She may be one of the most sought-after models in the world, but that doesn’t mean Cara Delevingne hasn’t had her fair share of hardship. In fact, as the supermodel/actress/singer revealed in light of her upcoming debut YA fiction book, Mirror, Mirror ($16), she struggled with both depression and suicidal thoughts in her younger years.
While the British beauty’s 368-page novel, which hits shelves October 10, is fictional, she was able to draw upon themes from her own life to tackle deep issues as she tells the story of four teenage misfits who must “face their own dark secrets and fears, and reconcile the difference between what they feel inside and what they show to the world” when one of them mysteriously disappears and is later found unconscious.
In her writing process, the supermodel pulled from her own teenage experiences, which were filled with plenty of angst. As she explained to Net-a-Porter’s The Edit magazine, she “always felt pretty weird and different as a kid,” with much of her pain beginning early on. “I felt alienated and alone,” she shared. “I was like, ‘What’s wrong me? I always wanted people to love me, so I never got angry with them; I turned my anger onto myself. I just put my shield up and stabbed myself.”
For Delevingne, 25, the need to belong was felt deep within. “I didn’t feel like I was ever good enough,” she said. “The fact I couldn’t do as well as other people made me hate myself.”
Things weren’t much better at home. As she revealed to Esquire last year, her mother, Pandora, also suffered from manic depression, turning to chemical substances for reprieve. “She was sick a lot, in hospital a lot,” Delevingne said at the time. “And there were times when she would leave for a long time and I wouldn’t know where she was.”
Her situation led to an eating disorder (“I didn’t feel like I had any control of my life, so I just kind of went on a food strike”) at just eight years old and a downward spiral of emotion that she wasn’t able to reign in for years. “I think I properly started dealing with my depression when I was about 16. When all the stuff with my family started to make sense and came to the surface.”
For her, that included taking a break from school and receiving treatment for a breakdown. “I was very good at disassociating from emotion completely,” she confessed candidly. “And all the time I was second-guessing myself, saying something and then hating myself for saying it. I didn’t understand what was happening apart from the fact that I didn’t want to be alive anymore.”
Now, she wishes she could go back and offer some words of encouragement to the emotionally ravaged youth she once was — something she hopes to do for others with her new novel. “I wish I could have given myself a hug. I wish I’d known that I was still in there somewhere, that I wasn’t my own worst enemy, that I wasn’t trapped,” she continued. “That if you can hold on for dear life — because being a teenager can feel like you’re on a roller coaster to hell, that’s what it honestly felt like to me — you can get through it.”
Delevingne certainly did. “Time moves on, feelings pass — it does get better.”
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(Photos via Tim P. Whitby + Pascal le Segretain/Getty)