Justin Bieber just got extremely honest on Instagram.
In a long text post on Monday night, the pop star opened up about drug use, past relationships, and the ways the intense pressure of child stardom distorted his view of the world.
“I made every bad decision you could have thought of and went from one of the most loved and adored people in the world to the most ridiculed, judged and hated person in the world,” he wrote.
“I started doing heavy drugs at 19 and abused all of my relationships. I became resentful, disrespectful to women, and angry. I became distant to everyone who loved me, and I was hiding behind a shell of a person that I had become. I felt like I could never turn it around.”
Even before he skyrocketed to fame at age 13, he didn’t have a particularly stable childhood, he said. He grew up in Stratford, Ont., to teen parents who separated when he was young. “My parents were 18 separated with no money still young and rebellious as well,” he wrote.
He’s spoken before about his mother’s depression and his father’s “anger issues,” calling them “stuff that they passed on that I’m kind of mad they gave me.”
When he was discovered by super-manager Scooter Braun after posting videos of himself singing to YouTube, “I went from a 13-year-old boy from a small town to being praised left and right by the world with millions saying how much they loved me and how great I was,” he wrote.
“I don’t know about you but humility comes with age. You hear these things enough as a young boy and you actually start believing it, rationality comes with age and so does your decision making process.”
By the time he was 18 he had “no skills in the real world,” but did have “millions of dollars and access to whatever I wanted. This is a very scary concept for anyone,” he said. “Everyone did everything for me so I never even learned the fundamentals of responsibility.”
This was the era when he puked on stage, was confronted by neighbours for speeding around his gated community in a Ferrari, illegally adopting a monkey, leaving a Brazilian brothel, getting arrested in Florida for drag racing while drunk, egging a neighbour’s house, and turning himself into Canadian authorities for assaulting a Toronto limo driver after attending a Maple Leafs game. It’s also the era when he started taking “heavy drugs,” he said.
“Being on stage according to studies is a bigger dopamine rush than almost any other activity ... so these massive ups and downs on their own are very hard to manage,” he wrote.
Fame and attention are actually related to dopamine. It has to do with the brain’s pleasure centre, neuroscientists Daniel and Tara Amen wrote in The Daily Beast. Dopamine floods the brain’s pleasure centre when it receives gratification, in the form of things “like cocaine, sex, video games, high-fat, sugary foods, and fame.” The brain can get used to that “rush,” and it needs more and more stimulation to reach those same levels of dopamine.
“It’s taken me years to bounce back from all of these terrible decisions, fix broken relationships and change relationship habits,” Bieber wrote in the post. He ended it by crediting his wife Hailey Bieber (née Baldwin) and his religious faith for keeping him afloat. (He and Baldwin had met earlier, but really connected when she started attending services at Hillsong, the controversial megachurch he belongs to.)
Bieber doesn’t say if he’s currently in therapy, but he has spoken openly about his mental health before. In February he told Vogue that he had been depressed while on tour several years ago. “I’m still processing so much stuff that I haven’t talked about,” he told the magazine. The next month, he took to Instagram to tell fans he was “struggling a lot” and “feeling super disconnected and weird.”
There are many reasons it can be difficult for child stars to adjust to adulthood. Mara Wilson, who starred in “Matilda” and “Mrs. Doubtfire” as a kid who now works primarily as a writer, has written extensively on the topic. Parental pressure and the burden of being a family breadwinner are often among the culprits, she wrote in a piece for Cracked in 2013 called “7 Reasons Child Stars Go Crazy.”
But even when parents are well-intentioned and a kid is performing because they want to, the child is under a huge amount of pressure, Wilson wrote. “Nearly every teenager rebels. But, most of them have about five people they need to answer to when they screw up: teachers, school administrators, and their parents or guardians,” she said. “Now imagine if you, as a kid, had millions of people watching your every move.
“Having to live up to your fan base is a little like having to deal with a million strict parents who don’t actually love you. They reward you for your cuteness and cleverness, but are quick to judge and punish. And they do not want you ever to grow up. How do you react? The way any sullen teenager does: You get resentful, and as soon as you have the freedom, you act out.”