The reality of remission

The beautiful and talented pop star Demi Lovato has been targeted in the news this week regarding her suspected drug overdose. The singer has a history of drug addiction in which she recently quoted she was 6 years sober. Prior to this, she was suffering from bulimia, a very serious eating disorder. The devastating news of her relapse really touched me and I think it paints a realistic picture of the extent of the struggles that people go through when battling a mental illness and additionally, how relapse is not impossible no matter how far in remission you are.

Lovato is a brilliant ambassador for mental health and is known for being open about her own experiences to inspire others. Mental illness can affect anyone regardless of popularity or fame. We assume that because celebrities have lots of money, they can afford everything to keep them mentally healthy and stable. Being in the limelight which bombards huge amounts of pressure could be the very reason that destroys a person’s mental health, particularly if they are already vulnerable like Demi Lovato. I have been so inspired by her stories and strength which has had a significant effect on my own recovery. Her recent hospitalisation proves that no matter how hard you believe and preach about recovery, you are still in danger of relapse.

Behind the smiles

Since writing my articles for Perfectly Imperfect, I have received some great feedback and praise on how well I am doing. Yes, I am doing far better than I was, but beneath the positive and hopeful words, I am still suffering. I face challenges every single day and I’m constantly assessing how to manage them. I crack and fall and have to pick myself up again which often feels as though I am back at square one, yet people don’t always realise the extent of my suffering from reading my work. This does not make me a fake or a fraud, it’s just realistic – I don’t doubt I don’t believe what I preach however, it is always easier said than done. Each time I fall and get back up, the stronger I become; each time I put my beliefs into practice, I am a step closer to recovery. In Demi’s situation, she may have been struggling for a while before the outing of the assumed overdose yet her struggles may not have appeared obvious from the persona she portrays. It is important we don’t make assumptions on what we see on the outside as we have no idea what might be going on beneath.

Managing mindfully

A mental illness is so powerful and will attempt to take every opportunity to get back in and make someone very unwell – it doesn’t matter how many years you are in remission or how much you preach to others. If you were once very vulnerable, you are always going to carry that part of you. A mental illness doesn’t get cured, it just becomes manageable. Likewise, it may only take one small thing to trigger a relapse. I find diets and skinny models extremely triggering to engage in harmful behaviours as the competitive nature of the illness feels the need to compete to be ‘more ill.’ A stressful or traumatic experience may re-introduce unhealthy behaviours as it can be the easiest way to manage your emotions, despite the fact they are seriously damaging for your health. Relapse isn’t inevitable as a lot of sufferers can live the rest of their life without reverting back however, it is not impossible and could happen quite unexpectedly. A relapse often manifests quite rapidly if help isn’t sought quickly.

I truly feel extremely sad for Demi Lovato however, it shows that this is the reality and we should all be aware, particularly if in remission, that a mental illness could still get to us despite our previous efforts to recover. It is not her fault nor anyone’s who relapses – just because she is a celebrity, doesn’t mean she is indestructible to mental health issues. She is clearly struggling and I’m glad she is now able to find the help she needs. For those who have recovered from any mental health problems, it is important to be aware of anything that might be triggering and remember all coping mechanisms that got you out of that head space in the first place.

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