My relationship with Chris Cornell started post-college. I had heard him a bit as an undergrad, probably from A., but our relationship started later. It was with Audioslave and his beautiful voice that I found a way to cut through stress and release mental peace when I really need/ed it.
I discovered I had an anxiety disorder while sorting some medical articles at my summer job at a hospital library during the summer of my junior year of college. I knew I had some sort of depression, but I didn’t realize that anxiety disorders were a thing, anxiety was normal to me. My panic attacks had started in elementary school and when I compared notes with a classmate, she also experienced them, so I assumed everyone did. I came across an article on social anxiety and I was stunned. My number one reason for missing class in college were panic attacks brought on by being a couple of minutes late and not being able to face the idea of walking past my classmates to find a seat. In high school, I had struggled for years with walking through the locker room in the morning or during a break when it was filled with students hanging out. Anxiety was a frequent part of my life that I had no idea why or when it would strike or how to manage it. It managed me.
I started getting better after that discovery and now I can’t remember the last time I had a panic attack. One of the tools I used to help myself deescalate was recognizing when my head felt off. It came about from having a partner that didn’t suffer from anxiety or depression and needing to find ways to explain it without making it worse. Describing it emotionally was liable to make it worse and also didn’t really do it justice. It wasn’t that I was sad about something, it was that my brain had decided to behave in an abnormal way. I started thinking about anxiety and depression in a more physical way than emotional. When I was depressed my brain felt dense, foggy, and lethargic. When I was experiencing anxiety it felt like there were fireworks going off, everything was sped up and it felt frantic.
I discovered that sometimes anxiety could be managed through having an outlet. For me that was loud and intense music. I started listening to Audioslave when I felt anxious and hyper-stressed and a release takes place in my head. Listening to Chris Cornell wail against the heavy beats of “Like a Stone” soothes me. A wave of calm that feels physical goes off in my brain, and I feel much better. It feels like someone else is getting out what I feel inside and that’s enough for me to relax, I don’t have to keep it pent up, Audioslave is getting it out for me.
Chris Cornell has made my life better. He gives me calm when I need it the most. Knowing his own struggles makes this bittersweet, but I am grateful for his artistry and the peace it brings me still. He will be missed and remembered often.