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Florence Welch Explains How You Can’t Just Shake It Out When It Comes to Mental Illness

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On Thursday, Florence + the Machine lead singer Florence Welch sat down with Rolling Stone for an interview ahead of the North American leg of her “High as Hope” album tour. The album touches on a spectrum of mental health themes like eating disorders, addiction and depression. During the interview, Welch expanded on these topics, discussing her history with addiction while highlighting how difficult it can be to recover from an eating disorder.

The “Dog Days Are Over” singer first revealed she had an eating disorder as a teenager in the “High as Hope” track “Hunger.” She sings, “At seventeen, I started to starve myself/I thought that love was a kind of emptiness/And at least I understood then the hunger I felt/And I didn’t have to call it loneliness.” Welch explained that she hadn’t discussed her eating disorder publically — or even with her mom — prior to releasing the song.

“My sister was like, ‘What are you doing? Are you OK? You haven’t spoken about this even with Mom, and you’ve put it in a pop song? What’s wrong with you?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I don’t know what I’m doing,’” Welch told Rolling Stone. “But it opened up a lot of stuff in my family that was good in the end. I did sit down and talk it through with my mom.”

When asked during the interview about when she felt she was “done” with the eating disorder, Welch highlighted that eating disorder recovery is often a two-part process — most people can’t just shake it out and move on. Recovery involves changing your relationship to food and working through the psychological reasons behind an eating disorder. The latter is often a longer process. Welch said:  

I have a healthy relationship with my body now more than I ever did before, but it took me a long time. And it stays with you in really weird ways. So it’s hard to say, ‘When did you overcome it?’ Because you would have overcome some of the behavior a long time ago but the head stuff, it takes a while. It comes back in really strange ways, which I was looking at in this record. It’s very hard to accept love. If you’ve been denying yourself nourishment in some way, you also have a tendency to deny yourself emotional nourishment.

Welch also opened up about being sober for the past four years, and what led her to stop drinking. She felt “sheer exhaustion” and at times she realized her alcohol use was breaking down her relationships. However, it wasn’t easy for her to stop drinking because it became part of her.


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“Being an extreme drinker was a huge part of my identity,” Welch said. “Music and alcohol are sort of my first two loves. When I stopped, there was this sense that I was letting some ghost of rock history down that I just couldn’t cope anymore. It was monumental. It wasn’t like, ‘I want to be healthy and I need a change of pace.’ It was like, ‘I’m going to die. I need to stop.’”

Image via Wikimedia Commons/David Lee

Originally published: November 8, 2018
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