From housebound to pop superstar, Taylor Dayne is most well-known for her hit “Tell It to My Heart,” which made her an overnight sensation in 1987. Listen in as she tells Gabe that before her rise to stardom, she struggled with anxiety and agoraphobia so severe, she was often housebound. Taylor explains when her symptoms started, how she treated them, and how she is doing now.
Taylor Dayne is an American pop icon with a career spanning 3 decades. Taylor’s
groundbreaking debut single “Tell It To My Heart” turned her into an overnight
star in 1987. She followed the smash hit with seventeen Top 20 singles
over the course of her career. Taylor has sold over 75 million
albums and singles worldwide, earned three Grammy nominations, an American Music
Award, multiple New York Music Awards, received New York Music Hall of Fame
honors, and ranked as the Number 18 Female Dance artist of all time by “Rolling Stone”
magazine. She is one of the very few artists in musical history to successfully cross overinto almost every musical genre and chart with hit singles in Pop, Dance, R&B, Adult Contemporary, and Rock.
Taylor has appeared in film, TV and stage, from Broadway favorites like Elton John’s award-winning production of “Aida,” and Mel Brooks’ “Archie” and “Mehitable,” to working with legendary composer Jule Styne to reprise the role of Fanny Brice on Broadway. Taylor also appeared in movies including “Love Affair” with Warren Beatty and Annette Benning and co-starred in Denis Leary’s TV drama “Rescue Me.” She also starred in the HBO film “STAG” and co-starred on Showtime’s original series “Rude Awakening.”
Her growth as an artist was enhanced by the birth of her twins in early 2002. Her voice became stronger and more meaningful as she took on single motherhood, empowerment, surrogacy, and parenthood head-on, becoming a voice and an advocate for working woman, same sex marriage, parenting and fertility. Her 2016 TEDWomen talk opened her career to more speaking engagements, inspirational and monumental moments, and paved the way to her memoir.
This past summer she released a new single called “Please” and is working on anticipated new music. In addition, in September 2020, she competed in the Fox hit show “The Masked Singer” for the 4th season. She competed as PopCorn and made it to the semifinals.
For updates and tour dates please visit www.taylordayne.com.
Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, “Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations,” available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from the author.
Gabe makes his home in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio. He lives with his supportive wife, Kendall, and a Miniature Schnauzer dog that he never wanted, but now can’t imagine life without.
To book Gabe for your next event or learn more about him, please visit gabehoward.com.
Producer’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.
Announcer: You’re listening to Inside Mental Health: A Psych Central Podcast where experts share experiences and the latest thinking on mental health and psychology. Here’s your host, Gabe Howard.
Gabe Howard: Welcome, everyone. I am your host, Gabe Howard, and calling into the show today we have Taylor Dayne. Taylor is a pop icon with a career spanning three decades. Her groundbreaking debut single Tell It to My Heart turned her into an overnight star back in 1987. Recently, Taylor competed in the Fox hit show, The Masked Singer. She was Popcorn and she made it all the way to the semifinals. Taylor, welcome to the show.
Taylor Dayne: Oh, thank you. Hi, Gabe.
Gabe Howard: I wanted to tell you, Taylor, when I read the tell it to my heart, I wanted to sing it. I wanted to say the groundbreaking debut single, Tell It to My Heart. Tell me I’m the only one turned her into an overnight star back in 1987. Does this happen to you all the time?
Taylor Dayne: Well, it doesn’t happen all the time. But you’re right, when those first single hits and it’s magic and the world hears it and it’s definitely altered the course of my life and changed my career, and that was the beginning of it.
Gabe Howard: You’re with us today to share your personal experience and story with anxiety, panic attacks and agoraphobia. So let’s start right at the beginning. When did you first start experiencing symptoms of anxiety?
