Demi Lovato’s Mom Pens Memoir About Family’s Mental Health Journey

By Victoria Kim 03/01/18

“I feel bad that they were going through things during a time in my life [when] I didn’t realize my own struggles.”

Image: 
Dianna De La Garza
Dianna De La Garza Photo via YouTube

In a new memoir, Dianna De La Garza, mother to pop star Demi Lovato, relives the struggles that she and her daughters had to overcome to finally get to a “mentally healthy” place.

Her daughter Demi is now a vocal advocate for body positivity, sobriety, and mental wellness, after struggling with drug use, bulimia, and bipolar disorder in the earlier part of her career.

“I’m proud Demi is an advocate for mental health and positive body image—she’s a role model because of what she’s been through and where she is today,” said Dianna.

But the “Sorry Not Sorry” singer, who is coming on six years of sobriety in March, isn’t the only one who struggled with these issues.

As a young woman, whilst pursuing a country music career, Dianna married her manager Patrick Lovato and had two daughters, Dallas and Demi. But that first relationship became toxic to a point where, after 10 years of marriage, Dianna left Lovato, with their daughters, to go to a women’s shelter. She thought she could change him, she said, but had to get out when she began feeling unsafe at home.

Looking back, Dianna told People that she believed her first husband suffered from bipolar disorder but did not know it. Lovato died of cancer in 2013.

“Pat had a good heart. He really did. He loved his family,” said Dianna. “It’s just that he had mental health issues that were never addressed. And I think he covered up those issues with drugs and alcohol.”

Dianna married Eddie De La Garza in 1995, had a daughter Madison, and watched as her daughters developed the same love of performing as she had. But all the while, she was living with depression and anxiety.

Demi’s issues first arose as a budding star. At age 8, she first appeared in Barney and Friends. But after leaving the show in 2003 and returning to public school, Demi was bullied for her appearance and her acting.

The bullying was getting to Demi, who began looking up anorexia and bulimia online. But Dianna admitted that she didn’t see the warning signs that her daughter was having a hard time. “I’m horrified when I look back,” she said. “Sometimes we desperately want to believe the best about our children that we ignore the obvious.”

One incident in particular illustrated the pressure that Demi was feeling as a young girl growing up in show business. Dianna read in Demi’s diary: “Nobody loves a fat rock star. Guess I’ll have to starve myself so people will like me.” Dianna said it “crushed” her heart.

By 16, Demi was a regular on the Disney Channel and released her debut album Don’t Forget. She was doing her own thing, but Dianna suspected that she was getting into drugs and alcohol.

Ultimately, Demi entered a residential treatment center in the Chicago area, where she was treated for bipolar disorder, bulimia, self-harm, and substance use disorder. Her sister Dallas also received treatment in 2010 for substance use disorder.

In 2011, Dianna had a “breakdown” of sorts. The trauma from her abusive marriage, depression, anorexia, Xanax abuse, and suicidal thoughts had caught up with her.

She was confronted by her daughters, who urged her to get help. “My girls came to me and said, ‘Mom, we’ve gotten help, and we’re doing good—now it’s your turn.’” She agreed. “They did this intervention with me, they packed my bags for me, and they bought my ticket. Those things combined really were what set our family on the path to becoming mentally healthy.”

Demi relapsed after a while, at which point the family gave her an ultimatum: stop everything or don’t get to see Madison, her younger sister. “She gave up her phone, her car keys, her credit cards, she entered a sober living house and completely followed the program,” said Dianna. “She’s never looked back.”

Reflecting on the family’s rocky journey, Dianna said she wishes she “could have done things differently.”

“I believe in my heart that if I had known how dangerous the things they were going through at the time actually were, and if I had known then what I know now about mental health issues, I could have done more,” she said. “I feel bad that they were going through things during a time in my life I didn’t realize my own struggles.”

Falling with Wings: A Mother’s Story (with Vickie McIntyre) hits shelves March 6.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr

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