Lily Cornell Silver, mental health activist and daughter of the late Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell, recounts her less-than-conventional childhood — on the road, missing school to go to rock concerts, and learning to play poker on the Alice in Chains tour bus. Lily talks candidly about her early introduction to the world of mental health, after a harrowing panic attack at just 12-years-old. “I felt the heat flood my body. I was sweating. I was shaking. And my 12-year-old brain immediately went to, like, I have a brain tumor or like there’s something wrong with my heart or like I’m literally about to die.” Plus, how the pandemic inspired her to start Mind Wide Open, her IGTV interview series about mental health.
You can follow Lily Cornell Silver on Instagram @lilycornellsilver.
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Interested in learning more about Lily Cornell Silver? Check out the links below:
- Learn more about Lily’s interview series Mind Wide Open: https://mindwideopenproject.com/
- Read Rolling Stone’s profile on Lily, mental health, and the Mind Wide Open project: https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/lily-cornell-silver-mind-wide-open-interview-1040021/
- Watch Lily’s interview with Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder: https://www.instagram.com/p/CEQt6krHyix/
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Lily Cornell Silver
Hi, I’m Lily Cornell Silver and you’re listening to Good Kids. I created a mental health interview series called Mind Wide Open and today I’m going to talk about how to talk to young people about mental health and my own experiences with mental health growing up.
My childhood was definitely unconventional, my mom did her very best to make it pretty normal and I was in normal school and did all that but um, you know, having parents in the music industry especially in like the, you know, what came out of Seattle 90s music I had I had some unconventional experiences, I traveled a ton, I was on tour a lot, miss my first day of fourth grade to like, go to a show on Madison Square Garden, you’re like that kind of stuff. I got my allowance by carrying a swear jar around on the Allison Jane’s tour bus. And I and this word jar was cancelled after two days, because I made too much money now. That was they were like, okay, that we’re done, if we spent hundreds of dollars, you know, and like they the Alice in Chains Guys taught me how to play poker when I was eight, like stuff like that probably was not normal for a third grader.
I kind of always had anxiety growing up, I worried about things a lot more than I think my peers did. And then got diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder when I was a little bit older, and was able, you know, my mom put me in therapy at a very young age, which is such a blessing. Because I was able to kind of build that vocabulary about my own mental health and end to you know, trust. I think as a child, a lot of the times you can be told by parental figures like Oh, you’re not depressed, you’re not anxious, you’re just tired, or you just need to eat, or, you know, like this is you shouldn’t be this upset about something, you know, and which is a kind of weird form of like parental gaslighting, which is not you know, I think they don’t do on purpose a lot of the time, but I was taught as a child to really trust my own feelings, and to be able to articulate those and have the vocabulary around them, to tell others how I was feeling. And I think that’s so, so important, and has really shaped how I talk about my mental health today, for sure.
I remember my first panic attack, I was 12 years old, and I was at an Indian restaurant. You know, like in West Seattle, I’d been there a million times growing up, nothing was wrong. nothing had happened. You know, everything was very normal. And I was sitting there and someone came up to take our order. And I looked at him and just what I need to go to the hospital. And he was looking at me, like, who is this? Like, why are you telling me this, and I turned to my family. I was like, you guys like something’s really wrong. I felt like the heat flooded my body. I was sweating. I was shaking. And my 12-year-old brain like I’m such a hypochondriac, I immediately went to like, I have a brain tumor, or like, there’s something wrong with my heart, or like, I’m literally about to die. You know, which at 12 years old is not what you should be worrying about. But I didn’t know it was happening, because I had never had that kind of panic attack before. So, it genuinely did feel like I was dying, like moment to moment, like I just had to get through each second, which is incredibly exhausting. And you know, and then had to get up the next day and go to school and I had to like call out sick, but couldn’t really, you know, I was trying to explain to my teachers, like, you know, I feel like I’m having a health issue. But I don’t have a doctor’s note, you know, to say like you have a brain tumor, but I’m pretty sure I do have a brain tumor. You know, but like, it was very difficult even me like I had already been in therapy for five years at that point, but had no idea that like, this is what that panic could do something like this, you that having a panic attack could really make you feel this way.
You know, my mom ended up having to take me like there’s multiple times in my young life where I had to go to the hospital and like I got an EKG, I got a MRI, you know, like went to neurologists you know, at 12 years old because I really did think there’s something wrong with me and finally went to a doctor who was like yeah, you just you had a panic attack and you’ve been having a panic attack. You know, but like you you’ve had high level anxiety since then because you are so afraid of having another panic attack. You know, which is awful but also like hearing that vocabulary being put to it made me feel so much better made me feel a lot less crazy me, like okay, this is something that other people have. This is manageable. There are tools I can use to help myself in this.
