Well, this explains a lot. Mariah Carey covers the new issue of People Magazine, and it’s because she’s opening up about being bipolar. I’m old enough to remember Mariah Carey’s 2001 “breakdown,” which is how it was characterized at the time. Carey seemed to lose the thread on live television, on MTV’s TRL. There were jokes about it across the board, and the official excuse at the time was that she was “exhausted.” Over the years, we’ve just gotten used to Mariah’s idiosyncratic nature, because we thought that’s what it was – that she was healthy in mind and body, but she was just weird/lazy or an unhinged diva. But she was dealing with her bipolar disorder this whole time. Some highlights from Mariah’s People cover story:
The first diagnosis: Although she was first diagnosed in 2001 (when she was hospitalized for a physical and mental breakdown), “I didn’t want to believe it…I didn’t want to carry around the stigma of a lifelong disease that would define me and potentially end my career. … I was so terrified of losing everything, I convinced myself the only way to deal with this was to not deal with this.” Carey says she finally sought treatment recently after “the hardest couple of years I’ve been through” — years of professional upheaval, an E! reality show and romantic drama.
She worried she could be exposed: “Until recently I lived in denial and isolation and in constant fear someone would expose me. It was too heavy a burden to carry and I simply couldn’t do that anymore. I sought and received treatment, I put positive people around me and I got back to doing what I love — writing songs and making music.”
How she’s doing now: She is now in therapy and taking medication for bipolar II disorder, which involves periods of depression as well as hypomania (less severe than the mania associated with bipolar I disorder, but can still cause irritability, sleeplessness and hyperactivity). “I’m actually taking medication that seems to be pretty good. It’s not making me feel too tired or sluggish or anything like that. Finding the proper balance is what is most important. For a long time I thought I had a severe sleep disorder. But it wasn’t normal insomnia and I wasn’t lying awake counting sheep. I was working and working and working … I was irritable and in constant fear of letting people down. It turns out that I was experiencing a form of mania. Eventually I would just hit a wall. I guess my depressive episodes were characterized by having very low energy. I would feel so lonely and sad — even guilty that I wasn’t doing what I needed to be doing for my career.”
This diagnosis does make a lot of sense, looking back on it – she would go to such extremes, from extreme happiness to barely being able to get out of bed or leave her apartment. It also makes sense that she didn’t want to seek treatment or medication for so many years – so many artists suffer from mental health issues, and so many artists worry that if they seek medication, it will make it harder for them to create, to work. Plus, Mariah was probably genuinely terrified that she would be exposed. As I said, I remember the jokes about her mental state back in the day. Now that we’re in 2018, we know more about mental health and mental illness.
Cover courtesy of People Mag, additional photos courtesy of WENN.