Demi Lovato’s overdose, and her openness about her journey towards sobriety, demonstrates that we can’t neglect to take care of ourselves while working to combat bipolar disorder stigma.
*Update: On Friday, Oct. 26th, Demi Lovato’s mother Dianna De La Garza said on the podcast “Conversations with Maria Menounos” her daughter marked 90 days sober
In the movement to spread the awareness of mental health and helping people realized they aren’t alone, sometimes we forget about our own struggles.
I’m pretty sure everyone by now has heard about Demi Lovato and her overdose (July 24, 2018). I’m pretty sure a lot of people are going to talk about it on this blog. I just wanted to offer my personal take of it.
I was in my office, working on my latest project—a project and business that has been giving me anxiety chest pains for the last few days (another topic for another time), when I heard the news on the radio.
When I heard it, I was kind of hit with a wave of sadness. Not disappointment, but sadness. To be clear, I’m not a Demi Lovato follower. She’s almost a generation younger than me, and if it wasn’t for her public disclosure of her bipolar disorder and other issues, I probably wouldn’t even know who she was.
I’ve heard one or two of her songs a few times when I was living in New Mexico, but only recently found out that she was the artist. I also want it to be clear that even though I wrote about Mariah Carey’s bravery, I don’t typically follow celebrities outside of their work—Only when they do something that really catches my attention is when I take notice and separate them from their celebrity personas (or look at them as part of their celebrity personas).
But the news about Demi really kind of hurt me.
I’m not disappointed in her, and although I’ve never condoned the use of hard drugs, I don’t judge or condemn them, because that’s not my place; nor is it helpful. I’m not devastated. But I’m a little sad.
This woman, no matter what you think of her, has worked so hard over the last few years to get above her problems and be an example. She was really succeeding and becoming an example for a lot of people, and I’m always the one championing for the underdog. But in my opinion, and strictly my opinion, I believe that being such a public figure championing and working for such a big issue and the responsibility made her forget about her own battle.
After all, in her latest song, she did say, “I want to be a role model, but I’m only human.” That’s what we forget.
Whether you’re keeping your condition a secret, making it a small cause among your family and friends, or taking to platform like I am with this site, we forget that we’re humans that sometimes fail, and we neglect to take care of ourselves for the sake of being a shining beacon for the community—the voice for the cause.
I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m guilty of that. While I don’t consider myself a role model, I understand the responsibility that I now carry, and while I’m nowhere near a celebrity, doing what I’m doing is no less significant. While I love the feedback I receive from people across the globe who find my work, while I’m encouraged by the fact that I’m helping people feel less alone (because before this site I felt the same), sometimes I get overwhelmed. One of the best examples of that was just earlier this year.
While I won’t go into full detail into what happened a couple of weeks in January after my birthday, I lost a very close friend of mine in a very tragic and cowardly way. The only real joy I had after that was my cousin’s wedding, which happened almost exactly a month to the day of my friend’s senseless death.
Otherwise, I didn’t even want to leave my apartment, especially my bedroom. I almost missed a major event because I couldn’t find the strength to go. I only went because my friend made the four-plus hour drive from my hometown to Atlanta, and it was already planned months before. I was drunk before I even got in the car to go (I was drinking a bottle of Jim Beam Kentucky bourbon the whole day before the event; the tragedy happened two days before).
Over the years, I’ve worked hard on limiting my drinking. I still drink alcohol, but I usually moderate it, especially since I’m pretty consistent with my medication regimen. But I spent months either severely depressed, hypomanic, or drunk out of my mind. While I didn’t have to go to a hospital, I had to take a break from a lot of things, including writing for this site.
While I wasn’t suicidal, I started having those images, mostly because I really wanted to see my friend one last time. There was no way I could come here every month posting these articles, trying to encourage people that they weren’t alone and they had a friend in me. I was nowhere in that mindset. I needed that help myself, even though I was turning people away.
While this doesn’t compare to having an overdose, I can understand how all of this could be overwhelming for her. I’m not speculating or even trying to guess what was going on in her life that led to her overdose. Whatever you feel about her celebrity status, that doesn’t matter at this point. She’s struggling and hurting right now, and she needs all the support that she can get.
I would say the same thing about each and every one of you if you were going through your own trials.
Suffering from any kind of mental illness is a constant struggle, a constant battle (someone had a problem with my use of the word “battle”, but it really is a battle for your life, not just rhetoric). We’re trying to stay above the water. Sometimes we succeed but others it’s really hard to without someone throwing out a life raft.
I hope just for a speedy recovery for this beautiful, young, and brave woman, and she comes through this with a renewed spirit and determination to move forward.
JB Burrage is a creative and content writer living in the Atlanta, Georgia area. Originally from Meridian, Mississippi, he joined the US Army in 1999, serving until 2010. After years of battling depression and receiving different diagnoses, he was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2011. Initially ashamed of his diagnosis, he later embraced it and started on the road to manage it. He’s currently the owner and operator of The Mad Writer Project, LLC, a writing service and self-publishing consulting company that also manage his various projects; including material that addresses his mental health concerns and a blog on his website called The Diary of a Mad Writer. More information about him and his work can be found at jbburrage.com.
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