Demi Lovato, Child Suicide, and Early Relationships with Narcissists
When the news broke that Demi Lovato was suicidal at the age of 7, the comments tended to fall into one of two categories:
1. “She just wants attention. Lots of people are abused and suicidal at that age.”
2. “She just wants attention. A 7-year-old doesn’t have any concept of suicide.”
I don’t know if Demi Lovato is “just wanting attention” or not, but for those people paying attention, she raises a sensitive issue of child suicide. Does a child that young understand the concept? Oh, yes. At least, I did. Does it happen? Yes, though it’s often painted as an accident. I knew some of those kids, and I can’t imagine that their parents could have seen it as anything but accidental or that their pre-teens were just too young to understand the consequences of a dangerous act.
When I say “child suicide,” I am not referring to teens taking their own lives. I am specifically thinking of children under 12. As young as 9. Even 7.
For many children, life is hell. Sometimes it’s an abusive home. Sometimes it’s bullying at school as I wrote about with my own experiences as an outcast when I was only 9 years old.
The first time I remember being regularly bullied, I was 9 years old, but that was bullying from other school children, some teachers, and occasionally members of my Baptist church. I specifically recall being bullied by at least 2 adults when I was as young as 6. As an adult, I understand them much better now. It’s been suggested to me that they were mentally ill, particularly the man. No.
Not that they don’t have personality disorders, but who doesn’t? I know them now as an adult, and they both hold an uncomfortable distance from me now. They’re afraid of me, and maybe they have reason to be. I don’t take that crap anymore. I know who and what they are, and I’m more afraid that they might try to do physical harm than I am wary of their verbal and emotional abuse.
Both were people who didn’t feel they could strike out directly at my parents or big brothers, so these people waited until they were alone with me to slather on the guilt for anything bad in our surroundings and tell me how unlovable and worthless I was. They may talk behind my back now that I’m an adult, but they absolutely do not speak this way to my face. Not like they did when I was a little girl.
I understand so much more now, as an adult. I’ve had enough life experience to know that their treatment of me wasn’t about me at all but rather, their need to feel powerful over someone else. I was a little girl, a very quiet and shy child, and an easy target for two narcissists on opposite sides of my family. Looking back, I can see them for exactly what they were. And still are.
As a child, I was better able to keep my distance from the woman, but on occasion, I was left in her care. She never failed to launch into lengthy disparaging comments about my worth as a person. No matter what I said in her presence, it was always wrong, even if it was simply the direction from which I’d walked into the room. Every word I said was scrutinized and criticized. Until my parents in the room. She resented my parents, and I was an easy target, but when Mama and Daddy were around, her voice was like melted sugar, and you’d never imagine the horrible things she’d said to me minutes before. Me, I can still recall the curve of the legs of the dining room table where I hid and cried when I was 12 because she’d convinced me that no one in the family wanted me and that they’d be better off if I were dead.
The man was worse, and from where I stand now, I can see that he was a textbook narcissist. From 6 until at least 11, I was regularly tormented, including being doused with gasoline and threatened when I was about 7 or 8. The hell was only for when I was alone with him. When other adults were around, he tried to portray me as a little demon with him saving the day. Looking back now, I can see how much he enjoyed my reactions to his cruelty and to being helpless against other adults automatically believing an “adult.” The worst of it was being told, three months after my seventh birthday, that I was responsible for my beloved grandmother’s death (from cancer). This was whispered to me as I watched her in convulsions, being taken to the hospital to die. She was dying, I was told, and it was all my fault. I stood at the door and watched the vehicle leaving the yard, watched until it was down the road and out of sight, knowing I’d never see her again…and wondering if it really was my fault like he’d said with so much whispered venom that no one else had heard, that no one else would have believed.
It makes me so angry now at the words he spoke to Lorna the Heartbroken Child, for what he tried to make her believe. To this day, I detest him and his little games.
So yes, even at 7, I understood the meaning of death, and of suicide. There were times in elementary school when I felt life wasn’t worth living, and there were times like that at home, too, in my extended family when adults entertained themselves by playing with my emotions and self-worth. I knew what hanging would do, what guns would do, what drowning would do, what wrenching my hand out of my mom’s and running into traffic would do. Adults would have called it an accident, and refused to believe anything else, but I would have known exactly the consequences.
No matter how much I felt like I didn’t deserve to live, as a child, there was always my mom’s persistent love.
And when I would contemplate my death in elementary school, I always came back to how much my mother would hurt, and I decided I couldn’t do that to her. Not that I couldn’t do that to me, but I couldn’t hurt my mommy by being a child suicide.
I don’t know what Demi Lovato grew up with. I’m not enough of a fan that I’ve sought out that information, I suppose, but I do know that bullying and abuse of children lead to low self-worth and sometimes to child suicide. For me, my mom’s love was the one thing that kept me from the edge, but what about all those children out there who don’t have even that?