An Attempted Analysis of Kurt Cobain’s Suicide Note

Kurt Cobain, lead singer of the immortal phenomenon of a band, Nirvana, took his life in 1994. The reasons for this are debatable. Even the issue of the death of Kurt Cobain is debatable; did Cobain commit suicide, or was Cobain murdered? From here, we enter the realm of speculation.

It is broadly believed that Kurt Cobain killed himself. He was found dead in his apartment on the 8th April, 1994. There was a shotgun across his body, a head wound, and what appears to be a suicide note.

The suicide note:

Note the last three lines that say: “For Frances. For her life which will be so much happier without me. I lovE You. I LOVE You”. Does this not make it, conclusively, an obvious suicide note?

Analysis:

The only case that this would not be a suicide note, is that if Cobain didn’t write it himself. It is far too long to be something written under threat, for example, at gun point. If you examine the note closely, you will find that it is largely incoherent. It shows signs of the lack of concentration attributed to ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, that Cobain was diagnosed with as a child. Or perhaps the inability to stay focused on one line of thought, rapidly switching from one topic to the next; an attribute of Mania, an episode. or a “pole”, of bipolar disorder.

But a manic person would not kill himself, as mania is also often associated with euphoria and grandiosity, yet Cobain seems to have loathed himself and severely depressed in this note. However, it is possible to experience both episodes of bipolar disorder, both mania and depression, at the same time. It is called a mixed episode.

The impact of the effect of both ADHD and BPD are apparent in this note, at a very rare and unstable combination of both. It resulted in this note.

I have been diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder, and have written a suicide note similar to this one. I never attempted suicide at the time I wrote the note I’m talking about at least. However, I try to analyse what Kurt Cobain was feeling when writing this note. I imagine it has taken Kurt a long time to write this note, picking his words as well as he could have at the time, experiencing what he was. Reading and rereading, fixing it here and there, which is evident by the crossing out of many sentences.

You can detect mania with its delusions shown by a sentence like “Frances and Courtney, I’ll be at your altar”. Frances is his daughter, while Courtney Love is his wife. What altar could he be talking about? How will he be there in death? Only Kurt could have answered this mystery, even if illogically as a delusional mind would explain it.

I lovE You. I LOVE You. Is the choice of letter casing in these two sentences intentional? Why say it twice? I believe that the first I lovE You was intended for Courtney, while the second, fully capitalized I LOVE You, was intended for Frances, with almost screaming emphasis and certainty.

The prime reasons for someone committing suicide, from my own experience, are mainly two things. One: The personal belief that, after initial grief, loved ones’ lives will be better after the death of the suicidal person (for her life which will be so much happier without me). Two: Freedom, in the relief of great pains of one’s own life, especially emotional pain, resultant of extreme depression whose symptoms can be unbearable as shown in my article about depression symptoms here. Even in religions that greatly warn that suicide is an unforgivable sin, these religions are also known for God’s compassion for the insane, which may also be believed by the person about to attempt suicide, that the inexplicable pain and depression is a result of one losing his mind (I’ll be at your altar).

The death of Kurt Cobain is one of the greatest losses witnessed in art and music. But perhaps there was a gain, even if minimal compared to the loss, for Kurt himself.

Summer Moon, author of the blog MyBipolarBubble.com, writes:

“That letter is such a powerful and heart wrenching thing to read. The chaotic writing style and messiness alone is just a perfect visual of what was going on inside of him. The jumbled pain and chaos that was attacking him from the inside out. But, then when you get down to the actual words and what he says it’s just so hard to read. I read that and it’s almost like something that I might say to a therapist. The feelings of what I have inside, of feeling too much and caring for people too much. He says this multiple times, but in different ways. It’s just so sad ’cause rather than having someone who he could really express that to, he put it in the letter before taking his life. It speaks a great deal to the pain that people suffer from in depression.

