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Exclusive Interview: Huntress' Jill Janus Discusses Her Lifelong Battle with Mental Illness and Recent Cancer Diagnosis

Exclusive Interview: Huntress' Jill Janus Discusses Her Lifelong Battle with Mental Illness and Recent Cancer Diagnosis

The following is several excerpts the Huntress profile in the August/September issue of Revolver--which is on newsstands July 21 and is available for purchase in our webstore. Here, frontwoman Jill Janus opens up for the first time about her lifelong battle with mental illness and recent cancer diagnosis.

by J. Bennett

You probably know Jill Janus as the badass frontwoman for Los Angeles metal battalion Huntress, who have spent the last several years tearing up the global touring circuit with the likes of Amon Amarth, Lamb of God, DragonForce, and many more. In that time, they’ve released two albums—2012’s 'Spell Eater' and 2013’s 'Starbound Beast'—and they’re about to unveil their third, 'Static,' this fall. What you don’t know is that Janus has been suffering from severe mental illnesses for most of her life—including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and dissociative identity disorder, a condition previously known as multiple personality disorder. In fact, Janus was released from the psych ward just 10 days before she met with Revolver to discuss her mental health publicly for the first time.

In her most personal interview ever, Janus divulges her psychiatric history, her numerous suicide attempts, her perilous physical health, and reveals the identity of the longtime boyfriend who has proven to be her savior. She says she’s decided to address these topics openly because she wants others to reach out for help if they need it. “If you are hurting, you are not alone,” she offers. “I am revealing these things about myself because you don’t have to be ashamed. We are survivors!”


 

REVOLVER Why were you in the hospital a few days ago?
JILL JANUS Once a Huntress album is done, it’s almost like I slip into a postpartum depression. Being bipolar and schizophrenic, I have to be hospitalized so I don’t hurt myself or anyone else around me. It can be very dangerous. This time I was forced into the hospital by [Huntress guitarist] Blake [Meahl]. He called an ambulance. I spent some time in the hospital so I could be re-evaluated and medicated properly. I’ve been prescribed new meds, so I’m feeling more stable.

When were you first diagnosed with schizophrenia?
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder first, when I was 20. I started to show signs of it when I was 13, though, and I struggled with it through high school. But it started to get dangerous in my early teens. By the time I was 20 and living in Manhattan, it was very, very difficult for me. That’s when I was admitted into a mental health facility and was diagnosed bipolar with schizoaffective disorder, which progressed into schizophrenia and dissociative identity disorder.

What do you mean when you say it was starting to get dangerous?
I was suicidal constantly. I was very suicidal early on in my life. Then in my mid-20s, it shifted to full-blown mania, where I can’t really remember much of my 20s. I can’t remember anybody from high school, either. I lost my long-term memory and can’t remember names, faces, or even places. We’ll be at a venue on tour and Blake will be like, “We’ve played here two times before,” but I’ll have no recollection.

And now you’re developing dissociative identity disorder as well?
My friends started to notice that I was developing these other personalities, almost as protection. That’s also why I started to change my name along the way. I was slowly not wanting to be who I was. That started to come into play at the age of 18 when I was going to music school in Manhattan. I took on this persona Penelope Tuesdae, which helped me go out into nightlife and conceal my other life as an opera singer. I really wanted to split the two lives. Penelope Tuesdae started to take on a life of her own.

In addition to your psychiatric issues, you now have a serious physical problem as well. What can you tell us about it?
During the process of writing and recording our third album, I began to feel like something bad was growing within me. When we were on tour with Amon Amarth, I started to bleed heavily between my periods. I had a procedure, and my doctor found early stages of cancer in my uterus. I will have a hysterectomy in June. I know I’ll survive. I’ve survived much worse.

Janus recommends the following resources for anyone with thoughts of suicide: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, To Write Love on Her Arms, and SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.

UPDATE: Janus is now cancer-free due to a hysterectomy performed two weeks ago. She is now recovering from a successful surgery at home.

For the rest of the in-depth interview with Janus, pick up the August/September issue of Revolver.



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