Dear Demi

This is a letter addressed to Demi Lovato, but it’s for anyone struggling with addictive and or self-destructive habits and behaviors. To listen to this letter/watch the open letter video, click here.

Dear Demi Lovato,

You don’t know me and I don’t know you. In many ways, I feel like I do sometimes, but I know I only know what you let the world see. It’s likely that I will never know you, but please know that whether I will or won’t ever know you, I will always love you. You are loved by so many wonderful people. Your friends and family. Most, if not all of your coworkers. Your fans–the Lovatics. We all love you. More importantly, God loves you.

I know you grew up in the church. Or at least you used to say you did when you were a young Disney star. I know that at some point, whether you do now or not, you claimed to be a Christian. As I am neither you nor God, I can’t know if you are or are not a Christian. I do know that you believe in God and often credit Him for your successes. I also know that you know how easy it is to struggle with faith and God when you keep falling into the same traps and or have countless struggles hurled your way all at the same time.

I’m sure you also know how it feels to feel like God is abandoning or ignoring you in your time of need. It sucks. If you truly believe in Him, as it seems you do, then somewhere in your heart and mind, you know that’s not the case. You know God does not leave or forsake His children. You know that He hears your every prayer. Yet, you still feel like He has, even though you know He hasn’t.

That’s what causes and results from addictive and self-destructive habits. You feel isolated and alone. You feel like no one cares, like no one sees you, and like no one understands. To a certain extent, no one does. Every struggle is unique and every story is new, but you’re never alone. Somewhere deep inside you, you know that, even in the struggle, but it’s hard to believe it because you can’t see the light. All you can see is darkness. And it’s even worse when you’ve come out of the darkness only to see and follow the shadows again. Even through healing, the pain never fully goes away. There’s always an ache and there are always scars. There’s always another wrong move, another misstep, and another challenge threatening to push you back over the edge. Just when you think you’ll stay strong and keep fighting, something jumps out at you and threatens to turn out the lights. I know this, because I’ve been there. I’ve never struggled with addiction to drugs or alcohol, but I have been addicted to self-destructive thoughts and habits.

When I was 17, though it really started long before that, I struggled with thoughts of self-destruction. I considered and nearly tried self-destructive eating habits. I considered and sometimes tried self-destructive workout habits. What stuck was self-harm. In the darkest and lowest point of my life, I gave into self-mutilation and injury. I entertained the thoughts of death, major self-harm, and disappearance. I was depressed, anxious, and in loathe with myself. I hated myself and everything about me. I felt alone, unseen, and unheard by God, by my family, by my friends–even though I felt like I didn’t have any friends–and by everyone else around me. It was exhausting, heartbreaking, and draining. Then, I slowly started to see the Light through various people, various works of art, and various other things.

In my darkest times, “Open” from your EP became my anthem, because “I felt like I was screaming my mouth shut when it was really open.” As time progressed, “Believe In Me,” “Skyscraper,” “Unbroken,” “Firestarter,” and nearly every other one of your songs–and several other songs–became my anthems. I wanted to be like you. I wanted to be strong and beautiful and successful. When I felt like I would never be like you, MTV aired your special, “Staying Strong.” Then, I saw that I was like you, but not in the ways I wanted to be. We were both struggling with self-harm, depression, and general self-hate. You were struggling with other things too… some things I had thought about at one time or another. At that moment, I was afraid to be like you, but more than anything, I still wanted to be like you. I was afraid of becoming so much like you, that I’d have to go to rehab. Though I was proud of you for going, I didn’t want to go. I did, however, want to be like you in the sense that you shared your struggles, you confessed you needed help, and you reached out for assistance. I wanted to do that too, so I did.

First, I kept my struggles to myself. I prayed a lot and I did everything I could to stop hurting myself. It was surprisingly easy to stop physically hurting myself, but it was a lot harder to stop mentally and emotionally hurting myself. I prayed a lot, found refuge in music, and clung to stories and testimonies of female celebrities who had fought battles and won or were fighting battles and trying to win. You, Demi Lovato, were one of those people. When I was in my darkest days, God used you, your music, and your transparency to lift me out of my lowest point and raise me to a place of healing and restoration.

