I follow the Biebs. That’s about the only tween star I care about, mostly because his music is so damn catchy, you can’t help but like it. For example, I know you’d be lying if you said you don’t like his new song, “Boyfriend”. It’s impossible. You’re just an autobot sent to destroy the planet if you don’t like it. Simple math.
That being said, I have become more invested in tween-star 19-year-old Demi Lovato’s story over the past year after she entered a rehab facility in November for treatment for her eating disorder and suspected drug use after a rampage of frustration and anger culminating in punching one of her backup dancers. Also, there was a Jonas brother involved. Ouch.
It’s unfortunate that we’ve gotten to the point in society where we offhandedly mention that another woman has entered treatment for an eating disorder. In my profession, there are two presenting issues that we often hear require significant additional education and training – sexual or other trauma and eating disorders. As a new counselor, it’s unlikely you’ll be effective treating these conditions without some sort of residency to refine your expertise. This is because eating disorders are deep wounds of the spirit. They aren’t impossible to treat, but they aren’t like treating an anxiety disorder. You’re wading through so much stuff, it’s hard to know where to begin.
To many of us, I’m sure Demi Lovato’s breakdown was just another story about Lindsay Lohan. Another achingly skinny girl with too much stardom and money who made some bad choices. I encourage you to change your thinking. I’ve already written about some of the body issues women face in our society, but it’s a big difference between boobs and a full-grade self-loathing of your body. Demi Lovato is more significant than just a 19-year-old who had some problems in her youth. She is a symptom of a greater issue.
Demi grew up like a typical gal, mom was a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader and country singer, dad did something else like be her manager after she got her job as Angela on Barney & Friends alongside her bestie and Biebs number one lover, Selena Gomez. So, there was nothing really typical about her childhood. From the moment this girl woke-up in the morning, she was prodded and poked and moved and she was a commodity for viewing.
She progressed through the tween factory, Disney, singing, dancing, and acting. She started to do her own thing and began recording albums. Through my research I found out she enjoys metalcore band Maylene and the Sons of Disaster. I like her even more, now. She never recorded a metalcore record though, staying true to her Disney roots and churning out hit after hit while working on her own Disney show Sonny with a Chance.
She recently revealed in several interviews that she had been given drugs and alcohol by concert and club promoters prior to her breakdown. I see guys every day who happened upon drugs and alcohol and couldn’t resist. This girl had them being shoved down her throat. I commend her for keeping it together as long as she did. When you’re hurting and your “friends” are giving you drugs for the pain, you take them. She may not have even known better. The people she trusted and thought were supporting her ultimately saw her as a few dollar signs.
Like many girls, Lovato struggled with body image issues. I mean hell, I struggle(d) with body image issues and I’ve never been on a Disney sitcom. She has shared what many of us hear about eating disorders – she starting binging and purging to feel in control. The essence behind most problems with body image and eating. We want control. Demi also began cutting, something that is rarely a sign of suicidal tendencies and usually a sign that someone is looking for an emotional release. Cutting releases endorphins and often allows the cutter to feel something besides the emotional pain they are in. Girl was going through a lot. Budding addiction, eating disorder, and self-mutilation just to feel like she could do something that was her own.
Since becoming a counselor, my eyes have been opened to the seriously toxic problem our society has with image. While guys aren’t immune to this, women suffer from it excessively. Demi Lovato has recently said while she feels happy again, she has also put on weight returning to a size 10-12. Even with her improvement in quality of life and self-worth, she has said she won’t return to working until she drops her weight.
“I need to be secure in my body before I go back in front of the camera,” Lovato tells British mag Fabulous. “Anyone in recovery from an eating disorder would find that triggering, and I’m not ready … Knowing I have bad angles and the photographer can take a bad shot makes me insecure.”
It saddens me that a size 10-12 gets ridicule in our society. While I am no stranger to being on both sides of the jealous, judgey lady gossip monster that we all create, I’ve come to realize that I don’t care what size I am and I hope my fellow females don’t either. I do what I know will make me feel good about my body – I eat well and I stay incredibly active. That’s my program for loving my body. It’s not my job to determine what Demi Lovato’s should be. I just wish healthy didn’t equal skinny. I wish healthy could be a size 10-12 in our society. I wish healthy was less about extrinsic feedback and more about intrinsic value.
I hope Demi’s story was as enlightening for some of you as it was for me. Just because we don’t talk about it as compassionately as we should in our culture, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t attempt to start. I applaud someone so young for working on her issues and being self-aware enough to know she needed help. I certainly didn’t at her age and I was barely scratching the surface of my self-awareness. I am glad she has been so candid about what led to her breakdown and I hope her story serves as an opportunity for us all to acknowledge that we could afford to show ourselves a little more compassion about our bodies, eventually giving our minds a bit of rest as well.