Justin Furstenfeld: Why We Felt Compelled To Ask For Proof Of His Mental Illness

Categories: Cover Story
classfavorite28.jpg
Furstenfeld as Class Favorite at his Heights middle school
The interview with Blue October's Justin Furstenfeld had long been set. After overcoming some misgivings on the part of his management over some stuff I had written in the past, it was decided that I would get to spend an hour backstage with the platinum-selling frontman between sound check and showtime at his triumphal homecoming gig May 15 at the Showgrounds.

I was in the process of planning the interview when while riding the bus one morning I came across a fresh interview in the Houston Chronicle. The story opened with Furstenfeld dropping a prescription pill bottle in front of interviewer Andrew Dansby, and then sweeping it back into his pocket. He also stated in the article that "everybody" knew that he had been depressed "his whole life."

That was not what I had heard from people who knew him long ago. The Furstenfeld they remembered from Hamilton Middle School and High School for the Performing and Visual Arts was happy-go-lucky and a ladies' man -- an athlete and even something of a schoolyard bully. If he had his adolescent squabbles with his parents -- especially his dad -- they were no more dramatic than any of us had.

A source had also told me some tantalizing information about the exact nature of at least one of Furstenfeld's stays in a mental hospital -- information that completely contradicted the band's official bio -- and there was evidence that seemed to support that story in published reports still on the Internet.

It all fed in to my decision to put word to Furstenfeld -- through first his publicist and then his manager -- that I would need to see documented evidence of the exact nature of his mental illness. I wanted to know if he suffered from depression, bipolar disorder, or even schizophrenia, for in various published reports and interviews over the years, Furstenfeld had been described, and often described himself, as suffering from each of those disorders, and sometimes several of them combined.

The publicist forwarded my request to his manager, who told me I was way, way out of line, and that the interview was off, and that he doubted he would even tell Furstenfeld of my request.

But he did.

And the result is "Little Boy Blue," this week's cover story.



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24 comments
MewithoutH
MewithoutH

Mr. So-Called-Reporter,       I am complete offended by this. As someone who suffers from a few mental health illness, such as depression and anxiety, your complete ignorance on the subject is just offensive! If you were to ask anyone in High School about me, they would probably tell you the same thing: That I was a happy teenager. I was in Orchestra, did drama and was on the field hockey team, and was the score keeper for the baseball team. I put on a mask every day so no one would know what hell I was feeling inside. I wore long sleeves to cover the scars from the cuts. I even hid this from my parents. And why? Why would someone with mental health issues fake a smile and wear a mask of "normalcy" ? Because of ignorant people like you who don't understand... who don't have one clue as to what it is like. As if those who suffer from mental health issues don't feel bad enough, there are idiots like yourself who go on and on about how "it's a phase" and "you're just doing it for attention"... it makes the feelings of worthlessness, brokenness and despair that much stronger. It wasn't until after my parents found out about my depression and tried to tell me I was doing it for attention, that I started to get even more and more depressed to the point of suicide. I thought, if everyone is saying I should normal and happy, and not numb inside, then I am completely broken and unable to be fixed.       Do yourself a favor and read up on mental health issues, please. I think it's wonderful what Justin is doing for the mental health awareness. I appreciate his songs, and his lyrics because it lets me know that I am not alone in my feelings. It fills me with hope, something that at times can be so hard to feel. 

Midnight47
Midnight47

I kind of think it's funny that you seem to believe that people with a mental illness always show it. I think some of the most messed up people are the ones that seem perfectly okay. 

Saber
Saber

I heard about this "non" interview and have studiously avoided giving you or your employer any bit of my time and attention. However, I find that every once in awhile, your pompous disregard of this sensitive subject matter makes me outright angry.

Today, I have taken the time to write you. I am mentally sound, which, having friends (you may not know about having those)who have suffered through a variety of diagnostically illusive mental disorders, makes me feel as if I have a responsibility to speak out for those that are not capable. You picked on a man who has dedicated his career to mental health awareness; and since you went all the way back to Hamilton, I assume you checked out the venues he played while in school as well, as a "drama" student? Therapy. Music is his therapy. Good thing, too, as therapy and such are hard to get on the road in a van making so little money that you almost go to jail for bouncing checks. Did you find that? How about the interview he and Jeremy gave in Germany? Jeremy spoke lovingly and with such raw emotion of not knowing how sick his brother was, but finding out and learning about the disease to be able to understand his pain. Justin was more open and raw and HSPVA is a great school, but an Academy Award Winner could not have pulled off his performance when he spoke about people leaving him out because he may be a downer at their party.

