Underneath the glamourized layers of Hollywood news is a deeper level of stories that often remain untold. Our society is so easily consumed in the search for the most recent gossip that we often leave our humanity and compassion behind. What we often fail to remember, especially during tragic events, is that the celebrities who are idolized or gossiped about are human beings who experience pain, loss, fear, and suffering.
Almost a year ago, Gia Allemand of ABC’s The Bachelor, took her own life. The media immediately pounced on this tragic news and capitalized on Gia’s death as if she had never existed. She was portrayed as being mentally disturbed, insecure, and dramatic. Some believed Gia’s family was to blame, while others pointed fingers at Gia’s boyfriend, NBA player Ryan Anderson. Gia’s story has remained untold until now. We were lucky enough to have an exclusive interview with Gia’s mother, and learned that Gia suffered from a disorder that is common among women and increases the risk of suicide.
Gia suffered from a disorder called PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder), which the Mayo Clinic defines as “a severe, sometimes disabling extension of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) that causes extreme mood shifts that can disrupt work and damage relationships.” Allemand led a healthy lifestyle. She exercised and practiced yoga on a regular basis, maintained a healthy diet, and took care of her body. She was a certified Barre instructor, and taught classes in New Orleans. Underneath her healthy exterior, however, was a mind that suffered from feeling insecure, unloved, and abandoned, and a chemical imbalance that affected her emotional wellbeing.
In 2010, Gia was hospitalized for attempting suicide. Gia’s mother, Donna Coltrinari-Micheletti said, “I knew Gia was crying out for help. She didn’t want to die, she just wanted the pain to go away”. Gia had been hospitalized once previously, and Donna became even more concerned for her daughter. Donna had been diagnosed with PMDD, and was concerned her daughter may have inherited the same disorder. She requested laboratory tests during Gia’s hospitalization, and specialists confirmed that Gia had a chemical imbalance. Gia was a perfectionist, and did not want to accept the diagnosis. “She resisted treatment, and wouldn’t admit anything was wrong with her”, said Allemand’s mother.
In combination with PMDD, Gia had issues stemming from her childhood that caused her to feel unworthy of being loved. Gia had been on a lifelong search for her father’s approval and involvement in her life. “Even as an adult, she was just a little girl who wanted her father to be around and to love her”, said Allemand’s mother. She would often sabotage her relationships as soon as they began to feel real to her because she didn’t feel worthy of being loved. The combination of depression brought on by the chemical imbalances of PMDD and battling with pain from her past led to a constant feeling of low self-esteem and despair, even though Gia was surrounded by love and admired by everyone who met her.
About a year after her first hospitalization, Gia’s life began to take a positive turn. She starred in Season 14 of ABC’s The Bachelor with Jake Pavelka. Gia’s mother said, “This was the first time she looked truly happy. She was beaming with confidence and self-worth.” Gia was one of the final three contestants on the show. The friendships she formed and the positive experiences during the filming of the show brought Gia happiness. “Even though she didn’t fall in love with Jake, she fell in love with herself”, said Gia’s mother, “and that was priceless”.
Gia’s life continued on a positive path, and she began dating NBA New Orleans Pelicans star, Ryan Anderson. Gia moved to Orlando in 2011 to be with Ryan, and worked at the Cove in Atlantis as a celebrity hostess. Gia moved to New Orleans in 2012 Gia’s mother said, “Gia would give up her career and priorities for every single boyfriend to make them feel like they were the most important person in her life. She would do that to make up for the void in her past.” For all the times Gia wished her father had been there for her and made her feel alone and abandoned, she made sure to never let anyone who was important to her feel that way. Anderson’s teammates often referred to Gia as being “perfect wife material”, and they could see how much Anderson meant to her.
As the relationship got more serious, and talk of engagement arose, Gia’s past began to resurface, and she found herself arguing with Ryan over things that she felt irrationally insecure about. To add to the emerging struggles that would normally have been manageable, Gia received a text message from someone from her past who she held close to her heart. The words within the text message destroyed her. “I remember the exact day”, said Gia’s mom. “It was May 13, 2013, and she was just getting off the plane. The words in that text message were words nobody’s daughter should ever have to receive. They ruined her. She was never the same after that”.
Gia sank into a deep depression after that day. She was 1400 miles away from her family and best friend in New York, and those who cared about her began to worry. Gia’s best friend said, “Gia had good and bad days, just like everyone else, and usually she could pull herself out of it after we talked. I remember going out to dinner with her one night, and she was depressed because Ryan hadn’t called her back. She wanted to go home, and I wouldn’t let her because I knew she would be alone and sad. I knew she would cheer up if she stayed out with her friends. Ryan called shortly after, and everything turned out fine, and Gia ended up having a good night out with friends after all. We were always able to cheer each other up. She just needed someone to believe in her, because she didn’t believe in herself”.
