Selena Gomez’s ‘My Mind and Me’: The Uninvited Price of Fame

In a documentary that shocked the world beyond belief, Selena Gomez gets candid about the importance of mental health by presenting her most vulnerable thoughts, mentioning her rise to stardom and the impact it has had on her health.

Christopher Schneck MD remarked on his initial shock towards the documentary, which he has watched. “I was amazed at the access that she allowed, this camera crew that’s following her around everywhere. And she was willing to include these difficult moments in the documentary, which I again compliment her for doing so.”

Condé Nast (through Vogue Taiwan), CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Christopher Schneck MD remarked on his initial shock towards the documentary, which he has watched. “I was amazed at the access that she allowed, this camera crew that’s following her around everywhere. And she was willing to include these difficult moments in the documentary, which I again compliment her for doing so.”

Selena Gomez begins her documentary with a promise: “I’ll only tell you my darkest secrets.” 

It is a bold promise because the darkest secrets are often the ones we wish to hide, in the deepest depths of our hearts and minds. Yet, it is also an intimate promise, like one between best friends. Her promise to tell and our promise to listen. 

It is a promise that she ultimately keeps. 

Although ‘My Mind and Me’ was released in November of 2022, it dates back as far as 2016 and even earlier, exploring rare bits and pieces of Gomez’s childhood. Immediately, the atmosphere the documentary exudes is reflective, with a subtle piano segment playing in the background. It is strikingly melancholic and serene. 

But serenity is not a word to describe the life that Selena Gomez leads, and a mere five minutes is all that it takes to establish the chaos that she contends with daily. Paparazzi swarm around Gomez like bees; news headlines written about her flash before our eyes; crowds jump and fiercely scream her name. Selena.  

But who exactly is Selena? Do we truly know her? The public claims they do, but what they forget is that the Selena they see is vastly different from the one that only a handful of people seem to know.

This documentary serves as living proof of Selena Gomez, the unvarnished version.

One of the initial moments of vulnerability we see in Selena Gomez is back in 2016, during a fitting for Gomez’s upcoming show on the Revival Tour. While critically examining the outfit on her body, with an audience of friends and team members around her, she remarked, “My body is very young.” With a strained laugh, she added, “So I just want to make sure that I look like a woman and not a twelve-year-old boy.”

She reveals an insecurity that perhaps has plagued her for a long time, and that only makes Selena Gomez more relatable to us. Insecurities are universal. Nearly everyone possesses at least one, and they accomplish the same goal of depreciating one’s worth. However, insecurities simply exist because of the various societal standards that have been imposed on us. It is the reason why so many of us are self-conscious about our appearances or the way we act. Our perception of beauty is so complex that insecurities begin to stem when we are not solid in our sense of self.

For Selena Gomez, it was almost impossible to ever be solid in who she was because of one driving factor: the media. When Christopher Schneck MD, a practicing psychiatrist in Colorado, found out Gomez has over 360 million followers on Instagram, he was astonished. “I cannot possibly imagine having everything I do, scrutinized by 360 million people. That is just crazy.”

The media has often portrayed Selena Gomez in a terribly harsh light, especially when news surfaced about the cancellation of the Revival Tour. During the tour itself, Gomez has had multiple mental breakdowns, in which she is seen crying to her coworkers and friends about fans who may have not liked her performance or about feelings of depreciation and unworthiness. In one specific instance, she asked, “When will I ever be good enough just by myself?”

At some point in our existence, we have pondered the same question. In this day and age especially, feelings of unworthiness are often associated with being a witness to the seemingly flawless lives of others. “Everyone else’s lives look so perfect and great. And if you are sitting there struggling, it just gets amplified,” added Schneck. 

Now, although it was stated that the tour would be canceled due to concerns for Gomez’s mental health, the media decided to play the devil’s advocate, painting her as a star whose partying habits got the best of her career. Raquelle Stevens, a confidant of Selena Gomez and a constant presence in ‘My Mind and Me,’ quickly shuts down these fallacies. Once it has been recognized that Selena had reached her breaking point, there was no choice to be made other than the cancellation of the tour. 

Following this, no one would have anticipated the next shocking piece of information. TMZ had revealed that Selena Gomez had been admitted to a psychiatric facility. In a teary-eyed interview, Mandy Teefey, Selena Gomez’s mother, admits that she was not aware that her daughter was hospitalized until news broke out to the rest of the world. 

The lack of communication is resonant even further, especially when Gomez openly cries about how badly she has treated her family members in the midst of her pain and anger. It is apparent in all the realities we face. In times of distress, we shy away from those we love. Bouts of loneliness and the need to be isolated from others overcome us. Yet at the end of the day, all we want is to feel heard and understood. 

Christopher Schneck MD has practiced for over 27 years. He believes that “it takes individual acts of courage to move the needle forward,” in the conversations surrounding mental health. (Photo provided courtesy of Christopher Schneck)

However, it is sometimes hard to understand whether or not someone is in dire need of help because they can be exceptionally good at hiding how they feel. Particularly, in adolescents and teenagers with mood disorders, huge declines in functioning are often looked upon as a symptom. That can mean when “somebody’s grades are drastically going down or suddenly, they are not talking to any of their friends, or they are becoming more isolated,” defined Schneck. 

To counter this, it is important to be aware of those around you, family members, and friends to ensure that whomever needs help gets it. But, you should apply yourself into the equation as well because you truly know yourself best.

In 2019, Selena Gomez received a bipolar disorder diagnosis. Suddenly, the way she had acted in the past made more sense to her. It was as if the fog that had once occupied her senses cleared up. After learning of this new addition to her identity, Gomez sought to educate herself using a piece of advice her mother had given her as a child.