I hope now, as I write this letter, if you ever read it, that you might find healing and restoration through my prayers and the prayers of others. I hope that this battle will lead you to God in a way you’ve never seen Him before and that He will heal you totally and completely. I pray that not only will you finally overcome the addiction and temptation, but also that the temptation will go away altogether. I know that’s a big ask. I know scars and aches don’t often go away. I know that temptation is always creeping at your door, waiting for you to be weak. I do get it, maybe not in the same way, but I do understand. If I’m honest, then I must confess I was tempted to give in to the darkness a few days ago. Not only was I tempted to drown myself in drink–just this once–but worse than that, because that’s not my personal demon, I was also tempted to hurt myself again–just this once. Just to make the pain go away. Just to feel something other than the stress and looming depression. I didn’t, but I almost did, and I think that scares me more than if I had done it.

Anyway, I’m praying for you, Demi Lovato. I’m fighting for you through prayer and supplication. I am thanking God for you and your life. And I’m praying for His miraculous healing over you. I believe He can heal you, but sometimes He only heals us if we believe for ourselves that He will. Please believe Demi. Please believe that He can and will heal you. Please believe and remember that no matter what you feel, you are never alone. Please know and believe that your true friends, your true family, and your true fans–the Lovatics–are always here for you in spirit and prayer with support and love. Please stay strong and when you can’t, let us stay strong for you! ❤

 

Sincerely,

A fan. A friend. And a supporter.

It DOES Get Better

Once upon a time, I was the girl who hated herself, got stressed out about everything, and had major anxiety attacks that led me to self-harm. High school, allegedly the best years of your life, were the darkest years of my life. I went from slightly insecure, to totally insecure, to unsure if I even wanted to be alive. How could life ever get better than it was? Life seemed so dark and hopeless. Four years later, I’m here to tell you that life get’s better. That’s why I created this blog less than a year after I left the hole of darkness I lived in for a while. I built this blog for myself, because I needed encouragement. I still need encouragement, but not the same kind of encouragement that I needed when I started DARE to HOPE. Now, I need the encouragement that comes from being able to write about better days.

My whole life, I’ve been incredibly accident prone. I drop everything, sprain/twist my ankle more frequently than any person should be capable of, and I’ve been in more car accidents than I care to admit. I’m also a perfectionist, so being clumsy and accident prone and also a bit of an airhead sometimes, is pretty much the worst thing I can be. Scratch that. It was pretty much the worst thing I could be. It’s taken years, but now I know how to handle stressful situations like screw ups and unplanned events.

On Sunday morning, I got in another car accident. Honestly, I wasn’t even surprised it happened. I have the worst luck with cars. Not just because I’ve been in way too many car accidents, but also because I tend to have random car problems at the worst times. Anyway, I live in San Antonio and right now pretty much every major street and highway in San Antonio is undergoing construction work. I live off of one of the major roads being worked on and it leads into pretty much every other road being worked on. It wouldn’t be such a big deal if it wasn’t for the fact that I really can’t avoid the construction because this road only goes one way into the city, the other directions leads more to the outskirts and farm land. That’s kind of irrelevant though. The point is, I was in standstill traffic and then suddenly it started going again, but seemingly out of nowhere, the cars in front of me started to slow down. I tried to stop, but my breaks kind of spazzed out on me and only worked halfway. Granted, I was probably too close to the guy in front of me to begin with, but I wasn’t any closer than anyone was to anyone else. I rear-ended him, he rear-ended another lady, and she rear-ended a second lady. For the first time ever, my airbags deployed and I was in a multiple car collision that was partially my fault (it started because the second car hit the first car and startled me). Needless to say, I was panicking a little bit, especially because the airbags deploying made me really nervous about how I and the others would come out of the accident. By the grace of God, everyone came out unscathed and the other three drivers were able to drive away from the scene. My car is probably totaled though, which sucks because it’s a mustang and I’ve always wanted a mustang.

Anyway, the whole reason I was driving in the first place–I don’t drive unless I absolutely have to, because I hate driving so much. Do you blame me? I have a pretty bad driving history. Two speeding tickets and a lot of accidents from turning left–was because I was going to church. Sunday mornings are the worst times to get in a car accident if you and all your friends and family are church people, by the way. Thankfully, I had made plans with my best friend, Shelby, for the same day, so I immediately thought to text message her that I wouldn’t be at church after all. I also called my parents and grandfather and text messaged a roommate who had been at home still when I left the house. Except for Shelby, none of them answered right away and when they did, they ended up being farther away from me than Shelby was, so when worship was over at church (she’s on the worship team) she came to pick me up and drove me to church for the second service for worship. Then we went to hang out like we had planned to before my accident.

