How Music Inspired Me to Stop Self-harming: Abbie's story
Years of depression, bullying, and low self-esteem left Abbie struggling with her mental health – until a singer and her songs gave her the inspiration and strength to turn things around
For as long as I could remember, I wanted my life to end. That was until an unlikely hero, a pop star, changed everything.
While I was growing up, I’d always felt out of place – as if I was surviving instead of living. I was depressed and unhappy with every aspect of my appearance. It seemed to be a constant state of mind, that I just thought was normal. I thought it was how my brain was going to be forever. I soon believed there was only one way out.
It seemed to everyone around me that my life was good. I was just a normal kid, excited about the future. No one saw the signs, no one saw the constant battle I was having with myself about the way I looked. I guess it was only a matter of time before the rollercoaster that was my life would make me sicker.
I was bullied at school, sending me further into the black hole that I’d always foreseen. By the time I was 15, I’d had people threatening me, telling me to kill myself or they’d do it for me. I felt unwanted everywhere, I had nowhere to be safe.
So, I turned against myself, thinking that there must be something wrong with me if that’s what everyone else thought. I don’t know where I got the idea to self-harm from, but it soon became my addiction.
It started with a rubber band on my wrist, and when that didn’t satisfy my need, I turned to more serious methods, scarring my arms and my legs. I felt my life was spiralling towards the final stage. This was my life until at 18, something – or should I say, someone – came along and changed it.
It was January 2014, and was like any other day. I was sitting in my mum’s car, the radio was on. A song started, one I’d heard before, but this time it was like hearing the words and message for the first time. It was ‘Skyscraper’, by American singer-songwriter Demi Lovato.
I started to cry – hiding it from my mum, who had no idea of what I was feeling, or what was happening in my life. That day, my life changed.
Later, at home, I was feeling terrible. I was about to self-harm, when something clicked in my brain. I wanted this night to be better. I searched online for the song that had given me goosebumps.
Once again, my tears began. The video ended, and I was directed to Demi Lovato’s ‘Believe In Me’. I clicked the song, and the lyrics explained much of what I was feeling:
‘I don’t wanna be afraid
I wanna wake up feeling beautiful today
And know that I’m OK
’Cause everyone’s perfect in unusual ways
You see, I just wanna believe in me’
Once that song ended, I found myself looking again for inspiration, and Demi’s song ‘Warrior’ came up. I clicked it, looking for strength, and the lyrics touched me unlike anything before:
I learnt with every song that I, too, could be a warrior
‘Now I’m a warrior, now I’ve got thicker skin
I’m a warrior, I’m stronger than I’ve ever been
And my armour is made of steel, you can’t get in
I’m a warrior, and you can never hurt me again’
At this point I was a mess, overwhelmed by the raw lyrics. I looked at the screen, and what caught my eye shocked me: ‘Demi Lovato opens up about self-harm’. I clicked the video, shaking, crying, as I listened to Demi describe what I had been doing, how it had felt.
I was floored. This woman, who’d I’d only known as a Disney Channel princess, had in just a few songs and an interview, explained what I had wanted to say for years. Her honesty gave me hope to continue. That moment changed my life.
I started to work on myself, becoming more and more infatuated with Demi’s message of positivity and hope. I learnt with every song that I, too, could be a warrior. I was doing well, my self-harm became controllable, my brain wasn’t in a constant state of failure.
A few months passed and I was 100 days clean. I celebrated by getting ‘Now I’m A Warrior’ tattooed across my heart. At this time, I was talking to a friend who lived in America. We’d met on Twitter as she, too, was a Lovatic (the name for Demi’s fans). I had arranged to visit her that September, but didn’t know that her mum had paid for me to go to Demi’s concert in North Carolina, and to a meet and greet! I was absolutely shocked that someone could do something so incredible for me, so life-changing.
The day came. We lined up for the meet and greet, and from behind a curtain we could hear this voice we’d heard so many times before. Then, it was my turn…
D: Aw [Pointing at Now I’m A Warrior], you have the same tattoo as me!
M: Yeah, and I have the Lovatic heart on my wrist!
D: That’s so cool.
M: Yeah, I got them for being 100 days clean...
D: That’s amazing! Well done!
M: Thank you so much.
D: You don’t sound like you’re from North Carolina...
M: No, I’m English.
D: Oh my God, that’s so cool! Thank you! [Hugs me tightly]
Then we take the picture and I reluctantly leave. I went home with the biggest of hearts, and the memory that Demi was proud of me.
But the next month, everything came crashing down. I had been fighting the urge to self-harm, but I couldn’t fight the thoughts anymore, and they won.
A few days later, I was feeling so mad at myself, thinking people would be disappointed in me. But then something clicked – I wasn’t going to let this win again. I challenged myself to beat my previous clean record, and I did! That was the last time I self-harmed.
I have a great outlook about my future, I can’t wait to see what I do next
In January 2015, I decided to speak up, and made my first video. It gained thousands of views overnight, with people from school apologising, and sending their love.
I decided to keep posting videos on my Facebook page (Abbie Foster’s StayStrong), and began reaching out to charities and the media to share my story of hope and recovery.
I was finally feeling good, with minimal depression, no suicidal thoughts, and a new joy for life.
I started working with an incredible charity called Fixers that really supported me, and gave me the confidence to do anything! Since then, I’ve worked with organisations, including the NHS and the BBC, sharing my story and using it to inspire others.
Today I love my life, I have the most incredible boyfriend, friends, and family, who support my dreams. I have a great outlook about my future, and I can’t wait to see what I do next.
Recovery and positivity are incredible things. Once you open your mind to the possibility of a great life, amazing things can happen! You’ve got this. Stay strong, always.
Graeme Orr | MBACP (Accred) UKRCP, says:
Abbie always struggled with accepting herself, and bulling at school would intensify these feelings of isolation and self-loathing. She expressed this through self-harm, her methods becoming more severe over time. A chance encounter with a song changed the way that she felt. She found that the music, and lyrics expressed how she felt. She discovered the artist had struggled with self-harm and was inspired to change. Despite a relapse, she makes a success of staying strong and sober. Abbie’s journey shows us how sharing your story in song, in person or writing can be a comfort and an inspiration for another’s change.