You’ve gotta love Bruce Springsteen! As chronicled in The New Yorker, the Boss tells of his lengthy struggle with depression dating back to the early 1980’s, which included battling thoughts of suicide.
There is discussion of his “scary” father’s long battle with depression (possibly bipolar disorder), his father’s (and his own) penchant for self-isolation, and his work in therapy.
“My parents’ struggles, it’s the subject of my life,” Springsteen told me at rehearsal. “It’s the thing that eats at me and always will ... Those wounds stay with you, and you turn them into a language and a purpose. Gesturing toward the band onstage, he said, “We’re repairmen—repairmen with a toolbox. If I repair a little of myself, I’ll repair a little of you. That’s the job.”
“T-Bone Burnett said that rock and roll is all about ‘Daaaaddy!’ It’s one embarrassing scream of ‘Daaaaddy!’ It’s just fathers and sons, and you’re out there proving something to somebody in the most intense way possible. It’s, like, ‘Hey, I was worth a little more attention than I got! You blew that one, big guy!’ ”
Along the way Springsteen knew that he did not want to end up like his old man. In therapy he would hash out difficulties maintaining relationships, and holding on to negatives from the past.
At a concert years later, Springsteen introduced his song “My Father’s House” by recalling what the therapist had told him about those nighttime trips to Freehold: “He said, ‘What you’re doing is that something bad happened, and you’re going back, thinking that you can make it right again. Something went wrong, and you keep going back to see if you can fix it or somehow make it right.’
And I sat there and I said, ‘That is what I’m doing.’ And he said, ‘Well, you can’t.’ ”
Here are a few more wonderful excerpts:
“My issues weren’t as obvious as drugs,” Springsteen said. “Mine were different, they were quieter—just as problematic, but quieter. With all artists, because of the undertow of history and self-loathing, there is a tremendous push toward self-obliteration that occurs onstage. It’s both things: there’s a tremendous finding of the self while also an abandonment of the self at the same time. You are free of yourself for those hours; all the voices in your head are gone. Just gone. There’s no room for them. There’s one voice, the voice you’re speaking in.”
It took some doing to get Springsteen, an “isolationist” by nature, to settle into a real marriage, and resist the urge to dwell only in his music and onstage. “Now I see that two of the best days of my life,” he once told a reporter for Rolling Stone, “were the day I picked up the guitar and the day that I learned how to put it down.”
Scialfa smiled at that. “When you are that serious and that creative, and non-trusting on an intimate level, and your art has given you so much, your ability to create something becomes your medicine,” she said. “It’s the only thing that’s given you that stability, that joy, that self-esteem. And so you are, like, ‘This part of me no one is going to touch.’ When you’re young, that works, because it gets you from A to B. When you get older, when you are trying to have a family and children, it doesn’t work. I think that some artists can be prone to protecting the well that they fetched their inspiration from so well that they are actually protecting malignant parts of themselves, too. You begin to see that something is broken. It’s not just a matter of being the mythological lone wolf; something is broken. Bruce is very smart. He wanted a family, he wanted a relationship, and he worked really, really, really hard at it––as hard as he works at his music.”
I asked Patti how he finally succeeded. “Obviously, therapy,” she said. “He was able to look at himself and battle it out.” And yet none of this has allowed Springsteen to pronounce himself free and clear. “That didn’t scare me,” Scialfa said. “I suffered from depression myself, so I knew what that was about. Clinical depression—I knew what that was about. I felt very akin to him.”
You can read the entire article (Bruce Springsteen at sixty-two, by David R Remnick) here:
Kudos to Mr. Springsteen for having the courage to share his story and normalize difficulties that relate to so many.
Jeff Ross, MA RCC
Jeff is a Registered Clinical Counsellor and sees clients in Vancouver (Yaletown) and North Vancouver, BC, Canada. He supports individuals with such issues as depression, anxiety, stress management, relationship issues, grief and bereavement, career and educational issues as well as growth and development. In addition he also does couples counselling / marriage counselling.
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