Drew Barrymore Recalls Her Tough Teen Years While Empathizing With Britney Spears and Paris Hilton

The actress was sent to a psychiatric facility at age 13.

For Drew Barrymore, the recently circulating stories surrounding how Britney Spears and Paris Hilton were treated as young women hit close to home. During her guest appearance on SiriusXM’s The Howard Stern Show on Monday, the actress and current talk show host said she empathizes with young women who are deemed “party girls” and face public scrutiny—especially because she’s been there herself.

“I have so much empathy toward so many people,” Drew said, naming Spears and Hilton specifically. “And I’ve thought it for myself—I’m sure that people look on and think, ‘These party girls, these privileges, how dare they have feelings about any of this? They’ve put themselves out there, they’ve asked for this. It’s fair fucking game.’ And I just go, ‘They’re humans. They’re just humans.'”

Barrymore continued, adding that “it’s hard to grow up in front of people. It’s just hard.” The now-46-year-old started her career as a childhood actress at age 5 and struggled publicly with drug and alcohol abuse in her early teen years.

Stern asked Barrymore to expand on her recent interview with Hilton in which she related to the reality star’s experience of being institutionalized. “My mom put me in a place that was like a full psychiatric ward,” Barrymore said.

I was in a place for a year and a half called Van Nuys Psychiatric and you couldn’t mess around in there. If you did, you’d get thrown either in the padded room or get put in stretcher restraints and tied up.

The actress recalled the experience with a tone of humor, joking that she would channel her “inner riot girl” to get the other young girls in the facility riled up. “Some days it was really funny,” she said. “I would rile up all the girls and I’d be like ‘Listen, fuck this place. These people don’t care about you. Let’s fucking show them.'” 

“It was like half a kids facility and half an old person’s place, so as I was riling up these young girls, a woman in a walker would go by. It was hilarious,” she continued.

On a more serious note, Barrymore explained how she’s tried to better understand her mother’s perspective, saying that she believes her mother institutionalized her because “she created a monster” and didn’t know what to do with her.

“This was her last gasp, and I really was out of control, and I forgive her for making this choice,” she said. “She probably felt like she had nowhere to turn. And I’m sure she lived with a lot of guilt for years about creating the monster, but then I’m sure she lived in a lot of pain that I also wouldn’t talk to her for a long time.”

Fortunately, the talk show host says her relationship with her mother is better now. “We texted this morning,” she said. “I’m really glad there is healing there and we have spent our whole lives trying to figure things out.”

Barrymore also explained that looking back on her relationship with her mother has also helped her better understand how she wants to raise her daughters differently.

She recalled a conversation with her daughter, saying, “Something came up and I said, ‘I’m not your friend, I’ll never be your friend, I’m your mother. I had a mother who was a friend, and we’re not gonna do that.'” The actress said she’s raising her daughters more traditionally and “quietly,” calling their upbringing “such an antithesis” to her own.

All that said, Barrymore doesn’t want her mother to “feel bad anymore” for her troubled past and instead wants to focus on healing their relationship moving forward. “I’m sure she’s already beat the crap out of herself for having a daughter who wouldn’t speak to her,” she said. “I mean the pain that I went through from that—I felt so guilty denying my mom access to me. It felt like I was cutting off the source of life.”

“And I just thought, I have to let this go,” she continued. “What is this doing for either of us? I think she’s old enough now to be in a different place in her life. And I know the changes that I made and how long that took, I know that’s possible for people. So why not her too?”

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