As a young girl, she was scared of thunderstorms, associating the loud boom of the thunder and the quick flash of lightning with tornadoes. Tornadoes were much too common in California at the time. Selena Gomez would remember her mother telling her to learn as much as she could about thunderstorms so that she would not feel afraid anymore. Selena applied this concept to her confusing and all-too-new diagnosis.

Christopher Schneck, who has practiced psychiatry for twenty-seven years, agreed. “As someone who treats patients with bipolar disorder, educating people about the illness is the absolute key thing, so that they really understand the meaning of it, the side effects, the positives, when they are starting to feel ill, and what steps they can take in the future.”

However, learning about a new part of your identity can be especially daunting when there are minimal conversations surrounding it and any portrayal by mainstream media presents individuals similar to you in a harsh light. On television, patients with bipolar disorder are often depicted as “violent” or “scary.” But, “they are really no more violent than the general population,” said Schneck.

In fact, it is not general knowledge that there are multiple types of bipolar disorder. This can create further misconceptions for individuals who are not educated about mood disorders. Of the three types of bipolar disorder, type I is the most severe. It is when individuals become fully manic, often feeling tired because of little to no sleep. Patients are most likely to be hospitalized.

Type II patients are hypomanic, meaning that they have similar symptoms to that of type I. Yet, it never rises to such an extreme stage that requires hospitalization. Finally, the third type of bipolar disorder is cyclothymia – patients will undergo ups and downs in their moods, but it will not cause as many problems. They are better at being able to distinguish the different moods they feel. 

The trickiness about mood disorders is that they lie on a spectrum. Not one disorder has a clear diagnosis and the basic steps for psychiatric illnesses are unclear. For common colds, one can easily take an antibiotic or go to their doctor to seek help. “But when you get really depressed, that is another matter. It gets a lot more complicated,” said Schneck. The mental health system itself is incredibly complicated and hard to access for a multitude of people, presenting a challenge in the conversation around mental health. 

And while Selena Gomez has never explicitly revealed the type of bipolar disorder she has, Christopher Schneck theorizes that she may have type I: “She got hospitalized at Mclean Hospital, becoming psychotic and losing touch with reality.” However, he adds, “You have to be cautious diagnosing someone who is not your patient.”

Not to mention, Selena Gomez has been particularly candid about her experience with lupus in the past. However, everything comes into focus in ‘My Mind and Me’ when she has a brief conversation about her blood pressure machine while on tour. She educates some of the employees that work with her team about the worst-case scenarios that can occur with lupus: a stroke.

When watching the documentary, something particularly interesting was the link between lupus and bipolar disorder. “There is a slightly higher instance of patients having bipolar disorder who also have lupus. The reason why this makes sense is that mood and psychiatric disorders, much like bipolar disorder, have to do with inflammatory diseases. Lupus is an inflammatory disorder, so we do see higher rates of bipolar disorder in those with lupus,” said Schneck. 

When Gomez goes to Kenya, she has a lupus flare-up. But that does not stop her from enjoying her time there. Gomez travels to Kenya, the second place where we see her at peace. Schneck noticed Gomez’s change in demeanor as opposed to the rest of the documentary. “The most refreshing part of it is when she goes to Africa, and suddenly she is away from all the adoration and craziness and she can just, sort of, be herself.” Cameras do not surround her every time she decides to walk outside and she can enjoy the world for what it is. “She can have real conversations with people, which is something that was clearly important to her.”

Selena values human connection. Being around others makes her feel content with herself. In Kenya, she is surrounded by community and those who treat her like a living human being and not a product, as she has reiterated in the past. Selena is able to experience serenity, nature, and bask in the beauty of the moment. 

A particularly note-worthy moment is when Gomez brings up an idea for a bill that she hopes will be passed in the future, over a candlelit dinner. She began with the idea of how when we initially start school, the curriculum tends to put an emphasis on learning about emotions. But, as we grow older, those “feelings get more complicated and harder to navigate.” The resources that we once had the “privilege” of having have now disappeared into thin air. As a result, Selena proposes a curriculum that mandates some form of a therapy class, where it is encouraged to have discussions about our feelings, navigating feelings, and learning ourselves best through an analysis of our emotions. 

In these conversations that Selena has with others, she begins to create a small seed for change. She has reiterated in the past of her ultimate goal. Having a platform is worthless unless you actually do something with it. Gomez wants to save a life; be it through music or vocalizing the trials and tribulations that she has faced mentally and physically, she aspires to be a voice for others. 

Selena Gomez continues to aspire to make a change, and now, on national level. In May of 2022, with the Rare Impact Fund, she was invited to the Youth Action Forum, where she spoke about mental health being an important topic for the government to create more resources on. (The White House, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Selena Gomez got to work doing just that. In 2020, she decided to create the Rare Impact Fund, a fiscally sponsored project that provides mental health resources to young people, free of charge. Later, in May of 2022, the Rare Impact Fund went to a national level, with Gomez and the RIF being invited to the Youth Action Forum. She spoke about nationalizing a mental health curriculum and making it more accessible to adolescents and other individuals. 

This documentary and the various discussions and individual experiences being circulated continue to lower the barriers around mental health. With regards to all the work that Selena has done, Schneck said, “It takes really brave people, and I put Selena Gomez in that category.”

Selena Gomez has accomplished what she had wished to do with her platform: create change. Be it in my life or in the lives of those who have watched ‘My Mind and Me,’ Gomez has continued to open the door to the mental health conversation a bit wider. 

We can all just hope that one day, it will be swung open for all of us. 

You can watch ‘My Mind and Me’ on Apple TV+.

Yet at the end of the day, all we want is to feel heard and understood.