Camila Cabello shares her struggle with mental health issues in a candid first-person essay in the Wall Street Journal magazine for Mental Health Month in which she says her anxiety got so bad at one point that “it made me feel like my mind was playing a cruel trick on me.” The 23-year-old singer describes how just looking at her Insta feed over the past few months you might see her working in the studio, wearing a “bomb-dot-com” outfit before hitting the stage or cuddling with her dog, Eugene, on the couch.
But those images don’t tell the full story. Cabello says despite the seemingly bright outward view, behind the scenes she was struggling with obsessive-compulsive behavior (OCD) symptoms that made her feel like she wasn’t in control over her own body. “I didn’t want to tell you what was going on for the same reason a lot of us don’t want to talk about what it feels like to be at war in our minds and in our bodies,” she says. “I was embarrassed and ashamed… That same little voice also told me maybe I was being ungrateful for all the good in my life – and that hiding the open wound I’d been avoiding the last few years was the easiest and fastest solution.”
But, she continues, that wasn’t the truth. The truth was that she was hiding the hurt inside of her and she didn’t feel like she had the skills to “heal it or handle it.” In order to heal, she realized she hand to talk about it and do the hardest part: ask for help. “My anxiety manifested in the form of obsessive compulsive disorder,” she says. “OCD can take many different forms, and for me it was obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. To put it simply, it made me feel like my mind was playing a cruel trick on me.”
Those happy pictures didn’t portray other images from her life offstage: in which she was crying in the car while talking to her mother about how much anxiety and OCD symptoms she was suffering from and of the Cabellos in a hotel room reading books about OCD. She was afraid that the people who saw her as “strong and capable and confident” would find out that she felt weak and she feared the voice in her head that told her that being honest about her mental health struggles would make people think “there was something wrong with me, or that I wasn’t strong, or that I couldn’t handle things.”
That feeling of feeling “messed up, with a capital UP,” lasted for several months and manifested in difficulty sleeping, chronic headaches and what felt like a constant knot in her throat as her body went through what felt like “multiple roller-coaster rides every day.” Ever the professional, Cabello says she “kept showing up” for her obligations, never letting on to those around her how hard she was struggling.
Referring to her anxiety as “her,” she says now they are “good friends… I listen to her, because I know she’s just trying to keep me safe, but I don’t give her too much attention. And I sure as hell don’t let her make any decisions.” The good news is that Cabello says she is no longer battling that “internal” war and she feels the most healthy can connected to herself as she ever has. The OCD has faded for the most part and anxiety comes and goes, but now, she says, it feels like “another difficult emotion” rather than an all-consuming threat.
Cabello says she sought treatment, which included meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy and breathing exercises.
The full essay — behind a WSJ paywall — can be read here.
— WSJ. Magazine (@WSJMag) May 29, 2020