Was he cute and popular? Sure. In high school? Kind of, it was HSPVA, the standards were very different. Was he sad? All of the time. Well, when he was not manic and actively hurting himself, that is. He could have sold out years ago, stayed, "safe" and run to known producers, he has THAT kind of talent, but he did not. He does what he does because it is his therapy and has become therapy for his fans as well. He is spreading the word, to try and save just one person.

I would love to call you names and rip into your credentials, but I do not have to. Here is why. This will eat at you. The way you treated a human being will eat you from the inside out, much more than clever or crude words I could spew. So, you sit, with your poison pen....and think of the lives that COULD have been touched if you had gone for the heart of the story and not the dirty bowels.

Enjoy!

Carlitos
Carlitos

I remember Justin stating he's been on Paxil since the age of 14. This is what I think of when people remember and say he was normal during Jr. High and High School. Of course he would be normal, or as normal as can be while on meds. Did the kids know he was on meds? Probably not.

Alexis
Alexis

First of all I would like to say FUCK You to that insensitive asshole (say) it sounds to me like he is jealous that yes even though Justin does suffer from bipolar disorder he obviously has done alot with his life and has helped some many people! It so funny how people are so ignorant to look up and learn about the disorder to better understand what that person may or is going through.........Blue October ROCK! There music is the best!

Sueann F. Schwille, MSW
Sueann F. Schwille, MSW

Mr. Lomax,

I offer a few words for you:

Dual diagnosis

Bipolar Disorder with schizotypal symptoms

inclusion

If I felt that you had sense enough to understand the Diagnostic Manual for Mental Disorders, I might suggest that you pick on up and read it, but the best alternative is to do some reasearch before you vomit the profanity of uneducation to people who may by some stretch of the imagination think that you know what the hell you are talking about. Pick up a phone book and look up a psychiatrist and schedule a lil info gathering session. OR better yet, take a tour of a mental institution. Good luck with swallowing your mouthful of foot when you realize just how stupid you have been.

Sueann F. Schwille, MSWCrisis Intervention TherapistLicensed Funeral Director and EmbalmerBipolar Diagnosis

James Pavle
James Pavle

I was perplexed by Mr. Lomax's insenstive and inappropriate disparagement of Justin Furstenfeld. First, Justin and his group, via the Pick Up the Phone Tour are performing a valuable public service aimed at building awareness and de-stigmatizing mental illness and suicide. I spoke on April 12 panel with Justin and others. I have no doubt that he speaks with the force of personal belief and experience. Justin and the Tour give voice to the pain and suffering surroundign mental illness and suicide, while offering a glimmer of hope.

Aiko
Aiko

You have GOT to be kidding me.

First of all, Justin never claimed to have schizophrenia.

If you can't even get what was publicly said at a press conference straight...how exactly are you a "reporter" and not just a gossip?

Second, how dare you say that ANYONE need PROVE their depression to anyone else?

Depression is heavy chains on your feet and weights on your back. The last thing a depressed person needs to think is that getting help is any harder than it is.

Rich
Rich

Strange...seems you have something personal to settle with Justin. I think its because you love all the attention you get. Its really pretty pathetic...

Jeff
Jeff

Q: Why does a guy who proclaims to be fighting depression perform at The Showgrounds on a stage (Bud Light) sponsored by a company that sells depressants?

A: He got paid a lot of money for it!

kelly simpson
kelly simpson

The person above says furstenfeld was part of a suicide pact back in Hamilton- information your sources didn't have. Instead of casting doubt, this seems to corroborate furstenfeld's story even more.

kelly simpson
kelly simpson

I didn't know anything about blue october or their front man before reading this article; it left me scratching my head. What was the point or purpose of this article?

According to the writer furstenfeld has spent at least some time in a mental hospital and is on some kind of psychological medications. I'm not sure what other proof he thinks he needs.

Digging up people from junior high was a bit much. These people weren't even close friends; just kids whom he passed by in the hall. They could be motivated jealousy.

How can anyone speculate on what's going on in somebody elses head?

