“I had to strip away all the self-medicating to feel the pain and figure out what was wrong. I’m still doing the work in therapy two times a week resolving those issues,” the “With You” singer wrote in her 2020 memoir, Open Book.
In the New York Times best-seller, Simpson opened up about how her experience with childhood sexual abuse led to a reliance on Tylenol PM to help her sleep. “I took each pill like a magic potion, because it freed me,” she wrote. “I was able to sleep in my own bed, or a bed on the road, without needing Ashlee [Simpson]. I didn’t think I was dependent. In fact, those pills actually helped me feel independent.”
In addition to struggles with drug and alcohol addiction, the Dukes of Hazard actress has also endured public scrutiny of her body since the early days of her career. In her memoir, the “Take My Breath Away” singer claims her first record label told her to lose 15 pounds when she was 17 tears old and weighed 118 pounds. “I looked at my parents. They said nothing,” she wrote.
The damage done to the Texas native’s self-esteem continued into her adult life. When she was 35, Simpson scheduled a tummy tuck against her doctor’s orders to “get rid of the stretch marks and loose skin left sagging from my back-to-back-pregnancies.”
The Employee of the Month actress explained in her book that her doctor warned her she “could die” if she went ahead with the surgery but she had the procedure anyway. “It did not go well. I got an infection — colitis — and was vomiting so much I thought I was going to burst my sutures,” she wrote. “Doctors talked seriously about me needing a blood transfusion.”
Simpson made a full recovery, but the health scare taught her a valuable lesson. “I can tell you that plastic surgery does not cure what’s inside. Really, it’s about how you feel emotionally, and I was still just as hard on myself once those stitches were out,” she wrote.
The “I Wanna Love You Forever” singer is now focused on being a role model for positive body image for her daughters; she shares Maxwell and Birdie, born in 2012 and 2019, respectively, as well as her son, Ace, born in 2013, with her husband, Eric Johnson.
“She would never want her daughters to experience what she’s suffered mentally with her body,” an insider exclusively told Us Weekly in May 2021. “She’s working on repairing her mental health and [having] a healthy heart, especially now that she’s in her 40s.”
Simpson got sober in November 2017 after she missed trick-or-treating with her children because she started drinking at 7 a.m. “I was just dazed and confused and I just wanted to go to sleep. I didn’t take them trick-or-treating. I didn’t show up for my family. I took the picture and I made the world think that I showed up,” she revealed during a January 2020 appearance on Today.
The best-selling author knew that sobriety was the answer as her children continued to mature and become more aware of her behavior. “I was at that point in my where my kids were growing older and they were watching every move that I made and I just really wanted clarity,” she said on The Jess Cagle Show in August 2020.
Scroll through for a look back at Simpson’s mental health ups and downs through the years: