I'm going to be honest; I haven't been a Demi fan, or 'Lovatic' as her fans call themselves, for very long. My Barney-watching days had ended by the time she made her debut and I was already in college when Camp Rock came out; I missed the Demi train by about two years.
In the fall of 2011, things changed. I entered an eating disorder treatment program for the fourth time in my life. Since most of my previous stays were never more than eight weeks, I had no idea that this time I wouldn't come out for over five months. Although in treatment so many different types of support surrounded me, it was still a painstakingly lonely experience. All of my go-to ways of dealing with stress (my eating disorder, self-harm, substance abuse) were taken away from me the second I walked through the door; the only other thing I had that even remotely helped calm my anxiety was music. Except that I didn't. Because my phone doubles as my iPod I wasn't allowed have any of my own music because camera phones were not permitted at the treatment center.
One particularly bad day, I asked all of the other patients if I could borrow someone's iPod, I couldn't handle listening to my own thoughts anymore and just wanted to drown them out with some Korn or Metallica. The only person who answered my plea was a 15-year-old girl who had never even heard of Korn. I braced myself for what I was going to find on the iPod, praying that there was something loud and angry. Nothing. In fact, most of the bands were people I had never heard of, probably because I stopped listening to Radio Disney when my transistor radio died in the late '90s. I was scrolling through my options and remembered the name Demi Lovato from all of the tabloids from the year before, and it turns out every song Demi has ever released was stored in this iPod. It was the longest playlist and I was getting more and more agitated so I curled up under my giant pile of blankets and pressed play. I couldn't turn it off; I had such a connection with her music, more than any other artist or band I've ever heard. I just couldn't believe that someone who I had never met, never spoken to could narrate my life and my emotions so perfectly. It was a little scary.
I'm not the only one who has felt this way listening to her music; her 8 million Twitter followers can speak for themselves. The thing that makes Demi so unique and relatable is that unlike the countless other celebrities who've had their struggles with mental health and substance abuse but try to pass their stays at rehab or trip to the hospital as "spa retreats" or a "private vacation," Demi has a very different relationship with the public. At the ripe old age of 19, Demi has done something not too many other celebrities can say they've done -- she has not only publically addressed her struggles but also continues to make a point of talking about them in the hopes of helping others who are dealing with the same or similar issues.
Earlier this year, I was given the opportunity to be a regular speaker on behalf of the Massachusetts Faces of Homelessness Speakers' Bureau. But each time I get asked to speak, I still hesitate. I'm nervous that talking about my struggles with homelessness, or my eating disorder or depression to a bunch of people I don't know will illicit nothing but judgments and criticism. Choosing to tell my story was (and still is) one of the most difficult things I've ever elected to do, but each time I get up to speak, I think about how much Demi helped me by being so candid with both her music and her personal life and I take a deep breath and tell my story in hopes of being that voice for someone else.