Katy Perry on the Resilience She Found After Surviving Her 'Darkest' Days: 'It Was All Worth It'

In PEOPLE's latest cover story, the pop superstar opens up about motherhood, finding unconditional love with Orlando Bloom and the strength and joy behind her upcoming album, Smile

Like everyone else, Katy Perry has struggled with the ups and downs of 2020.

Right now, the pop superstar should be basking in newlywed life with Orlando Bloom, busily promoting her upcoming sixth studio album, Smile, and excitedly preparing for the birth of her first child.

But instead, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Perry was forced to cancel her planned destination wedding and push the release of her record (now out Aug. 28).

"Every day your options change, and you don't know what's what. Especially being pregnant in a pandemic, it's an emotional rollercoaster," the American Idol judge, 35, tells PEOPLE in its latest cover story.

But after surviving the "darkest" years of her life, Perry says she's well-equipped to handle some curveballs.

<a href="https://people.com/tag/katy-perry/" data-inlink="true">katy perry</a> on the cover of people magazine
Katy Perry on the cover of PEOPLE.

Watch the full episode of People Cover Story: Katy Perry streaming now on PeopleTV.com, or download the PeopleTV app on your favorite device.

"Having a great partner, having a sound mind, continuing to do the work, I'm not as flinchable," says the star, who found relief from a deep depression over the last several years with a combination of medication, therapy and support from loved ones. "I'm not untouchable or invincible, but it's a little bit more like water off a duck's back."

As she gears up for the release of Smile — which the singer says is "full of hopefulness, full of resilience, full of joy and love" — Perry is reflecting on how far she's come from 2017, when her album Witness failed to make the same impact as her previous record-breaking records.

"After being on a rocket ship and just going straight up, it was just a small change in the trajectory, but it felt seismic," says Perry, who had also put her then-yearlong romance with Bloom on hold. "It's been two-and-a-half years of trying to find my footing. It's so easy for me to work, work, work and avoid, but I had to go on a mental and spiritual journey."

Her lowest moments felt like a "nightmare," says Perry. "You feel like you're being attacked, and you can't wake up."

<a href="https://people.com/tag/katy-perry/" data-inlink="true">Katy Perry</a>
Katy Perry shot at Lotusland in Montecito, California.

But as she began taking "baby steps" and adopting tools to cope, the singer — who also underwent the Hoffman Process (a weeklong personal-development retreat that helps participants dig into negative behaviors conditioned from childhood) — she began to feel relief.

"How could I have felt that so powerfully to the point where my body was seizing?" she muses now. "We all have negative conversations going on in your head that can take the wheel. You have to take the wheel back, and I definitely did."

While the process was at times unbearable, Perry says the devastation she felt was necessary for her to finally shift priorities.

"It got me out of this desperate loop of being the best pop star ever. I just really want to be a human being and have the dimension of life," says Perry, who's embracing a future filled with "family and love and laughing and coziness."

Now, "I get to live life, and I get to bring life into the world," she adds. "Finding the gratitude in this pain has been a real journey, but the outcome is worth it."

For all the details on how Katy Perry is preparing for the imminent arrival of her baby girl, life with Orlando Bloom and the inspiration behind her joyful new album, Smile, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

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