Imagine going instantly from eight months in pitch-black darkness into the blazing sunlight. Or starving yourself and then sitting down at an endless buffet with every kind of rich food you can imagine.
That may be what rapper Lil Wayne felt like Thursday (November 4) as he celebrated his release from prison after eight months behind bars, including a final stretch in solitary, according to psychotherapist Allison Bobick, director of student advancement at New York's Touro College Graduate School of Social Work.
"The danger is when you have been deprived of something and then get it in excess, you swallow it and take it up in excess and it becomes a rush, it becomes an extreme version," said Bobick, who specializes in anxiety and bereavement and who works with an internship program at Touro that gives ex-cons help in getting their masters in social work. "They're both extremes, and whenever you have those extremes, it prohibits you from living a healthy lifestyle."
Bobick said rather than the normal balance of being alone sometimes and spending some time with family and friends, Wayne faces going from complete solitude to suddenly being thrust in front of dozens of people and, if he shows up, as rumored, at Drake's show Saturday in Las Vegas, thousands of people.
"You get lost in there somewhere," she cautioned. "You're nobody's or you're everybody's, and that's an extreme way of living." Though many prisoners face self-esteem issues after their release because of the shame they feel for spending time behind bars, or anxiety when someone asks about their incarceration, it's possible Wayne may not have those same issues. As a world-famous rapper with an eff-the-world attitude and a career that stayed afloat while he was at Rikers thanks to his Young Money cohorts and a hit album, I Am Not a Human Being, Weezy should be able to step right back into the limelight without worries about how his fans are perceiving him.
But the more dangerous pitfall for Wayne — who has never shied away from rapping about his love of illegal substances — is the potential of using those drugs as a crutch to deal with his intense emotions, Bobick said. "If he is already someone who has a difficult time coping with his emotions and he has to numb them, now you go from the emotion of complete isolation to a massive embrace," she said. "Those are strong emotions, and you won't necessarily be able to cope any better than in the past, and it may be even more intense."
Because a prison sentence — especially one that involves time in solitary, as well as the kind of segregated protective custody famous people like Wayne are subject to for their own safety — is such an isolating experience, Bobick said Wayne may also find that those around him are unable to fully grasp his emotions upon release.
"For people to cope in the world and to be emotionally and mentally healthy, you need intimacy in your life, and that's somebody knowing you," she said. "When you're onstage, you may be loved, but it's not like you're known. It's like Michael Jackson: loved by millions, known by none. Nobody knows what you experienced, and even if they give you a welcome party, there's a piece missing. Is someone asking, 'How was it for you?' Is anyone asking how he tolerated those eight months? I wonder if he will suffer from that because of the extremes. Will it really hit home and will he feel loneliness or isolation?"
Stick with MTV News throughout the weekend for up-to-the-minute reports on Lil Wayne's prison release as we follow him from Rikers Island to his celebrations at home and beyond. Follow us on Twitter @MTVNews for instant updates and bookmark weezywatch.mtv.com for complete, round-the-clock coverage.