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Bruce Springsteen Talks Frankly About His Clinical Depression

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Bruce Springsteen talks frankly about his years suffering from clinical depression, with posting a new excerpt from his winter 2019 Esquire interview. Springsteen, whose grandmother and father suffered from mental illness and bouts of deep depression, talked about how he’s able to gauge how balanced he is, revealing, “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.”

Springsteen admitted that he had two breakdowns — when he was 32 and again at age 60. Although he says he never felt suicidal, he described that last incident — which lasted several years as “agitated depression” in which he found “no inner peace whatsoever,” recalling, “I once felt bad enough to say, ‘I don’t know if I can live like this.’ It was like. . . . I once got into some sort of box where I couldn’t figure my way out and where the feelings were so overwhelmingly uncomfortable. All I remember was feeling really badly and calling for help. I might have gotten close to that and for brief, brief periods of time. It lasted for — I don’t know. Looking back on it now, I can’t say. Was it a couple weeks? Was it a month? Was it longer? But it was a very bad spell, and it just came. And it came out of the roots that I came out of, particularly on my father’s side, where I had to cop to the fact that I also had things inside me that could lead me to pretty bad places.”

Springsteen went on to say, “I had a very, very close friend who committed suicide. He was like an older son to me. I mentored him. And 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.”

Although fans have known that Bruce Springsteen has been in therapy for years and takes antidepressants, the Born To Run book marked the first time he’s spoken about the battles he and his wife Patti Scailfa face regarding his depression: “It lasted for a long time. In my 60’s it would last for a year, then it would slip away, then it would come back for a year-and-a-half. It sneaks up on you. It’s like this thing that engulfs you. I got to where I didn’t want to get out of bed, and you’re not behaving very well at home, and you’re tough on everybody — hopefully not the kids. I always tried to hide it from the kids, but, y’know, Patti really had to work with me through it. And her strength and the love she had was very important, y’know, as far as guiding me through it. She said, ‘Well, you’re going to be okay — maybe not today’ (laughs) ‘. . . or tomorrow, but it’s gonna be alright.” at Manhattan’s Walter Kerr Theatre.

Photo Courtesy of Rob DeMartin

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