“December 3rd, 2015 is not the day Scott Weiland died.”
Mary Fosberg Weiland wrote this in an essay about her late ex-husband, Scott Weiland. She discusses how it’s the day the public will mourn, but not when he was lost to the world. The theme is simple — stop glorifying the tragedy of his death because he was a rockstar and drugs and demons are part of the job.
We have a tendency to do this, don’t we? We gloss over the real issues and assume it’s the lifestyle. We make martyrs out of people who overdose. We say nothing but wonderful things and maybe add the person was haunted.
When a celebrity kills themselves, our reactions our largely the same. Either we know they were ‘haunted’ and it’s not surprising or we can’t possibly understand because they seemed so happy. Either way, it’s shows a gross misinterpretation of a situation.
Rarely do we hear from the family calling out mental illness as it is. Even if an indication is made of a disease, they still reflect on the positives and the light. I suppose this is the way we want to remember people. Both for ourselves and others, we want to paint this image of a good person who had problems, not a good person who became someone completely unrecognizable.
Mary’s essay detailed what the public couldn’t know. How little Scott saw his children. How he was rarely sober enough to be there. How he remarried and forgot them entirely. For those children, their father died long ago.
Sadly, I can identify.
My bipolar father is still with us, but he’s a different man. When I see a photo, I don’t recognize him anymore. The unfortunate reality is my dad died years ago and what is left is the shell of his former self. The mental illness ravaged his brain and changed him. So quickly he stopped being the life of the party and became the person you try to avoid.
\Not to everyone, mind you. To his Facebook friends, he was amazing. All they saw were carefully structured posts that illustrate a man struggling with disease but doing so graciously. He was charming and witty and you wanted to root for him. How could anyone be against this wonderful guy?
If you asked any of his social media friends, they would write a glowing obituary for him. I’m sure they would mention the trials he publicly faced, including his horrible daughters who betrayed and abandoned him, and how he triumphed over those demons. He would be labeled a fighter who never lost hope.
It’s not like I couldn’t write something similar about my father. There are moments where a good memory flashes by and I think of him differently, how we was. I can remember reading us this book about skunks at bedtime but changing all the words. I eat French bread pizza and think about how it was his specialty.
But I couldn’t paint that picture of him.
At one point, yes, he was everything and more than those Internet people could ever describe. He was kind and loving. In this scenario, his death would be the perfect example of what mental illness does, and I would want to the world to know. He wasn’t always courageous; he wasn’t always nice. At times he fought; at times he tried to give up. He stopped trying to make our relationship work when we stopped letting him manipulate us. At the end of my time with him, he didn’t care to try for us.
We don’t write the truth to dishonor the dead or change opinions, but to foster an honest conversation. Instead of glamorizing a situation, we can provide the details about what mental illness looks like and how it actually affects people.
By writing about his behavior, Mary is letting people know there is always more to the story, and often it’s tragic. It goes beyond the idea we create in our brains and naturally make it less terrible than the reality. We need to discuss those who lost their battles, and we need to make those conversations count. We can’t simply say ‘oh he was wonderful but sick.’ We need to courageously discuss the real fight and not the glamour we create as a distraction.