How Gomez is Changing the Narrative of Bipolar Disorder and Fame
Imagine the industry’s excitement when mega pop star Selena Gomez decided to open her personal diary and read the world her thoughts from the scariest, most unstable part of her life. There is nothing the entertainment media loves more than exploiting celebrities' private lives, and Selena Gomez hides nothing about her family life, mental health, or career in her new documentary My Mind and Me, which was released on Apple TV on November 2nd. “Let me make a promise,” she says in the opening scene, “I’ll only tell you my darkest secrets.” Despite this enticing introduction, Gomez isn’t here for the drama, press, or money. Her vulnerability about her diagnosis with bipolar disorder speaks volumes about her genuine passion for mental health advocacy, and her drive to demolish the taboo surrounding mental illness and personality disorders.
"Dec 19: I have to stop living like this. Why have I become so far from the light? Everything I’ve ever wished for, I’ve had and done all of it. But it has killed me. Because there’s always Selena."
Critically watching the first extended scene depicting Selena amid a breakdown over tour logistics, outfit mishaps, and a bout of performance imposter syndrome, I found myself judging her emotional spew and seemingly dramatic outbursts. I took her whining, tears, and instigative comments toward her friends for face value and judged Selena immediately based on what was presented on the surface. This version of Gomez did not align with my childhood memories of the wizarding icon whose show I watched on Disney and whose music about love and kindness I blasted through my speakers.
But Gomez wants us to know that she, like any other human being on planet Earth, is no divinely anointed angel of popular acclaim, but a normal, broken person navigating the throws of mental illness and struggling to find purpose and fulfillment. Who among us holds no secrets in the darkest corners of ourselves? Who among us, especially at this young and transitional phase in our lives, feel peace that we are living out our true purpose in life? Who among us has not felt “far from the light?” Using her platform and personal experience as fuel, Gomez identifies with the many broken, hurting people who peer at her on her perch of fame, and humanizes the celebrity experience which so amplifies both her physical battle against Lupus and her mental battle with Bipolar disorder. She unlocks the door to her deep dark places, roles in the camera and spotlights, and begins a conversation.
Selena Gomez can be described in many ways, but “underachiever” is not one of them. Having been nominated for a Grammy, 7 Billboard Music Awards, a Latin Grammy Award, an Emmy for her career in acting, and winning 18 Teen Choice Awards, an American Music Award, and numerous other accolades, it’s not surprising that Time named Gomez one of the “100 Most Influential People” of 2020. A book could be written listing Gomez’s awards and achievements, but the one I can only guess she’s most proud of is her McLean Award for mental health advocacy. As the documentary details, Gomez has publicly struggled with mental illness for years, necessitating that she cancel the tail end of her Revival tour in 2016. More recently in My Mind and Me and a recent Rolling Stones cover article, Gomez admits to suffering a months-long bout of severe psychosis in 2018 that she and her family feared she would never recover from.
Gomez has held in her hands every material dream she ever imagined for herself as a child actor-turned-megastar, but she recognizes the emptiness of a life without purpose. An executive producer on the hit show 13 Reasons Why, which raises awareness of suicide prevention, Gomez was already a champion of mental health advocacy, but it was her 2019 trip to Kenya with WE Charity that profoundly impacted her mindset and catalyzed a shift in priorities which led to the work she does today. Though she no longer works with WE, her experiences with school children in Africa inspired her to create the Rare Impact Fund by Rare Beauty to raise $100,000 to bring awareness to mental health and provide free mental health resources for young people.
My Mind and Me is the most important and vulnerable display of the downward spiral into acute mental illness and upward climb into remission that any celebrity has released to date. Gomez’s willingness to share her story has already saved lives and will no doubt save more. Like the rest of us fighting internal battles, Gomez knows that healing and growth are lifelong commitments marked by cyclical patterns of success and setbacks. She does not pretend to have her mind figured out. Still, she forces herself to befriend her bipolar diagnosis and love herself through the pain. Gomez refuses to cater to the polished celebrity image which betrays the complexity and contradiction she feels inside and instead acknowledges how far she’s come and how far she still has to go. Recognizing her value despite her imperfections, and reclaiming her name in the face of so many who use it to pass judgment against her, Gomez models healthy healing for the rest of us at the end of her ground-breaking documentary: “I’m at peace. I’m angry. I’m sad. I’m confident. I’m full of doubt. I’m a work in progress. I am enough. I am Selena.”
May we all allow ourselves the same love and acceptance, and applaud Selena’s willingness to share her story in My Mind and Me.
Madi Cordle is an Online Writer at Rowdy Magazine. She can typically be found multitasking between snuggling her golden retriever, reading too many books at once, and plotting her next trip to anywhere with good music, cheap hostels, and gluten-free food options. You can reach her on Instagram @madicordle_