I’m going to take a different approach to this article. I will be unpacking and explaining the lyrics of a song called “Tomorrow Tomorrow” by the late singer-songwriter Elliott Smith, who allegedly died of suicide in 2003. This song describes the Suicidal, Catastrophizing and Anxious Mind like no other song has, and perfectly fits the title of the article. I’m sure many will be able to relate once they understand the lyrics. This is my perception of this song, I haven’t taken this from anywhere, this is just how I interpret it, my own thoughts. Then I will add my own knowledge afterwards.
“Everybody knows which way you go
Straight to over
No one wants to see you inside of me
Straight to over” – He begins the song by describing that everyone is familiar with his state of mind. His thoughts always go to a dead-end, as if nothing good will come to his life, it will all fall down, and everything will fail. His mind is catastrophizing. “Straight to over” can also be interpreted as his thoughts always leading to suicidal thoughts. People don’t want to see him like this, but he can’t help it, his brain has been trained and wired this way. That doesn’t mean it can’t be changed, but childhood experiences have a massive effect on our brain’s development.
“I heard the hammer at the lock
Say you’re deaf and dumb and done
Give yourself another talk
This time make it sound like someone” – People who are suicidal often try and forget or lock away the thoughts and memories that cause suicidal thoughts. Sometimes the brain naturally does this by forgetting a traumatic event, but that can resurface if triggered. Some people use drugs to lock away their thoughts and memories. The hammer represents the thoughts, emotions, and triggers that can lead those locked away thoughts and memories to resurface. Guilt, self-hatred, frustration, sadness, anger, and self-deprecating thoughts such as when Elliott mentions, “deaf and dumb and done”. These self-deprecating thoughts bring one’s value of themselves down. Think of it like this, you have an object, the value of that object has been depreciated so much that it has almost no value at all, and who wants an object worth little value and further depreciating value, you would want to get rid of that object. In the same way, Elliott’s thoughts are depreciating his life’s value, to the point where he doesn’t see himself as someone that brings value to the world in any way, or even to himself. His thoughts are convincing him to get rid of himself. But at the same time, he doesn’t want that lock to break and that door to open because all his demons will charge out of that door and attack him. Those demons are a part of him, so really he would be attacking himself, hence suicide. He tries to counter those self-deprecating thoughts by talking himself up in an attempt to counter the negative thoughts he has so little control over. “Give yourself another talk” shows that he is used to this, but still it doesn’t leave him, his mind remains in this constant state of catastrophizing and suicidality. But because he isn’t convinced by himself, he pretends that he is being talked up by someone else, this could be a loved one or even an imaginary person he has created for this purpose, the “Make it sound like someone” is really his own positive thoughts that he is channeling through someone else, but really he is trying to trick his brain into thinking that these are the thoughts of someone else. Someone who is suicidal doesn’t necessarily want to die, they just want to escape their reality, their mind and that seems like the only option sometimes, or for some people all the time, and it is a struggle to keep those thoughts at bay, which is where people use other mechanisms of escapism such as drugs, self-harm, etc.
“The noise is coming out
And if it’s not out now
Then tomorrow tomorrow” – The noise represents all the negative thoughts in his head, he is sure that they will keep coming, and will never stop, and even if somehow he has a good day, the thoughts will be back. This is a form of catastrophizing, he has convinced himself that he will always be stuck with these thoughts and emotions he hates.
“They took your life apart
And called you failures art
They were wrong though
They wont know ’til tomorrow” – In a way Elliott is addressing people like me, who look at his music, analyse it and call it art. He feels like it’s not art, it’s just his life’s failures being sung to people. It’s an outlet for him, but he still feels like a failure because of events that’ve happened in his life and the current state of his mind. His outlook on life is so harsh, that no matter how much praise he gets for his work, for his art, he is never satisfied and doesn’t want to believe it because in his mind he will always be a failure of a human being. Elliott is still widely considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest song writer of all time, yet he doesn’t like who he is, and nothing can change that, and he will show them by implying that he will eventually take his own life when he sings “They won’t know ’til tomorrow”, and unfortunately he did around 5 years after this song.