Taylor Dayne: So about 14-15, I had my first panic attack and. I the experience. I was more or less alone. I was definitely paralyzed. I mean, something happened, right? That was out of my control. And more than that, I felt like I was losing my mind and believe it or not, I was on some youth hostels trip and I never felt more lonely in my life and disconnected. And that’s just the way it is. I wasn’t connected to anybody family, friends, nothing. I was just with this group of kids on this trek. I wasn’t emotionally ready for it. And not to mention that I had bulimic stuff going on since I was 12, 13, 14. I mean, this is all signs of and not as uncommon a teenage girl at all. Struggling with all these. Anxiety, slash insecurity, slash placement, feelings and anxieties. But what that did was that paralyzed me to such a point where. Like any phobia you or when you create a phobia, it’s wherever you were or whatever it was that triggered this sort of panic, you try to eliminate from your life.
Gabe Howard: Were you aware of those things? Did you know what was going on when you had that first panic attack? Were you like, oh, I’m having a panic attack? Or were you confused by the entire thing?
Taylor Dayne: No, not at all. Like I said, I was sitting in the middle of France in some field on some youth hostels trip on a bike trip that I felt forced to go on by my parents and I was with ten strangers. And I just drank like 20 beers the night before with some strange guy and made out with him. And to my opinion, I was cheating on the boyfriend I had at home who I thought was waiting there diligently for me. No, I had no idea. Like I said, I thought I was going crazy. You know, I felt weakness if I expressed that, let alone to anybody around me, which were all 16-year-olds going through their own crises. And believe me, one of them ended up going home, one and one of them and two of them ended up going home. The strongest one and the weakest one. I mean, they flew home from a trip. It was like Lord of the Flies. That’s how it turned out. We were all just on our own. It was a lot of things that can trigger. But no, I did not know what happened to me. No, I thought I was literally having a bad trip on LSD or something like that. That’s what it felt like. My body. My mind, my energy. I saw myself floating outside my own body. I was completely detached. The panic was that. Went to that place, you know, where you’re obviously a hyperventilate. I must. But it happened within seconds and it was just this flood of adrenaline that. That feeling is where you are. Just you want to run, but you can’t go anywhere because it’s your body. You’re trapped within yourself.
Gabe Howard: From the time of that first panic attack until the time that you were actually able to receive help and know that it was anxiety and panic. How long did that take?
Taylor Dayne: At least a year easily before. My own body was starting to calm down, but we just wouldn’t. Until we finally got a label for it, but that was took a year, year and a half. I was still in I was in 11th grade then. I mean, yeah, it’s not it wasn’t that simple and I didn’t share it. I mean, my mother was probably the first one that knew it, but I blamed my mother for so many of the things that I went through. You know, it was like there was a love-hate going on there, you know? Yeah. Um. And I go back to like I said, I think I was 16 when I came back that summer. I didn’t know if it would happen again. So to avoid that panic again or whatever that thing that state was, I just went like a sergeant with myself. I was just completely in control. Made sure I stayed in control. Survive, survive, survive. Firstly, I never drank again after that I. Sure I slept. I was always like made sure we got like, this is through this trip to survive it. Otherwise, I said, I have to tell them and they have to hospitalized me. Just till I got home is literally like I was in a war with myself. I got home. My trip was probably like two or three weeks. So I’m going to say that state of hyper awareness and also the adrenaline that that hyper panicking. I was in that state for. My God. Calm down. Like I said, I controlled it by going home. And then I vowed, You’re never making me leave this house again. I was more angry at my parents for making me go on this trip and my own feeling that I had to be so strong and not share my weakness.
Gabe Howard: Taylor, when you found out that it was anxiety and panic disorder, what were some of those first treatments and did you accept the diagnosis right away? Did you accept the treatments right away or did you push back against it?
Taylor Dayne: No. I didn’t push back against anything. I had a voice. Finally. Somehow. My mom. I don’t remember how she found it, but she she found it. She she went to a doctor. A psychiatrist. But he put me on a pill immediately and I said, okay, then I’ll never forget it, because it increased my anxiety to such a place that I had another panic attack in the house. My mom and. I don’t remember if she took me to the hospital then. Again, I think I was like in 11th grade. So I was like 16-17 then I said it was this year and the pill, the medication made me so crazy. So I wasn’t a fan of medication, or at least what this guy put me on. I was freaked out and it took a while. So then maybe within a year, another year.
