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The Airborne Toxic Event’s Mikel Jollett on How Therapy Helped Him Manage Anxiety

"Instead of being stuck inside of some little prison in your head, now there's some new choices that can be made," says songwriter
Mikel Jollett
Mikel Jollett of Airborne Toxic Event (Credit: David Gabriel)

In 2020, The Airborne Toxic Event‘s Mikel Jollett published a well-received memoir, Hollywood Park. As part of a deep-dive into the singer’s life, the book chronicled his mental health journey — a topic he also discussed with SPIN backstage at BeachLife Festival in May.

Jollett recalls how, as a kid growing up near LAX, he and his “skate-punk” friends would consistently find trouble. They would “sneak out at night, do drugs, and destroy property” — behaviors that, looking back, he attributes to anger and a need for “attention.” Jollett’s brother was into “heavy drugs” around age 14, and his father and uncles had gone to prison. Seeing that happen at a young age motivated Jollett to focus on school — but even if he seemed to be doing well as an “over-achiever,” he was also battling anxiety.

“The first 10 years of my life were pretty crazy,” he says. “A lot of neglect and abuse. On the outside, we put on these masks, and it seems like we’re doing really well. But internally, we’re just a wreck with this really harsh internal voice. Some people, like me, were trying to outrun [the voice], and you can’t. I got to age 27, and it all caught up with me.”

Jollett noticed cracks starting to appear within himself, and he realized that he had to fix his mental health. He had to acknowledge and manage his depression, anxiety, and addictive tendencies — and there was “no shortcut” around that process.

“I had a shrink twice a week for five years,” he says. “You’ve gotta talk about stuff. You’ve gotta externalize it, and [then] you can kinda look at it. […] You’ve gotta get it outside of yourself and look at it, and [then] you can start to make new decisions. […] Instead of being stuck inside of some little prison in your head, now there’s some new choices that can be made. I think that’s true for anybody.”

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