“How does it feel when you’re alone and you’re cold inside?” – Michael Jackson’s Trauma

I was wandering in the rain
Mask of life, feelin’ insane
Swift and sudden fall from grace
Sunny days seem far away
(…)
Here abandoned in my fame
Armageddon of the brain”

 (Michael Jackson – Stranger in Moscow)

The trauma of being falsely accused (Jackson and his lawyer Thomas Mesereau during the 2005 trial)

The allegations and the accompanying relentless, decades long character assassination (that is still going on after Jackson’s death) took their toll on Michael Jackson’s health and psyché. In 1993, when the Jordan Chandler allegations came out, Jackson was on tour abroad, but due to the stress of the allegations his health deteriorated, he had to cancel shows due to dehydration and several times he collapsed backstage. In the fall of 1993, at the height of the Chandler frenzy, he wrote a song entitled Stranger in Moscow while he was touring the Russian capital. The song was released on Jackson’s 1995 HIStory album. It gives an insight into his state of mind at the time: the sadness, the loneliness, the pain, his collapsing world. As he put it in his lyrics: Armageddon of the brain” – that’s how being falsely accused of a sexual crime feels like. Eventually on November 11, 1993, he had to cancel the rest of the tour because he developed a dependency on painkillers and he had to seek treatment.

During the 2005 trial we have seen Michael Jackson’s health deteriorate with each passing day and after his acquittal he had to spend some time in hospital to get himself together physically. Emotionally, mentally he could never really heal from the trauma before his untimely death in 2009.

In the book “Remember the Time – Protecting Michael Jackson” Bill Whitfield, a bodyguard of Jackson’s, recalled this story from the last years of Jackson’s life:

“He didn’t trust strangers. Whenever he got caught in a crowd, he’d be real frantic and nervous. We were at a shopping mall in Virginia one afternoon. Javon had gone to get the car. I was waiting with Mr. Jackson by the exit with mall security. Somebody had recognized him and a small crowd had formed. He was signing a few autographs, waving to folks. It was a friendly situation, not a mob or anything. As Javon pulled up and opened the door for Mr. Jackson, this guy from the back of the crowd yelled out, “Fuckin’ child molester!” I heard it, plain as day. I looked at Javon; he’d heard it too. We were just praying that Mr. Jackson had missed it. But after we got in the car and drove for a bit, he leaned forward and said, “Guys, did you hear somebody say something back there?” “No, sir,” I said. “I didn’t hear anything. You hear anything, Javon?” Javon shook his head. “No, sir.” Mr. Jackson said, “I thought I heard someone say something very mean. I could have sworn. You guys aren’t lying to me, are you?” “No, sir.” We didn’t want to lie to him, but we knew what would happen if we confirmed it. Hearing someone call him a child molester? That would completely shut him down. He’d close the door and vanish into his room for at least a week, and we didn’t want that to happen. We drove on with nobody saying anything for the next ten, fifteen minutes, and then out of the backseat he said, “I would never hurt a child. I would slit my wrists before I ever did anything to hurt a child.” [1]

Perhaps we can get a little sense of what Jackson went through emotionally because of these allegations from a story told by a couple of his fans, Brigitte Bloemen, Marina Dobler, Stephanie Grosse and Sonja Winterholler, who traveled all the way from Germany to Santa Barbara to support Jackson during the trial. One day while waiting for him at the gates of Neverland, a bus carrying Jackson stopped and they had the opportunity to meet the star one by one inside the bus. Their story reveals an emotionally frail and very much wounded Jackson. It felt appropriate to publish this story on my website to remind my readers that while Michael Jackson might have been different to “normal” in many ways, he was a human being with feelings who deserves a fair and full representation of these cases instead of a verbal lynch mob and a witch hunt, and instead of the tabloid soundbites, cherry-picked out of context half-truths and lies that are often used against him in attempts at convicting him in the court of public opinion.

“Sonja: And there I suddenly stood — right in front of Michael stupidly saying “Hi Michael”. I tried so hard to remember the questions we had prepared and I had written down to ask him if possible, but now in this very moment, everything was gone. The only question that came to my mind and that would also make sense in this situation was “How are you?”— and so I asked him that Michael just stood there and didn’t answer. He didn’t even look at me, but held my left hand with both of his hands very tightly. He then leaned over and kissed me on each cheek, but still he did not say a word. I was a bit confused and didn’t know what to do. So the next thing I asked him was “Are you fine?” He finally looked directly at me and bursted out, “No!” And he continued while squeezing my hand: “I just pretend to be fine, but I’m not – I’m not.” In the same second, he hugged me very tightly and I realized that he was crying. Oh my God, now I began to understand why he hadn’t said anything before. He had tried not to lose his poise and not to cry, but my questions didn’t help…

We stood there for quite a while just hugging each other. Michael sobbed a few times and I felt that he was shaking, although it was quite warm inside the bus. It took me at least half a minute to really understand that in this moment Michael was hugging me, crying and just showing and telling me his true feelings. Until this moment I had thought he really would be that strong and positive about the upcoming trial, like he had shown the public at the first arraignment a few days before. How naive I was! Of course, he was scared and of course he was hurt as much as one can be, facing these terrible allegations, when all he ever wanted to do was to help this kid, as he had helped so many sick children before and after that. Given these thoughts and feeling him shiver, I also had to fight with the tears.”

[…]

Marina: I stopped when I saw Michael waiting at the top of the stairs, looking towards me. Sheepishly I said “Good morning, Michael” to him. At first he just looked at me not moving at all. It seemed he wanted to say something but after a few moments, he suddenly took my hands and pulled me up the two remaining stairs, kissed me on each cheek and embraced me tightly. In that moment all the pent-up tension, all the fear and sorrow for him, all the concern, all the sympathy but mostly all the love for him finally unloaded and tears streamed down my face. “I love you so much, Michael!” were the only words that came out of my mouth. Now Michael could not stay composed either, even though he had tried so hard, and so he broke into tears as well, while saying “I love you so much more”. He embraced me even tighter than before, trying to console me by caressing my head and back.