Taylor Dayne: I told him, I’m not going away to college. You know, that was the whole thing. I was going away, blah, blah. I said, Oh, hell no. And, uh. At some point during that time when I was probably 18. 19. So you’re talking over the course of a couple of years. That’s not going away to college. That’s staying here, going, then studying voice with a maestro in the city from Manhattan School of College. Not even just getting on a train. All those things. I mean, we can go into all the debilitate, like how impossible those things were. But the one. Voice inside of me. My voice of what I wanted. My goal was so much stronger. And it led me to a behavioral modification clinic. And that was where my mother kind of hooked me up with them. And I think I was 18, 19. I left my house already. By 18 I was living with a boyfriend. He was my safety zone. I couldn’t go anywhere without him. I couldn’t even go to rehearsals. Yet I was in a band. I couldn’t go far. I couldn’t drive. He drives. The next band that was in the city, I was like, You have to drive. You have to take me there. I was only safe if Kevin was there. He’s the only one that understood it.
Gabe Howard: When I think about agoraphobia, I think about it in terms of I can’t leave my house. Like that’s the pop culture portrayal.
Taylor Dayne: It’s not. Yeah, that is the it’s fear of the marketplace is the Latin derivation of it. But what it really is, is it starts wherever you are. You can’t label it. It’s not a spider it’s not a height.
Gabe Howard: What was it like for you? What did agoraphobia look like for you?
Taylor Dayne: What it was like for me as my world got smaller and smaller and I could only. You tend to make it where you don’t leave the house because everything within your home is controllable and you know where it’s coming from and you can get there and you know the panic won’t come. Everything you can control it. All that uncontrollable panic, right? I don’t know where the source is. You can’t source it. So about 18-17, my mom introduced me to TM. She was discovering things for herself. So I started doing meditation. I started doing TM at a very young age, and I found that that helped me regulate my breath. And I started to be able to control that, regulate my panic or regulate my anxiety. It did not stop me from joining bands and going out there. All I did was have a safety zone. Like I said, I found a boyfriend. We moved in together very locally and he went everywhere with me. I mean, when you think about it now, it’s it’s incredible how committed we were to each other. And I started playing. The band. I went into the next one, we were getting records and I was like, This has got to stop. Meaning I have to lose this fear. I have to work on it. And that’s when I found a clinic and it was a behavior modification clinic, and it was up on the North Shore and they dealt with what they called agoraphobia. And then I joined it was a 13-week program, literally a behavioral modification, like nothing short of what you would do, you know, in rehab.
Gabe Howard: When it comes to treating anxiety, many people are surprised to hear that it takes so long. There’s just sort of this suck it up and get through it mentality that we hear from others and that often we say to ourselves in self talk, you were in a program that took 13 weeks. Now that’s that’s almost four months right there.
Taylor Dayne: That’s the initial program. That was the commitment. So the commitment was the initial 13 weeks. And I was I was saying amen every day because what it was was a. One on one. And then I mean, I wasn’t in some place. I was home with the program, and then I’d have somebody come with me and do the physical activity so I could actually work that physically because it’s really physically. Your mental state is where you’re physically incapacitated. And also then emotionally where you can’t move. So they took me on, like literally we go one exit in a car. My great fear was travel right moving. And yet I wanted to be in a band and I wanted to play in New York City. Like, imagine, like, my greatest savior was my voice. The because of the desire to break out of it was so strong. You have to desire to change. It’s like an addiction. You’re addicted to the fear. At some point, you have to look at it what it is. It’s not that it’s something you want. It’s something that is.
