I love Mariah Carey – I cannot deny that. As someone who trained as a singer she’s been my idol since the age of 11. I’m waiting for the criticism to flow from you all – because she is a somewhat controversial artist. A bit like Marmite, I guess.
But regardless of what you think of her, no-one can deny she is an unbelievably talented vocalist. However, what is often missed is the fact she is also an extremely gifted composer and lyricist. Songs like “Hero”, “Anytime You Need a Friend” and “Through the Rain” are powerful pieces of writing, both melodically and lyrically.
One of her most under-acknowledged pieces of work is a song called “Petals”, from her Rainbow album of 1999. And it’s my favourite piece of Carey’s repertoire – because she pours it all out, in such a raw manner.
In it, she discussed many hugely personal aspects of her life.
“But it hurts me every time I try to touch you” was a reference to her often difficult relationship with her sister, Alison Carey. “A boy and girl befriended me; we bonded through despondency” is discussing her former son and daughter-in-law from her marriage to Tommy Mottala. “Still I wish that you and I’d forgive each other. Cause I miss you, Valentine – and really loved you” is a point-blank shot aimed at Mottala, whose stage name was T.D. Valentine – and who was also her CEO at Sony Music Entertainment.
But, in my opinion, the most profound statement in the song was “I fled to save my sanity” – explaining the reasons why she ended her marriage. A sanity which was, in the end, almost broken.
Carey had a very public breakdown in 2001. Posting on her website, she said “I’m trying to understand things in life right now and so I really don’t feel that I should be doing music right now.” Her publicist said at the time that “an emotional and physical breakdown” led to her hospitalisation and treatment – allegedly under psychiatric care.
Mariah described it as being, in part, owing to the fact she had had very low self-esteem her whole life. She said “When I was 12 or 13, I remember walking up the driveway, and this guy who was 20 — which may have been highly inappropriate — said to me, ’I like your pants,’ and I was like, ’Oh, that looks good? Oh, OK, I will wear tight pants now.’”
She also said that America had a real Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) after 9/11. This, in her eyes, meant the media obsessed with her mental state of health because, as she said: “a lot of people taking shots at me had no place to go” – and the resultant effect for her was, maybe, that it made the situation even worse.
If you are someone who suffers from low self-esteem, the easy answer is to negate the effects. You do this by drinking, taking drugs, being sexually promiscuous or all manner of other tricks. In Mariah’s case? It’s not for me to judge.
But you, in the end, have to find a light at the end of the tunnel with the underlying issue. You have to come to a resolution about it. You have to be “Almost Home”.
The song “Almost Home” by Mariah is the main track from the 2013 Walt Disney film Oz the Great and Powerful. It was commissioned by the film studio and Simone Porter, Justin Gray and Lindsey Ray wrote most of the piece. When Carey agreed to do the vocal, she and the Stargate musical production team intervened, changed the track, and ultimately completed it.
I believe she made that intervention for personal reasons, and think the song is one of her more underrated tracks. Lyrically it is strong stuff – when you contemplate it in the context of mental health and addiction.
I don’t shy away from the fact I am an alcoholic; a very public one – who has just had a very public relapse.
I’ve been going through a self-detox programme; that is – you slowly reduce your intake until you are eventually dry. As I wrote previously for Consented, you play a game of Russian Roulette: “Because if you’re not careful either side of this ‘game’ will pull that trigger. You can die.” I’ve done it before, but this time (thanks to my psychiatrist) there’s a difference. I’ve now also realised I have underlying mental health problems.
“When you run, run so far – you’ve forgotten who you are. Where you’re from, it’s like some other universe.” Lines from the song “Almost Home”.
I have been running for most of my life. Running from underlying issues with my past, running from my sexuality (I only came out as bisexual last year), running from the demons of regret that haunt me – and all of this is problematic for your mental health.
My psychiatrist and GP said they think I have been suffering with undiagnosed depression for many years. I’ve been put on Mirtazapine and am now getting a kind-of dual diagnosis – something which, in my opinion, is crucial.
Most people with mental health issues who are addicts do not live with the former because of the latter – their addiction is because of their mental health problems. This is a controversial school of thought – and many of you may not agree with me.
I fundamentally don’t believe people become addicted to a substance (whether it be alcohol, heroin, crack-cocaine – whatever) purely because of the substance itself. I’m of the opinion that you have a reason for putting the substance into your body, in extremes, in the first place.
