Jeff Hanneman's Wife Describes His Depression After Spider-Bite Incident

Kathryn Hanneman tried to get him to therapy, but all Jeff wanted was to play guitar again. Be warned, this emotional read is a real tear-jerker.

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The dust has barely settled after the sudden and unexpected passing for Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman in May due to alcohol-induced liver cirrhosis.

A new interview with his wife Kathryn has confirmed suspicions that the emotional impact of his spider bite in 2011 which led to him contracting a flesh-eating disease and being unable to play guitar put Jeff into a depression.

Describing the night that Jeff felt a small prick on his arm from a spider bite at a friend's house, Kathryn told Guitar World that she knew there was something wrong when he walked in (via Metal Insider):

"He wasn't feeling well, and he just wanted to go upstairs and go to sleep. Before he did he said, 'Kath, I need to show you something, even though I really don't want to.' And he took off his shirt, and I just freaked out when I saw his arm. It was bright red and three times the normal size. I said, 'Jeff, we need to go now. We need to get you to the ER.'"

Jeff was intoxicated and refused to go to hospital, but the next morning she managed to get him into the car despite his sudden lack of strength.

"When we got to the hospital in Loma Linda, they took one look at him and they immediate knew what it was, so they took him right in ... neither of us thought it would be a life-or-death situation."

Three hours later, everything had changed.

"The doctor put it in perspective for me. He said, 'I need you to see your husband. He may not make it.' The doctor looked at Jeff and told him, 'First I'm going to try to save your life. Then I'm going to try to save your arm. Then I'm going to try to save your career.' And looking at Jeff on that stretcher and possibly saying goodbye, knowing that I may never see him again... [pause] was one of the hardest moments of my life."

Kathryn says she encouraged him to go to rehab to get over the effects of the resting flesh-eating illness, but all he wanted was to get back to playing guitar.

"I couldn't get Jeff to go to rehab or therapy. I think he was letting the visual of his arm get to his emotions, and it was messing with his mind. It was hard to keep him upbeat at that point. I think he thought he could do this on his own - that he would just to go rehearsal and play, and that that would be his rehab.

"But I think he started to learn, once he tried rehearsing, that he wasn't playing up to his ability and that he wasn't able to play guitar at the speed he was used to. And I think that really hit him hard, and he started to lose hope.

Difficult reading indeed. Be grateful for what you have now, because you never know when you might lose it.

