Gus Rios (Gruesome, Union Black) On His Brush With Suicide and Fighting Depression

Gus Rios is the drummer of Gruesome, the guitarist of Kill Division and the guitarist/vocalist of Union Black. He has written the following editorial on his brush with suicide.

July 29, 2019 was the day that I decided that I was going to die. I was on tour with Gruesome and we were in Brighton, England on a day off with only four shows to go. We had been out on the road for just over three weeks, and by that point I had been steadily declining and isolating from the rest of the band. I remember the moment: We had gone to the pier, and I was looking out at the ocean feeling utterly empty and wanting to just go. I knew right then and there that I was going to kill myself once I got home. I instantly felt more at ease and better able to handle the last few days of tour. The day we were leaving, bassist Robin Mazen was talking about our next tour in March 2020 at the airport. I told her not to buy plane tickets just yet—I said I needed to find a solid sub for gigs at home. I didn’t plan on being there. Two days after arriving home, I had a gun to my head.

When I made the decision to commit suicide while on that pier in Brighton, I took a selfie. Not exactly sure why, to be honest, but I did. I have since deleted it, but that image will forever be burned into my memory. I came home on a Sunday, and Tuesday morning I decided that I had had enough suffering. I can remember my thoughts: my mother, brother, sister, family, girlfriend, bandmates, the fact that I would become just another statistic, my belongings—who I would leave them to?—my cat, Star Wars Episode 9 wasn’t out ’til December, and yet I had convinced myself that this was my best option.

Depression is the great deceiver. I repeat: DEPRESSION IS THE GREAT DECEIVER! I was never going to be normal. I was damaged goods beyond repair. My father had killed me years ago, I thought. I walked into my room, pulled out that salvation and stared into a mirror. It was that same look from the Brighton selfie: empty, hollow, desperate, like a wounded animal that knows it’s going to die. The tears and snot were so thick that I could hardly even see. I started to scream, Fuck you! Fuck you! over and over as I put my finger on the trigger. I fucking hate you! Do it, pussy! ¿los hombres no lloran? Then I got quiet, collected myself. I was going to go out with some dignity. I walked into the bathroom to clean myself up, and then my cat meowed, looking for water from the faucet.

I’m still not really sure why something so innocuous would have given me pause to recoil. This cat isn’t particularly friendly, but she is the sweetest and most innocent creature I have probably ever known. How the hell was I going to do this in front of her? The volume of the bang would’ve hurt her little ears. I may have fallen on her and hurt her. All of these ridiculous thoughts flooded my brain at the right time. I looked into the mirror and felt like I was looking at a murderer who had broken into my home and was trying to kill me. Then it was me saying fuck you to him!

That moment, I decided to fight with all that I had. With help from my girlfriend, I started therapy again. I didn’t even have the courage to call and ask for help, so she made the call for me. I started seeing a therapist twice a week and began the difficult process of dealing with deep childhood scars. I learned a lot about psychology, and my inquisitive nature helped me stay in it and remain attentive. I found it all so fascinating—the brain’s abilities to shield us from trauma, but also its limitations when the demons break out.

I started writing this in January of 2020. I didn’t come back to it until May 18, 2021. This is a very truncated version. I initially spent six straight hours just pouring out thoughts, and while I wasn’t super aware of it, I was also healing in the process. Then my best friend of 26 years—my mentor/hero—passed away, a global pandemic hit, live music stopped, millions of people died, and I was nearly one of them thanks to a COVID infection that left me hospitalized for a week.

It feels like I am finally beginning to close this chapter of my life. I am full-on chasing dreams again, fantasizing about the future and experiencing this strange phenomenon called “optimism.” It was far from easy, and I could not have done it without years of professional help, but I am living proof that there can be light at the end of the tunnel. Even now, as many of us are emerging from a global nightmare—and many have surely experienced something similar—hopefully those people are also beginning to experience this crazy thing called hope. I will never be able to erase my past and the things that happened to me, but I can certainly understand them, and at some point maybe even embrace them. Somewhere in me is the notion that, while I was forged in fire, it also made me who I am today. And I am, for the first time, becoming okay with that dude.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Help is available 24 hours a day in English or Spanish.