I would talk to my dad about it a lot, because he started having anxiety around the same age I did. And so that was like, that felt good to have that kind of sounding board to be like, okay, like I’ve, you know, he had experienced the same thing, panic attacks from a very young age thinking like he was having a heart attack, you know, thinking he was dying. And he’s like, 13 years old. And so, he would tell me like, first off, you’re a child, you’re not going to have a heart attack. Children don’t have heart attacks, healthy, normal children. But he would describe to me that feeling of laying in his bed and his and his heart was pounding like a million miles per hour. And, and you know, truly feeling like this is something is so deeply wrong, this can’t just be my head doing this to me, you know, like, there has to be something wrong in my body.
I learned a little bit about mental health in school growing up, but honestly, nothing to the extent that it should be all I think we had one class about, like empathy in second grade, where they would bring in a baby, but all I remember is they brought in the baby, because that was like the, you know, they’re like, Oh, my God, baby. And like, I don’t remember, I don’t remember learning anything about like, I don’t remember anything, you know, learning about mental health in any way, shape, or form. And then, I mean, in high school, like, the guidance counselors were kind of a joke. And if they’re listening to this, like, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry. But they should know that they weren’t helpful. Um, that would probably be good feedback or their job.
My dad took his own life when I was a junior in high school. And my best friend, one of my best friends in high school, who went to school with me took his own life a year before that. So, I had, you know, we were all struggling very greatly, and didn’t really receive any help from school. And one of the counselors from my high school reached out to me recently, over Instagram dm randomly, and was like, Hey, I don’t know, if you remember me, I was a counselor at your high school. And I just want to say like, I’m really sorry, that I never, you know, I didn’t really provide you with that much support, just like your losses were really hard for me. And they were really traumatic for me, and I didn’t, you know, I didn’t, I didn’t know how to help. And I just read that, like, what, I’m sorry, what, like that. But it was, you know, it’s a pretty solid example, I think of kind of how mental health is treated, especially in the education system, is kind of just like every man for yourself, you know, and there’s not, there’s not kind of this overarching, like place to go get help, like, every kid has to deal with their own stuff like with, with the resources they have in their own family, you know, and if you kind of lose that lottery, and you don’t have a supportive family, you’re, you know, you know, you’re a little bit out of luck.
Mind Wide Open is an interview series that I started this focus on mental health, it’s on Instagram, TV, but also on YouTube, and soon to be in a podcast version as well. But you know, the focus is on mental health. For me, I came up with the idea in quarantine, my mental health was greatly suffering, the mental health of most people I know, was greatly suffering. And I was really struggling to find kind of centralized consolidated resources, because it was an is such an unprecedented time, that there were just people were freaking out, and, and didn’t really have the vocabulary to know, like, we are going through a global trauma right now.
And this is we’re all having trauma responses, which is something that I you know, I was able to recognize because my therapist is a trauma focused therapist, and she was like, Oh, this is what’s happening. And, and as soon as she explained that, to me, it became so clear, like, no wonder people are freaking out. No wonder people are suddenly having a really hard time remembering things. People can’t get out of bed people are like, you know, going crazy, making 40 loaves of banana bread a day.
And it’s like, Okay, this is this is just a this is a trauma response, like this is a clear trauma response. But most people didn’t seem to know that. And I am just so privileged and so lucky to have the resources that I have, and have access to all these people who have provided me with like, the most amazing information and something that I think is really lacking in mental health is, you know, as I said, is accessibility. And you know, the ability to get the resources that you need and learn about your own experience, I think that’s a human right is to is to learn about your own experience and to know what’s happening for you.
So, I wanted to create some sort of resource where it was really accessible and people could hear mental health professionals or people in the public eye talking about mental health, and you know, feel any sort of validation in their own experience.
So it’s, every Monday I put one out at 9am pacific time, and it’s like a 20 to 30 minute interview with somebody talking about mental health and I’ve had, you know, trauma professionals, I’ve had, you know, Duff McKagan from Guns and Roses I’ve had Eddie Vetter from Pearl Jam and coming up and going to have like, suicide researchers and she specializes in like teen suicidal ideation and use suicidal ideation, which I think is a bigger issue than that. Most people realize I’ve had, you know, a grief counselor on there.
So yeah, it’s like very, it’s very versatile and very diverse but mental health is that way you know, you can’t you can’t necessarily just say mental health and then only talk about you know, anxiety or something like that. Like if you’re going to talk about mental health you need to, I believe, get into everything under the umbrella. So that’s my goal. It could take years but I’m young, I have time we’ll see how that pans out.
Lily Cornell Silver 10:37
You can follow me on Instagram @lilycornellsilver to keep up with Mine Wide Open you can also check us out at mindwideopenproject.com Thank you for listening to Good Kids. Good Kids is Lemonada Media original supervising producer is Kryssy Pease associate producer is Alex McOwen and Kegan Zema is our engineer. The show is executive produced by Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Jessica Cordova Kramer. The music is by Dan Milad with additional music courtesy of APM music. Check us out on social at @lemonadamedia, recommend us to a friend and rate and review us wherever you listen to podcast. If you want to submit a show idea, email us at [email protected] Until next week, stay good.