Demi Lovato got her big break at the age of 7 when she was cast in the popular PBS children's program Barney & Friends. Though she portrayed a happy elementary school student on TV, the future "Heart Attack" singer was battling some very serious demons. "At the time, I was just so grateful to be on TV, but I was also really struggling," Lovato reveals in the August 2013 issue of Cosmopolitan. "Looking back, there was a connection, probably between any kid who's ever sang that song to Barney, a little place in a child's heart, a void, that could be filled. And maybe Barney fills it."
Lovato adds, "Even before Barney, I was suicidal. I was 7. With Barney, I guess subliminally, I did have a relationship with this figure that was saving my life in a way. . . I've talked about being bullied and the years of being a teenager, but I went through things when I was younger that I've never talked about that probably caused me to turn out the way I ended up turning out."
Though the X Factor mentor has been open about her past struggles with bulimia and cutting since getting treatment in 2010, Lovato is still keeping some things private. In her song "Warrior," the 20-year-old sings, "There's a part of me I can't get back/ A little girl grew up too fast/ All it took was once, I'll never be the same/ Now I'm taking back my life today."
Lovato declines Cosmopolitan's request to elaborate on what inspired the song, which appears on her latest album, Demi. "My family knows what it's about. When I'm ready to open up that subject with the outside world, then I'll be free to talk about it," the former Disney Channel star says. "But right now, it's kind of one of those things where the lyrics speak for me. It's all in the song."
The "Made in the USA" singer hopes that by sharing her struggles with the world, others facing similar issues won't feel so alone. "I'm not super religious, but I grew up Christian and I believe in God," says the Texas-raised star. "When I'm in L.A., I don't talk about it that much because people are very judgmental, but I just feel like God gave me a voice, not just to sing with. He put me through those things, which seemed horrible at the time, but they were so worth it. With the obstacles I’ve overcome, I can help people."
In her Cosmopolitan cover story, Lovato also criticizes fellow stars whose constant partying and bad behavior sets a bad example for young fans. "When I look at someone who's out there partying excessively or rappers rapping about doing drugs, who people look up to, and think, 'Oh that's a G; that's a gangster,' I think, 'You're actually being a giant p-ssy.' Sorry, but those rockers in the '80s were the furthest thing from rock stars. They were so insecure and so lonely that they had to do these things to get them through the day."
Without naming names, she continues, "If you're spending your entire early 20s chasing the next party, what are you running away from? That's not a badass. What's a badass is when you can sit through your problems and feel emotions when you do'’t want to have them. There have been nights where I've had to sit on my hands, because I want to act out, because I physically can't sit still in the pain I'm dealing with, from looking back and being bullied or other things that happened. And now, as hard as it may be, I will do that. That's what makes me a badass. Being a badass is handling your sh-t."
This article originally appeared on Usmagazine.com: Demi Lovato: I Was Suicidal Before Barney and Friends at Age 7