DEMI LOVATO PROVES RELAPSE ISN'T THE END
Demi Lovato is a high profile singer, actress, celebrity and role model. Demi's demographic are young, but they have grown up with the Disney star, so some could argue that just like Lovato her audience have evolved too. We have all followed her incredible journey from child star to adult and her struggles have been publicly documented, often with Demi being the first one to speak up. This is something I've always admired - Demi owning her own story and being the teller.
Demi has suffered with bulimia, anorexia, self harm, suicidal thoughts and addiction to both drugs and alcohol. Demi has always spoken up about her mental ill health, she publicly talks about her relapses, her bi-polar diagnoses, her experiences of rehab, her sponsors, her mental health team and her therapy and it is incredible. Incredible that Demi speaks up, incredible that Demi takes control of her own situation and is the one to tell her own story, incredible that she is using her fame for good in raising awareness by sharing her own mental health journey. Incredible, because Demi is leading her fans, following and audience by example. Demi Lovato is a human, she makes mistakes, she trips, she is flawed, but she dusts herself off and gives others strength by sharing her own experiences. It is incredible, because she doesn't have to do that. Demi does not owe us an explanation for her behaviour, for her choices, vices or mistakes, but the fact that she chooses to be honest and authentic is admirable.
Something I have struggled with is how I choose to share my mental ill health and when Demi's recent relapse and hospitalisation was reported it made me realise that even though I choose to share my depression, self harm and anxiety, I have started to find it difficult when my personal decline becomes relatable. I love helping people and I love that women can watch me or read my stories and find some inner badass strength to conquer their own mental demons, but when the pictures of your struggling gets more likes than the pictures of you smiling, well it does something strange to your brain and subsequently MY inner monologue.
I guess Demi's recent relapse sparked a wave in me to try and understand why I share what I share and what's the difference between sharing and caring. After all I am depressed, but my depression isn't 'just' me. It is a huge part of my story, but it's certainly not the whole picture and just because I stopped picking my skin doesn't mean the urge to pick it isn't still there, but do I have to speak about the urge whilst I am trying to manage mine? If I share something personal after the fact will I look like I have all the answers? Does my audience want the answers or do they want to understand the journey I took to get there? Even if it's ugly.
People seemed genuinely disappointed by Demi's most recent relapse and I think it's interesting, that whilst it feels like the mental ill health discussion is progressing, when it actually comes to mental ill health it is transparent that there is still a long way to go when it comes to understanding matters of the mind.
"We thought she was better", "She went to rehab though", "How can she be a mental health ambassador who raises awareness if she is struggling?" When it comes to 'mental ill health' it seems the lines of 'well' and 'unwell' are blurry. For example if I had a cold I would be sneezing, but if I'm suffering with addiction I would be...? Fill in the blank if you can. Just because Demi was transparent about her ill health and articulate when it came to her issues and treatment doesn't mean "It's over".
Unfortunately that is the hardest lesson of all when it comes to mental illness...it is never over. Depression, anxiety, intrusive thoughts, mania, addiction, compulsion it can be helped, it can be talked through, there are exercises, you can breathe, you can live a perfectly good life, but it is always there and it is always something that you HAVE to manage. It is a full time job, you become your own full time carer and sometimes you want a break or a sabbatical from your own life. It is hard.
The definition of relapse is "to deteriorate after a period of improvement", but just like illness it can be treated. You just need to ask for help. Sharing your story is brave, but owning your story, illness and what happens next is incredible.
Wishing Demi and anyone reading this in a similar place so much support and kindness. You are not alone.
Written by Natasha Bailie
"You can take everything I have
You can break everything I am
Like I'm made of glass
Like I'm made of paper
Go on and try to tear me down
I will be rising from the ground
Like a skyscraper, like a skyscraper"
- SkyScraper by Demi Lovato
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Women talking unashamedly about their mental health and parenting innit.