April 25, 2011

Moody Beauty

Have y'all noticed that people are making a big deal about Catherine Zeta Jones revealing that she has bipolar disorder?  Don't get me wrong.  I think it's great when celebrities open up about their diagnoses.  It helps lessen the stigma attached to mental illness.  And bipolar disorder needs a big ol' batch of destigmatizing solution.  While attitudes about depression and anxiety disorders have relaxed over the past few decades, there is still a significant stigma attached to bipolar disorder.

Which is why I don't usually talk publicly about my own experience with it.  Even though it's a success story.

(I can't have my discerning blog readers thinking I'm CRAZY, now can I?)

What I don't get is why Catherine Zeta Jones is getting such a warm reception (She's so brave!) when other bipolar celebrities (Britney Spears!) have been ostracized.  She's hardly the first bipolar celebrity to talk about it openly.  These celebrities have also acknowledged that they have bipolar disorder:

Pete Wentz
Richard Dreyfuss
Jane Pauley
Demi Lovato
Axl Rose
Linda Hamilton
Jim Carrey
Carrie Fisher
Patty Duke 

I think one reason the bipolar stigma sticks around is because the public at large only hears about the extreme cases.  When celebrities shave their heads, or refer to themselves as aliens, or go on drug binges.  Most people with bipolar disorder have quieter, less dramatic struggles.  We fly under the radar--especially if we take our medications like we should.  Which far too many bipolar folks don't do--because the medicines can take away some of that creative spark, the heightened emotion, the MOREness that characterizes the up times of the disorder (mania).

It's been 9 years since I was diagnosed, and I've never stopped my medication.  Sanity is a good thing.  I'm fine doing without the up periods, because I know they only lead to the down times.  There's always a crash.  And those down times can be dangerous.  About 15% of people with bipolar disorder commit suicide. 

Perhaps what makes Catherine Zeta Jones so brave is that she sought treatment before she got out of control.  And she's willing to do what's needed to get and stay well.

And she's doing it all with a beautiful, shiny head of hair.


  1. I was diagnoses with bipolar disorder about 18 years ago, but I've never been on meds for it. There have been a few times that I took antidepressants, but not bipolar meds. I guess I'm one that doesn't want to lose the creative spark... and the times that have been extreme enough that I finally thought, "okay, I HAVE to do SOMETHING..." we had no money anyway.

    At any rate, I'm still not sure if the Dr. diagnosing me was right anyway... or if its my many OTHER emotional/mental issues clouding things.

    I agree with you completely, though... it gets annoying when someone who happens to catch herself and get help is compared to someone like Britney spears who was in a horrible life situation, not to mention being a lot younger... I think that you're also right in that the media likes to sensationalize the extreme cases. I imagine we won't hear half as much about CZJ because its not really THAT sensational. Hell, the woman just helped her husband deal with cancer, she needed some help and got it. Good for her:)

  2. I was diagnosed in my early 20s... I guess about 11 years ago. I was on meds for several months. Every med they could throw at me. I stopped them all cold turkey bc I got really fat and couldn't even drive a car anymore I was so drowsy. I was crazier on meds than off. I have since changed my diet totally and I take tons of supplements. The only time the symptoms reappear is after I've had a baby... yikes. But I get through it luckily. It's just a helluva ride for a while.

    Maybe CZJ is receiving so much applause because she is beautiful? :(

  3. Hey Bona Fide Mama! Welcome! I was just asked about non-medication options for treatment by a newly diagnosed friend, and I'm clueless. I'd love to hear more about what you've discovered. (Although I'm sticking to my happy pills!) :P Shoot me an email, will you?