I’ve heard that people can kill themselves in a manic state too, but I see that as more of an accidental death. The irresponsible behavior, lacking inhibitions and dangerous actions, I think are what lead to those deaths. For example, I jumped into a moving vehicle several years ago in a hypomanic state. I wasn’t trying to kill myself, but all it would have taken was for me to miss the door and slip underneath the wheels and I could have been killed. That would have been a result of the bipolar (which I didn’t even know I had yet), but it would have been due to my irresponsible and dangerous behavior. Not, because I wanted to take my own life. Depression is completely different story, though.

I’ve heard so much about how Kurt Cobain was wild and lived on the edge and how it was only a matter of time due to his drug use. People say how it was that wild life that lead to his death. But, if this wasn’t some murder cover-up (which I personally don’t believe it was, but I’m open to information to prove otherwise), and he did indeed shoot himself, then ultimately it was depression that took his life. I wish more people would realize that. Those of us in the mental illness community do understand that due to how we feel day-in and day-out ’cause of what we go through. But people who haven’t experienced that kind of pain just view Cobain as another sad statistic of a rocker lost to drugs and alcohol.

I think it’s really great that you analyzed his suicide note and put it out there for others to read. It helps to put a more human face onto his rocker legend persona. It helps to show that although he was a wonderfully talented and lost-way-too-soon musician, that he was also a human being with a mind that was just as fragile as anyone else’s.”

Summer, I believe his drug use was his attempt to relieve his pains. Wish it worked.

Kurt, may you rest in peace. May you be at peace, and your loved ones.

PS: Kurt’s death motivated the birth of the wonderful website www.livingmatters.com, by Beverly Cobain, Kurt’s cousin. It is aimed at preventing teen suicide, the 2nd leading cause of death for ages 15 to 19.

27 thoughts on “An Attempted Analysis of Kurt Cobain’s Suicide Note

  1. Summer Moon says:

    That letter is such a powerful and heart wrenching thing to read. The chaotic writing style and messiness alone is just a perfect visual of what was going on inside of him. The jumbled pain and chaos that was attacking him from the inside out. But, then when you get down to the actual words and what he says it’s just so hard to read. I read that and it’s almost like something that I might say to a therapist. The feelings of what I have inside, of feeling too much and caring for people too much. He says this multiple times, but in different ways. It’s just so sad ’cause rather than having someone who he could really express that to, he put it in the letter before taking his life. It speaks a great deal to the pain that people suffer from in depression.

    I’ve heard that people can kill themselves in a manic state too, but I see that as more of an accidental death. The irresponsible behavior, lacking inhibitions and dangerous actions, I think are what lead to those deaths. For example, I jumped into a moving vehicle several years ago in a hypomanic state. I wasn’t trying to kill myself, but all it would have taken was for me to miss the door and slip underneath the wheels and I could have been killed. That would have been a result of the bipolar (which I didn’t even know I had yet), but it would have been due to my irresponsible and dangerous behavior. Not, because I wanted to take my own life. Depression is completely different story, though.

    I’ve heard so much about how Kurt Cobain was wild and lived on the edge and how it was only a matter of time due to his drug use. People say how it was that wild life that lead to his death. But, if this wasn’t some murder cover-up (which I personally don’t believe it was, but I’m open to information to prove otherwise), and he did indeed shoot himself, then ultimately it was depression that took his life. I wish more people would realize that. Those of us in the mental illness community do understand that due to how we feel day-in and day-out ’cause of what we go through. But people who haven’t experienced that kind of pain just view Cobain as another sad statistic of a rocker lost to drugs and alcohol.

    I think it’s really great that you analyzed his suicide note and put it out there for others to read. It helps to put a more human face onto his rocker legend persona. It helps to show that although he was a wonderfully talented and lost-way-too-soon musician, that he was also a human being with a mind that was just as fragile as anyone else’s.

    • Aimer Shama says:

      Wow. Editing this in if you’ll allow me.

