actually took Lithium.
Kurt Cobain was diagnosed with ADD at a young age, and with bipolar thereafter, according to an interview with Kurt’s cousin Bev Cobain. Bev Cobain is a registered nurse with a background working in mental health. Her books include “Dying to Be Free: A Healing Guide for Families After a Suicide,” and “When Nothing Matters Anymore: A Survival Guide for Depressed Teens.”
Kurt Cobain’s depression is clear as purified spring water. There are lyrics like “I miss the comfort in being sad,” (“Frances Farmer”) to “I think I’m dumb” (“Dumb”) to the down-in-the-dumps yearning for a better life in “Pennyroyal Tea” (“Distill the life that’s inside of me”).
Then there’s “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter” with its chorus: “What is wrong with me?” (x4) and the verse line “bipolar opposites attract.”
Kurt Cobain reportedly would go into maniacal work tears, writing songs with lyrical motifs and song patterns that are decidedly bipolar. There are nonsensical lyrics. When someone is manic, they make strange word associations and many misbehave creatively. Case in point Nirvana’s most popular single “Smells Like Teen Spirit” – “a mulatto, an albino, a mosquito, my libido.”
Even the sound of Nirvana – subdued verses and big, loud choruses drifts between two poles.
Could it be that Kurt didn’t want Lithium to destroy his creativity? And that’s why he turned to heroin? Quite possibly.
About 56 percent of individuals with bipolar had experienced drug or alcohol addiction during their lifetime, according to the American Journal of Managed Care. And one in five bipolar people successfully commit suicide, according to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.
Kurt Cobain was a troubled bipolar musical genius who didn’t have to pass. Despite his ubiquitous mantra “I hate myself and I want to die,” he could’ve survived if only he succumbed to good ol’ fashioned psychiatric treatment.
What do you think of this theory? Leave a comment below.