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Why I Couldn't Finish Demi Lovato's New Documentary

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I’ve been a Demi Lovato fan since 2007. I fell in love with her bubbly personality and infectious laugh on the little show that played during Disney Channel commercial breaks. I didn’t know she was struggling. No one knew. People with mental illness can be like that. We hide our pain to make sure everyone around us feels OK.

When I was 11, I sang Demi’s song “La La Land” onstage at Guy Fieri’s Road Show Tour when he stopped in my hometown. I remember where I was the first time I heard “Skyscraper,” the first song she released when she got out of rehab. The only goal I set for myself in my junior year of high school was to hit the note near the end of that song, and I ran around my house for longer than I’d like to admit when I hit it. I’ve been lucky enough to see Demi live three times. I cried at each concert. She’s that good.

So you can probably imagine I was pretty excited to hear that she was releasing a documentary. I couldn’t wait to see “Simply Complicated.” I started watching it within two hours of its release. It was strong. It was honest. It was real.

And I couldn’t make it through the first half.

The parts I saw were amazing. Demi is incredibly brave for letting the world see the side of her that people usually hide. I watched her talk about her childhood, her love life and the breaking point that sent her to treatment. I admired her for talking about her relapse after treatment. She’s not perfect. I am so proud of her and this project.

But I couldn’t finish “Simply Complicated.”

The thing is, I’m more like Demi than I’d care to admit sometimes. Sometimes I get angry with people when they aren’t doing anything wrong. Sometimes I have horribly dark thoughts. And sometimes I hurt myself when I can’t feel anything else, or when I feel everything at once.

“Simply Complicated” was one of the most authentic pieces on mental illness I’ve ever seen, and for that reason, it was hard to watch. Hearing her talk so honestly about drugs, self-harm and eating disorders was triggering for me. I have to know my limits so I don’t slip back into self-destructive behaviors. So, as hard as it was, I had to stop watching.

This doesn’t mean I can’t look up to Demi anymore. Not at all. It just means I’m not in a place where I can handle something this raw. And that doesn’t mean I’m not strong. It just means I’m not ready yet. Because as much as I hate to say it, listening to people talk about negative coping skills makes me want to go right back to them. And I can’t go back to my old ways.

“Simply Complicated” has already helped thousands of people so much, and it’s OK that Demi’s voice didn’t comfort me this time. She has supported me so much in other ways. I’ve obviously never met her, but she’s been there during the toughest parts of my life, even when other people haven’t.

I had my first major depressive episode at the end of fourth grade. I was 10, and it was 2008. “Camp Rock” came out a couple of months into my depression. When I watched it, I could lose myself for an hour and 37 minutes. Demi’s smile almost made me happy.

I had my first manic episode when I was 17. I was blasting Demi’s latest album in my car, singing as loud as I could, and driving too fast. I hit a mailbox.

I went to the hospital for the first time when I was 19. When I was there, I wrote her lyrics over and over in my journal to pass the time. It made me feel better. One of the therapists played a song from her first album during art therapy. I cried and wrote something I’d heard Demi say before on my paper: I am enough.

When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I knew I would be OK. I could still live my life. Because I’ve seen Demi live hers.

And one day, I’ll be able to watch “Simply Complicated.” The whole thing.

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Thinkstock photo via Demi Lovato Facebook

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