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Justin Bieber's battle with Lyme disease exposes the gnarly reality of celebrity life

Fans have worried about Justin Bieber’s wellbeing for a long time. The first half of the 2010s were raucous for the Beebs, in the worst ways. Remember the DUI charges and assault conviction? And that “parody” video that surfaced in 2014, of 14-year-old Bieber changing the lyrics of “One Less Lonely Girl” to include the “N-word”? And when he said he hoped Anne Frank would’ve been a Belieber? And the time his pet capuchin monkey was confiscated by German officials? Seems like a truly dark time.

In the latter part of the decade, the singer opened up about his struggles. In 2016, he told GQ he’d been diagnosed with ADHD and was taking Adderall — but got a ton of blowback for his honesty, even from some of his biggest stans. He largely went quiet about his health after that.

The singer embraced religion and got married to Hailey Bieber. But things weren’t all gravy: The couple were photographed crying together all over Los Angeles in 2018 and 2019. Last March, Bieber announced he was taking a break from music to focus on his mental health. And in September, he stoked speculation that he was seriously ill, after being photographed with an IV-drip in his arm. He also came clean about his heavy drug use in his younger days in an Instagram post that month.

On Wednesday, TMZ revealed what’s really been going on: Bieber was diagnosed with Lyme disease in late 2019, after doctors spent most of the last year struggling to figure out what was wrong with him. The singer will get candid about his health scare in a forthcoming YouTube docu-series, Justin Bieber: Seasons, debuting January 27.

Lyme disease is transmitted through tick bites, and symptoms include rashes, headaches, fever, and fatigue. But little is really understood about the illness, and it can be debilitating.

Pop singer Avril Lavigne opened up about her own diagnosis in 2018. Before she found a treatment that brought her relief, Lavigne told Billboard she was bedridden for two whole years. Really makes you rethink that conspiracy theory about the singer being replaced by a body double, doesn’t it?

Lavigne was eventually referred to a Lyme specialist by Yolanda Foster, star of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and mother of models Gigi, Bella, and Anwar Hadid. Foster and two of her children — Bella and Anwar — suffer from chronic lyme. The Hadids are evidently helping Bieber navigate the illness, too. Hailey Bieber publicly thanked them, as well as Lavigne, on Twitter yesterday.

But not everyone has been supportive: After Bieber confirmed his diagnosis with a post on Instagram, many people — including some particularly vicious Selena Gomez stans — tried downplaying the severity of the disease. Some even celebrated the singer’s diagnosis, prompting Hailey and Justin to each separately address the haters on social media.

One thing Bieber’s diagnosis drives home is just how little we really know about celebrities’ lives. The public might be privy to videos of Bieber playing “bottle frisbee” in his mansion, but the dull stuff — the doctors’ appointments, the pain, the mundanity of being human — doesn’t make it to Instagram.

When we do see the bad parts, often captured by paparazzi, they get blown out of proportion, when they’re only fragments of the whole story. Who among us isn’t a wholly embarrassing human 90% of the time when we think no one is looking? Imagine the mental fortitude it takes trying to “act normal” every time you step out of the house, especially when your body feels like crap.

I think Bieber has a whole host of demons he’s battling, many of them foisted on him by the Hollywood machine he grew up in. But I also wish him well as he navigates treatment for Lyme and the other health afflictions that are plaguing him. Doing it in public has got to be gnarly.