In a vulnerable moment on The Ellen Degeneres Show, Demi Lovato has spoken openly about her relapse that led to a drug overdose.
The circumstances that have surrounded Lovato and her career are by no means isolated: by this we mean the scrutiny of women and their bodies in the media, the yikes amount of access that is demanded of celebrities to their personal lives, and the pressure to perform within the marketing machine that is the entertainment industry at the cost of your mental health.
But Lovato’s interview also reveals the sometimes subtler ways mental health can be undermined, even by the people around you that you thought were there to help. She discusses the “one-size-fits-all” approach that she and her team took when she was 19, of total sobriety.
It’s amazing and commendable that Lovato maintained this for six years, though as she notes what worked once might not work always, and it certainly won’t work for everyone. We know, that much like with sex education, promoting harm minimisation or reduction around drug use is often more effective and helpful than blanket rules of “don’t do this or you’ll die.”
Where things get Really Awful is when she describes the behaviour of her team when she reached out to them about her unhappiness with regard to her eating disorder and bulimia rearing its head. Lovato says their response was, “You’re being very selfish, this would ruin things for not just you but for us as well.”
She explains how this deeply keyed into her past trauma, “My core issues are abandonment from my birth father as a child. He was an addict, we had to leave him, and when they left they totally played on that fear and I felt completely abandoned. I drank, that night I went to a party and there was other stuff there and it was only three months before I ended up in the hospital after I OD’ed.”
Lovato makes it very clear in the interview that her actions were her own, and that ultimately choices she made led to the events of the overdose, but it breaks our heart that there was absolutely an opportunity here for more thoughtful and responsible care.
It also doesn’t help that it sounds like her team was actively detrimentally affecting her with regard to food: “I felt like [my life] was controlled by so many people. If I was in a hotel room at night, they would take the phone out of the hotel room so I couldn’t call room service. If there was fruit in my room they would take it out because that’s extra sugar. We’re not talking about brownies and cookies and candies and stuff. It was fruit.”
This should go without saying, but unless you’re literally someone’s doctor or nutritionist there’s pretty much never a reason to comment on or adjust their eating or food (and even doctors can be lacking sometimes). Whether it’s commenting that someone’s lost weight and “you’re worried about them/proud of them,” or suggesting someone eat a “healthier” option at lunch, you can never know what’s happening inside another person’s heart. Having compassion and understanding the complexities of disordered eating and addiction is the best way any of us can help each other, not by taking away fruit.
Thankfully, Lovato’s heart seems to be in a much healthier and happier space now: her new song, “I Love Me” is a self-love anthem and a certified bop. We can’t wait to hear it in full.
Watch the interview below:
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder or addiction, Lifeline (13 11 14) has trained counsellors available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Butterfly National Helpline (1800 33 4673) for eating disorder and body image support is available seven days a week from eight am to midnight.