None of this fucking matters. I worked my ass off for four months over a music video and for what? It tore me apart, down to my last strand. I had my first panic attack in two years, in the middle of a work shift, because of all the pressure that kept heaping on. I was in over my head, I exhausted myself to my breaking point, I'd officially crossed that line between ambition and "you're doing too much."
And in the end, I got a bunch of compliments and 1,000 views that took three weeks to get.
$3,500 out of my bank account. Weeks I didn’t sleep. No time to go to the gym, and gained back half of the weight that I spent a year shedding off. Constantly wondering if I was good enough. Obsessing over the theoretical reactions of everyone around me on set and after. Watching every single music video that’s come out and comparing myself relentlessly.
I was fucking hallucinating on day two of our set. It was the second day in the row I had gotten less than two hours of sleep followed by 12 hour days, and I was having actual fucking hallucinations.
And for what? What does it even matter? I wanted to be great so badly, but at what cost? This self-indulgence threatened to ruin me, and I don’t even have it nearly as bad as so many.
The phrase keeps running through my head in the cruelest repeat cycle.
“heroin overdose, heroin overdose, heroin overdose.”
I feel so helpless. How can you love someone so much, yet be so fucking far from them? I was dealt with the biggest hero’s complex from day one - a self-proclaimed savior as early as five years old when I came across a girl being bullied by an older boy at the park, and I boldly intervened, like I was one of the Power Rangers that I had been so obsessed with back then.
And then I loved this girl so much when I was sixteen years old and was a front row witness to how she tore herself apart over her dwindling self-esteem as she struggled to love herself while feeling so inadequate next to all of our peers, and I was determined - in all my plucky but naive goodness - that I would save her. I boldly told her that I’d get her to change her mind about herself, and devoted countless hours one summer, combating every single one of her self-critiques.
Our friendship deteriorated a year later for a myriad of reasons. The week after it officially ended, I found out that she was bulimic. I hadn’t stopped loving her. I had never felt so helpless in my entire young life.
All dissolutions of friendships went ignored as we had one last conversation on AIM a few days after the news had gotten around to me. She had been assuring everyone else that she was okay, that it would all be fine, that she’d get through it.
But then I asked her if she was going to be okay.
“I don’t know,” she told me honestly.
I had wanted to save her so badly. But I couldn’t.
It wasn’t until 4 years later that I realized that it wasn’t ever up to me to save her.
That epiphany coincided with two personally notable occurrences, during a productive summer of solitude in New York City before my senior year of college:
The return of that girl I had loved, back in my life for the first time since high school, leaving me with a lot to reckon with as far as loose ends and closure,
and the start of my deep investment into the life of one Demi Lovato.
Because everything about Demi kept harkening me back to those high school days as I watched the girl I love deteriorate in front of me. The nuances of Demi’s mannerisms, these little striking things in her behavior, in her energy - I just knew something was off, and it drew me in like a moth to the light.
Maybe I thought I could somehow find redemption from how I thought I had failed my high school friend in Demi. Maybe it was just the sheer familiarity of it all, but I could feel it in my gut. I knew Demi was hiding a struggle, I knew deep down she was faltering, I could just tell, because I had been so acquainted with it before. I knew exactly what it looked like.
So when Demi checked into rehab that Fall, I wasn’t surprised. But it hit me hard, because this was high school all over again, especially with the media outlets reporting that she had been institutionalized for an eating disorder (this was before her substance abuse and addiction came to light).
I felt so helpless. Over that summer as I had gotten more deeply acquainted with the person that Demi was, I saw more than just a troubled girl. I also knew so deeply that she was a beautiful person with the biggest heart. I could see it so clearly, felt so convicted of it. Because it was the exact same story I had already been through.
So I had come to love her, more than I had before. She was my favorite.
To care about someone, even if it's a celebrity you’d never met but felt connected to nonetheless, and not being able to do a damn thing to help them is the worst feeling in the world. I still hadn’t shed my age-old hero’s complex, after all. The news of her rehab wrecked me on so many levels.
Today was like deja vu. I saw the headline, and it felt like the world was spinning around me.
heroin overdose heroin overdose heroin overdose
But like in 2010, I wasn’t surprised. You don’t follow someone closely for 9 years with the sort intuition that I’ve been blessed with and not know when something’s wrong. I’d been so worried about her over the past couple of weeks. And now here we are.
It fucking wrecked me to see that headline. My best friend Nina texted me with a somber and stoic “chanelle. it’s serious. it’s about Demi” and my heart stopped. My mind immediately went to the worst - the absolute worst. I knew it was an overdose before the link loaded, and any sigh of relief I managed when I saw that she was still alive was quickly overtaken by that fucking word. Heroin. She’d OD’ed on fucking heroin.