58 comments sorted by best / new / date

    R.I.P. Jeff. It must have been so difficult, having the career and lifestyle he loved snatched away from him by a bite from a spider.
    'First I'm going to try to save your life. Then I'm going to try to save your arm. Then I'm going to try to save your career.' That's the most heart wrenching thing I've read in a long, long time.
    I thought it was kind of badass, especially if he managed to succeed in at least the first one. What was heart-wrenching for me was the image of his wife looking at her husband for what she suspected would be the last time.
    I think the rest of Slayer should of picked up the ****ing phone or visited him at least. One of the horrible things of depression is being alone and they didn't pull through in my opinion.
    I think I remember Kerry saying somewhere that they weren't really too close off stage. But then again that's Kerry King. And he in my opinion just seems like an ego-maniac topped with the fact that he's the least musically credible member of Slayer (Tom has that wail, Jeff had the songs and the chops and Lombardo is Dave ****ing Lombardo). Either way, there's hundred of thousands of kids that learned Raining Blood as one of their first songs on guitar because its one of the most classic riffs and if there was no Jeff, there'd be a lot less people making music and a lot more shittier bands out there if it wasn't for that influence.
    Massive respect for the Surgeon in the ER, those guys do incredible shit like this on a daily basis Mad restepc
    I wish I was wrong right now, but I think Jeff's death starts turning into the perfect news topic. This fact sucks. I hate media for that.
    If you dislike the media for making articles then got off UG, and any other news network. This is what news is, INFORMATION, if you do not like it, do not come to these websites.
    I almost teared up reading that ;_;
    For sure. It's the whole "losing the ability to do what you love" kind of thing. I think its really sad because there are so many people out there who grow up doing things they hate. It has to be the worse feeling ever to lose to ability to do what you love most.
    Especially when "what you love" is not physically intense and you should be able to do it for the rest of your life. Went and saw a co workers band play the other day. She's in her early fifties and their guitarist looks like me in thirty or forty more years. The reason guitar's been something I can stick with is that I can keep doing it forever. To have it taken away is a terrifying thought.
    link no1
    First I'm going to try to save your life. Then I'm going to try to save your arm. Then I'm going to try to save your career.
    she encouraged him to go to rehab to get over the effects of the resting flesh-eating illness, but all he wanted was to get back to playing guitar.
    Right in the feelings.
    That's gutting. Has anyone explained the cause of his failing liver yet? Was it due to the spider bite or is the fact that he had depression hinting that he may have hit the booze really hard in the last year? Fucking tragedy.
    No the spider caused the whole problematic arm situation. But its the drinking that did it. he had cirrhosis of the liver so. It was kind of a vicious cycle though, he was drinking because he was depressed by his arm, and he couldnt play the same way anymore.
    It's both, the alcohol caused it but from what I've read the disease that he got from the spider bite makes you that much more susceptible to liver problems.
    Look out folks! We've got a poster without vices of his own so he can judge everybody, here.
    I only asked a question mate. It's ****ed if he literally drank himself to death due to depression and didn't realize what sort of support was out there for him. To me that's the tragedy because we lost a legend way too soon. If it is the case then it would be something worth bringing to light to help raise awareness for depression. So the only judging going on her seems to be from you.
    Man, maybe if he had been less stubborn and gone to hospital straight away the damage might not have been so severe. Rest in peace Jeff.
    This whole story brings back reading about when Mustaine's arm got messed up. I think many people at the time sort of passed off that whole thing as some sort of sympathy plea from Dave. The situation with Jeff reminds us of just how important the need and drive to play can be. I'm happy that Dave made it through, did the rehab that was required, and has come all the way back. I realize that their injuries were not the very same thing, but being put into the situation of not being able to play is the common element. I just wish Jeff were still with us...
    Such sad news. His death hits even harder now knowing he went through all this. Such a tragic ending to one of the most important names in metal history. RIP Jeff! Thanks for the inspiration and some of the most evil riffs known to man!
    As someone who suffers from depression myself I kind of wondered if it was something along these lines. Depression was the real killer here as far as I'm concerned. Jeff was trying to carry a very heavy emotional burden by himself. Some loads we cannot lift ourselves... we need help. I hope you are at peace now Jeff.
    I was lucky enough to see Slayer twice before Jeff passed. Once in Long Beach, CA right before his spider bite and then once at The Big 4 in Indio where he came out for Angel of Death and Raining Blood.
    I know the pain of losing a career. Of course I wasn't a part of Slayer, but I do know! This was so sad to read. People, take care of yourselves! If you aren't sure if you need a doctor, ask a doctor!! Don't let the fear of being "Caught" doing something "Wrong" keep you away from getting help either. Doctors and other professionals are there to help you not judge you. I had an infection in my heart from shooting up that almost killed me. I didn't want to go to the hospital because I was ashamed. My ego nearly killed me. I am clean now, and I can still play music. In memory of Jeff I hope people reading this will make it a point to look out for one another. Peace
    Difficult reading indeed. Be grateful for what you have now, because you never know when you might lose it. Thanks for patronising us, UG. I got this from reading the article . I'm no Slayer fan, but this is a great loss to mankind; a man who, with some friends, gave something to millions of people for 30 years or so. RIP Jeff Hanneman.
    Fucking spiders! Damn things have ruined Slayer for everyone. Spider cull anyone?
    I'm going to assume/hope this is a failed attempt at sarcasm
    Spiders do give me the heeby jeebies though man, but success in talking was short lived.
    Leather Sleeves
    So he refused to go to the hospital until the next day and then didn't do rehab. I'm envisioning a Captain Picard meme.
    So it was Sirhossis that killed him? It wasnt the spider bite?
    Both, he had trouble with his liver but a Black Widow bite alone can cripple or kill you, so I don't think anyone could survive the combination : (
    Breaks the heart.Must have been hell for him not being able to play anymore.Gets me angry the way he got treated.
    i face a similar situation after a car wreck. i can no longer play at the caliber i used to and pain is a given no matter what. I can only imagine what it would b like to "make it" become a legend and THEN have it all ripped away. RIP JEFF
    That's some heavy stuff. I can't imagine what I'd do if the thing I love doing most was taken away from me so suddenly. R.I.P Jeff, we miss you. \m/
    Having suffered from bouts of depression before i can totally relate to playing guitar as a form of "rehab" and therapy and even escapism i'm not the biggest slayer fan but i understand the impact of there music and Jeff was a great guitar player truly a sad article to read
    the spider bite was reported long before his passing... bummer...
    There's a lot of talk about Slayer in regards to their open E or D depending on tuning chugging and that its not all that. Also, with the solos, is it logic? Or are Kerry and Jeff just fret wankers. Truth be told, I've played guitar for over 10 years and I can not master Slayer. It is extremely difficult to play at that speed and not **** up... and to reproduce the solos... it's insanely hard. So to have that ability, to have been an innovator and have that all taken away and feel like you won't be able to play YOUR own songs and creations is enough to drive anyone to drink. This whole thing is very tragic.