This is the first of three posts about Chris Cornell’s suicide last week. In this first one, I discuss the anomalous and shocking nature of this tragedy. In the second, I discuss the notion of “growth”. In the final post, I discuss the “poor soil” in which Cornell was living that may have contributed to his suicide.
First, I’ll say that prior to the news breaking last Thursday about Cornell’s death, I had never heard of him before. But I — together with millions of others — spent much of the last week playing and re-playing Cornell’s masterpieces from the bands Soundgarden, Audioslave, and even his solo work. I was certainly very familiar with much of his music. I liked this music back in the 1990s and 2000s when I first heard it; and I still like it today.
Google “Chris Cornell tributes” and it is astonishing to read the number and variety of bands that played tributes to Cornell this past week. Listen to Howard Stern’s 7 minute tribute. Read stories of people describing their interactions with Cornell over the past few decades.
It’s clear that this was one special human being. Incredibly creative. Tremendously generous and kind. Physically beautiful well into his fifties. Profoundly honest about himself and diplomatic about others. Wise and intelligent.
And this doesn’t just describe Chris up through the last decade or even through last month. This describes Chris right up until the very moment his concerned wife called his bodyguard last Wednesday to check on him. The bodyguard discovered Chris’ lifeless body in the bathroom of his Detroit hotel room.
The prevailing sentiment from just about anybody and everybody who has publicly commented on this story over the past week is: WTF?
Some people joke that a guy who is that famous, that rich, and that beautiful seems like the last person who should contemplate suicide. That joke usually turns into a more serious discussion, but it does highlight the anomaly.
To me, the greatest anomaly of this story is that Cornell seemed to be growing as a human being, up through last week. Why would a person who is growing do that? (More on the idea of “growth” in the next post.)
The only people who seem to be able to make any sense whatsoever of the suicide are people who confess to their own depressions and the altered and self-destructive mind-state that that condition can foster.
One story that came out almost immediately in the aftermath was the notion that Chris had taken too many Ativans — an anti-anxiety medication. This information came from Chris himself through a phone call he had with his wife just before hanging himself.
Search ‘Ativan’ on YouTube and you’ll find more than one horror story of people who’ve taken this drug for extended periods of time. It seems likely like Cornell had been taking Ativan for awhile (i.e. “one pill isn’t helping, maybe two or three will”).
When this story came out, the first question my wife asked was: “Why was he on anti-anxiety medication in the first place?”
That is the question that this series of posts looks to answer.