Jewel recounts life as a ‘terrified’ homeless teenager: ‘I thought I would just pass out’

Singer, now 46, spoke out during mental health town hall

Clémence Michallon
New York City
Wednesday 15 July 2020 22:29 BST
Singer Jewel discusses homelessness

Singer Jewel has spoken out about being “terrified” while living as a homeless teenager, at times thinking she would “pass out” from anxiety.

The artist, now 46, made the comments during a recent virtual town hall about mental health.

The event was hosted on Tuesday by the public network WETA in Washington, DC, in partnership with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a grassroots mental health organisation.

“I was homeless for a year when I was 18 – absolutely terrified, having panic attacks, shoplifting,” Jewel said during the discussion.

“[There were] days I thought I would just pass out. I have passed out from panic attacks, actually. But I kept standing up.”

The artist, whose full name is Jewel Kilcher, said she found it helpful to think of “a tree with really deep roots” holding it “firmly in the soil”, and to think that if she was the tree, than her roots were her values.

“I wrote down my values. I looked at them every single day. When I was faced with an interaction, I tried to face them with my values,” she added.

The Alaska native, who has released 12 studio albums and has been nominated for four Grammys, also found solace in thinking of her thoughts and feelings as comparable to the weather.

“My anxiety, my tremendous anxiety, my panic attacks – to me when I saw trees in a storm, the branches didn’t close around the storm and hang onto the wind,” she added.

“...That’s how I felt about my thoughts and my feelings. Not every thought and feeling’s a fact. Just because it’s happening in my brain doesn’t mean it’s the truth.

“Learning to let them pass like the weather was a skill that really served me well.”

Jewel has discussed her experience as a homeless teenager in the past. Last year, she recorded the song “No More Tears” for the documentary Lost In America about youth homelessness.

Along with Jewel, the panel, which was dedicated to a public media campaign called Well Beings, also included contributions by Billy Porter, Demi Moore, Finn Wolfhard, Matthew McConaughey, and more.

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