“I’ve seen the lights. In the sky. In the skies, like fireflies. Burning bright just to vanish in the dark. I’ve held hope, in my two hands. That there would be another chance. To find a kingdom, I believe in, in my heart.”
I’ve yet to meet someone with mental health problems, or an addiction, who hasn’t hoped that their lives could have been different. And I’ve met many. There is always something that has happened to you which makes you live with one, the other – or both.
In my case, I think it was bullying from childhood. I remember at the age of five being pinned up against a wall by two boys who were seven, and being repeatedly kicked in the balls. This was a near-weekly occurrence.
Their reason for doing it? “Big-head Topple”. “Globe-head”. “He thinks he’s something else”. I always felt an outcast because I was deemed smarter than your average cat at school, and the other children didn’t like it. As Mariah said, “I have had very low self-esteem my whole life.”
This destroyed most of my childhood years. At high school, other children used to throw one and two-penny pieces across the playground just to watch, in laughter, at me chasing after them. I used to help in the maths department just to eat my lunch in the office – so I didn’t have to be around the others. I shied away from nearly everyone.
Until I was 14, and discovered alcohol.
I suddenly had something that would make me “fit in”. Something that would make me “normal”, and I would no longer have to hide away. As Carey put it “OK, I will wear tight pants now”.
Life changed. But it changed forever. My relationship with alcohol has been problematic ever since – and my fundamental issues have never been addressed.
I have been through so many detoxes; I’ve been bankrupt; I’ve had my home repossessed; I’ve lost my fiancé; I’ve lived in abject poverty; I’ve been on the phone to the DWP, screaming at them for money as I had no food and had run out of toilet roll. Yet still, these problems keep happening. I never learn.
Until this time.
“When you let your heart be the compass, you won’t get lost – not if you trust it.”
I knew on this occasion something had to be different. So I called my psychiatrist (whose care I’d been under since my last relapse) and literally screamed at her for help. Both for the addiction, but more importantly for my mental health.
She worked a minor miracle, and instantly spoke to my GP, who then arranged a referral to my local mental health access team. She also arranged for me to see another service, and she, herself, will be seeing me every week for the next few months. She is, simply put, amazing – and I’d name her if I was allowed.
One of the most telling sequences in the song is “You count your steps like they’re regrets. You catch one breath and lose the rest. Wrong is right; right is left – and there’s nowhere left to turn.”
My psychiatrist said to me that if I wasn’t careful I would “stagnate”; that is – you end up in the mire of your problems, and never get out of it.
“You count your steps like they’re regrets” because you look back on where you came from, and where you’ve been, and where you are now – and hate it all. And yourself.
“You catch one breath and lose the rest”, because you think, for a second, you’ve got there – and then suddenly it all seems hopeless and you think “Fuck it. I may as well give up”.
“Wrong is right; right is left – and there’s nowhere left to turn”, because you run out of answers; you run out of ideas – and think you’ve no options left.
However, there is a mood-shift in the song.
“When you hear the sound of the trumpets. Louder than ever before.”
A light suddenly switches on in your head. It tells you “I can do this. I can deal with all the shit this time, and come through to the other side a stronger person.”
Because there is ALWAYS hope.
“Cause underneath it could be something greater than you know.”
I had a career as a hotelier, which I had to give up due to my addiction. I thought “this is it”. I now no-longer know what to do – I’m fucked.
But suddenly journalism came along. Suddenly, this new career began to blossom – and I am now in a place I never thought I would be in. It may not be perfect all the time; having just relapsed, alcoholically, I know this. But I can see that old cliché – a light at the end of the tunnel.
”Just open up your eyes and go, go.”
You can never give up in life, because if you do it will all be over – like Amy Winehouse’s life tragically was. There is always something to live for – it’s just sometimes you need people to remind you of that.
Whether it be like me, who has to thank my Mother, GP and crucially my wonderful psychiatrist – or you, thanking your partner, friends or family – there is always someone you can reach out to. Someone who will tap you on the shoulder and say: “It’s OK. Do not give up.”
I have to thank Mariah for reminding me of that, as well. “There’s a hero, if you look inside your heart.”
Anyone reading this, who is struggling – do not give up. Please, do not give up.
Know you’re not alone.
You’re almost there.
You’re almost home.