 We both couldn’t stop crying and it seemed to escalate more and more. I felt and experienced in those moments, how totally upset, deeply hurt and broken Michael was by all the terrible things that went on in his life. He was not at all confident, as he had tried to show the world a few days earlier at the court building in Santa Maria. At some point Michael began to tremble from top till toe. It was so obvious that he desperately needed people in his life that he could lean on and trust and who believed in his innocence. For quite a while we simply held each other sobbingly, when he suddenly with a broken voice said ,“…you know they hurt me so much with this, they try to destroy me…” His whole body shivered badly as he said those words and I helplessly tried to console him as best as I could by caressing his back, yet found no words of consolation, because I knew the situation he was in was just terrible and to claim anything else would have been a blatant lie. “I know…, I know…” was all I could stammer and again we both had to cry so much, that we could hardly breathe. It felt like Michael was drowning and desperately tried to grasp at straws when he embraced me even tighter, it almost hurt. Yet in this moment of deepest desperation, he now tried to speak again, almost voiceless from all the crying, he croaky whispered in a desperate and beseeching way, “…but we must heal the world and help the children”. The way he uttered those words worried me more than anything, because they held a feeling of “Goodbye” in them, as if he tried to indicate that he would not be here with us for very much longer and needed us (fans) to fulfill his mission. Instinctively I answered: “Oh, we will – but we will do it together with you, Michael!”, trying to tell him that we all need him so much. By these words he literally broke down again and sobbed so badly that I needed to hold him up, in a way, and keep the balance for us both. Again we cried so much and it took quite a while until Michael suddenly found the strength to pull himself together. I tried to follow his example and both still shaking and our faces wet from each other’s tears, we finally said Goodbye to one another, before I shakily went down the stairs again, feeling completely worn out, heartbroken and empty.”

[…]

Brigitte: Shyly and slowly I climbed up the stairs towards Michael, still avoiding to look up at him. I did not want to look him straight in the eyes, not to embarrass him and myself, so I just held out my hand towards Michael to say “Hi”. But before I could say a word, he grabbed my hand and pulled me towards him and immediately hugged me tightly.

I was kind of hanging there, about two stairs lower than where Michael was standing while he was pulling me closer and closer. There was a small barrier in the bus to define a place behind the driver and prevent people from falling down which also had a handle for people going up the last stairs to hold on. And since I could not climb up all the stairs for Michael had grabbed me before, I happened to have this barrier directly in my stomach which was not very comfortable, especially since Michael was pulling me against it real hard and was not letting go.

Anyway, so early in the morning, being tired, frozen, nervous and confused, your senses are working quite selectively sometimes — so I managed to forget having this barrier pushed into my stomach after mere seconds. It was only after a while that I realized how warm Michael felt and that he tried to warm me up by rubbing my back with his hand. He must have felt me shaking like crazy. The sound that the rubbing on the jacket made finally “woke me up” and I could feel Michael was also shaking a bit and he was weeping on my shoulder. We both stayed like this for at least one or two minutes without saying anything. Then, I heard his voice whispering in my ear: “Go on the internet… ”. As I said before, I was not completely myself then and there, and I just heard something about the internet, and was wondering, what he is talking about. However, after finally concentrating and probably telling my ear to listen, I could hear him go on: “Go on the internet and tell them all, tell all the fans I love them so much and they should come next time to the court! It’s SO important to me!” Having said that, Michael pulled me even harder towards himself. I could barely breathe, but I responded: “l promise they will come – it meant a lot to us as well” (meaning it made us feel better, too, to be finally able to help and support him and to give back to him after he gave so much to the world for years). After that Michael started to cry again. I felt kind of helpless and confused, I was shaking and sobbing, but could not really cry. It felt more like being in shock, I instinctively started rubbing his back as he did before. He hugged and embraced me tighter for a few moments, I could feel him breathing and sobbing – then he finally let go. He stepped back a bit, held his hands pressed together in front of his face and quietly whispered “I love you”. I said “I love you more”, turned around in total shock and almost fell down the stairs I was still standing on. Just before going down the stairs further, however, I saw I still had the three postcards from Munich which we had written to Michael last night in one hand. They were a bit bended since they had been stuck somewhere between the barrier, Michael and me, but I turned around once more, said “oh and this is for you” and gave them to him. He said a quiet “oh, thank you” while still wiping away some tears.”

[…]

That cold January morning changed all of us. It was the most heart-breaking, most hurting experience of our life to feel that someone you love so much is hurting so bad, yet to understand that you are unable to truly help, besides supporting him with all your heart and by simply being there for him. But what impressed us the most and made us truly understand who Michael really is, was that even in those darkest and most hopeless moments of his life, Michael’s heart went out to others, to the ones in need, especially to sick and poor children and to our hurting planet! We understood that this is what Michael really was all about! He was about helping and loving and caring for one another! And no matter how many times people tried to ridicule, belittle and hurt him and even, like in the last years, tried to destroy him, Michael never lost his ability to love and care and his deep desire to help others! He simply loved more!” [2]

Sources:
[1] Bill Whitfield, Javon Beard, Tanner Colby – “Remember the Time – Protecting Michael Jackson” (2014)
[2] Brigitte Bloemen (Author), Marina Dobler (Contributor), Miriam Lohr (Contributor) – A life for L.O.V.E.: Michael Jackson stories you should have heard before (tredition, August 8, 2013)
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