Michael Stipe: 'I Was Afraid That I Was Sick With AIDS'
REM frontman Michael Stipe became so ill as he battled bulimia, he thought he was suffering from AIDS.
The singer experienced a breakdown after the band shot to fame in the 1980s and spent a year in the grip of the eating disorder. Stipe admits he struggled to deal with the group's success, and ended up "unraveling on the inside."
He tells Interview magazine, "I distinctly remember a conversation with my band in the van where I was having a complete meltdown. It was 1984, I think, and I was huddled in the back corner of our van and saying, 'I can't do this. I can't do this.' I didn't want to play any more shows. I just wanted to stop. I went through this difficult time when we were making our third record where I kind of lost my mind. That's when the bulimia kicked in. And that's when I got really freaky...
"It was like that thing that happens in prison. People can't control anything in their environment so they start manipulating their body with tattoos and pumping up... It was rough.... At that point we were playing our own shows and people liked us, but I was unraveling on the inside."
Stipe's weight plummeted and he became so sick, he was convinced he had been struck down with AIDS.
He adds, "I was also vegetarian, trying to eat from fast-food restaurants without meat. I didn't know how to eat properly and I was starving. I was adrenalized to the eyeballs from performing. I was afraid that I was sick with AIDS. We were playing five shows a week. I even went through a period of abstinence where I didn't drink and stopped having sex. Which is crazy."