Greetings Earthlings! 🙂
This week I’d like to discuss something that I’ve been wondering about for a while, whether Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain was on the autistic spectrum.
As a teenager in the mid noughties, I discovered the music of Nirvana during a particularly turbulent time in my life (the joys of being an undiagnosed teenage aspie). Kurt’s words brought me great comfort as he verbalized so many emotions that I was struggling to identify. Reading more about his life, I really identified with him and felt a sense of kinship- his experiences of bullying and struggling to fit in as a teen, his shyness and intense sensitivity, his struggles with mental health and how he was so often misunderstood by the world.
After receiving my Asperger’s diagnosis in 2014, I became more familiar with autistic traits, and I often wondered if maybe Kurt had been on the spectrum- a question that many people have pondered on various messaging boards across the internet. Kurt was a quirky individual, often aloof and preferring social isolation, regularly rejecting social norms as many autists are prone to. He was an extremely sensitive individual who often struggled to balance empathy and apathy as he cared so deeply about the world and everyone in it. His struggles with addiction are well documented, something that is increasingly associated with autists. Kurt also suffered from an agonizing, unexplained stomach complaint. Many autists suffer from co-morbid digestive issues, issues that can be exacerbated by intense stress- the kind that would be worsened by such a meteoric rise to fame like Kurt’s.
Interestingly, Kurt’s widow Courtney Love is mildly autistic- if Kurt was indeed on the spectrum, this could explain their intense connection and turbulent relationship. Some of my closest friends are on the spectrum and the sense of connection I feel with them is completely different to my other friendships- we understand each other more than anyone else ever could, like matching locks and keys clicking perfectly together.
Having recently finished Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl’s memoir ‘The Storyteller‘ (for any Nirvana or Foo Fighter’s fans I highly recommend it 🙂 ), Dave’s personal stories from life on the road with Kurt have really reaffirmed for me what I had long suspected. In the book, Dave talks of how the huge crowds that gathered to see Nirvana in tiny venues at the peak of their fame would drive him to breaking point, constantly crawling onto the stage and interrupting the set. Kurt would reach a point in the show where he would become completely frustrated and seemingly overwhelmed with the feral fans and he would proceed to break things around him like instruments, soundboards, anything he could find to vent his frustrations. As Dave described in the book, when Kurt got frustrated, things were going to get destroyed. To the media, this seemed like a deliberate rock and roll statement, but Dave assures the reader that it was no show.
Reading these passages felt so much like someone describing an outsiders view of a meltdown. So many times during a meltdown I’ve felt the intense need to pick things up and throw them or break them just to disperse some of the pent up emotions from sensory overload (my maths book was thrown at the wall soooo many times when I couldn’t understand my homework!). When your brain is overloaded from sensory input, it pushes you to physically output energy to try to redirect your overload and expend some of the excess energy coursing through your brain. Stimming is the classic example, but sometimes the physical urge manifests in other ways like throwing things, punching, kicking etc.
Kurt’s quotes and lyrics have always resonated strongly with me. As many of you may have noticed, my homepage is emblazoned with his immortal words: “Trying to be someone else is a waste of the person that you are.” Kurt’s lyrics are ablaze with the pain of someone who always struggled with their identity, never felt at ease, never felt like they belonged. In the song Dumb, Kurt gently lilts “I’m not like them, but I can pretend,” a sentiment that resonates with so many of us autists. Perhaps his life could have turned out differently had there been a better understanding of neurodiversity during his lifetime ❤
Hope you enjoyed this post dear Earthlings!
Have a lovely weekend! 🙂
Hi, just to tell you that I have enjoyed your article. I was à teenager too in the middle if the nighties, a huge fan of nirvana. I this period I did not understand his text I am french and I was not fluent (or nearly) in English. Anyway, as a child he had been diagnosed with ADHD but maybe it was just a comorbidity of the Autism. My two boys are on the spectrum, I might be on the spectrum too and for a long time, I asked myself if he was as I was so attract by him when I was a teenager.
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Oh yes i completely forgot he had ADHD, it possibly was another comboridity. There were certainly a few more traits i could have gone into but then this post would have gone forever😆
I had been wondering this too. My son has an official diagnosis, I don’t. Something he’s done since he was a toddler is reenact scenes from Sesame Street. In the documentary Montage of Heck, Kurt’s mom says he did the same thing as a child!
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I agree. He is my obsession and I talk about him for hours to my BFF. she said if he and I weren’t alive at the same time she would swear I was a reincarnation of him. Except the heroin and the guns we are pretty much the same. I made it through my “Courtney Love” marriage. My first husband was abusive to me like she was to him and I am now married to a great guy.
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