Hayley Williams has left us bawling and applauding at the same time with a deeply personal essay about her recent struggles with depression.
In a freshly minted op-ed for PAPER mag, the Paramore frontwoman reflects on everything that has transpired in her private life since the summer of 2016, including lost bandmates, a failed marriage, artistic blocks and how it took her a long time to realise “I wasn’t okay”.
Likening her experience to that of “a little girl, dancing and twirling on a sidewalk in a loud, colourful dress. Eyes closed, laughing,” only to have a piano suddenly dropped on her head from 100 feet high, the pop-punk queen explains that things down around her very quickly.
“I woke up from that crash with one less bandmate… another fight about money and who wrote what songs,” she reveals, referencing the 2016 departure of bassist Jeremy Davis.
“And I had a wedding ring on, despite breaking off the engagement only months before. A lot happened within a short time. But then I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep, I didn’t laugh… for a long time. I’m still hesitant to call it depression. Mostly out of fear people will put it in a headline, as if depression is unique and interesting and deserves a click. Psychology is interesting. Depression is torment.”
During this same time, Hayls was also attempting to write material for the next Paramore album with her one remaining bandmate, Taylor York, but was having a very hard time of that too.
“We wrote and wrote and I never liked what I put to the music Taylor sent me,” the singer confesses. “His stuff sounded inspired. My parts sounded, to me, like someone dead in the eyes.
“I didn’t know the person behind those words. Probably because I never before allowed her to come out and say how she really felt. I never cared to get to know her,” she continues.
“How could the same lips that said, ‘I do’ [referencing her marriage to New Found Glory’s Chad Gilbert], sing the words, ‘You want forgiveness but I can’t give you that’. Or the same person who once tried to be so bubbly write lyrics like, ‘I don’t need no help, I can sabotage me by myself’.”
Thankfully, Hayley explains, the process of writing helped her heal, grow and learn more empathy for others’ mental health:
“Writing kept me alive. Forced me to be honest. Made me have empathy for Taylor in his struggles with mental health. It helped me understand that emotional wellness and physical health are actually related. It helped me realize that I shouldn’t have ever married my ex and that love is not something we can just extract from one other. Writing opened my heart to healing as Zac Farro bolted back into mine and Taylor’s daily lives like lightning. Now every night on tour, I turn around and there’s my brother back on the drums again. No more denial. No more walking across traffic like the old lady in the cartoon who doesn’t even notice the wreckage behind her when she’s barely made it to the other side.
This is what I call “Life with AL” — short for [2017 album] ‘After Laughter’. It’s a little dumb, but it helps me mark this time as a significant turning point in my life. Like a Saturn return. I’m noticing similar movement in my friends’ lives too. More presence and awareness. More tenderness. I’m alive to both pain and joy now. I have my old laugh back, as my mom says. The one that takes over my body and sends me out of myself for a few seconds. And only a couple years ago, I had hoped I’d die.”
Paramore toured After Laughter down under earlier this year.
If you or anyone you know needs help or information regarding mental health, you can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.