‘Demi Lovato saved my life’ - How a popstar thousands of miles away helped woman break her habit of self-harming every day
- Credit: Abbie Foster
It started with simply flicking a hair bobble against her wrist.
But as a Norwich woman became more and more depressed she found herself turning to more serious forms self-harm every day to take control over her life.
Now, 22-year-old Abbie Foster has not harmed herself for three and a half years.
And she is speaking out about how she recovered, with the help of a famous popstar, in a bid to help others.
'When I was younger, I didn't really feel safe anywhere,' said Abbie, who was bullied relentlessly at school.
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'One boy told me I should kill myself and if I didn't, he would do it for me. I was so suicidal when I was out I was looking at things I could jump off or thinking about my funeral and that no one would turn up. If I had, for example, had an argument I wouldn't trust myself to go outside in case that was the day.'
Abbie, who lives in Lower Clarence Road, said she did not remember a time when she was not depressed - even if she did not realise it at the time.
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She said: 'I just thought there was something wrong with me, I didn't think there was anyone else. Obviously I didn't always feel suicidal but just not wanting to be here, I feel like I was sad for most of my life.'
By the time she was 16, her mental health was so poor she could not face studying animal care at college after leaving what was then Costessey High School (now Ormiston Victory Academy).
'When I was about 17 or 18 I thought this was never going to end, I thought this was what my life was meant to be, just this craziness of sadness and not being able to sleep, and everything else which comes with depression,' she said.
But that changed when she heard a song by American popstar Demi Lovato on the radio in January 2014.
She said: 'I was in my mum's car and I wasn't feeling great for whatever reason and Skyscraper came on the radio. It was the first time I had actually listened to the lyrics and I got a lump in my throat.'
Later that night, Abbie said she was feeling worse, and was in a situation where she said she would usually have harmed herself.
'I couldn't cry,' she said. 'But I wanted to get out some emotion and I was so used to doing that by harming myself. But instead I found Skyscraper on YouTube.'
She said the video reduced her to tears, and as she watched other music videos from the singer, she learned more about the mental health struggles she had experienced.
Demi revealed in 2012 that she had been bullied and suffered with depression, which had led her to self harm too.
Abbie said: 'It was the first time someone had said something that got through to me, the lyrics were everything I wanted to be. I thought look how far she's come in the limelight, maybe I can try as well.'
From there, Abbie - who works as Nando's - took her first steps into recovery.
'That night, I didn't harm myself,' she said. 'Before that it was every day or every other day. I started opening up to people.'
The road was long, as self-harm had been a coping mechanism for Abbie for many years, but by May 2014 she had stopped self-harming completely, bar a brief relapse a few months later.
And in the September she was lucky enough to meet Demi before a concert in Raleigh, North Carolina.
'Before I could say anything she said I had the same tattoo as her,' Abbie said - both Abbie and the popstar have the words 'now I'm a warrior' tattooed on them, which are lyrics to Demi's song Warrior.
'I told her I had been over 100 days clean from self-harm and she said that was amazing. She grabbed me and hugged me so tight.'
Today, Abbie wears a charm bracelet where a small, silver number three hangs to signify three years of recovery.
She said: 'It was the first day I started living.'
Since, Abbie has been using her voice to educate others about self-harm, including getting involved with the charity Fixers and producing packs of cards which encourage positive thoughts and tasks.
They have been distributed to schools and groups, and Abbie is keen to make more.
As well as the cards she has taken part in events promoting a positive body image, produced motivational videos and wants to be a voice for change.
'I still have depression, I'm not completely fixed,' she said. 'But it's now more maybe one a month I have an off day, or maybe once every six months I feel suicidal.'
But getting over the past was not easy, and she said it had been a struggle to forgive and forget.
She said: 'Everyone deserves a second chance, you don't know what's going on in their lives either. I'm not the same person I was at school and they won't be either. It's hard but I do believe it second chances, I definitely needed one.'
And she's taking pride in helping others. One message sent to her Facebook page Abbie Foster's StayStrong after she posted a video said: 'I was about to kill myself but I stopped myself because your video is amazing.'
Abbie said: 'Demi was that voice for me, I want to be that for other people.'
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