by Kevin Sharp
News hit social media yesterday of the passing of Black Dahlia Murder frontman Trevor Strnad, immediately triggering a deep public mourning. I get public loss, but band dudes are very much the same as you. We have lives with family, marriage, divorce, death, depression. Over the years, I played a handful of shows with the Black Dahlia Murder but am more personally connected with Trevor’s final decision than metal.
When COVID first took hold, I moved down in the basement in absolute fear of getting my family sick—more over killing my wife, who battles Chronic Lyme Disease. Because I’m an independent contractor, I was deemed “essential,” however, I learned quickly that the more operative word was “disposable.” No shortage of landscapers, house keepers and clowns like me running around making rich people even more comfortable in their homes as they devoured take-out and complained about being locked down.
At the end of one day, a client actually proclaimed, “I just think the little people need to get back to work…” Hello, I’m standing in front of you with a drill gun. I wanted to play with her insides, yet I smiled and collected my check to pay the bills—all the while being told I should be grateful for the work.
I built some of the dumbest stuff for the most ungrateful shit stains you could imagine. I lived in isolation, worked alone, stood in line at Home Depot and grocery stores waiting for the apocalypse, observing and absorbing the absurdity of social collapse. I wrote music, snuck in the studio and recorded records—shitloads of them—in an effort to deflect the implosion of my brain.
When I eventually came up stairs to my family, I knew part of me was missing. I felt numb. I worked, I ate, I slept and repeated the process over and over. I remember my wife telling me that I needed to go to therapy. I didn’t want to talk about the mad shit in my head, verbalizing it made it real. I tucked it deep in and continued to assemble for others. I changed direction at work and started doing aging-at-home stuff, building ramps, retro fitting vanities for wheelchair access—doing anything to buy some karma and help people who needed help.
I had a client with late-stage Parkinson’s coming to live with his daughter. Literally a week out from getting him home to live out his life with family, he contracts COVID in his nursing home, refuses treatment and went home to pass. I worked through multiple outbreaks in people’s homes. It sucked.
Back at my own house, my daughter was first to ice me out with a healthy dose of teen angst—a full month without a word from her. Sometime in this silent-treatment, my wife told me she was out—divorce. Cut and run. I remember mumbling I can’t do this again. I stumbled through mediation as I watched what was left of my world and my marriage fall apart. On the way out the door she left me a “I’m sorry it turned out this way” email—17 years and that’s all she had. I came home from work and the house was empty of furniture. Just two cats running in circles, freaking out as much as I was.
The mind bomb was lit. I was a 50-something thinking about starting over. Still couldn’t verbalize what was going on. All I knew was I was alone, in a larger space, working in circles, sleeping very little. Every night I would wake up at 3 a.m. with the same nightmare of my wife in a coffin. I got the courage to verbalize the garbage in my head to my mother. Being an old-school southerner, she told me to stop being dramatic. The rest of my family was equally helpful. My sister and I were at each other’s throats over some family drama. I told her I wanted to end my life and she responded by hanging up the phone.
The anxiety boiled over. I was walking in circles in an empty room, waterfalls of tears. I don’t know how, but I picked up the phone and called a suicide hotline. No idea who I spoke to, but they talked me down for two or three hours and gave me resources to save me from myself. I called my insurance company and they brought me in immediately for a psych evaluation. I cried and released a tsunami of thoughts and emotions, walked out the door with a PTSD diagnosis and a script.
The simple act of leaving my house, going to the psychiatrist and finally addressing my mental health—that first step—gave me more air in my chest than the entire previous week. You can remove the guns and sharp knives, but when madness calls, all it takes is one poor choice and you are driving your truck into a tree. It can happen that quick.
I started piecing things together—a monthly script to Cerebral; unlimited therapy on a budget; multiple psychiatrists with all sorts of ideas; the calm app for meditation; CBT. Anything to unravel the shitloads of damage. I’m getting better every day. I can feel the cloud of the PTSD lifting, revealing the damage of a failed marriage. It is what it is… and what it is, is a shit show… but it can and will get better.
My heart aches terribly for Trevor’s family, his band, and all the people who loved him. But I understand the irrational decision. I think back to that day on the hotline, anything could have changed that course. Clearly, we have all experienced trauma in some form or another, but there is hope and there are options. I understand that is a monumental first step to reclaiming your mind, but do not be afraid to make it. I’m blessed with amazing friends and a life worth living. And the music will always be there.
A final bit of advice: Dial back and take a slower pace. Don’t make any huge decisions ’til the flames die down. Let your friends know you care about them every time you see or speak to them. It is an amazing life—do whatever it takes to protect it.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline