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Selena Gomez opens up about 'psychotic break' and hearing voices amid bipolar struggle: 'I didn’t know who I was'

Selena Gomez attends a premiere screening of the documentary
Selena Gomez is getting brutally honest about her mental health struggles in the new documentary Selena Gomez: My Mind and Me. (Photo: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)

Selena Gomez is unafraid to go there.

In the latest cover story for Rolling Stone, the actress and mental health advocate shared grim details about her years-long struggle with bipolar disorder — including suffering a "psychotic break" which had her hearing voices, and how she was able to find peace after seeking professional help.

“I’m going to be very open with everybody about this: I’ve been to four treatment centers,” Gomez said. “I think when I started hitting my early twenties is when it started to get really dark, when I started to feel like I was not in control of what I was feeling, whether that was really great or really bad.”

Glimpses of Gomez's struggle are seen in Selena Gomez: My Mind and Me, a documentary highlighting her struggle that debuts Nov. 4 on Apple TV+. The film is so raw, she explained, that she almost didn't sign off on its release.

“I’m just so nervous,” she says of releasing the film. “Because I have the platform I have, it’s kind of like I’m sacrificing myself a little bit for a greater purpose. I don’t want that to sound dramatic, but I almost wasn’t going to put this out. God’s honest truth, a few weeks ago, I wasn’t sure I could do it.”

In the last several years, Gomez experienced insurmountable public pressures that were compounded due to a variety of hardships: a very public breakup with Justin Bieber in 2018, undergoing a kidney transplant as a result of her lupus diagnosis and taking it upon herself to seek treatment for mental health.

It was during this time that the "highs and lows" of her bipolar disorder caused her not to sleep for days at a time, during which she had routine manic episodes.

“It would start with depression, then it would go into isolation,” she explained of the lows. “Then it just was me not being able to move from my bed. I didn’t want anyone to talk to me. My friends would bring me food because they love me, but none of us knew what it was. Sometimes it was weeks I’d be in bed, to where even walking downstairs would get me out of breath.”

Gomez said she spent years contemplating suicide, though she never actually attempted it. “I thought the world would be better if I wasn’t there,” she explained.

While in treatment, she said she experienced intense paranoia and was unable to trust her doctors, assuming they were all out to get her. Her mother learned about the episodes from TMZ.

“It was just that I was gone,” she said, noting that the drugs doctors were giving her had an effect on her. “There was no part of me that was there anymore.”

Eventually, Gomez found a psychiatrist who pulled her off all medications but two. Slowly, she felt herself starting to come back.

“He really guided me,” she said. “But I had to detox, essentially, from the medications I was on. I had to learn how to remember certain words. I would forget where I was when we were talking. It took a lot of hard work for me to (a) accept that I was bipolar, but (b) learn how to deal with it because it wasn’t going to go away.”

The decision to bare her soul — warts and all — in the documentary, she explained, was not an easy one, especially given that she doesn’t think of herself as the right person to represent bipolar disorder.

“I don’t necessarily think that I’m the face or want to be the face. There are reservations,” she admitted. Then again, she added, “it makes me proud I’m actually talking about things that matter, not sitting here just talking about my brand and 'I look great, and I have this and this.' There’s already enough of that.”

“I just constantly remind myself that there’s a reason I’m here,” she continued. “It sounds really cheesy when I say it sometimes, but I truly don’t know how else I’d be here, simply based on the medical stuff and balances in my head and conversations I’d had with myself [that were] really dark.”

The singer’s need to remain on the two drugs she takes for her bipolar disorder also means that she likely won’t be able to carry her own children — and “that’s a very big, big, present thing in my life.” Still, she’s convinced that “however I’m meant to have them, I will.”

Knowing that she’s a work in progress is enough for her to appreciate anything the future holds.

“I remind myself that I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the psychotic break, if it wasn’t for my lupus, if it wasn’t for my diagnosis,” she said. “I think I would just probably be another annoying entity that just wants to wear nice clothes all the time. I’m depressed thinking about who I would be.”

“I hope I learn to get over myself,” she added. “And I’m like, ‘Yes, real life is happening. Real life is happening.’”

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