Sponsor Message: Hey everyone, my name is Rachel Star Withers and I live with schizophrenia. I’m also the host of Inside Schizophrenia, a podcast that dives deep into all things schizophrenia. Featuring personal experiences and experts to help you better understand and navigate schizophrenia, Inside Schizophrenia is a Psych Central and Healthline Media podcast and we are available right now on your favorite podcast player. Check us out!
Gabe Howard: And we’re back discussing anxiety and agoraphobia with pop star Taylor Dayne. I love what you say about your desire to be famous, to be a singer, to be in a band was greater than the panic and anxiety, because I know how debilitating anxiety can be. But your dream was greater.
Taylor Dayne: Yes. My desire. My need. To be out of this situation and to be famous and to get out of this was greater than the fear. And I believed after meeting some of these people and working at this clinic and these therapists working with me, I realized that this is something that I could then put into a box. Every time the thought came, I’d pull on my rubber band, every time a negative thought came. You know, there were all these tricks and tools that I started to learn. I started building up an Arsenal box. That’s really it. A tool chest.
Gabe Howard: It sounds like the first coping skill that you learned was the rubber band. Can you explain the rubber band to our audience who may not understand?
Taylor Dayne: Rubber Band is something. As simple as it gets when you are going through something and you can’t get out of your thought. When you’re having an emotional anxious. There’s a build, right? You start listening to that voice, it’s that internal voice that’s going, Oh my God, oh my God. Right. So this rubber band is a snap, it’s a snap. And you go, stop. Just a thought. It’s not true. There’s no reality to this. What’s your biggest panic? And I go, Well, if I’m on a bridge and what if I get stuck in the traffic? And she goes, What can you do? Snap. You can get out of your car and you can talk to somebody. What do you do if you’re on a plane? And what this rubber band does is it snaps you. Every time you’re having a negative and you could be snapping it 17,000 times in one minute. But eventually you’re going to stop the thought because you would back up with a new thought. This is not real. This really can’t hurt me. These are just thoughts. They’re not real. Not happening. Not the truth. Change the thoughts.
Gabe Howard: Now you’ve described a lot of this as happening before you were famous, while you were still trying to become a professional singer.
Taylor Dayne: That’s correct.
Gabe Howard: By the time you did become a professional singer, when you made it, when you got there, how was the anxiety then? Was it more under control? Was it still a factor? Talk about that point of your life.
Taylor Dayne: No. I had it fully under control before I. Before I was famous.
Gabe Howard: That’s amazing.
Taylor Dayne: There’s no possible way I did it by sleeping in two separate rooms. I had to start sleeping separately from my safety zone. We did it by sleeping in separate beds. Like, he went through the whole process with me, this 18, 19 year old girl sleeping in separate beds, then slept in separate rooms. That’s how I had to work the process. Then I moved out. I moved back into my mother’s home. My parents are separated. My mom was living in an ashram. So it was this whole lengthy process. Be okay on my own and not put it on somebody else. But also develop the skills and the strength that I knew it wasn’t going to kill me. It wasn’t going to kill me. So I started working in a club just on the weekends in Brighton Beach, just Russian nightclub. And then of course, I was singing. I was in two bands. Before that, my boyfriend, as I said my safety zone, would take me on every rehearsal. Take me to every show. It’s miraculous my story, but it’s also. Shows you what your desire and your mind can do and can turn around and pull through for you. And with will and your desire to get. Healthy and stay that way because once you recovered like that, once you’re in that recovery, those skills, those tools, you’ve developed the muscles so you can access them so much easier. But I took a while.
Gabe Howard: So many people hear, okay. You had an anxiety disorder, you got treatment, and then you become famous, and now it’s all good, right? And I know that’s not the case.
Taylor Dayne: No, not the case at all.
Gabe Howard: Anxiety is still an issue. You’re just better at managing it.