“I got static in my head
The reflected sound of everything
Tried to go to where it led
But it didn’t lead to anything” – the static represents the never-ending negative thoughts in his mind, just like the static you can hear on radios or old TVs, it’s a disturbance that you don’t want to hear. “The reflected sound of everything” just means that his thoughts aren’t focused on one thing in particular, but it feels like thoughts are coming from everywhere, it’s too many thoughts and too difficult to cope with. It can feel like the mind is being punched rapidly and you just can’t stop the barrage of thoughts. He’s also reflecting on his life, his regrets, and his bad memories. He “Tried to go to where it led. But it didn’t lead to anything”. He attempted to listen to his thoughts and follow the trail of thoughts, but really all that does is bring about new negative thoughts and come up with false conclusions, negative conclusions, and often a dead end. In this case, dead-end has two meanings, one being that the thoughts weren’t useful and were just a waste of time, and the other meaning is a literal dead end, his thoughts have led to nothingness, his death, his suicide. The thoughts he tried following completely consumed him and he couldn’t cope and gave up.
“The noise is coming out
And if it’s not out now
I know it’s just about to
Drown tomorrow out” – His mind is catastrophizing again. It’s convincing him that there is no way out, his thoughts will continue to drown him out, causing a feeling of hopelessness. When we lose hope, that’s when things can get very dangerous because then we don’t see the point in living if there is no hope for the future. The thoughts have enveloped him into complete darkness, where there is no light of day, no hope. His own mind is screaming at him “IT WON’T STOP, IT WILL NEVER STOP, THERE’S NO HOPE, GIVE UP.”
All of this ties into anxiety, the rapid, non-stop, negative thoughts which can make us believe that nothing good will come in the future. Thoughts like “I won’t achieve my dreams, I won’t ever be happy, I will never get my life back together, these thoughts will never leave me and I just can’t cope with it anymore. I don’t want to deal with this for years and years, so why not end it all right now.” Calling suicidal people selfish, or saying it’s a sin doesn’t help at all, in fact it makes matters a lot worse by making them feel guilty.
Some people are passively suicidal, which are thoughts like, “I hope I don’t wake up in the morning” or “I hope I have an accident”. Actively suicidal people are people that put together a plan, think about methods and research them, and they are really considering or have decided to take their own life. People like this have lost all hope, their only hope is death. But there is no hope after death, the opportunity for hope to reveal a little bit of itself is lost. Some words from Kendrick Lamar, “He said I gotta get up, life is more than suicide,” people that are actively suicidal can’t look past their plan and death, it’s all that’s on their mind. Almost like a drug, they are blind to reality as they have been completely consumed by darkness. Some become so desensitized to their own death that it’s not even serious to them anymore, they can casually talk about it like it’s nothing, it’s just a large part of their life that they have gotten too used to. Actively suicidal people might not even appear to look depressed, they might even act happy, this is because they see hope that their struggle will end soon, or they want people to believe they are perfectly fine. But ending the struggle by taking your own life isn’t just ending the struggle, it’s ending any hope of a better future, it’s the end and life is over. You won’t be able to listen to your favorite artists’ new albums, no more watching your favorite team, or eat your favorite food. It’s the end. The beauty of life is just hiding behind that curtain, the curtain that blocks the light of day. Life is so much more than suicide, there’s always hope, it takes effort to get out of a slump like that, but it’s important to take things very slowly, suicidal people are very sensitive, so taking it slow is the best option, opening that curtain slowly. Slowly emerging from pitch-black darkness because exposing yourself to too much light after seeing nothingness can be too much to handle, you are extremely sensitive to the light. So slowly reduce that sensitivity, reach out, start talking, get professional help, find activities that preoccupy you, and watch something funny, laughing can do great things for you. A lot of the time we want to watch and listen to things that reflect our state of mind, and by doing that you are dragging your state of mind further in that direction. So you might be tempted to watch a dark movie or listen to sad/dark music because that’s how you feel. We have to counter that otherwise we just keep slipping down that slope.
The truth is that many people think just with their emotional mind, and not their logical mind. Logically speaking, you will get better if you take the steps to recovery for whatever it may be that you are suffering from, therapy, medications, talking all these things help so much. Sometimes we need other peoples perspectives because we have been blinded by our emotional mind. But the emotional mind takes full control a lot of the times, we can’t see past our thoughts and emotions, and we feel like there is no way out. It’s important to keep that balance of emotional and logical thinking. Both extremes are bad. Being too logical means you lack emotional intelligence and empathy, you will hurt people and won’t care about it. Being too emotional can lead to being consumed by those emotions and jumping to false conclusions. The middle of that spectrum is where we should aim to be, and it’s extremely difficult. But that’s where you get help, professional help from people who have studied these issues.
To finish the article off on a light, hopeful note, here are some reassuring Elliott Smith Lyrics from a song called “Independence Day”:
“I saw you at the perfect place
It’s going to happen soon, but not today
So go to sleep, make the change
I’ll meet you here tomorrow