Bruce Springsteen says he used music as a distraction from his mental health struggles.

As the release of his new Netflix special approaches on Dec. 15, music legend Bruce Springsteen sat down and openly discussed his past mental health struggles with Esquire magazine.

Springsteen says his struggles date back to his childhood and that early on in his life, he used music to distract from the onset of depression.

“When I was a child, and into my teens…I felt like a very, very empty vessel,” Springsteen said. “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.”

Springsteen went on to state that as a teen, he didn’t feel he had his father’s approval of who he was as a person. 

“My mother was kind and compassionate and very considerate of others feelings,” he said. “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.”

According to Springsteen, he had his first breakdown when he was 32 years old, in 1982, during the release of the album Nebraska. Though he says he remains unsure what prompted the episode, he suspects his aging and childhood played a role. 

He went on to discuss the loss of a close friend to suicide, stating he got “very, very ill.”

“So can I understand how that happens? Yes,” Springsteen said. “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.”

In experiencing what he has, Springsteen says he now knows the warning signs of a downward mental health spiral and that he keeps watch of his children for the same signs.

“I have come close enough to [mental illness] where I know I am not completely well myself,” he told Esquire. “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.”

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