In his first interview since leaving One Direction on March 25, Zayn Malik revealed his reason for quitting and more. The 22-year-old told The Sun he felt he had no other choice but to quit the powerhouse pop-group, as he had been unhappy for quite some time. Still, he’s struggling with the fact that he feels he let down his dedicated fans.

After five years with 1D, Malik announced his official departure from the group. The U.K.-native said in a statement he no longer wished to live his life under public scrutiny and hoped he would be able to lead a “normal” existence in the years to come. According to The Sun, Malik had considered leaving One Direction for some time, but was too afraid. He admits his decision was “crazy and wild and a bit mad,” but says it was the right choice for him and the rest of the group.

“I’ve never felt more in control in my life. I feel like I’m doing what’s right, right by myself and the boys,” he said.

Malik denied there were any issues within the band, saying rumors of a divide amongst them “couldn’t be more wrong." The young pop-sensations said he simply couldn’t “do this anymore.” As he mentioned in his initial statement, he no longer had the desire to live life under the public lens. According to The Sun, he tried to make it work for some time for the sake of the fans, as well as others, but had to do what was best for him.

“You know, I did try and do something that I wasn’t happy doing for a while, for the sake of maybe other people,” he said before adding, “Basically, I’m only upset because I feel like I may have let them down.”

Perhaps he feels that way because of the outpour of messages from upset fans on Twitter. While the majority was supportive, telling Malik how brave he was to step out of the limelight to focus on himself, others were angry and upset by the decision. Thousands of users threatened self-harm and attacked both Malik and his fiancée, Perrie Edwards. It was widely believed that Malik had left the band to focus on his relationship, causing jealous fans to lash out. Malik addressed those fans in his interview, saying:

“It’s not that I’ve turned my back on them [the fans] or anything, it’s just that I just can’t do that anymore because it’s not real to me.”

One Direction fan-fictionalist, Anna Todd, addressed the misguided anger of these fans in a post on In the article, she levels with fans, acknowledging how heart breaking the situation is. While she says she understands their feelings, the “After” series author called on fellow directioners to remember that Malik is going through something beyond their comprehension.

“He was there for us when we needed it. Let’s be there for him when he needs us,” she wrote.

New rumors suggest Malik may be pursuing a solo career. These claims were further supported when Malik told The Sun he planned to use his time away from the band to “be myself for a bit" and "write and relax and chill.” He added that he was going to the studio the following day. He did not say if or when fans could expect to hear any of what he was writing.