In her MTV documentary, “Demi Lovato: Stay Strong,” the singer/actress opens up about the lows that led to her seeking treatment in October 2010. The special follows Lovato as she hits the road, celebrates her first Thanksgiving post-rehab and visits Timberline Knolls, the Illinois treatment facility where she spent several months.
“Music is what I love to do; it’s in my veins. I feel like I was born singing,” she shares at the beginning of the documentary. From there, she opens up about always wanting to be a singer, explaining her journey from child actress on “Barney,” where she met Selena Gomez, to Disney princess as one of the stars of “Camp Rock.”
While her success came easy, Lovato was fighting an inner struggle that she didn’t know how to fix. “I had so many issues that were underneath, that needed to be taken care of, and we kept putting Band-Aids over it. It literally drove me insane,” she recalls. “I was not eating, and purging, and self-harming. It was really difficult to be able to stop.”
In between her confessions, fans are treated to behind-the-scenes footage of the star as she preps for her first tour since 2010, when she left her trek with the Jonas Brothers early to enter rehab. She notes that this tour will help her “face her fears” about hitting the road. “Without music, it would be really, really hard to survive and really, really hard to stay in recovery,” she adds.
“Stay Strong” is also about her fans and the relationship she share with them. “My favorite part of touring is the connection I make with my fans: It’s me and them,” she explains. “We’re strangers coming together over music, and I think that’s so beautiful.”
But, it’s also about her struggles, then and now, and her focus to stay on track. “This is a daily battle that I will face for the rest of my life,” she says. “Everyone kind of made me a role model, and I hated that. I was partying, I was self-medicating. I was always stressing out. I felt like I was living a lie. I felt guilt and shame. I decided to take it out on myself. I harmed myself. It was my way of taking my own shame and my own guilt out on myself, and I was just depressed.”
Lovato talks about her parents splitting up when she was a little kid and how, even at the age of 7, she felt depressed. It was around that time she began to struggle with depression and eating disorders. “For me, it was an obsession of the mind,” she says.
During the special, she heads home to Texas for Thanksgiving to be with her very large extended family. “Thanksgiving is a lot of food, and it’s a really triggering holiday for anyone with an eating disorder,” she says. While she does eat, days later, she gets sick, confessing, “Yesterday was just a bad day in general. I think the thought of all the food I ate on Thanksgiving Day was in my head. I didn’t think I was going to make the whole day without throwing up.” She says her sponsor helped her make it through without a relapse.
When Lovato visits her former treatment center, she opens up to the current crop of patients about how it can change their lives, if they let it. “I hated this place. I literally thought that the doctors here were evil,” she tells the girls in the room. “I didn’t really realize that I was sick.”
While in treatment, in addition to self-harm like cutting and eating disorders, the singer found out she was bipolar, but it took her awhile to come to terms with her problems because she rationalized that “There’s always someone sicker than you.”
Later though, she says, “I thought that when I was in there, that was the end of my life. These are rooms with really heavy problems in it, but also rooms with miracles in it.”
While she could have kept her demons and struggles to herself, she says, “Creativity is what helps me escape a lot of my inner demons. Why not air all my secrets? Why not share my story because some people need to hear it?”
As the special wraps, Demi sings her triumphant single “Skyscraper” and says, “I don’t think I’m fixed. People think that you’re like a car in a body shop. You go in, they fix you, and you’re out. It takes constant fixing.”
While there will always be a struggle, one thing is new for Demi: She can now have fun and focus on herself. “Now, the tour is over. I want to be spontaneous,” she notes, explaining that while she might get days off, her recovery doesn’t. “I don’t think there is the finish line. I think you just keep going, until you retire. But even then, I’ll just continue to be working because that’s what I love to do.”
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