In a candid interview with American Way Magazine, 23-year-old singer and actress Demi Lovato has opened up about her struggles with bipolar disorder, bulimia and self-harm, and revealed that she didn’t expect to live to 21.
Revealing that she can trace her body image issues back to her childhood, when, as young as three, she would look down at her stomach and wonder if it would ever be flat, Demi explained that she started binge eating at nine, and cutting herself at twelve.
Aged 15, she won the leading role in Disney movie Camp Rock, and very quickly shot to international fame. Within just a few months of its release, she had a best-selling album, was on a world tour with the (then huge) Jonas Brothers, and had her own sitcom – Sonny with a Chance.
As her career took off though, Demi began self-medicating with cocaine andOxyContin. She was also drinking heavily.
“I lived fast and I was going to die young.I didnt think I would make it to 21.”
Eventually – after punching a backing dancer in the face – Demi realised that she needed help, dropped out of the world tour, and checked herself into a rehab clinic. There, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and bulimia. She got these under control, but didn’t address her drug and alcohol addictions:
“I thought, Im not in treatment for a drug and alcohol problem. But once I started eating again, the other issues got worse. It was like whack-a-mole.”
Eventually, Demi checked herself into a sober house, where she remained for a year, and got her addictions under control. She celebrated four years of sobriety in January, and is now much happier and healthier.
She had feared becoming just another “Hollywood stereotype” – recalling that she’d been scared ofbecoming the nextLindsay Lohan orBritney Spears, who were both on their downward spirals just as Demiwas rising to fame – but instead sheis now a hugely successful pop star, and one of America’s leading celebrity mental health ambassadors.
“The more you talk about mental illness, the less of a taboo it becomes. As a pop star, I can say, Hey, Ive got bipolar disorder its nothing that anyone can be ashamed of’.
When I have meet-and-greets, I cant tell you the amount of times that girls will show me their arms covered in scars or cuts. Theyll tell me, You helped me get through this. Because of you, I stopped self-harming, or I got sober. Hearing those things gave my life new meaning.”
During a 2011 concert, Demi Lovato addressed her mental health on stage:
“If theres anybody out there tonight that doesnt feel beautiful enough or worthy enough, youre wrong, because you guys are all so incredible. If youre dealing with any of the issues Ive been through, dont be afraid to speak up, because someone will be there for you. And if you think youre alone, put on my music so that Ill be there for you.”
She then sang Skyscraper – her song that deals withabandonment and resurrection – ending the performance in tears. American Way points out that when this performance was posted to YouTube, “it evoked more than just ‘Likes’.”:
“This just stopped me from going up to the balcony on the top floor of my hotel and jumping, wrote one fan. I nearly drank bleach until I watched this, wrote another. Demi Lovato saved my life.”