Windows

By JULIANA HATFIELD  |  September 17, 2008

Just before showtime at NYU, I gathered my band and crew in the dressing room and told them what I had told Gary: I was canceling the European tour. The guys had seen that I was struggling with something pretty badly, and most of them, when I announced the cancelation of Europe, were either sympathetic or graciously hid their displeasure from me. My merch guy, Dale, however, said without blinking an eye that he wanted to be paid for the canceled dates, and wasn’t shy about letting me know that he was annoyed, angry, and unsympathetic.

“I’m really sorry, Dale,” I said. “I’ll still pay you, okay? But I just can’t go to Europe right now. I really cannot do it. I’m not well. I need to see a doctor.” And then, addressing all of them, I said, “It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but I have to do it. I waited till the last minute to cancel because I was hoping I could just keep it together but I can’t. At this point I really feel like I don’t have a choice. This thing I’m dealing with has gotten kind of out of control.”

I had never canceled anything before. How could I explain to my guys that if I didn’t quit right now, I was probably going to end up mangled on the ground under a second-story or possibly even third-story window? Would they understand?

I didn’t understand it myself. That was why I needed to try to get on some kind of path to figuring it all out. In the meantime, I needed medicine. I had read all the books on the newly popular SSRIs and I thought I’d be the perfect candidate. When my mood had been stabilized, my plan was to move out of the city and back to Massachusetts, where it was a bit more low-key and comfortable for me; get a puppy; find a good analyst; maybe try yoga. Anything and everything I could think of to help get me on my feet, and get better, and stay that way so I never had to go through this again and so I could do my job. I had to take charge of my mental health and well-being rather than continue to react to my feelings and to life with harmful, self-destructive thoughts. If I’d ruined my career by opting out (albeit temporarily) in the middle of it, then so be it. I wasn’t enjoying myself anyway. This way, maybe I could figure out why I wasn’t having a good time, and how I could in the future — if I still had a future.

It was reported in the music press that I canceled my tour due to “nervous exhaustion.” I wondered why my publicist hadn’t simply told everyone the plain truth — that I was suffering from a spell of severe depression and had sought medical help and was currently undergoing treatment — instead of issuing such a vague, all-purpose “nervous exhaustion” line, which doesn’t really mean anything and as far as I know isn’t even a real diagnosis. “Nervous exhaustion” made it sound as if I had collapsed, but in fact I had done the opposite: I had deliberately walked off and away from the stage, and the road, and my career, for a little while, in order to avoid an impending collapse — to nip it in the bud. I had taken necessary action to save myself. And this was seen by some as a bad move (and not in everyone’s best interest). In the eyes of the music business and media machine, it’s better — saner — for a girl to work, work, work, and promote, promote, promote until she breaks down or blows out and is hauled away on a stretcher than for her to walk away on purpose when she still has some power to decide for herself what is right.

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