Last week musician Chris Cornell died at the age of 52. He died after a show with his band Soundgarden in Detroit. The official cause of death was suicide by hanging. He was found on the bathroom floor of his hotel room. He left behind a devastated wife, children and millions of shocked & saddened fans. Some people say he was a coward. His wife made a statement saying she thinks the cause of his actions was the result of Chris taking too much of his anxiety medication. Other people are just confused and don’t understand. I understand.
I was a child of the 70’s & 80’s. I wasn’t a “grunge kid” in the 90’s….I was in my 20’s. My music, and by “my” I mean the music that spoke to me, was 80’s rock. Heavy metal, hard rock, sunset strip bands, hair bands….whatever term you wanna use, that was the music I was into. I was like every other 12 year old girl in 1982. I liked Journey, Wham, Duran Duran. Then, suddenly, my life changed. I discovered ROCK. And it was glorious! At the age of 12 I heard AC/DC’s “Back in Black” album at a friend’s house and I LOVED it! The thunderous guitar, the rough vocals of Brian Johnson, the pounding drums…….it washed over me like sunshine. I was in love. Deep, crazy, mad love. I went on to discover earlier metal like Sabbath, Zeppelin and Rainbow. At the age of 13, I heard Ozzy’s “Blizzard of Oz” album. I snuck into my older brother’s room & heard it on 8-track. Google 8-track tapes kids….it was a “thing.” 🙂 Ozzy’s voice, lyrics and Randy’s guitar spoke to me like nothing else. I’d listen to the album over and over in my headphones. As I got older and tried to deal with life and my teen angst, Ozzy became my therapist. It’s like he understood me. I connected with him. As I connected with many metal bands.
When the grunge movement hit in the 90’s, Nirvana became the poster band for the genre. THEY were the voice of that generation. I never was a fan. I found Kurt Cobain’s voice to be whiny. I didn’t get it. I didn’t like it. Same goes for Pearl Jam. I was never a monster fan. Then I heard Alice In Chains. And then Soundgarden. And then Stone Temple Pilots. THOSE were the grunge era bands I liked. I “got” them. To me, they were heavier & deeper. I connected. Chris wasn’t my all time favorite 90’s grunge singer. Truth told, Layne Staley was. But Chris’ death was a shock. When Layne died, when Kurt died, hell even when Scott Weiland died I wasn’t stunned. They all had major drug problems and you KNEW it would catch up to them one day. All of their deaths were sad but in my opinion, not shocking. I think Chris Cornell’s death was so shocking because you didn’t see it coming. He was 52. A grown up. Outta that 20 something drug danger zone. You kinda thought he had it all together. He “seemed” fine. That’s the thing about depression. It doesn’t give a shit who you are, your age, your financial situation, your profession….depression is a total jacknuts. Just when you think you’ve kicked it…just when you think you’ve made your escape…BOOM! That bitch is back like some ex you thought you’d never see again. And it won’t LEAVE. No matter WHAT you do!
I look back and realize my love of music happened at a time in my life when things seemed to be a bit out of control. As a young kid I was bossy. Shocking, I know. My parents divorced in 1974, when I was four years old. Divorce wasn’t the norm back then so I realized at a young age that I was different. As a young kid, I became anxious. I have no idea why. Maybe it was because of the divorce. I was the kid that just wanted to make everyone happy. Maybe it was because both my parents married other people not long after their divorce. Maybe it was because I matured VERY early physically…I was wearing a bra by the third grade. AND I was a massive tomboy so wearing a bra & having to deal with chick shit so young made me very insecure. Who the hell knows why I became an anxious kid?! I just know that I had a lot of emotions & anxiety at a very early age.
As I grew older, and my emotions & anxiety became stronger, I turned to music. It was as if music was the only thing in the world that understood me. I connected to the lyrics. When Ozzy sang I just “got” what he meant. Music became my escape. I won’t go into all the drama & trauma of my life cause EVERYONE went through something as a kid. I will tell you that by the age of 15, I started dealing with depression. I didn’t realize that’s what it was then. I just knew I didn’t feel “normal”. Of course, my life was very different from my friends. There were lots of things that were out of control, including me.
In 1985 I was 15 years old. I drank for the first time that year. I drank a pint of Gin, got alcohol poisoning & puked hard core. You’d THINK that would stop me from drinking. Nope. I realized that drinking, much like metal, soothed my soul. It stopped all the pain I was trying to escape in my life. Music & booze was something I COULD control. And I used both. Lots. Now, I’m not one of those people that plays the blame game. I am who I am as an adult because of the crap I went through as a kid. I had a good life. I wasn’t locked in a closet or beaten. But I did deal with lots of adult shit at a young age and I think that’s why I needed an escape. Or at least I FELT like I needed one. Depression wasn’t a word that people used in the 80’s. I didn’t know what depression was. I just knew I felt like I needed an escape from my life so I used drinking.
