A lot has gone through my mind in the last 10 days, and I’ve struggled to find the words to say. So many people are doing retrospectives and tributes, and so many of them are much better writers and knew him personally. I’m just a lifelong fanboy who loved the work of Chris Cornell. I’m just someone who tried his hand at songwriting and singing and couldn’t hack it—probably due to a lack of self confidence more than anything, really.
The reason I’ve struggled is because when it comes to words to say about Chris, how could anyone do better than he? I know a lot of folks are hanging on the line from Black Hole Sun:
No one sings like you anymore
But I think in order to shine some light on mental health issues (like depression, of which I am a sufferer—and anxiety, which Chris was on medication for), a line from the lesser-known Soundgarden tune, Blind Dogs, that appeared on the soundtrack for the film The Basketball Diaries might be more apt. The song, which is a warning against the dangers of religious fundamentalism, features a bridge (which many of Chris’ songs did. It was one of the ways to help identify a song he may have penned), which goes:
I’m dead on my feet while my nightmare walks
I fell asleep where the freeway talks
Suffer to swim and dying to sink
These things in the air will make you think
I’m not sure what the rest of those lines are alluding to, but I’ll be damned if the third line isn’t an apt description of what it’s like to deal with mental illness. Every day it’s a struggle to keep your head above water. Every day it’s work to just keep living, and every day you think that it would be so much easier and such a relief to just stop treading water. Just give up and sink to the bottom. For the past several days, this is what I’ve been thinking about. Chris finally succumbed to the urge to stop treading water.
Now I’m not sure what role if any Chris purportedly taking more Ativan than prescribed might have played. We won’t know if he actually did until the toxicology reports come out (if they ever do). But what I do know, is that even if you’re a clinical depressive, or suffer from general anxiety to the point that you struggle with keeping on, many people may not even know that about you. You could laugh, joke, make plans for the future—all of that stuff—and then when in a moment of reflection, when you’re alone, things could take a turn. That’s the just nature of those issues. I crack jokes and act silly and laugh my head off all the time, that doesn’t mean that overall I’m not depressed. It just means that I socialize and have ways of compensating. I’m sure that Chris had that skill too.