Libby
Libby

Mr. Lomax, First off, I'll make it clear that I'm a fan of Blue October. I was at the concert and when Justin told the story about his would-be interview with you, my jaw dropped in sad disbelief... and while I still feel like you have a lot of nerve and some kind of personal vendetta against Justin, at this point it's just frustrating that you don't have proof. Nothing would be more satisfying to us all than for you to have proof of his hospital stays or whatever it is that would convince you. However, having suffered mental illness myself, (generalized anxiety disorder, bi-polar disorder, borderline personality disorder and depression...pick your diagnosis, which changed nearly anytime I changed doctors) it is horribly embarrassing and offensive to imagine having to prove such an unfortunate thing about myself to anyone. And I would certainly be defensive if asked to do so, I imagine. What I don't understand is why you received information from Muffy Walker that you seem to nearly disregard. Her explanation that his behaviors, especially those you witnessed first hand (including embellishment about his disease or episodes), could be a result of an illness he's claimed to have seems not to sway your attitude whatsoever. As for the folks who "knew" him in middle and high school and claim he seemed completely normal and a ladies' man etc, doesn't make any valid argument against his claim. In my own experience, I was fairly popular in school, a cheerleader and student council member and always had a boyfriend, yet I still had these problems. And the mere mention of the fact that he was a drama student rather than a music student at HSPVA by Miss Alexander is completely irrelevant. He's obviously a musician now.

Freres
Freres

When you're back in your old neighborhoodThe cigarettes taste so goodBut you're so misunderstoodYou're so misunderstoodThere's something there that you can't findHonest when you're tellin' a lie....

-Wilco

Say what
Say what

I remember Justin and his brother Jeremy from Hamilton. Justin was always drama. He was part of a group of kids who formed a "suicide pact"- they scratched up their wrists with razor blades and got pulled into a special counseling session with Mrs. Winkler to talk about it. A cry for help or just a bunch of kids looking to freak their parents out and get a whole lot of attention? If I recall correctly, Justin & Jeremy's dad was HPD Narcotics and if there was any issue with his kids, he was on it. Jeremy seemed to have his feet on the ground and content to let his little brother get all the attention. Some things never change.

P.S. Blue October is a turrible, turrible band and their music is excruciatingly bad.

huge
huge

No Little Boy Screw?

Joe Carroll
Joe Carroll

I suspect that these claims of "schizophrenia" are just a misunderstanding, or bad quotes.  Here's why:

Schizoaffective disorder is characterized by two different conditions, between which one is schizophrenia. The other major mental condition for schizoaffective disorder can be either >>_bipolar disorder or any type of major depression._<<

(Emphasis mine).  From: http://trialx.com/curetalk/201...

So, even if he is just "depressed" he DOES suffer from schizoaffective disorder, and definitely so if he is bi-polar !

Johnbrazil-george
Johnbrazil-george

A show is a show bro being a singer in a band my self you book a show where you can get it no matter were it my be or who maybe sponsoreing it and being that they are not as main streem as most bands they may be struggleing a bit so they play were ever their manager can get them a show. In the music industry if you are not a big selller then you really don't get to choose what stage you play you play were they put you and be grateful they let you play your set.

upsetfan
upsetfan

Doesn't it? He acts like it disproves Justin. The author of the article has some serious problems and I feel really bad for him. He must not have any other things to write about and his career must be suffering so he goes for what he can.

upsetfan
upsetfan

Exactly. What was the whole point? Seems like the author of the article has a personal vendetta against Justin for some reason. I just do not understand. On top of that, yes he is on meds and why would he be if he wasn't ill? Makes no sense. Last time I checked a doctor is not going to prescribe drugs you do not need. Sad man, just sad that the author is that pathetic to go so out of his way to try to discredit Justin.

upsetfan
upsetfan

I totally agree with you. I too have suffered from mental illness and it doesn't matter which ones. What matters is that I tried to hide it. All of my friends from school thought I was happy. That's what I wanted them to think. I didn't want anyone to know. So I figured I'd put on this mask and fool people. I didn't want people to know because when I wanted to end it I didn't want anyone to stop it. However, I am older and wiser and have realized that I needed to reach out to someone for help, because of the people who loved me. It would be unfair to them to take me away from them. I too bullied other kids in school because at my school it was either bully or be bullied. If you were bullied people caught on to what was up. As long as you acted like a popular kid who picked on others noone was the wiser. And it is just horrible that you would question it, why would he lie? I've prided myself in being smart for years and felt that if I admitted to any of my issues it would make me dumb and pathetic. I cannot believe you did something like that. How dare you.

dram931
dram931

So this is what JEALOUSY sounds like.

No
No

and your spelling sucks...

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