Selena Gomez Opens Up About The Depression & Anxiety That Threatened Her Career
It was just after becoming the most followed person on Instagram that Selena Gomez started to lose her grip. "I sort of freaked out,” the 24 year-old revealed in Vogue's April cover story. The singer is coming clean about the circumstances surrounding the cancellation of the final three months of her Revival tour last summer. Intense, unrelenting social media scrutiny chipped away at her sense of self. “It had become so consuming to me. It’s what I woke up to and went to sleep to. I was an addict, and it felt like I was seeing things I didn’t want to see, like it was putting things in my head that I didn’t want to care about. I always end up feeling like shit when I look at Instagram. Which is why I’m kind of under the radar, ghosting it a bit.”
The pressures of performing had depleted her, and left her feeling alienated from the fans she once understood. “Tours are a really lonely place for me,” she says. “My self-esteem was shot. I was depressed, anxious. I started to have panic attacks right before getting onstage, or right after leaving the stage. Basically I felt I wasn’t good enough, wasn’t capable. I felt I wasn’t giving my fans anything, and they could see it—which, I think, was a complete distortion. I was so used to performing for kids. At concerts I used to make the entire crowd raise up their pinkies and make a pinky promise never to allow anybody to make them feel that they weren’t good enough. Suddenly I have kids smoking and drinking at my shows, people in their 20s, 30s, and I’m looking into their eyes, and I don’t know what to say. I couldn’t say, ‘Everybody, let’s pinky-promise that you’re beautiful!’ It doesn’t work that way, and I know it because I’m dealing with the same shit they’re dealing with. What I wanted to say is that life is so stressful, and I get the desire to just escape it. But I wasn’t figuring my own stuff out, so I felt I had no wisdom to share. And so maybe I thought everybody out there was thinking, This is a waste of time.”
In a Tennessee treatment facility, finally unshackled from her iPhone, Gomez found relief. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), a technique that uses communication to regulate emotions and encourage mindfulness, helped her get back in touch with herself. “DBT has completely changed my life,” she says. “I wish more people would talk about therapy. We girls, we’re taught to be almost too resilient, to be strong and sexy and cool and laid-back, the girl who’s down. We also need to feel allowed to fall apart.”
Group therapy allowed Gomez to connect with women facing the same challenges as her. “You have no idea how incredible it felt to just be with six girls,” she says. “Real people who couldn’t give two shits about who I was, who were fighting for their lives. It was one of the hardest things I’ve done, but it was the best thing I’ve done.” It's rare for someone of stratospheric fame to have an opportunity to let down their guard in a room of strangers, but it was part of her healing process. “People so badly wanted me to be authentic, and when that happened, finally, it was a huge release. I’m not different from what I put out there. I’ve been very vulnerable with my fans, and sometimes I say things I shouldn’t. But I have to be honest with them. I feel that’s a huge part of why I’m where I am.”
Moving forward, her calendar is clear. No movies, no impending album deadlines. She's finding respite living in the moment. “For a change,” she says, “it feels like I don’t have to be holding my breath and waiting for somebody to judge a piece of work that I’m doing. I’m not eager to chase a moment. I don’t think there’s a moment for me to chase.”
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