If it were up to me, then there wouldn’t have been a car accident. If there had to be a car accident and it were up to me, then it wouldn’t have happened at the right time to cause me to miss church. That being said, I am glad it happened on a Sunday morning and that my best friend was able to pick me up. The best part though, is that it happened on a day when I had plans with her. Years ago, if something like this would have happened and I was left alone to deal with it, I probably would have ended the day with some form of self-harm before crying myself to sleep. If this had even happened a few months ago, I would have been having a panic and or anxiety attack the whole day. As it is, I still probably would have freaked out a bit more this time if I had been left alone, but I wasn’t. Even when things happen and cause negative circumstances, God is working out all things for the good of those who love him. I got to spend half the day with my best friend, which was a great distraction from what had started as a bad day. Still though, some anxiety did break through my time with Shelby, and once I wasn’t with her anymore, especially when I had to drive (borrowing my dad’s car) the anxiety really started to try to take over. By the grace of God, I was able to stop it from taking over though. If you need this encouragement today on how to avoid stress and anxiety and the worries of this world, then here’s a list of what helped keep me calm. Maybe you can use it for yourself?

  1. Text messaging and hanging out with my best friend.
  2. Retail Therapy (in my case two books and a movie I’d been wanting to for a while)
  3. A worship session with the Lord
  4. Taking control of what I can control (in this case finding a replacement car)
  5. Punching a punching bag and left some weights (read dumbbells)
  6. Taking a peppermint, lavender, lemon, and eucalyptus spearmint bubble bath that was hot it was like a sauna while in a darkened bathroom (think candle light, but with night lights and flashlights) and pop music playing while I soaked for a while before taking a shower to rinse/clean off (baths are a nice idea, but I can’t just take a bath. I need to shower after soaking in the tub)
  7. Watching a heartbreaking romance while eating popcorn and trying not to cry.
  8. Following it up with a cheesy rom-com Chick Flick and some wine.
  9. Expressing myself in an artistic way to reduce the left over stress of the day. (drawing, painting, writing, playing music)
  10. Taking a deep breath and reminding myself that I’ve made it this far so I can’t give up now, because God is on my side and He wants me to succeed as much as I want to succeed, even if my success is nothing more than not breaking down. You may not know this if you’re not anxiety prone like I am or if you’ve never dealt with any other kind of regular mental/emotional breakdown, but keeping yourself together when it seems easier to break down is actually a HUGE accomplishment if you don’t just bottle your feelings up inside and actually release them in a healthy way.

 

Anyway, I just wanted to share this with anyone who might want to read it. I was proud of myself when I realized I made it through the day without any major breakdowns even though the threat was at the back of my mind all day. Like I said, I used to be a girl who dealt with stress in a very negative and unhealthy way. Anytime I realize that I’ve dealt with it in a (or more) positive and healthy way, I just have to give myself a pat on the back and smile over the fact that “they” were right. It DOES get better and what doesn’t kill you really DOES make you stronger! I hope this post encourages you, because it encouraged me just to be able to sit down and write it. It’s amazing how therapeutic writing and reading can be; don’t ya think?

 

If you’re reading this and can think of any time, even the smallest of moments, when you made it through a moment that you wouldn’t have been able to get through in the past, then share the memory with me. I’d love to hear and maybe draw encouragement from it for myself in the future! 🙂

What Happened to Me?

I shared my last blog post with the friend who asked me what to say to and how to be there for someone who inflicts self-harm. She’s one of my closest friends, but we haven’t ever talked about my “abyss of fire” in detail before. She knows that I inflicted self-harm and that God used her and a few other people to bring me out of the darkness. Beyond that, I realized that I haven’t told her much else about my darkest hours. Nor have I told her much about how I came out of it. Her specific question was a two-part question. What did you begin to believe about God and yourself? What was the process like of God changing your heart? I explained to her that it’s a long story, but that it’s another great topic for a blog. That’s why I’m writing this today.

