By Emma Freer
Not only does Justin Bieber have an impressive pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps story, so does his mother, Pattie Mallette. She chronicles this odyssey in her recent memoir, Nowhere But Up.
By the age of 17, Pattie Mallette had survived abuse and abandonment, and also her own addiction, depression and a suicide attempt. Her turnaround came while she ecovered from her suicide attempt. “The director of the youth center said to me, ‘When you hit rock bottom, you have only one way to go: up,’” Mallette recalls. “So, I went up.”
Counseling and her faith put her on the path to healing. But just a year later, at 18, Pattie Mallette learned she was pregnant. The child was Justin, whom Mallette raised largely on her own. Though his father and her own parents lent their support through the years, it was not an easy time.
“When I became pregnant, my parents said that they had already raised their kids, and if I was old enough to get myself pregnant then, I was old enough to take responsibility,” Mallette says. “They would come to visit me at the pregnancy home. And when I moved out and into my own place, they tried to support me however they could. But, I did it largely on my own.”
Mallette was committed to providing Justin with a better life than her own. “I couldn’t bear seeing Justin go through the same pain I did,” she says. Reflecting back, Mallette wonders whether her teenage years would have been less rocky if someone had recognized her struggles. “It is so important for parents to listen to what teenagers are saying and not saying,” Mallette notes. “I was filled with so much pain and shame from so many years of abuse. Never having dealt with it—or talked about it—I was self-medicating. If someone could have seen that, it would have been very helpful.”
So, Mallette paid close attention as Justin grew up. When he first showed a passion for music at the age of two, “we did everything we could to encourage his talent and passion.” That encouragement surely paid off, considering Justin’s monstrous success.
But, Mallette continues to be a big part of her son’s life. To help him cope with his rocket-ride to fame, Mallette has tried to surround him with the right people as much as she can. “I just pay attention to my son and deal with him on a mother/son basis,” she says. “I try not to let public opinion affect me.” That includes daily calls and texts and frequent visits, even when he’s on the road. Despite some of her son’s recent controversial behavior, Mallette says, “Justin knows what I disagree with, but he also knows why I’m so proud of him.”
In the meantime, Pattie Mallette is in the beginning stages of setting up her foundation, Round 2, which encourages people not only to share their own stories about addiction, teen pregnancy, cutting, and bullying, but also to listen to someone else’s story. You can learn more about the work she is doing at Round2.org.
Emma Freer, a former intern at Your Teen, is a third year student at St. Andrews in Scotland.