"I'm very good at hiding it."
Not everything about being in a wildly successful boy band is fun and games — few musicians know more about that than the five men who comprised One Direction. 1D has been on indefinite hiatus since 2015, but every now and then, one of the group’s members speaks on their individual experience being in one of the biggest boy bands of all time. Recently, Liam Payne’s quotes about suicidal ideation while in One Direction broke my heart.
Needless to say, being in a group as popular as One Direction sounds extremely stressful. The band — originally consisting of Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson, Zayn Malik, and Niall Horan — was regularly subjected to fan hysteria for the six years it was active. The group was also always working: In just over five years, they recorded five studio albums and headlined four stadium tours. On top of all that, the group also skyrocketed to success super quickly after competing on the UK’s X Factor, each member leaving behind their “normal” life virtually overnight.
Back then, the 1D boys had a lot to process, so it makes complete sense their mental health was affected. In past years, both Zayn Malik and Harry Styles talked openly about their battles with social and performance-related anxieties; in 2019, Payne initially discussed how feelings of loneliness amidst fame “nearly killed” him in the past. However, the “Strip That Down” artist’s latest confession — that he hit “rock bottom” mentally during the band’s peak — might still catch you off guard in the saddest of ways.
In an interview on The Diary of a CEO podcast, Payne spoke with pod host Steven Bartlett about how mentally unwell he truly felt those years.
“I was worried how far my rock bottom was going to be,” he said on the June 6 podcast episode. “Where's rock bottom for me? And you would never have seen it. I'm very good at hiding it. No one would ever have seen it. There is some stuff that I have definitely never, never spoken about. It was really, really, really severe. It was a problem. And it was only until I saw myself after that I was like 'Right, I need to fix myself.’”
Payne — describing himself as an “angry person” — admitted that during his darkest moments, he contemplated suicide and found himself in a toxic situation, turning to “pills and booze” to cope. He said one of the biggest issues that triggered his behavior was that he and his bandmates were often unable to leave their hotel rooms for safety reasons:
As a teen, the one thing you need is freedom to make choices and freedom to do stuff. We were always locked into a room at night. The problem was, in the band, the best way to secure us — because of how big we’d got — was just to lock us in our rooms. What’s in the room? A minibar. So at a certain point, I just thought, ‘Well, I'm going to have a party for one,’ and that just seemed to carry on throughout many years of my life. And then you look back at how long you've been drinking, and it's [like], Jesus Christ, that's a long time, even for someone who was as young as I was. It was wild, but it was the only way you could get the frustration out in the day.
Payne clearly went through a lot — but the turning point was when he glanced at photos of himself on an advertisement. “There were a few pictures of me on a boat, and I was all bloated out, and I call it my pills-and-booze face,” he said. “My face was 10 times bigger than it is now. I just didn't like myself very much, and then I made a change.”
For the singer-songwriter, change meant taking up therapy and treatment, like Alcoholics Anonymous. Now, five years after 1D disbanded, it seems like Payne is in a mentally healthier place: He said he “very fortunate to still be here.”
It’s so strong of Payne to continually speak out about mental health issues — especially because millions of people across the globe live with conditions like anxiety and depression. Let’s hope Payne’s words reach those who need to hear them most.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741. You can also reach out to the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 or the Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386, or to your local suicide crisis center.