One of my biggest idols the past year has been Demi Lovato, for what I think are obvious reasons. As someone who has struggled with numerous mental health issues and stayed quiet (until recently) about them, Demi is a beacon of hope. She’s spoken up about her struggles and is working every day to try to erase the stigma that comes with speaking about these issues. Her recent work with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has been nothing short of inspirational.
When I was 18, I was diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression. It terrified me, not because I was struggling, but because my dad is one of those people who believes that you can just “snap out of” something like that. I knew that I would get no support from him or my brother, which is half of my family. In fact, as I would find out in the months after, not only did I not find support, but what I did find was rude heckling and completely insensitive comments. For a year and a half, I was a complete recluse because I was scared of finding that same attitude everywhere else I went. By the time I had the courage to venture out again, I had lost touch with who I was and how to even act in social situations. Cue even more anxiety.
The past year, it’s been a constant fight with myself to get back to who I was and to grow even more from there. I still have my days where all I want to do is stay in bed and shut the world out. While I’m not opposed to the occasional mental health day, I try to fight giving in to that feeling and I’m proud of where that’s taken me. I’m starting to rekindle relationships with people that I isolated myself from, but I missed terribly. I’ve made leaps and bounds in starting my career. I feel a little bit more free and alive every day.
Demi Lovato has gone through so much, and I feel like I can really relate to her. Take into account the fact that she went through all of this under the microscope of millions, and it’s a truly amazing feat. She overcame her demons and is now the voice for hundreds of thousands of young people going through the same situation. She’s brutally honest about her struggle and recovery, and she continues to be honest about her time since. She’s turned her pain into beautiful songs such as “Warrior” and I could not be more proud to call her my idol. In closing, I’ll share a portion of her speech during NAMI’s National Day of Action:
“Even with access to so much, my journey has not been an easy one by any means. During my darkest times I didn’t know why I was alive, and I definitely didn’t like myself. I had very low periods that were so emotionally draining, that I couldn’t find the strength to crawl out of bed in the morning. I was withdrawn, disconnected and very angry. There were stretches of time where I felt nothing but shame. I would medicate myself with drugs and alcohol in an effort to feel normal. Not better, just… normal. I didn’t understand why somebody like me, with all the resources and reasons in the world to be emotionally well, couldn’t find happiness. When I finally was diagnosed with bipolar disorder it was a relief in so many ways. It helped me to start making sense of my bipolar depression and all the harmful things I was doing to cope with it.”
She goes on to discuss how finally getting the correct diagnosis helped her start to get better. This is exactly what I went through. I was misdiagnosed so many times, and when I finally had the right diagnosis it was like I could finally see clearly. I wasn’t out of the woods, but at least I had a starting point. In the end, that’s all I needed.