    • bipolarline says:

      I’m of the opinion that Kurt Cobain definitely killed himself. He was a manic depressive or Bipolar with schizo-depressive tendencies. Most famous, intelligent, gifted people are mentally ill in one form or another. One just has to look back in history, and even now, many of the people we so ‘love’ to watch with amazement on the screen we call life, are mentally ill, which gives them the ‘edge’. Makes them better actors, writers, poets, singers, performers etc…It’s just a fact. An honest fact.

      If one does some research on mental illness and WHO or what kind of people are affected by it, a very clear picture emerges. Virginia Woolf is a very strong case in point.

      She was a brilliant writer of her day, but a total recluse. Her Husband had her almost under guard, as she ‘zipped herself in her sleeping bag’ and consumed herself in her work.

      She also committed suicide like so many mentally ill people do, and I believe, as i too, have tried this many times, that it’s due to a mixture of things (for want of a better word). I don’t want to sound egotistic, but often-times, to a mentally ill person, we feel we don’t belong here. We are too big for this world, and this world and it’s values are too small and irrelevant for us. Hence turning to drugs. it’s an escape to another world.

      Feeling useless even if famous (I was in the spotlight for a long time, I’m using a pseudonym – as we all are) and even though I was loved (which is rubbish as all mentally ill people know. Any famous person is never truly ‘loved’. Love is not fickle) They are perhaps admired, not loved, so I knew that I was admired, but I never had an ego and it was meaningless. None of the smiles from other people, the clothing, the make up artists, the photos where I was told how beautiful I am and so on, not even the money, made any difference to my self esteem. mental Illness is a severe condition, and if we are not supported and TRULY loved by at least ONE honest, real person, we are always in danger of taking our own lives.

      I personally, and I could be wrong here, but I personally believe that Kurt Cobain was possibly over it. All the adoring fans, a wife which I refrain from comment on, and feeling not worthy as a Father (due to mental illness), as he was more than likely a magnificent Father, led him to just end it.

      Peace, the strong pull of ‘leave me alone, I want to sleep’ can be so strong, when the entire world is pulling at you, and NO ONE really cares, I guess you succumb to it’s beautiful call. This is only my opinion on Kurt Cobains suicide.

      • Aimer Shama says:

        That was beautiful, Jade.
        Do you mind if I make an article out of this and link to your blog as a writer?
        Are you sure that all great artists/geniuses are usually mentalliy ill?

        I think it’s just that our tendency to be more creative gives the hard to believe impression that all creative people are ill.

      • bipolarline says:

        Thank you Aimer. Yes of course you can link my comment. I of course, have NO idea what that means! lol…but go ahead if you like :)
        Yes, I’m sure that most creative people are mentally ill with one kind or another. Some just a small bit, others severe.

        Not ALL, but many, and in fact, if one looks back in history, and even today, at who we look up to and admire, e.g. Stephen Fry is an excellent example of a brilliant, intelligent, gifted man, who has Bipolar, then the facts speak for themselves.

        There is MUCH more to mental illness and the people who are afflicted with it, than even doctors know. Of that I’m completely convinced of.

        I’ll blog as to why this is so.

        Thank you for liking what I write. I love what you write too. You are pretty awesome
        x x x

      • Aimer Shama says:

        Yeah I know about fry I have his documentary the secret life of the manic depressive it was really good and I like his role in V for vendetta.

        I like what you write because everything you say sounds like what I want to say and I’m sure others will feel this way once bipolar line (live (love*) the title) picks up

      • bipolarline says:

        Thank you Aimer. When bipolarline (live the title?) sorry, having a bipolar moment ….lol….picks up? OK, I said we are smart, and we are, very….truly……….very smart………..but we have our ‘moments’……..this is one..haha……what do you mean? :):)

      • Aimer Shama says:

        You just reminded me of someone who said, probably Stephen Fry, that when I’m manic I would be as smart as Einstein, and if I’m depressed I would probably by outsmarted by Forrest Gump.

