Bipolar disorder does not care how rich, famous, or “successful” you are. So, when celebrities with bipolar shed light on their own struggles with managing symptoms and maintaining stability, it often helps us to know that we are not alone.
It’s natural to look at people in the public eye—famous actors, musicians, comedians—and believe that they are “living the dream” when, really, we’re just looking at a snapshot of a person at a certain point in time. The truth is that mental health conditions don’t discriminate. Brain-based illnesses affect all people of all ages, genders, ethnicities, and socioeconomic levels. So, when celebrities with bipolar disorder who still seem to “have it all” tell us that they face the same challenges that we do with symptoms of depression and mania, we are reminded that our own battles with bipolar disorder are common … and treatable.
“In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls. Not unlike a tour of Afghanistan (though the bombs and bullets, in this case, come from the inside). At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of. They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication.” —Wishful Drinking, 2008
As a guest in 2019 on David Letterman’s Netflix series, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, West uses the term “ramping up” to convey the process of entering a hypomanic or manic bipolar mood episode: “When you ramp up, it expresses your personality more. You can become almost adolescent in your expression.… When you don’t take medication every day to keep you at a certain state, you have the potential to ramp up … and even end up in the hospital.”
On finding the strength to speak up: “Asking for help when you are struggling is a sign of strength. Using my voice has always been a part of my professional life, but that wasn’t always the case when it came to bipolar disorder. By being vocal, you can develop more coping skills, stronger relationships, and a better sense of yourself.”
“No matter what you call it, this is an illness no different from, say, diabetes or asthma—and like those conditions, [it] should be neither ignored nor stigmatized. Feeling ashamed would mean surrendering to someone else’s judgment—and ignorant judgment at that.” Dreyfuss has starred in blockbusters like Jaws, American Graffiti, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and The Goodbye Girl (which earned him an Academy Award for Best Actor).
The Terminator actress Linda Hamilton uses a holistic health plan to help her stability, with a structured and balanced lifestyle, exercise, and medication. “Exercise is an incredible key to feeling well. But for people with mental illness, taking care of the body is not an automatic thing. The mind is in such chaos, it’s hard to come up with a plan. So, to people like us, it’s more important than ever to follow a regimen.”
The daytime actor—who plays Michael “Sonny” Corinthos Jr. on General Hospital—talked with bp Magazine on life with bipolar: “I’ve lived a productive life having bipolar. I’ve talked to people who don’t want to talk about [having bipolar] because it’s embarrassing. I’m proud of it because I know it’s made me the actor I am and the person I am. It’s given me strength. If I can go through being in a mental hospital and that kind of pain and that kind of fear, I can do anything.”
The bassist for rock band Fall Out Boy explained to People magazine how his family helps his stability: “Living with purpose and having a schedule with my family has brought me balance…. When you hear a one-year-old laugh, it’s pretty much the funniest thing on the planet. It changes my mood. I think it can be different for everyone, but for me, just being able to talk through things, meditate, and exercise has been helpful.”
In an interview with bp Magazine’s Melody Moezzi, the comedian talked about being diagnosed: “I was surprised how prejudiced I was against myself. They tell you it’s the brain chemistry also working its magic, but I was really surprised at how resistant I was to going on a mood stabilizer, taking any time off of work, acknowledging that I needed to be hospitalized.… I was just so angry. I didn’t want to go on the meds. It wasn’t until it got bad enough to where I was starting to feel unsafe by myself that I reconsidered.”
In a 2015 interview with bp Magazine, Fry said of creativity, “It is not a coincidence, it can’t be, that so many comedians suffer from depression. As for whether the hypomanic side of bp can be said to help creativity, I hesitate to say yes because of all those out there living with the disorder who are not in creative industries…. But certainly, the energy, self-belief, exuberance, tirelessness, optimism, and, yes, grandiosity that mark out hypomania can really help one achieve much in terms of writing and creation.”
In 2018, during an interview with People magazine, Carey spoke about the confusing ups and downs of bipolar disorder: “For a long time I thought I had a severe sleep disorder, but it wasn’t normal insomnia.… 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 guilt that I wasn’t doing what I needed to be doing for my career.”
Tanya Hvilivitzky has spent almost 30 years in the communications field—a career that has included stints as an investigative journalist, magazine managing editor, corporate communications director, and researcher/writer. She has been with bp Magazine and esperanza Magazine since 2016, serving in roles such as interim editor and, currently, the features editor. She also writes for the bpBUZZ section of bphope.com, where she synthesizes complex information into a format that both inspires and informs.
As an award-winning writer/editor, she received the Beyond Borders Media Award for her 2012 investigative exposé about human trafficking. Her work on this important topic also earned the Media Freedom Award “Honouring Canada’s Heroes” from the Joy Smith Foundation to Stop Human Trafficking.
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