What did I begin to believe about God? What did I begin to believe about myself? What an interesting question that is. It’s funny actually. Not like, “Funny, Ha. Ha,” more like funny interesting. On my eighteenth birthday, I laid in bed crying like I had many nights before. I cried until after midnight, so maybe for half an hour. Then I started writing a letter to my future boyfriend or husband. That’s why I was crying actually. I was eighteen and still single. My dream was to have true love. I didn’t just want a boyfriend, I wanted a husband to marry and do life with. When most of my friends, even those younger than me, had boyfriends, I turned eighteen and was still single. Halfway through writing my letter to “someone” I started over and wrote a different letter. Over four years later, I still have that letter and this is what I wrote:

Dear Me (Eighteen Years Old)

Here I am now. It’s been four years, four months, and three days since I wrote that letter and I’m still single. You know what I’m not though? I’m not lonely anymore. You know what I am? I am confident. I love myself and I feel beautiful more often than I don’t. My relationship with God could always grow stronger, but it’s so much stronger now than it was when I was eighteen. My insecurities about being single were only a small part of my “abyss of darkness” though. I had much more deeply rooted problems.

What was the process like of God changing my heart? That’s an interesting question too. I was still depressed after writing that letter. I was still hurting myself. Soon, everything changed though. Demi Lovato aired her show “Stay Strong” on MTV and I learned what could happen to me if I didn’t stop hurting myself–I could have ended up in rehab. Then I started listening to BarlowGirl, a Christian girl band. I watched several interviews with of BarlowGirl and learned that one of them—the one I had always thought was the prettiest—had had an eating disorder because she had the same depressed and lonely feelings I had. Learning about Demi Lovato’s stay in rehab for depression and self-harm, among other things, scared me into changing and learning about how God was able to redeem Becca Barlow after she had an eating disorder gave me hope for myself. I didn’t change overnight, but the Lord did start to change my heart a little bit at a time. He gave me Demi and Becca as examples of how it is possible to overcome the darkness. He gave me songs to remind me I wasn’t alone. He also gave me new friends who showed me what true friendship is like.

Realistically, I won’t ever be fully healed, because I’ll always have a scar. Yes, scars make are signs that we survived something that made us stronger, but scars are also wounds that are more easily opened than unharmed skin. Once you give into the darkness, one negative thought or one mistake could put you at risk of going back, but that’s the beauty of healing. It’s also the beauty of grace. For me, God gave me friends and a playlist of songs to remind me that I don’t have to give into the darkness. It’s a beautiful reminder to know that I have people in my corner so that I don’t ever have to fear sleeping into the darkness again. If I do though, I know that it’s okay. Falling doesn’t mean failing. Failing is falling and not getting back up. With the people I have in my life, I don’t think I could ever fall and not get back up, because God knew and still knows that that’s what it takes for me to stay strong. It takes a group of friends who will always help me back up.

How to Care for Someone Who Inflicts Self-Harm

Let me begin this post with a short introduction for myself. I’m a very analytical person. Sometimes that works out well for me, because it helps me to be thorough and passionate. Other times, it doesn’t work out very well for me. Sometimes my analytical tendencies aid to me becoming stressed from over-thinking. During part of my sophomore year of high school and my junior year of high school, I became depressed over the many things I stressed about. It wasn’t long before I became so desperate in my depression that I looked for an escape from the pain it caused. I found my escape by inflicting self-harm. After 2012, when I came to terms with my problems and overcame them, I haven’t kept it a secret. If you read any of my other blog posts, most of them will bring some mention to what I call my “Abyss of Fire.”

Someone recently asked me for advice on what to say to someone struggling with self-harm. She wasn’t sure exactly how to be there for her friend. At first, I wasn’t sure what to tell her. Everyone is different. So I asked whether her friend had come to her about it or whether she just suspected there was a problem. She told me that her friend had come to her and I answered her question the best that I could. I’ve been thinking about her question since she asked. How can someone help someone else who is dealing with self-harm?

