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August 21, 2012

Bruce Springsteen’s Battle with Depression, Suicide

The new and very revealing New Yorker piece, “Bruce Springsteen at 62,” offers a unique glimpse into the life of the legendary rocker from New Jersey, including the fact that at the near-peak of his career in the early 1980s, Bruce Springsteen was so depressed that he contemplated suicide.

Even with his career taking off, in 1982, Springsteen remained haunted by his past, which included growing up with a depressive and self-isolating father. Bruce’s father, Doug Springsteen had suffered the lost of a sister in his own childhood, leaving permanent scars carried over into his parenting. Though Bruce has not confirmed this, there is speculation that his father (who died in 1998) may have been bipolar; he is described as experiencing terrible rages, often aimed at his son.

Bruce’s own symptoms of depression surfaced just as he was completing the acoustic album “Nebraska,” recounts the musician’s friend and biographer Dave Marsh. “The depression wasn’t shocking, per se. He was on a rocket ride, from nothing to something… You might start to have some inner conflicts about your real self-worth,” says Marsh.

But what was shocking was how severe Springsteen’s depression became, reaching the point of spiraling out of control during a cross-country trip. “He was feeling suicidal,” recalls Marsh of this low point. It is unclear whether any intervention took place at this time.

After returning to New Jersey to begin another tour, Springsteen’s depression persisted and he began to obsessively drive past his parents’ old house (in Freehold, NJ) in the middle of the night. It was at this time that he began seeing a psychotherapist.

He credits receiving treatment with finally healing his past wounds. At a concert years later, when Springsteen introduced his song “My Father’s House” he recalled what the therapist had told him about those nighttime trips: “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.’ ”

Springsteen also credits music and his frenetic concert schedule with pulling him free of the depths of despair. “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.”

The complete article can be found here: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/07/30/120730fa_fact_remnick?currentPage=all

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