Mariah Carey Says 'Breakdown' Overblown

ByABC News via logo

Dec. 3, 2002 -- Mariah Carey, who made headlines a year and a half ago when she was hospitalized after apparently suffering an emotional meltdown, is back with a new album, and says she wants to put speculation about her mental state behind her.

In a new interview, the 32-year-old pop diva insists she did not have a nervous breakdown. She says she was simply exhausted from working around the clock. The problem, she says, was that she hated to say no when her career placed demands on her.

"I was totally exhausted and I needed to go to sleep and I needed rest and I needed people to leave me alone and stop banging on my freaking door to get up and do a freaking video," Carey told MTV correspondent John Norris in an interview that was shown in part on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America.

The interview airs in its entirety tonight at 9 p.m. on an MTV special called Mariah Carey: Shining Through the Rain.

"There has been so much written and reported about me over the past year … and I've been pretty quiet up until now," Carey said. "It wasn't like I went schizo and needed to be put in a straitjacket or tried to kill myself, what they were saying. I just think it's time to set the record straight."

Since the episode, Carey has been working again and making public appearances. Last winter, Carey went overseas to entertain American troops in Kosovo, and she sang the national anthem at the Super Bowl. Her new album, Charmbracelet, is set for release today.

Glitter Wasn’t Gold

In the summer of 2001, the singer suffered what was described as an emotional breakdown after a two-week whirlwind tour to promote her first movie, Glitter.

The movie, autobiographical in some ways, bombed at the box office. Even more disastrous for Carey, the soundtrack album — her first under a milestone $80 million contract with Virgin Records — did poorly in stores. The record company bought its way out of the contract, and things looked bleak.

Carey was taken to a hospital on July 26, 2001, in suburban Westchester County, N.Y., after she reportedly became so violently upset that she smashed plates. She was later moved to a facility in Connecticut, and was placed under her doctor's care after being released Aug. 27.

Before the apparent meltdown, Carey was Billboard's one-time "Artist of the Decade, " with 15 No. 1 singles behind her. But the toll of her 1998 divorce from Sony Music head Tommy Mottola, slipping record sales and bad reviews for her film debut in Glitter piled up.

‘Not a Nervous Breakdown’

It was her work ethic that hurt her, Carey said.

"Basically, I exhausted myself, because I was working 21-hour days for at least two or three months straight," she said.

Although people — even some from her own camp — referred to what happened as a "physical and emotional breakdown," Carey classifies it differently.

"No, it was not a nervous breakdown," she said. "There were a lot of different things. It was emotional and physical. More than anything, it was [my] body saying, 'Stop.' Your body can only take so much. Sleep deprivation is real."

So why didn't she take time out for a nap?

"Right … go take a nap," Carey said. "I'm not blaming anybody. I'm saying it's my fault for not putting my foot down and saying 'No, I need a lunch break,' or 'No, I need a half-hour dinner break,' and 'Yes, I need at least six hours of sleep a night.'"

‘I Know Better Now’

Carey says that her drive started when she was a child, growing up on New York's Long Island. She is of mixed race, and she grew up feeling that no group accepted her. Her family moved around from place to place.

"I grew up poor … interracial family, afraid the rug would be pulled out," she said. "I had an incredible work ethic where I was afraid if I didn't work twice as hard I'd be back in a room in a shack."

Even when her stardom was firmly established, her work ethic remained.

"So if I had an in-store [appearance] and I hadn't slept in 20 hours, I would never blow off an in-store or not go because I might disappoint one fan," Carey said. "What I needed was some boundaries in my life, to take care of myself, to say no, because I never wanted to let the fans down."

She says she has learned to give herself a break and to take care of herself.

"I know better now," Carey said. "I never knew how to draw the line."

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