The most important thing is to let the person know that you are there for them and that you care. I try to make it a point to ask each of my close friends how they are doing. I don’t just ask them, “How are you?” I ask, “How are you doing? How can I pray for you?” Then I often ask follow up questions. When I was inflicting self-harm, nobody knew I felt depressed and was hurting. I didn’t tell anyone, because no one ever asked me how I was. It is so, so important to ask people how they’re doing. Sometimes, that question could be the one thing that keeps them from going over the deep end. I think if I had had someone who asked me just once how I was, I wouldn’t have fallen so deep into my depression. Sometimes, just asking one time shows the person that you do care and that will lead them to want to tell you. I know for me, when I met my best friends Allie, Holly, and Shelby Lilly, they showed me pretty quickly that they cared. Almost immediately, I felt comfortable enough with them that I told them on my own when I needed to help and prayer. Telling people that I’m struggling does not come easily to me. I don’t know that it comes easily to anyone, but it certainly doesn’t for me. I have three friends now though that I know will hear me when I cry, so I cry out to them when I’m feeling close to the edge. I have two other friends now whom I will honestly and thoroughly answer if they ask me how I’m doing. To anyone else, I might say, “Not well,” but I won’t go into detail. Correction, I do have a few other friends I’d be willing to open up to also. The five are just the people I see and or talk to on a regular basis.

In addition to asking, for real, how someone is, observe them. Don’t be all weird and obvious about it. Just as a friend, watch them with caring eyes. From my experience personally and with other people, I’ve learned that we will say and do things to indirectly tell you how we are. After observing them, do little things to prove you do care how they’re doing. Now that I’m comfortable with who I am, I’m sometimes much quieter than anyone has ever known me to be. Mostly, that’s because when I was in high school and depressed, one of my attempts to stay afloat was to text literally every number in my phone every day after school. I needed someone to ask me how I was doing. In high school, there was only one person who every really asked me. Her name was Demi and we were close friends when I was sophomore and during part of junior year. She knew, just from the tone of my text messages, if something was wrong with me and she would ask. For the most part, no one ever caught on to the fact that I was desperately crying out for someone to ask me if I was okay. Now that I’m better, it’s mostly a habit to talk a lot. I’m good at it, so why not? I also just genuinely like talking to some people. When I am quiet, people will ask me what’s wrong. After a while it gets a bit annoying to be asked by everyone, but I wouldn’t ever ask them to stop. I may not be depressed now, but I was once and sometimes it’s hard not to be afraid of going back there. More times than not, whether something is wrong or not, just having someone ask me how I’m doing reminds me that people do care. I don’t have to be afraid of falling into my “Abyss of Fire” again. I know I’ve got people in my corner this time around. One of my five told me that it might have something to do with my thinking face. I get a very serious look on my face when I’m in deep thought.

It’s the little things that help the most. One of my five, Stephanie, will ask me if something’s wrong maybe once a week, because of said thinking face. So far, there hasn’t been anything wrong when she has asked, but one day there will be. The fact that she asks lets me know that I can be honest with her when that day does come. Another of my five, Vickie, is just my person. It started as a joke, but now it’s real. She makes me feel so special, because I had a day off from work last week and she told me a few times that she missed me. Nobody has ever really told me that. No one has told me they missed my presence, not on their own accord. Stephanie, and another of my five, Shelby Lilly, have teased me about going away though, so in that way they’ve showed me they’d miss my presence. Vickie though, she actually told me she missed me. Vickie and Shelby Lilly both tell me to text them when I get home when we’ve been together and that is another way they show me they care. My mom always did that when I lived with her and I appreciate it now. Then though, I was a whiny teenager who was annoyed by the fact that Mom wanted to know exactly where I was at all times. Shelby Lilly, and the other two of my five, Allie and Holly, have written me many letters for different occasions. These letters hang on my bedroom wall or sit in an envelope on my nightstand to remind me of the ways they care about me. One of my younger friends, Anna-Marie has also written me several letters that remind me she cares. The same goes for our other friend Shelby R., though hers have come via text or Facebook message.

It’s the little things that often make the biggest difference. Without these girls, especially Shelby, Vickie, and Stephanie who are older and wiser than me, I may not have been able to say that I’m a truly happy and healthy person now. It’s nice to have close friends who are older than me, because it’s like having the older sister I never had, but always wanted. God has used all these girls, and many others, so much in my life that I wouldn’t be the same person without them. That sounds cliché, but it’s true.

Ultimately, if you are ever faced with needing to know what to say and how to be there for someone who inflicts self-harm, just be there for them. Be like the girls from my last paragraph. Do the little things to show you care. Be like Shelby Lilly and Stephanie. More than anyone in my life, they notice and remember random things I do and say. They point out little details about me and they prove they remember weeks, months, and sometimes years later.

1.      Ask how people are doing.

2.      Be there.

3.      Pay attention.

4.      Do the little things.

5.      You’ll change someone’s life; I promise.