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‘I’m very good at hiding it’: Liam Payne on his mental health struggles while in One Direction


By Sarah Finnan
09th Jun 2021

Liam Payne / Instagram

‘I’m very good at hiding it’: Liam Payne on his mental health struggles while in One Direction

Liam Payne has spoken out about his time in One Direction saying that he “needed to stop” or it would have killed him.

People always say not to meet your idols. The IRL version of them never matches up to the idealised one you have of them in your head and more often than not, you end up feeling grievously hard done by. The same can be said for the celebrities themselves. They know they will never be able to live up to the impossibly charming, good-looking, life-of-the-party version that their superfans have been fever-dreaming about – they are only humans after all. And yet they have to manage the expectations and pressure of being put on such a pedestal alongside all those who don’t think they should be up there, as well as those actively hoping to see them stumble and fall. Couple that with the difficulties of growing up in the public eye and it’s no wonder they struggle.

No one knows what goes on behind closed doors and finding out the extent to which this is true is no less distressing than meeting your icon and them being rude to you. Running into your favourite celeb while out and about is unlikely, but having them ruin the illusion of what things were really like is less so. However, these are usually conversations that need to be heard as it’s only through talking about it that we can truly understand.

While most fans are aware of the reasons behind Zayn Malik’s decision to leave One Direction, few of the other members have ever spoken out about their own experiences of fame during that time. Up there as one of the biggest boy bands in the world, the fivesome was under immeasurable amounts of pressure and while everything looked fine and dandy from the outside, it’s clear that all was not as it seemed. 

Opening up about what being part of such a global phenomenon was truly like, Liam Payne told Steven Barlett on his Diary of a CEO podcast that he felt overwhelming relief when the band decided to go their separate ways. “The day the band ended I was like, ‘Thank Lord for that’ and I know a lot of people are going to be mad at me for saying that, but I needed to stop or it would kill me.”

Formed on The X Factor way back in 2010, the boys – who were all mere teenagers at the time – were essentially thrown together and expected to navigate their newfound fame themselves. Yes, they had management and staff to help them but no one could have foreseen the pandemonium that would surround them… the likes of which hadn’t been seen since Beatlemania. 

Relying on drugs and alcohol to get him through the succeeding years, the singer said that it was his only source of stress relief. “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 remembered.

“The problem was, the best way to secure us was to lock us in our rooms, and what is in the room? A mini-bar. 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 ‘Jesus Christ, that’s a long time’,’ even for someone who was as young as I was,” he said. “It was wild, but it was the only way you could get the frustration out in the day.”

Admitting that the combination of fame, drugs and alcohol essentially brought him to “rock bottom”, the Wolverhampton native claimed that he was “very good at hiding it” and so no one knew just how bad the situation was. Later revealing that he even had “moments of suicidal ideation”, he continued by saying, “Yeah. There is definitely some stuff I have never spoken about to do with it. It was 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.’”

Liam’s comments come just days before the third anniversary of TV presenter and chef Anthony Bourdain’s death. Taking the food world by storm with his book Kitchen Confidential – a New York Times bestseller detailing “adventures in the culinary underbelly” – Bourdain found a way to connect with people, most often through a shared love of food. What many fans of his didn’t know, however, is that he was fighting his own mental health battles and ultimately died by suicide in 2018.