Please note that this post contains potentially triggering details about the tragic subject of suicide. This is the first post I’ve written in over 100 posts of this nature. While I felt hesitant to share these details, the topic is a part of who I am. Thank you for reading if you choose to do so, and, as always, take care.
“Don’t stand around, like friends at a funeral…eyes to the ground. It could have been you.”
Crowded House, “Never Be The Same“
March 26th has never been the same for me since 2005, when Paul Hester, one of my favorite musicians in the band Crowded House, committed suicide. I don’t have it in me to write very much or very well for that matter. Paul’s suicide is forever etched in my memory, and whenever I remember how he died my heart sinks, for his death hits way too close to home.
The band Crowded House (one of my all-time favorite rock groups) was fortunate to have Paul Hester as the original drummer. It is very possible that Paul suffered with bipolar disorder although he never confirmed it to the press. Members of his inner circle knew that he suffered with depression for years, and he was known for his extreme mood swings. On stage he was a bright light full of humor, and his fans adored him for his ebullient personality.
I met Paul when I traveled by myself to Australia in 1994; we spoke after a Crowded House concert. I saw firsthand that the international fame he experienced with Crowded House had not changed him into an egotistical monster. He seemed like a regular guy, a quality that endeared him to his fans because they could sense he was authentic and vulnerable.
In 2005, Paul took his dogs for a walk and hung himself on a tree in a Australian park. He left behind his two little girls. He was forty-six-years old.
Months after Paul’s death, my bipolar depression brought me to an all-time low. My psychiatrist prescribed a medication called Elavil (amitriptyline), a tricyclic antidepressant. I took one pill. Just a few hours later I felt indescribably awful. Words can’t express how bad that time was, for I wanted to take my own life. Never before had I wanted to hang myself. However, I eyed my thick, green, bathrobe belt and I felt compelled to wrap it around my neck and jump off our second story deck railing.
Thank God Craig was home. Thank God. I went up to him and asked him to drive me to the hospital. Weeks later, I couldn’t help but wonder why I fixated on asphyxiation when in all the years before the day I took that Elavil pill I knew I would NEVER do that. Never in that particular way.
The only explanation I could come up with was that Elavil caused a reaction in my brain that drew me to that form of suicide because my musical hero took that route. In any case, there is a reason for the “black box” featured on all antidepressant brochures warning of possible increased chance of suicide. While the warning states that it applies to young people, I believe it can apply to a person of any age.
On this day I think of the two daughters Paul left behind. I have two daughters I almost left behind as well. I cannot imagine the agony that the Hester daughters have suffered. I have thought of them over the years since Paul’s death, wishing them as much healing as is possible when one loses a parent to suicide.
March 26 reminds me of how grateful I feel that I didn’t go the same way as Paul. I can only hope that he’s in a place where he has forgotten his torture. Paul Hester lives on in this world through his musical legacy. His family and fans will always remember his warmth, humor and compassion. The cliche is fitting here: gone but not forgotten.
We love you Paul.
Nick Seymour, Paul Hester, and Neil Finn of Crowded House