“I felt like a very, very empty vessel”
Speaking to Esquire magazine, Springsteen discussed his first breakdown at the age of 32, which occurred in 1982 during the release of ‘Nebraska.’ Despite still not knowing the trigger for the breakdown, Springsteen told Esquire that ageing and his childhood played a part.
“All I do know is as we age, the weight of our unsorted baggage becomes heavier…much heavier…Long ago, the defences I built to withstand the stress of my childhood, to save what I had of myself, outlived their usefulness, and I’ve become an abuser of their once lifesaving powers.
“I relied on them wrongly to isolate myself, seal my alienation, cut me off from life, control others, and contain my emotions to a damaging degree. Now the bill collector [was] knocking, and his payment [will] be in tears.”
As a teenager Springsteen said discovering music helped to combat some of the early stages of his depression caused in part through a difficult relationship with his father who was himself suffering from mental health issues.
“When I was a child, and into my teens…I felt like a very, very empty vessel. And it wasn’t until I began to fill it up with music that I began to feel my own personal power and my impact on my friends and the small world that I was in. I began to get some sense of myself. But it came out of a place of real emptiness.”
He continued: “My mother was kind and compassionate and very considerate of others feelings. She trod through the world with purpose, but softly, lightly. All those were the things that aligned with my own spirit. That was who I was. They came naturally to me. My father looked at all those things as weaknesses. He was very dismissive of primarily who I was. And that sends you off on a lifelong quest to sort through that.”
Now, Springsteen said he knows the warning signs of mental illness more and can recognise them quickly. “I have come close enough to [mental illness] where I know I am not completely well myself. I’ve had to deal with a lot of it over the years, and I’m on a variety of medications that keep me on an even keel; otherwise I can swing rather dramatically and…just…the wheels can come off a little bit. So we have to watch, in our family. I have to watch my kids, and I’ve been lucky there. It ran in my family going way before my dad.”
Later in the interview, Springsteen also talks about suffering with “agitated depression” and of struggling after a close friend who he described as “like an older son to me” died from suicide.
“He got very, very ill. So, ultimately, it always remains a mystery—those last moments. I always say, ‘Well, somebody was in a bad place, and they just got caught out in the rain. Another night, another way, someone else there…it might not have happened.’
“They were ill, and they got caught out in the rain…I don’t know anyone who’s ever explained satisfactorily the moments that lead up to someone taking that action. So can I understand how that happens? Yes. I think I felt just enough despair myself to—pain gets too great, confusion gets too great, and that’s your out. But I don’t have any great insight into it, and in truth, I’ve never met someone who has.”
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Meanwhile, the first trailer for Netflix‘s upcoming Springsteen On Broadway concert film was released recently.
The special was filmed during Springsteen‘s current run at The Walter Kerr Theatre in New York and will be available on the streaming platform from December 16, a day after the Broadway show comes to an end.
In the trailer, Springsteen is seen sharing anecdotes and stories with the crowd, including how he met bandmate and wife Patti Scialfa outside famed New Jersey venue The Stone Pony, and about his relationship with his father. Later, he jokes: “Everybody has a love-hate relationship with their hometown. Take me, I’m Mr. ‘Born To Run’… I currently live 10 minutes from my hometown.”
Fans will also be able to enjoy the show from their own homes in a different way. On December 14, a live album will be released, featuring both the stories and songs included in the Broadway production.