"If I can get through this, I can handle anything," Meghan Trainor tells PEOPLE of managing mental illness

By Jeff Nelson
February 05, 2020 08:30 AM
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Denise Crew

Meghan Trainor is opening up about a debilitating battle with panic attacks.

In the new issue of PEOPLE, the pop star reveals she was diagnosed with panic disorder in 2017 after undergoing two vocal cord surgeries.

Through therapy and medication, Trainor says today she is the happiest and healthiest she’s been in her life and hopes her journey with mental health — which inspired her new album, Treat Myselfhelps others.

“If I can get through this, I can handle anything,” says the “Wave” singer, 26.

In 2014, Trainor burst onto the pop scene with her joyful, body-positive breakout single "All About That Bass." The Nantucket native has since notched five more Top 20 hits and nabbed the best new artist Grammy in 2016.

But as her stardom rose, Trainor faced setbacks, undergoing risky procedures to repair vocal cord hemorrhages in 2015 and again in 2017.

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Meghan Trainor
Hanna Hillier

After her second surgery, she worried she might never sing again, and that stress spiraled into panic disorder. Panic disorder is a condition in which a person suffers recurrent, unexpected panic attacks — defined by the Mayo Clinic as “a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reaction when there is no real danger or apparent cause.”

“I was working really hard, and I kept having to cancel tours [to undergo vocal cord surgeries]. I was like, ‘This is all I have, this is my life — if I can’t sing, I can’t work,’ ” Trainor recalls.

“It turned into a lot of sleepless nights and a lot of scary panic. I went to the emergency room a couple of times because I thought my throat was closing from an allergic reaction, and the doctor was like, ‘This is a panic attack.’ ”

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Trainor knew she needed to get a handle on her mental health and sought help.

“My doctors diagnosed me with panic disorder. They were like, ‘Your chemicals are way imbalanced — we have to get you back to normal,’ ” the singer adds.

“I met a psychologist who gave me medicine; I had therapists; I worked out; I got acupuncture,” Trainor says. “Now it’s been a couple years, and I haven’t had a panic attack in so long I feel like I conquered it. I kicked some ass.”

Daryl Sabara & Meghan Trainor
Denise Crew

Now the singer is ready to fuel conversations about mental health.

“There’s still that stigma” about mental-health problems and treating them with drugs, she says. “The best thing my doctor ever told me was, ‘You use an inhaler for your lungs, right? Why can’t you use medicine to fix your brain?’ That’s what got my parents to understand what was happening with me.”

Trainor’s ordeal actually inspired the title track of her new third album Treat Myself, out now.

“My therapist blew my mind with this: If you go through a really hard patch of anxiety, and you get out of it, you should reward yourself. So my big thing that I’m working on in life right now is treating myself and being good to myself because it’s a very hard thing to do — including taking care of my health and even how I talk about myself,” says Trainor, who married Spy Kids actor Daryl Sabara, 27, in December 2018.

She continues, “My husband will catch me being like, ‘I’m huge today’ or ‘I feel so ugly,’ and he’ll be like, ‘Hey, tell yourself you’re pretty. You’re beautiful — remind yourself.’ ”

Meghan Trainor, Treat Myself
Hanna Hillier

These days, Trainor — who will go on tour with Maroon 5 this summer and is a coach on The Voice UK — has found a balance between fame, family and self-care.

“I figured out my anxiety, I figured out how to be happy with my career, I figured out love and I have one of the best families of all time,” she says. “I got a dope life!”

PEOPLE is launching a year-long initiative to encourage readers to have vital conversations about their mental health. Our Let’s Talk About It campaign will highlight stories of ordinary people and celebrities who have dealt with mental illness and provide resources about where to get help and how to offer support to others.

For more on Meghan Trainor, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands everywhere Friday.