“Whatsoever I’ve feared has come to life, Whatsoever I’ve fought off became my life, Just when everyday seemed to greet me with a smile, Sunspots have faded and now I’m doing time, Now I’m doing time, ‘Cause I fell on black days, I fell on black days, Whomsoever I’ve cured, I’ve sickened now, And whomsoever I’ve cradled, I’ve put you down, I’m a search light soul they say, But I can’t see it in the night, I’m only faking when I get it right, When I get it right, ‘Cause I fell on black days, I fell on black days” – Chris Cornell, Fell on Black Days
When I was in college there was a street artist named Jimmy that sold his wares in front of the drugstore on Main Street. Jimmy had two subjects that he primarily painted, flowers and angels. He used bright colors in an impressionistic style reminiscent of Vincent van Gogh which drew me to his work.
Jimmy was a wild-looking character, who wore thrift store clothes matched with long tangled hair and a scraggly beard. Basically, he looked like a homeless man covered in red, yellow and blue paint. Jimmy also suffered with manic depression and alcoholism which, sadly, was a train wreck waiting to happen.
Jimmy would have long stretches of creating these beautiful paintings in a flurry and equally long stretches of simply disappearing and then suddenly reappearing on the street again. I learned later that when he disappeared he was in a room a local business man provided him above his store. Jimmy would stay in bed for weeks at a time, with the shades pulled in his dark tiny room leaving only at night to buy beer or wine.
What I discovered about Jimmy was that his art, and his creativity, were tied directly to his mental health. He expressed the relief that he felt from the torment his mind put him through on canvas. The bright colors that he saw when things were good was a reflection of his mental state, at that moment. I always wondered why he didn’t paint when his moods were dark. I got the answer several years later after Jimmy’s death from an art dealer who sold many of his pieces, he simply couldn’t. His paintings were about happiness that he expressed in colors. If he couldn’t see it, if he couldn’t feel it, he couldn’t paint it.
I am still struggling with Chris Cornell’s death just as I have struggled with the suicides of other people I know and love. Part of me understands because I have battled my own demons of darkness. I also understand how alcohol and drugs are used to self medicate through the pain. I have traveled that road as well. But what was Chris missing? What could Chris not see that millions of adoring fans, like me, did see. How was Chris’s creativity tied to his mental health and did something change recently between that balance if you can call it a balance? Sadly, those are questions only Chris can answer and now he won’t.
I beg, I implore anyone that reads this to ask for help if you are depressed. I know, first hand, that life is worth living the good, the bad, the up and the down. There are so many adventures in front of each of us. And no the days ahead may not all be gum drop and rainbow days but that kind of life doesn’t exist for anyone. But even the dark days are moments spent here with people who care and love us. People that want to hug us and hear our voice. I don’t know why Chris couldn’t see that. I hope the rest of us will and do.
“One does not become fully human painlessly.” – Rollo May