By the time I was 17 I was drinking every weekend. I could drink a fifth of Jim Beam in two hours and be home by curfew. And I was a tiny thing. I became anorexic my junior year of high school. Many people don’t get that anorexia is not about food. It’s about control. I felt like my life was out of control so I controlled what I could: food & booze. Again, I have no doubt I was dealing with depression. But at the age of 17 WHY would I be depressed? I was personable, popular, funny, did well in school, the life of the party, came from a good family…..and yet I was one of the saddest souls. When you’re a teenager you go through weird emotions. ALL of us did at that age. I was just a kid that couldn’t seem to shake the weird emotions. My brain never shut off. I was an over-thinker.
By my senior year in high school I was a professional drinker. All the crap I never wanted to deal with or couldn’t deal with just went away when I drank & listened to metal. Or so I thought. I was homecoming queen, had massive parties, had a ton of friends, dated lots…I was the “typical” small town fun girl. But I always felt different. I went on to graduate high school and then went to college out of state. Big mistake. I wanted to escape my small town so bad! What I didn’t realize is that I was really trying to escape & run away from myself. That doesn’t work.
I won’t go into all the craziness of my life since it’s truly like a fucking Lifetime movie but what I will tell you is that my life caught up with me by the age of 19. I was listening to Metallica “Fade To Black” one afternoon at college, drinking heavily so I wouldn’t have to deal with guilt, depression and anxiety. I was in such a black hole that I saw no chance at ever seeing the light. I didn’t know that my emotions had control. I didn’t know that I could reach out. I just knew I felt alone. So I took a bottle of pills on top of all the booze and slowly drifted off to sleep. Did I want to die? Looking back I don’t think so. I just wanted the pain to stop. As I relive this ordeal & share it with you now I have tears streaming down my cheeks. I remember the pain that young girl was in. I remember feeling so very alone. I remember just wanting to calmly fade away……………..
I woke up in an ambulance. My roomie came home and found me unconscious. I was rushed to the hospital, they pumped my stomach & I was then sent to the 7th floor. For those of you that don’t know, that’s the floor filled with all the crazies. The doc said I was about 30 minutes away from death & that it was a good thing my roomie found me when she did. Here I was, on the 7th floor of a county hospital, wondering WHAT THE FUCK?! I’m not crazy! I just wanted to take a long nap! I still just didn’t “get” it. Long story short, off to a private rehab facility I went.
I share this particular story now not for sympathy or empathy. I share it because earlier I said I “understood” Chris Cornell’s actions. And I do. Depression is a beast. A monster like no other. It takes over every fucking aspect of your life. Everyone has their own wave. And just like the waves of the ocean, some folks deal with small waves that you can just jump over. Other folks deal with large, crashing, knock you on your ass waves. These waves are unpredictable, just as the ocean is. You can’t just shake them off. When they hit you hard you can’t always just get up and walk away.
I’m one of those people that will always constantly fight those big ass Hawaii sized surfing waves. You shocked? Many of you probably are. I’m funny! I’m sarcastic! I always have something silly to say. My wit & my sense of humor has kept me alive. Well that and prescription medication. I also don’t drink brown liquor anymore. That stuff will turn me into a person I don’t like…quick. I haven’t touched it in over 20 years. As I’ve gotten older I know the flaws in my personality. I know what I can and cannot handle. And even though I’m an excellent swimmer now, those fucking waves still get me. They don’t hit me all the time. Sometimes I can see em coming and I’ll duck until the wave passes. Other times, like now, those things are coming at me so fast I feel as if I might drown.
I’ve had a rough few months. The roughest my life has been since I was that scared 19 year old girl. I’ve been dealing with some physical shit for months, going through all kinds of medical tests and that will make you depressed. It sucks when your body starts to fail on you and you don’t know why. Add to that a break-up, being broke & jobless and sweet holy hell I feel like I’m surfing through the biggest wave of my life. So yeah. I understand. I understand all too well.
But I’ve been swimming since I was young kid. I refuse to let those waves take me down. Some days I feel like I’ve been thrown off a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean & I’m treading water. Other days I feel like I’m sinking. And then some days I feel like I just swam in the Olympics. It’s a toss up. But I understand fighting the waves. I understand the constant struggle to stay afloat. I understand Chris. I understand. I hope you can rest easy now. I hope your waters are calm.
***If you fight the waves, please seek help. Turn to friends or family. They are the lifeguards in your life! Seek medical attention. It’s ok! 😉 We are ALL crazy in our own way. Or please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255. Trust me when I tell you, you do NOT have to tread water. There are people that understand the waves, and I’m one of them.***
Rock on! Hugs & love………………BitterMel