I had the chance to see Audioslave live in concert right after their first album was released. They were incredible.
I can’t say I was ever the biggest Soundgarden fan, but ‘Blackhole Sun,’ ‘Spoonman,’ ‘Ty Cobb,’ and ‘Rusty Cage’ are all songs I’ve LOVED at different points. The Johnny Cash cover of ‘Rusty Cage’ is perhaps one of the most underrated tracks of the American Recordings sessions with Rick Rubin. Looking through their catalog today, I was taken aback by really how much of it I knew and loved already.
I can’t say I ever knew all that much about Chris Cornell. I never really felt the need to make a point to. That said, I always admired his talent and passion. His artistry, his craft, and his ability to capture emotion both lyrically and aurally.
I can’t help but think of my friend Matt Ryd at times like these. Matt was a good friend and a talented musician. Unfortunately, we lost him to suicide a few years ago as well. I feel like he’d have a lot of say on this topic.
I’ve seen people on Twitter say, “Chris somehow didn’t know how much people loved him.” And while I appreciate the sentiment, that irks me.
We don’t know Chris’s struggle, but I do know that depression is a cruel master. Yes, support and love and care can help, definitely, but it’s not that simple. Matt always used to say that he couldn’t kill himself because he couldn’t do that to the people who loved him. He knew he was loved, and yet, here we are. The whole world can love you, and you can still hate yourself or face crippling anxiety. Many “normal” people do.
This moment, while we mourn Chris, it isn’t just an opportunity to share the suicide hotline number (1-800-273-8255). That is good, that does help, but we should talk about mental illness in the open.
We need to stop stigmatizing it. We need to treat it as any other illness. As my friend Katherine put it:
Yeah, it’s like saying someone who died of cancer didn’t know how loved they were. It doesn’t have a direct correlation to the disease.
We can start de-stigmatizing by stopping using terms like “crazy” and “psycho” offhandedly to dismiss things we disagree with. And more importantly, those of us who can need to start talking about our own struggles. Not for attention or pity, but to normalize it, to remove the shame for others.
I suffer from anxiety, and it has fucked up my life pretty hard at times. I used to have full-blown panic attacks and shut down. They are less common now, but it’s taken a lot of work for me to get here, and I still have a lot of work to do.
One of the biggest things that has helped has been talking about it. In talking to friends about it, I’ve had more and more people tell me about their own struggles.
That’s the key:
You are not alone. There is no “normal.” Even the most “together” people in the world have stuff they suffer from. They just hide it because of fear or shame and the stigma associated.
We need to defeat that stigma.
This is literally a matter of life and death for someone you love.