Emotional mental conditions and the stress of daily life doesn’t simply take its toll on everyday individuals. It can strike anyone, regardless of their personality, lifestyle or income. This includes celebrities. Bipolar disorder is one that affects millions of Americans, including the recently revealed Mariah Carey. In a just-released interview, the entertainer opened up about her battle with the disorder and how she, like so many others, just lived in denial and believed if she didn’t accept it, she wouldn’t need to deal with it.
Who is Mariah Carey?
Mariah Carey grew up in a small suburb outside of New York City. As the child of a mixed-race marriage, she experienced a number of prejudices growing up. Within her community, which was mostly of African and Latin American decent, her lighter skin tone set her apart from other children, who would racially profile her. During her early childhood years, she struggled to make friends. At the age of three, her parents divorced and split her and her two siblings apart, so the three children did not often see one another. Eventually, though, her father drifted away from the family and the three children moved in with her mother.
Mariah started to write poetry in high school, eventually combining her love of poetry with her love of music. As a child, her mother had exposed her to classical opera. While not a fan of the musical style, she trained herself to sing in the high tonal range of classic opera on the radio.
After high school, she moved out and moved into a small apartment in Manhattan with several other performers. She attempted to put out a group demo album but eventually met singer Brenda K. Starr through her recordings. Starr passed the demo tape off to Columbia Records, who signed her nearly on the spot. Other record labels had major female performers, such as Madonna for Sire Records and Whitney Houston at Arista. So Columbia wanted to push Carey as their own top female entertainer, so they recorded her debut album in 1988 (titled “Mariah Carey”) and spent over $1 million promoting the album.
The promotional material only helped so much, but her performance on the Grammy Awards led her to stardom, reaching the top Billboard spot, which she remained at for 11 straight weeks. She went on to release her second album in 1991, which failed to sell as well (she focused on a Motown sound to the album). She released her third album in 1993 and went back to traditional pop. In total, she has released 14 albums (including two Christmas albums). Her 1993 album “Music Box” has sold the most copies of any of her releases, with 28 million copies sold. Her 1995 album “Daydream” sold 20 million units.
Mariah Carey is one of 14 musicians to sell at least 200 million records. The only musicians to have sold more records than Mrs. Carey are Eminem, Rihanna, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Elton John, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley and The Beatles. She has also won a number of awards, including the 1991 Grammy for Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal. The 2006 Grammy for Best R&B song, Best Female R&B Vocal, and Best Contemporary Album, plus a host of Billboard, World Music Awards and MTV Music Awards. In terms of female performers in the music industry, few are able to match her accolades, sales numbers, and overall success.
Bipolar disorder is a mental condition millions of people in the U.S. live with and battle every single day. Even more, have not been diagnosed. The stigma of mental conditions has long prevented those suffering from openly discussing their condition. However, with more and more celebrities such as Mariah Carey coming forward, it may very well help others understand their own conditions and seek out the necessary treatment they need.
Mariah Carey Discussing Battle With Bipolar Disorder
In recent years, Mariah has moved away from studio music, yet has remained a staple within the industry. She took up residency in Las Vegas, performing nightly shows in several month intervals. She also served as a judge on American Idol. However, she has remained away from studios and massive world tours over the last decade. During this time, Mariah found herself struggling with a form of mania.
During a sit-down interview with People Magazine (April 23 print edition), Mrs. Carey said it started with what seemed to be a sleeping disorder. She would work long hours, yet she couldn’t fall asleep. Not from a lack of trying, but because, as she stated, “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” (The Washington Post, 2018).
Mariah went through most of her professional life not knowing she had any kind of mental disorder. She simply attested her mental conditions to stress or long work hours. However, in 2001, she had, what her publicist referred to as an “emotional and physical breakdown” following the filming of two movies back to back and the recording of one movie’s soundtrack. She checked herself into a hospital from the breakdown. At this time, she was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder.
Mrs. Carey said when she heard the news she didn’t want to believe it. Due to the stigma of mental illness even as recently as 2001, she thought word of her condition might ruin her career. She remained in constant fear of being exposed. This fear compounded her current issues and made the symptoms of her disorder much more prominent. In her People Magazine interview, Mariah went on to say, “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…”
The Different Kinds of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is broken down into several different variations. While the blanket definition refers to episodes of depression that will grow more extreme without treatment in addition to mania. Some do demonstrate symptoms while receiving treatment, but the episodes are easier to control (WebMD, 2018).
According to WebMD, bipolar disorder is generally broken down into bipolar I and bipolar II. Bipolar I consist of severe mood swings that lead to both mania and depression. Bipolar II is a milder form of the condition, yet can still lead to severe depression. Cyclothymic disorder, mixed features, and rapid-cycling are other terms and disorders lumped in with bipolar disorder.
Cyclothymic disorder is a short period of hypomanic symptoms that flip quickly with short periods of depression. These are not usually long term, nor do the episodes last as long as those of either bipolar disorder. Mixed features mean multiple symptoms occur at the same time, which includes both hypomanic and depression. Sleeplessness, racing thoughts, and high energy often happen at the same time, yet the individual suffering from mixed features may also feel suicidal, depressed or hopeless.
Rapid cycling is a term often used when describing the frequency of someone’s bipolar episodes. If someone has at least four episodes during a 12-month span (most episodes lasting at least several days) they are often referred to as having rapid cycling episodes (WebMD, 2018).
According to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, around 2.6 percent of the United State’s population (over the age of 18) suffer from some form of bipolar disorder. This equates to roughly 5.7 million individuals. Most begin experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder at the age of 25, although there is no preset time frame for when symptoms may become apparent.
The mental disorder affects both men and women equally, yet women are three times more likely to suffer from rapid cycling and experience more pronounced swings within their condition. Women are also more likely to demonstrate depression and mixed episodes than men.
As the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance points out, one in five people who suffer from some form of bipolar disorder commit suicide, many of whom either do not receive treatment, or who diverge from their treatment. There are varying treatment options though, which equate to a nearly 85 percent success rate. According to the Mayo Clinic (2018), this generally starts with some form of medication in order to balance out the mood swings. This allows for a building block to begin addressing the other symptoms. There are several medications, depending on what sort of tendencies someone suffering from bipolar disorder is demonstrating. These include mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, antidepressants, antidepressant-antipsychotic and anti-anxiety medications. With the wide range of medications, it’s important to have a physician specially trained in working with mental disorders work with an individual in order to identify the right medication.
Further forms of treatment include sessions with psychologists, group recovery gatherings, and, when necessary, substance abuse treatment as those many who suffer from bipolar disorder develop addictions in order to cope with the conditions.
While in years past, openly discussing mental disorders remained taboo, more and more are speaking out about not only their own struggles with conditions such as bipolar disorder but also the importance to receive help and proper treatment. As Mariah Carey proves, receiving treatment can help improve not only personal perception while reducing symptoms, but help with boosting the overall quality of life.
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