I met Demi Lovato in 2014. This is not a story of me magically running into her in the bathroom of my favorite restaurant. I bought tickets to her show. I bought the Meet & Greet package. But, I met her. A celebrity changed my mental health journey.
** TW: Substance abuse, self harm, suicidal thoughts **
My life was at its absolute worst when I was a Junior in high school. My mental health was undiagnosed and running rampant. I was smart enough to get good grades in school but had become completely apathetic of actually learning or retaining anything. Being civil, I was able to hold it together but I pushed away those closest to me with a sharp tongue. I turned to hurting myself to feel anything at all.
If you’ve never been through this kind of low, it’s really hard to understand. If you’ve never felt the jagged rocks of “rock bottom” in your back as you stared blankly at your bedroom ceiling, this might be hard to wrap your head around. Honestly, I wouldn’t wish this feeling – or lack thereof – on my worst enemy.
My friend, Ross, had already met Demi before. I clung to him that year as one of my only sources of sanity. There was something about his overwhelming obsession with her that I didn’t really understand. Then, I really listened. Instead of staring at my ceiling in my dark bedroom in silence, I did it to the tune of “Skyscraper” coming off of my iPhone. I listened to her pain – something that I could understand. The triumphs in her lyrics faintly reminded me of moments before the depression got so bad. I actually listened to the music.
To me, Demi wasn’t a Disney-star-gone-rogue. She was talented and misunderstood. She was forced into a box for so long that she simply couldn’t take anymore – which is exactly how I was starting to feel. As I got diagnosed with new mental illnesses, I felt more and more like a freak show. Suddenly, I went from the blonde, preppy girl who was in everything to the depressed, anxious girl who was constantly absent. I was meant to fit in a box that my undiagnosed mental illness wasn’t allowing me to and the promise of an absolute shit show was looming.
Her honesty about addiction and drug use was something that I found really admirable. Her ability to speak about addiction in young people was something I didn’t even realize was a problem until my college years. By then, I had been following her for so long I saw the red flags a little more clearly. Most of all, I related to her because she wasn’t a Barbie. She was human – flawed, vulnerable, and damaged. Yet, someone that people could look up to. Something that I hoped I could be one day with my mental health.
“Now, I’m a Warrior”
I don’t know if I would have started talking about my mental health if it wasn’t for Demi’s story. More specifically, for the music. I started to pay attention to my drives to school. The actual words on the songs playing out of the speakers in my Chevy Malibu. On the DEMI album, there’s a song called “Warrior” which is my absolute favorite song to this day. So, if you ever need to answer trivia about me, there you go. It truly is about her coming to terms with a story that’s never been made public. That story finally makes her feel like a survivor; a warrior.
Even if I didn’t feel it at that moment, I knew that my mental health was something that I could handle. It was something that would change me forever and it didn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. I knew that this was just another chapter in the story of my life that I would tell someday to my kids, my friends, or really anyone that would listen. Somewhere inside of me, I felt comfort in the words that Demi sang. Maybe our hardest moments really are there to bring out the warrior within us.
Demi’s influence on love & relationships
Now, six years later, there are still moments where you can see the place I “wear my battle scars” of depression as the song says. My partners have seen me be “ashamed and confused” of the person I was for a long time.
Demi went through a couple relationships that always looked like love. To me, it gave me hope that someone could love me even if my brain didn’t produce enough serotonin. Demi had breakups, just like me. She sang about them in ways I didn’t think I needed, but I did. She empathized with me in loving someone we no longer had. Ripped my heart out in ballads just aching for them. But, she ultimately reminded me that I didn’t need anyone. I was a baddie just being me. Just like I was still a warrior from all those years ago.
Demi just got engaged. It was kind of like my best friend from kindergarten got engaged. You know the feeling, right? You haven’t seen them in a really long time. They’re not a huge influence on your daily life. But, at one point, they were all you had. In that moment, I was reminded that mental illness, addiction, self harm, and negative body image doesn’t make you less lovable.
The person that I had looked up to as a positive light for all those things had pushed through to find love, but what if she never really pushed through? What if part of our journey to happiness, acceptance, and healing is finding someone who jumps on that mental health rollercoaster with us? What if true love is finding someone to squeeze our hand when our stomach drops? Not make you get off and hold you, but just squeeze your hand. What if true love is someone that will scream at the top of their lungs alongside us at the very top? Not someone who just takes pics for the IG? Demi reminded me that mental illness doesn’t mean you’re half. It means that you have to look a little bit harder to find all the parts of your whole.
STILL, I’m a Warrior
At the end of the day, though, I do feel like a warrior. I know that I’ve survived every single hard day that life has thrown at me. I know that having a mental illness might absolutely suck some days. There will be temporary people who don’t understand. Mean words are going to be flung my way. Never again, though, will I try to fit into a box and deny who I am.
I have severe clinical depression. I can say I have generalized anxiety. Sometimes, my severe social anxiety is noticeable. I suffer from panic disorder. I take medicine. But, I am me. I am a warrior. Demi was the first person I saw that made it cool to NOT be okay. Her music was the way that I understood the rollercoaster of the struggle and that I’m not the only one riding it.
Have you had a celebrity that changed your life? Tell me about them in any of my DMs below – I want to hear your story!