Irish American singer Bruce Springsteen has opened up about his father’s mental illness and his own fight with depression and decision to take anti-depressants. Springsteen’s open discussion has been welcomed as a breakthrough by some in the fields of medicine and psychology.
New Yorker magazine published an in depth interview with Springsteen last July in which he discusses his father’s mental illness and Springsteen’s own fear that he could not escape the mental illness in his family history. He told the magazine about his troubled relationship with his father, a guard worker with manic- depression. At a concert in the 1980’s, Springsteen told the audience about his troubled relationship with his father, confusing some of his fans.
His father would come home from work and force a young Springsteen to sit at the kitchen table with him while he had a six pack. A screaming match soon developed from his father’s question of what he was doing with himself. Springsteen would run out the back door and down the driveway. For years as an adult, he would later drive back to his parent’s house in Freehold, New Jersey at night and sit outside until his therapist explained to him that he couldn’t fix past mistakes there.
Unable to talk to his father, Springsteen turned to music. The Irish Times quoted the magazine interview, “My dad was very non-verbal- you couldn’t really have a conversation with him. I had to make my peace with that, but I had to have a conversation with him. It ain’t the best way to go about it, but that was the only way I could, and eventually he did respond. He might not have liked the songs, but I think he liked that they existed. It meant that he mattered. He’d get asked, ‘What are your favorite songs?’ And he’d say, ‘The ones that are about me.’”
Afraid that he had inherited his father’s mental illness and feelings of isolation, Springsteen avoided casual drug use, which has plagued other musicians. Frozen by depression, he been seeing a therapist since 1982. Springsteen started taking anti-depressants in 2003 and since then has had a surge of successful albums releases and tours.
Springsteen spoke about his family’s mental illness during interviews with recent biographer Peter Ames Carlin. “A big part of how this book advances the story is [by] being very upfront about his dad was manic-depressive. He had a serious untreated mental illness for his entire adult life.” Carlin’s biography is not officially authorized, but Springsteen gave countless interview hours, facilitated meetings with family and friends, and made his personal scrapbook available to Carlin. The book titled “Bruce” is published by Simon & Schuster.
Through therapy and music, Springsteen has been healing the wounds. He said during the New Yorker interview, “I’m a repairman, a repairman with a toolbox. If I repair a little of myself, I repair a little of you. That’s the job.”