During an emotional speech he delivered during a show in Amsterdam over the weekend, Robbie Williams opened up about his struggles with mental illness and thanked fans for “protecting” him.
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“Over the years, there has been the delving into the mental illness and the struggling with just being a human,” Williams said when addressing the audience at Amsterdam’s Ziggo Dome on Saturday (January 28).
“In 2006, it got so much that I retired from the industry. Obviously, I’m still here, so that didn’t fucking work out, but I did. And for three years, I just sat on the couch and I ate crisps, chips, and I ate donuts, and I grew a beard and I looked like a serial killer, and I looked for UFOs, which made me look even more crazy. I became agoraphobic and I didn’t leave the house. I only left the house for doctor’s meetings,” Williams said.
“I had no purpose and I had no life. Being on top of the world, which I was at the time, selling all of these stadiums and being in the newspapers every day… My head tells me I don’t deserve any of this. My head tells me that I’m shit and that I’m worthless,” he continued.
“That’s what my head tells me. And then, when you’re on top of the world, everybody wants to drag you down. The newspapers want to drag you down. Social media wants to drag you down. They just want to cut you down to size and make it not work anymore, and make it not happen.”
Williams goes on to say he “internalised” the “unkind words” written about him, leading him to his retirement in 2006 and leading him to consider taking his own life. He then says two things kept him “safe” during that time – the first being meeting his wife, American actress Ayda Field.
“The other thing, which is true, because my brain tells me that I’m worthless and I’m an imposter and I shouldn’t be here and I don’t deserve any of this, the one thing that counteracted that, and also kept me safe, was the fact that you guys are here, and you guys like me, and you guys want me to be well,” Williams told the crowd, to applause.
“If it wasn’t for you, and it wasn’t for my wife, and it wasn’t for my kids now, I don’t think I’d be here. So, I’m eternally grateful to you for, in a very, very crazy, mad way, protecting me. Thank you very much.”
Speaking to NME last year, Williams discussed his battle with mental health issues and substance abuse, and being open to support from those close to him. “The good thing about me is I will listen to help. I’ve always felt there was something inside worth saving, and I’ve always wanted to be saved,” he said.
“When it comes to being delusional about other things, I am, but when it comes to being delusional about addiction and my own mental health, I don’t suffer with that. It was like, ‘Oh, this is out of control and these people are putting their hand out to save me and I’ll grab that hand.’ I do know that an awful lot can’t be helped, and exclude people that come to save them. I don’t wanna be in that kind of pain.”
Last year saw Williams release ‘XXV’, a collection of re-recorded and orchestrated songs from throughout his career, which topped the UK Album Chart, breaking a record previously held by Elvis Presley. He also embarked on a tour of the UK and Ireland and played a pair special shows at the Royal Albert Hall which were filmed for inclusion in his upcoming biopic, Better Man.
Last month, Williams said he sees “a lot” of himself in Harry Styles. Earlier this month, Williams reiterated his desire to play Glastonbury‘s legends slot, saying he’d “slaughter it” if given the opportunity.
For help and advice on mental health:
- Help Musicians UK – Around the clock mental health support and advice for musicians (CALL MUSIC MINDS MATTER ON: 0808 802 8008)
- Music Support Org – Help and support for musicians struggling with alcoholism, addiction, or mental health issues (CALL: 0800 030 6789)
- ‘Am I depressed?‘ – Help and advice on mental health and what to do next
- YOUNG MINDS – The voice for young people’s health and wellbeing
- CALM – The Campaign Against Living Miserably for young men
- Time To Change – Let’s end mental health discrimination
- The Samaritans – Confidential support 24 hours a day