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:
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.