      • bipolarline says:

        Einstein and Forresst Gump. Yup, that sounds about right! x x x

      • Aimer Shama says:

        Sorry to confuse you, was just a silly typo from Swype on my tablet. XD

    • jay harmeyer says:

      “Frances and Courtney, I’ll be at your altar” refers to a place of remembrance Kurt assumed Courtney would create after his suicide, perhaps a little corner of her house with a shrine/alter devoted to her dead husband. Kurt had ADHD and was bored and no longer felt any enthusiasm about life, he attained the rock star dream and felt completely disillusioned about it. He also understood that music tastes change like the wind and eventually his band would become irrelevant. If he had lived, shit bands like Korn/Limp Bizkit and white gangsta rappers like Eminem would have replaced Nirvana in youth culture, just as they overtook other grunge bands of Kurt’s era. Kurt also realized that he was already committing a slow suicide with a drug addiction he had no intention of giving up, so why not just get it over with and spare himself and his family the agony of watching him OD over and over again and eventually dying anyway.

      • Anonymous says:

        He is referring to the fact that he will be with them in spirit when they both get married at the altar. Like how people say I will be watching over you from above.

      • Aimer Shama says:

        Thanks for clarifying. It is with everybody’s opinion that this speculation is good.

  2. ashes32 says:

    I’ve had mixed episodes like you spoke of. I was awake for days, pairinoid, completely delusional, hallucinating and suicidal. All at the same time. I believed god had dammed me and was speaking to me. Those times where the scariest in my life so I could see how someone could commit suicide during one of those.

    • Aimer Shama says:

      It’s such a dark place. Sometimes I ask myself why me? But to know I’m not alone gives me some comfort. We’re in this together. Glad we made it and may we never return to that place.

  3. rawrzizizor says:

    why does the altar sentence always create such confusion… it seems simple to me, frances would get married, and maybe kurt assumed courtney would remarry to… doesnt seem so weird

    • instantnirvana says:

      Altar – an elevated place or structure, as a mound or platform, at which religious rites are performed or on which sacrifices are offered to gods, ancestors, etc.

      I think he meant it more in the religious sense as in he would help them from the other side if they needed him.

  4. sakuraandme says:

    So sad and such a great loss on many levels.

    Thanks for checking out my blog. I’m Bipolar 2 and attempted suicide 3 years ago. My stomach was pumped and I was hospitalised for 1 month and underwent a series of ECT’S. This is why I write about Depression.
    Have a great day and hope to see you back at my blog. Hugs Paula xxx

  5. […] bipolarized.comPictured: Just some […]

  6. Anonymous says:

    I think it’s a classic case of ‘how can someone as intense as me exist in such a mundane reality.’ Like Icarus, he flew too close to the sun and
    got burnt. With his wings clipped, he felt he could never fly that high again.

    The loss of ego is hard to take, especially if your an artist who’s
    job and identity depends on that egotistical drive in order to be creative.
    To have gambled everything on being in that place beyond the sun and
    then realize your never going to get there must destroy a persons hope. Suicide is the loss of hope…paradise lost.

    Some artist’s who suffer this fate learn to live with the fall. Learn to
    take a grim satisfaction from it, knowing that it is the same fate that
    awaits us all. Experience corrupts the innocent. If you want to live
    then you have accept decay. The decay of youth, hope and the
    ego. The young chose to end their lives because they cannot
    accept getting old. They chose to leave this world in their prime
    rather than wait to be asked to leave.

    Or it could have just been a chemical imbalance in his brain due to many years of drug abuse. How you interpret it depends on your
    own state of mind.

  7. Alli says:

    Yes he was depressed, and I doubt he was bipolar since that is categorized as high highs and low lows. I have a masters in behavioral medics. Saying people was are manic don’t kill themselves? They do every single day. In most suicides the person is drunk or stoned. I assure you, ADHD had absolutely nothing to do with the letter . He was high and emotional. Plus there are more than 2 kinds of suicides. When I was in the Marines in Iraq marines killed themselves in order not to kill again. Also, I know chicks in high school in order to get back at to their ex boyfriends.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The stuff at the bottom is clearly someone else’s hand writing. Look at the C’s and the P’s. So i have to conclude at least part of this was faked.

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