I was shaking so badly that I could barely type. I hardly ever feel genuine fear, but this left me terrified. Was she going to be okay? What if she didn’t make it? And even if she did, heroin is a fucking beast. It’s so hard to shake, so so hard to shake.
Two years ago, almost exactly, a week before my 27th birthday, it felt like the universe was trying to tell me something, because out of nowhere, all of these celebrities who had died at age 27 - members of the infamous “27 Club” - kept randomly appearing in my life.
It started with Kurt Cobain, and this entirely random urge to listen to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” - a song I hadn’t listened to in at least a year. I’m obsessed with Wikipedia, so of course I soon after ended up on the Nirvana page, then his page, and found myself a little shaken when I saw that he had died at age 27, and there was a whole phenomenon surrounding others that had also died at that age, because I was turning 27 soon.
Kurt didn’t die from heroin, but he was addicted to it.
Then the next day, an Amy Winehouse song came on on a Spotify playlist I’d been listening to. I hadn’t heard an Amy Winehouse song in literally years. And for some reason, it stuck with me in that moment. So then I ended up on her Wikipedia page.
She’d died, too, at 27 years old.
A few days later, I decided to watch the documentary about her. It was near the end that I realized that I had coincidentally watched it on the 6 year anniversary of her death. 5 days before my 27th birthday.
Amy didn’t die from heroin, but she had overdosed on the drug before. She ended up dying from alcohol poisoning.
The kind of person I am, this launched me into a preoccupation with this mythical “27 Club” and every person who was a member of it.
Janis Joplin is also a member of the 27 Club.
She died of a heroin overdose.
I was just thinking about all of this two days ago, in the shower, remembering my brief preoccupation with the 27 Club, two years ago, the week before my 27th birthday.
I’m thinking about it again, today.
Addiction is beast. It claims so many.
I slaved so hard for months over a music video in some shallow attempt for public affirmation and a misguided notion of success (it certainly wasn’t purely for the art or for the sake of creating or in an attempt to change the world - I wanted to fucking prove myself) and felt no happier when it was all over. Worse than my hero’s complex is my ego, and this urge I’m constantly fighting against to be the best, and this honest belief that it’s not worth it if I’m not. No matter how many gushing compliments, praise and reviews I get for that music video, it’s never enough. I look at it and only see flaws, only think about all the ways it could be better as I compare it to what else is out there and feel so incompetent.
It’s an issue I’ve been well aware of, that I consciously spend a lot of time fighting against, and I see my mindset shifting as I wage a war against my ego.
But days like today really solidify it, put it all in perspective suddenly:
None of this fucking matters. As in, this pursuit for affirmation and renown and success and to create something that’s “the best.” It’s completely meaningless.
One of my favorite people in the world is in the hospital because of a heroin overdose - there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it - and I spent so much of my year so far on 1,000 views, a deep sense of dissatisfaction and a well of bitter resentment.
What have I been working for? Fame and wealth is a farce - don’t you see how it destroys people? I know this, and I dwell on this constantly, but today it barrels into me so starkly.
I’d give all of that up if I could make sure every soul out there was okay. So much of my recent pursuits seem so self-involved suddenly. For the past six months, it’s been “How do I get to the place I feel like I need to be?”
But I think I wanted to remember that idealistic 5 year old turned idealistic 16 year old turned idealistic 21 year old with that hero’s complex that never died who wondered above all else, “How can I save the world?”
I’m old enough now to know that I can’t save the world. Not on my own, no. But it doesn’t mean I’m entirely helpless, even when I feel like I am. And just because I do feel helpless sometimes doesn't mean I'm hopeless. Maybe I can’t save the world, but I can dedicate my art, my livelihood, my energy into making it a better place.
Because does it matter if my art is the best, just as long as I can help someone feel a little less alone, a little more understood? If I can lead people towards empathy, encourage us towards love, join in the fight for justice - that’s what matters.
If I could somehow help create a world where young girls don’t feel so insecure that they develop eating disorders…
If I could somehow help make for a world where no one has to go through the traumatic pain that leads them to such desperate, rash measures as a way to trying to cope...
If I could be apart of the building towards a world where black lives truly matter, where LGBTQ people have full rights, where poverty (and wealth, while we’re at it) is eradicated, and everyone just genuinely fucking looks out for each other…
These past 4 years have knocked a lot of the idealism out of me. Now I want it all back.
I’m so scared, though. Those word still keep circling treacherously through my head.
Heroin overdose. Heroin overdose. Heroin overdose.
It feels like a claw is sinking deeply into my heart. I’ve loved her so much, for so long.
It scares me that I can work my entire life, doing all I can to make this world a better a place and there still could be someone who I can’t save.
I love you, Demi. I hope you get through this.