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How music helped Bruce Springsteen fight depression

Among people of a certain age, like Bruce Springsteen, for example, talking about mental health struggles remains somewhat of an unspoken taboo. However, The Boss has bucked that trend, opening up about his lifelong battle with depression. 

Throughout his adult life, The Boss has been intermittently hounded down into a dimly lit alley by the black dog, a factor that has clouded his brain on numerous occasions. Mental health doesn’t care about how many zeroes you have in your bank account, and for Springsteen, it’s something that he first witnessed first-hand as a child through his father. 

Doug Springsteen was a World War II veteran who, like many that were lucky enough to return from the battle, suffered from severe PTSD from the traumatic events he witnessed. Later on in his life, Doug was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and Bruce has always been acutely aware that mental health is something that he needs to keep a stern eye on. Thankfully, music is his chosen coping mechanism.

“I’ve had to deal with a lot of it over the years,” he told Esquire in 2016. “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.” Before Springsteen addressed his life-long mental health battle in his 2016 memoir, Born To Run, he kept quiet about the subject. He didn’t need to discuss it in his book; after all, he’s The Boss. 

If Springsteen desired an easier life, he could have released a run of the mill autobiography that avoided a deep deleve into his psyche. However, rather than simply handing out trivia to fans about memorable shows and records, The Boss gave a piece of him away with the book as he told people a part of his life that you don’t see after the music has stopped playing.

Speaking to PBS’ News Hour about his decision to include this in Born To Run, Springsteen eloquently explained: “The premise of the book was to give my audience an insight into how I created, and what’s the fuel for the fire. Even when I didn’t recognise it in my 20s, it was always there stoking the flames of my own creativity.”

Adding: “I realised that the only time I felt complete and peaceful was while I was playing or shortly afterwards. It was the first way that I medicated myself, so I always went back to it. The root of that determination came out of a hunger to find a safe and peaceful place, even though it was in front of thousands of other people, which most people wouldn’t consider to be a safe place.”

He powerfully added: “I walk on stage, I play, I perform, I create, I write, and that’s sort of where that peace comes over me.”

Depression is an immovable part of Springsteen’s life; it’ll always be there in some configuration, but so will music which is the antidote to his demons. For those precious hours that The Boss spends performing, he feels at one, and no matter where he is in the world — the stage is his spiritual home.

Music is his elected vice of choice, and it’s provided him not only with a lifeboat when he’s needed it most but, more importantly, the perfect vehicle to healthily channel these crippling emotions and create angelic beauty from the darkness.

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