updated 09/20/2012 AT 7:10 AM ET
•originally published 09/20/2012 AT 10:50 AM ET
Demi Lovato has a secret to share: Growing up wasn’t always easy for her.
“I had a really tough time when I was in middle school,” the X Factor judge, 20, tells PEOPLE. “People would write ‘hate petitions’ [about me] and send them around to be signed. They’d have CD-bashing parties of my demos. They’d come to my house, stand across the street and yell things. It was a very emotional time for me, and all I wanted to do was get away.”
It was so bad, in fact, that Lovato believes it’s part of what led her to seek treatment for issues like an eating disorder and cutting nearly two years ago.
“Back then, there were times I didn’t think I’d be able to move on,” she admits.