Gia was known for her unconditional love towards others. She was kind to everyone she met, and was forgiving and compassionate even to those who hurt her. Over the next several months, the lifetime of pain she had been burying underneath layers of denial began to come to the surface, as she replayed the words from the text message over and over in her head. In August of 2013, Gia could no longer cope with the pain, and the only way she knew how to stop it was by ending her life. “I tried to make her see how much she was loved and that things would get better. I tried for 44 minutes to make her see what we all saw and what we all loved her for.” Despite Donna’s desperate attempts to stop Gia from taking her life, Gia was in so much pain that no words or amount of love would have changed her mind. “She just decided it was time to go,” said Gia’s mom. “She called me to say goodbye, and that was it”.
Gia was rushed to the emergency room after authorities were notified, but complications related to her suicide attempt had already caused irreversible damage. Gia remained on life support for a few days, as her family and friends prayed for a miracle and prepared to say goodbye to her. The decision was made to let Gia go peacefully into a place where she would no longer feel pain or suffering. On that day, Gia’s mother became determined to do everything she could to bring awareness of Gia’s story to those who are at risk of suicide.
“We are all made of energy, and energy doesn’t die. It goes on forever. Gia’s body is gone, but her spirit is still here”, said Allemand’s mother. Donna is passionate about sharing Gia’s story because there is a need to bring awareness to the serious complications that PMDD can have on emotional wellbeing, especially when combined with unaddressed psychological issues that stem from childhood. “It’s important for other women to know what the symptoms and warning signs of PMDD are so that they can seek treatment to help balance their hormones and develop coping strategies to deal with painful things from the past,” said Allemand’s mother.
Donna’s recent appearance on the Dr. Phil show gives proof that Gia’s story is having an impact. One of the viewers of the Dr. Phil show reached out to Donna a few months ago, and had a story that was very similar to Gia’s. “If I’m able to help someone feel a sense of self-worth and confidence by telling Gia’s story, then maybe they won’t make the same decision my daughter did,” said Donna. “Gia would have wanted me to make a difference, so that’s what I’m trying to do”.
Identifying the emotional and behavioral symptoms of PMDD is an important first step in seeking treatment. According to the Mayo Clinic, one should seek treatment if they experience any of the following symptoms:
•Sadness or hopelessness
•Anxiety or tension
•Marked irritability or anger
There are several ways to treat the symptoms of PMDD, and any treatment approach should be paired with counseling by a psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker to incorporate stress management techniques, coping strategies, and more positive thought patterns. Some treatment strategies recommended by the Mayo Clinic include:
•Antidepressants: Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s), such as Prozac and Zoloft, can help reduce emotional symptoms such as depression, and can also help with fatigue, sleep problems, and food cravings.
•Birth Control Pills: Reduces severity of hormonal fluctuations and mood swings.
•Nutritional Supplements: Calcium, Vitamin B-6, magnesium, and L-tryptophan help the body to cope with stress associated with hormonal changes, promote healthy sleep and emotional wellbeing, and reduce irritability and cramps.
•Herbal Remedies: Chasteberry may reduce mood swings, anger, and irritability.
•Lifestyle Changes: Regular exercise may reduce symptoms and improve mood. Decreasing caffeine intake helps reduce anxiety and irritability. Eating complex carbohydrates helps the body to maintain healthy blood sugar levels and helps maintain a stable mood. Avoidance of emotional triggers, and practicing healthy thought patterns helps to maintain a logical perspective on one’s ability to cope with challenging situations.
Craig Robinson of ABC’s The Bachelorette has organized a team to participate in the 18 mile overnight Out of the Darkness Walk, which will take place in Philadelphia from June 28th-29th. The team is walking in memory of Gia to raise funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The foundation is dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education and advocacy, and to reaching out to people with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide. Gia’s mother, 15-year-old brother, best friend, Ryan Anderson, and Craig Robertson will be walking as a team, along with a very special young woman who Gia’s spirit has impacted. Together, they hope to raise funds to bring awareness to the importance of education in preventing suicide. Every donation, large or small, makes an impact on lives that could be saved. One of the team’s sponsors, Dolled Up Hair 2 Toe Boutique, was touched by Gia’s story. Owners Saeda and Mervat Ballut, of Toledo, Ohio have several clients who are reality TV stars. “We think it’s important to teach young women to love themselves, both inside and out,” said Saeda, “and we are honored to be able to contribute to such a meaningful cause”.
You can make a difference in suicide prevention by donating to Gia’s team by following the link below: