Why I Believe Vicky Cornell

It’s no secret that rock legend Chris Cornell has been getting a lot of attention lately.

Most of us know the story. If you don’t know much about Chris, here’s a little background. You’ll know him best as the voice behind Soundgarden, Audioslave, and one of the voices behind Temple Of The Dog. He pretty much took over the 90s and early 2000s with his sound, and sold millions of albums. You might have even heard that he passed away in 2017 too.

I’ll remember May of 2017 as the first year I attended Northern Invasion, which Soundgarden happened to be headlining. About five days after seeing him perform on that stage, he passed away. I had unknowingly watched his last huge festival date. I still have the photography lanyard I wore from that night saved in my apartment.

Photo: Val Kleinhans

When the news of Chris’ passing first broke, and it was later revealed that his death was a suicide, we immediately jumped to “Oh no! He was depressed!” How else do you explain someone wanting to kill themselves? I wondered if that was true for him myself. I never met him, but hey, one could guess I suppose.

Then Chris’ wife Vicky denied that depression or anxiety caused this horrible event. She took it a step further and suggested that the cocktail of medications Chris was taking at the time had altered his mind and somehow triggered something which caused his actions. Did I think that was a possibility then? Maybe slightly. Now, I believe her.

You see, at around the time of Chris’ passing, I myself was beginning a journey on anti-depressants. It took about two weeks for my body to become used to them, and to feel “level” again.

In the winter, I got a cold (as usual), and I took my medication as prescribed. What I didn’t know was that mixing it with DayQuil would alter my mind too.

The second day that I’d been taking DayQuil to get over a cold had me feeling very low – and seemingly for no reason. The swift change in mood, seemingly out of nowhere, was a huge alarm bell for me. The medications I was taking at the time (one of which I didn’t take everyday) had truly messed with my brain chemistry.

I reflected on that and asked, “Man, I wonder if this is what happened to Chris?” He wasn’t taking DayQuil at the time, but he did have his own prescribed cocktail. What if those medications didn’t play nice together that night, and caused him to do something out of character as his wife suggested? It can happen. I cried for no reason when it happened to me.

We can speculate all day, but I do think Vicky Cornell deserves more credit. She knew her husband. She knew his character. Now I’m thinking that she was right about what caused his passing.

I’m so thrilled to see that he’s being celebrated now, instead of us only remembering the way he died. His children accepted a Grammy for him. One of the biggest concerts of the year was held in his honor. There’s even talk of a movie about his work being made.

What fills me with joy when it comes to Chris’ story is that his passing has furthered the conversation on mental health. It’s opened doors to new discussions about it. If we learn one thing from his story, learn that it is so important to keep in touch with your doctor and notify them of how you’re feeling physically and emotionally. Medication really can change both of those things.

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