Taylor Dayne: Yeah. It’s free floating. It will always be with me. But I continued on my journey of working through the breadth of the tools that work for me. The most of anything I put in outside, anything you take in is a product of what you get out. Look at my age, look at how I treat my body or the things I do, the tools and the techniques and the ways I have to keep myself. I try to keep myself optimal because. Not for fear at this point, but I know what the ramifications are if I don’t. I could slip back into a place. I’m very mindful of that.
Gabe Howard: Taylor, to people who are experiencing panic attacks and anxiety and agoraphobia symptoms, what advice do you have for them?
Taylor Dayne: Find a program number one. If you just started experiencing it and you’re very young. Need to talk to a professional for panic attacks for anxiety disorder immediately because it can be misdiagnosed on so many levels. And just for yourself, because you’re I’m sure there’s millions of young ladies out there and young guys. I’ve met them. I see them face to face. I met them. They’re just riveted with fear. They’re shaking. Even my own daughter is just born with has this. You know, being her mom, that whole like snap out of it, you know, even to some extent, if you don’t want to help yourself, you have to have the desire. You have to put the work in. There’s no other way around it that that I must reiterate time and time again, you have to commit to your love of yourself. You have to commit to this. I did everything. I would read every book. I was writing out my affirmations nightly. Everything, any tool I could find, I was using. And that is way to recovery. Reach out to a health professional. Obviously, there is names for this. Now you have options and from there continue until you have nailed this and make sure you try to put goals in front of yourself. Make sure that you have something to drive for. Bigger than. Then what the fear is.
Gabe Howard: I love your message that you got to get ahead of it. You got to find the label, find the treatment, work hard, take control and move forward. And I know many, many people, they struggle with that. And I’m really fond of saying that it’s always easier to do something when you’ve seen somebody else do it first. So. Taylor, thanks for modeling the way.
Taylor Dayne: My my sincere, absolute heart holds for people that are in this space and they feel trapped. And you might be for the moment, but this is not real and it won’t last. But you have to understand that. You have to get to that place. You have to understand it’s not real. It’s not the truth. It’s not who you really are. It’s not your being.
Gabe Howard: Taylor, I loved having you here. Before we go, where can folks find you online?
Taylor Dayne: It’s the @therealtaylordayne, my Instagram account, my TikTok. I look at my DM’s on Instagram a lot. Twitter. Reach out if you feel really trapped. Trust me, you’re not, really you’re not. But that’s the belief in and of itself. And you can find me. Yeah. Instagram, Twitter, Tik Tok, the real Taylor Dayne or Taylor Dayne. D A Y N E.
Gabe Howard: You can also check her out at TaylorDayne.com. It has all of our social media as well as her concert tour dates. It’s a really cool resource for all things Taylor.
Taylor Dayne: Well, you know, I’m on the road a lot, so you definitely guys, if you want to come out to a concert, if you feel you can do it, you know, please see me there and. You’ll understand where I was from 15 to where I am now. 50. Right. It’s it’s quite a quite a feeling and it’s exhilarating.
Gabe Howard: You heard her, everybody. We’re having an Inside Mental Health meetup at the next Taylor Dayne show in your town.
Taylor Dayne: Amen.
Gabe Howard: Taylor, thank you so much. This has been awesome.
Taylor Dayne: Thank you so much. You take care.
Gabe Howard: You are very welcome and a big thank you to all of our listeners. My name is Gabe Howard and I am the author of “Mental Illness Is an Asshole and Other Observations,” as well as an award-winning public speaker who could be available for your next event. My book is on Amazon, or you can grab a signed copy with free show swag or learn more about me over at gabehoward.com. Wherever you downloaded this episode, please follow or subscribe to the show. It is absolutely free and you won’t miss anything. And can you do me a favor? Tell your friends, family members or colleagues about the podcast. Sharing the show is how we grow. I will see everybody next Thursday on Inside Mental Health.
Announcer: You’ve been listening to Inside Mental Health: A Psych Central Podcast from Healthline Media. Have a topic or guest suggestion? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous episodes can be found at psychcentral.com/show or on your favorite podcast player. Thank you for listening.