On Tuesday night, MTV premiered “Demi Lovato: Stay Strong,” their documentary about Demi Lovato‘s return to the road about a year after she left her “Camp Rock” tour with the Jonas Brothers to seek treatment for addiction, eating disorders, and self-harm issues. In the Disney days, Lovato says, she hated the spotlight.
“Everyone kind of just made me a role model and I hated that. I was partying, I was self-medicating. I was like, why would you want your kids to be like me?” she says. “I felt like I was living a lie. I was dealing with all this pain emotionally and 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. I was just depressed.”
We have to admit, we were expecting a damage-control hour, about how far Lovato has come and how she’s put her struggles behind her. Instead, within the first few minutes of the documentary, we saw evidence that Lovato still struggles with her demons. When a handler asked her whether she wanted food ordered, and Lovato claimed she wasn’t hungry, tension hung in the air.
“I can not tell you that I have not thrown up since treatment,” Lovato told the camera. “I can not tell you that I have not cut myself since treatment. I’m not perfect. This is a daily battle that I will face the rest of my life.”
One day that was particularly tough on Lovato was Thanksgiving, when she returned to her hometown of Dallas for her first holiday with her extended family. “Sometimes it’s kind of hard to be back in Dallas because the entire time I was there I used to be unhappy and just kind of sick,” she says.
As Lovato described the food issues and depression that plagued her at as young as 4 years old, the screen cut to an image of her and longtime friend Selena Gomez on “Barney & Friends,” their first big break. “I was friends with young kids that had the flat stomachs,” Lovato says in the voiceover as she and Gomez dance on-screen. “I had a good childhood, but there were things that definitely interrupted it. I battled depression at a really young age which started when I was 7 years old. I think sometimes you can be born with” those things. There was never a period of time when I ever felt good enough.”
She spent much of Thanksgiving on the phone, after complaining that she was “uncomfortably full.” Though she made it through that day, the next day, she could barely get onstage for her concert.
“The thought of all the food I ate on Thanksgiving was still in my head,” she revealed. I didn’t think I was going to make it through the day without throwing up. I was on the phone constantly to my sponsor and I kept it down, but last night was pretty rough.” Before she got on stage, she cried, with various handlers knocking on her door, asking her to get it together. “People are going to see everything that I ate,” she said.
Ultimately, a fan who had been inspired not to wear her wig to the show changed Lovato’s frame of mind at a pre-show meet and greet — so much, in fact, that Lovato invited the girl up on stage to sing with her.
“My fans said it the entire time I was in treatment: ‘Stay strong, hang in there, stay strong,'” she remembered. “I easily could have signed myself out of treatment, because I was 18. But I knew that I had to stay in there.”
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