Avicii’s Journals Detail His Mental Health Struggles
Avicii, born Tim Bergling, was a popular DJ, songwriter, and producer from Sweden. With chart topping songs like “Levels” and “Wake Me Up”, Avicii’s music was genre re-defining. Despite the quick success Avicii experienced, the artist’s lifelong struggles with anxiety and addiction led to his death by suicide in 2018.
A recently released biography, written by Mans Mosesson, details how mental health concerns and addiction were present in the life of the Grammy nominated musician. For Moseeson’s Tim – The Official Biography Of Avicii, the author was granted access to Avicii’s personal journals. These journal entries reveal the extent at which the DJ was struggling during the years leading up to his death.
Avicii’s Early Substance Use And Dissociation
Avicii was in high school when he smoked Marijuana for the first time. This experience caused an episode of paranoia for Bergling which resulted in feelings of derealization. He began to no longer feel connected to the world around him. In this state, Avicii confessed his substance use to his parents and expressed concern that the Marijuana had triggered a psychosis. They took him to a child psychologist who eased their worries.
What Avicii was likely experiencing after first using Marijuana was a period of dissociation. This can be defined as a disconnect between a person’s memories, feelings, behaviors, perceptions, or sense of self. While dissociation is often mild, it can also become a disorder which can interfere with an individual’s daily life. Studies have shown that derealization can occur after an individual has used Marijuana, not as a cause of use but rather can be triggered by the substance. These feelings can present themselves after using for the first time or after extended, repeated use.
Lifelong Struggles With Anxiety
Disassociation can also accompany the majority of psychiatric conditions, such as anxiety and depression. Avicii, who has often been described as a shy person, struggled with both of these conditions throughout his life. As a teen, he was self-conscious of his appearance, specifically his nose and acne.
Fame, success, and the DJ lifestyle only heightened Avicii’s anxiety and substance use. Being recognized by fans in public, performance nerves, and a grueling tour schedule caused him to turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism.
“It feels like I’m going to faint every single day now. And not just today and this tour but from about the first time I mentioned that I felt worn-out. Pretty regularly but I push it back down and choose not to bring it up because there’s nothing I can do about it,” he told his manager in 2011.
Health Issues Caused By Avicii’s Substance Use
In 2012, at age 22, Avicii was admitted to the hospital with extreme stomach pains. It was determined that he was experiencing acute pancreatitis due to excessive alcohol use. Doctors instructed him to heal his stomach’s inflammation by avoiding junk food and staying sober for at least 6 months. During his hospital stay, he was also prescribed Oxycodone, an Opioid, to deal with the pain.
Once back on tour, Avicii added pill popping to his old habits of poor eating, drinking, and not sleeping. In the journal entries featured in Mosesson’s book, he wrote, “Of course, I didn’t listen to the majority of doctors. I listened to the couple who said it would be okay if I was careful. I was ignorant and naive and touring the world, still on the never-ending tour because once you’ve circled it once, guess what? You start right back over again.”
When stomach pains returned in 2013, doctors recommended that Avicii have his gallbladder removed. He opted to not have the procedure done until he had more free time in his schedule. The following year, his appendix ruptured and his gallbladder was removed. Both hospital stays resulted in more painkillers being prescribed.
An Intervention In Ibiza
Following his cycle of hospital visits, those closest to Avicii began to notice his behavior changing. He was often irritable and acted erratically. In 2014, his parents tried to help him with his Opioid addiction. He resisted their help and flew to Los Angeles where a personal doctor would write him prescriptions whenever he wanted.
After two incidences of needing his stomach pumped from a mix of pills and alcohol, his friends and family staged an intervention. This intervention took place in Ibiza where Avicii was performing a few shows. He agreed to enter a tranquil and pricey treatment program on the Spanish island. It was during this 1 month of intensive, inpatient rehab, that Avicii came to understand that his addiction was a coping mechanism for his mental health struggles.
“It needed to be explained to me very logically and caveman-esque for me to truly understand its nature and how it was harming me. Ouch, pain. Why me pain now? Uncomfortable feeling. Future Time deal with pain. Future deal with pain better than present Tim because already there’s too many present pains more urgent to deal with,” he wrote in his journals during the Ibiza treatment program.
Avicii’s Life After Rehab
Once he completed his month in rehab, Avicii seemed to have a new outlook on life. He was meditating regularly, reading about the collective unconscious, and got a puppy. After not performing for a long period of time, he returned to the stage in 2016 at Miami’s Ultra Music Festival. It was announced a few days after this gig that he would not be performing live anymore. Avicii chose to not perform so that he could focus on bettering his mental health.
Despite appearing to have new-found stability, Avicii still struggled to deal with his mental health issues. While continuing to suppress the anxiety and depression that he frequently felt, Avicii also started to become disinterested in his music career. During this time, he was smoking and drinking on occasion which may have resulted in a resurgence of his disassociation feelings.
He told Tereza Kacerova, his girlfriend at the time, “What if everyone around me is just a projection in my mind? Sometimes I just think these things. About how nothing really matters.”
Avicii started to focus heavily on meditation which he found to be helpful in clearing the “nonsense” from his mind. He believed that a deep form of meditation taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was a way to exercise his brain which he had decided would lead to his happiness. Despite this form of meditation typically being done in 20 minute increments, Avicii would sometimes spend full days meditating in an attempt to reach enlightenment faster.
While on a trip to Muscat, Oman, one of Avicii’s friends called his father to express concerns for the DJ’s well-being. The friend described Avicii’s intense meditation and shared that he was refusing to eat, speak, or take shade from the sun. Just one day later, on April 20th, 2018, Avicii took his own life. Avicii was 28 years old.
Addiction And Suicide
For Americans at all ages, suicide is among one of the leading causes of death. Those, like Avicii, who struggle with a substance use disorder (SUD), are at a higher risk for death by suicide. In fact, those who drink heavily are 5 times more likely to die by suicide than those who drink socially. Over the past few years, suicides related to Opioid addiction have nearly doubled.
It is common for those at risk for suicide to struggle with addiction and other mental health risk factors like depression, anxiety, chronic illness, and a history of abuse. With drugs and alcohol being able to worsen these conditions while increasing aggressive behavior and lowering inhibitions, suicidal thoughts can occur.
It is important to be able to recognize behavioral changes that might indicate a loved one may be suicidal. Behavioral signs include:
- Admitting to feeling trapped, hopeless, or having no purpose in life
- Isolating oneself
- Oversleeping or trouble sleeping
- Struggling to control anger
- Physically harming oneself
Relapsing can also be an indicator that an individual is having suicidal thoughts.