Aside from being an absolutely gorgeous woman, she’s brave, too! Revealing it to the world is a huge thing. She opened herself up to judgment and ridicule. The comment sections in blogs and news outlets, shows just how much she’s getting:
The comments that anger me the most are the ones that claim that bipolar isn’t real. Seriously? Completely ignorant, and insensitive is a given. This illness is very much real and is also known as manic depression. The term bipolar is used more now.
Catherine Zeta-Jones was diagnosed Bipolar II, a “less severe” form of the disease. Those with Bipolar II have a lot of depressive episodes and experience hypomania – increased energy, rapid thoughts. You’ll notice a change in them, but it’s not a night and day difference.
By revealing this, she is chipping away at the stigma of mental illness. People also can learn more about it, as evidenced by many doctors explaining her condition in articles and on TV. Many people with bipolar are high-functioning, mostly due to a good med cocktail keeping them stable. You wouldn’t know they were bipolar unless they told you. Like me.
Unfortunately, I was dealt a hand that includes the “more severe” form of bipolar. Bipolar I. While those with Bipolar II become hypomanic, they don’t have full-blown manic episodes.
Ah mania. The last one I experienced was 12 years ago when I was diagnosed. A manic episode is typically when you’re diagnosed with Bipolar I. People are usually diagnosed with depression first. Then bam, the manic episode comes and screams, “Alert! Alert! Bipolar I”
Mania sucks. The hypomanic episode that precedes it is frickin’ awesome. You’re energized. You take on projects. Even though your mind is racing, it can be a very productive, fun time. Then comes mania. This is where you can’t sleep for days, your speech is as rapid as your thoughts, and you feel too on top of the world. This is when you can do some really crazy, dangerous crap.
Like driving for hours, circling the Bay Area numerous times, putting hundreds of miles on your car in a day. Like walking the streets in Waikiki at 2:00 AM chatting it up with hookers and homeless people. Like picking up hitch hikers. Nothing can stop you. You feel invincible. People close to you see the change and recommend that you go the hospital. Oh hell no! You don’t need doctors! Life is awesome! Then, if you haven’t gotten yourself killed, you will eventually crash and burn. That’s the time when you feel the need to go to the hospital. You stay for a while, stabilize, and remember all the crap you did. Nope. It wasn’t all just a bad movie.
Thanks to an amazing psychiatrist who helped me figure out the right medicine combination to take (after trial and error), I am stable. I don’t go through all that crap anymore. Better living through chemistry. Sort of.
Stability comes at a price. Some of the drugs have horrendous side effects. One that I was on for a year and didn’t work made me gain 20 lbs. I thought, “Screw this. I don’t want to be fat and depressed.” I stopped taking it and lost the weight. And a patch of hair.
The drugs I’m on now have killed my memory, both short and long-term. The short-term loss is the most severe, though. Many times, I seriously can’t remember things I’ve done 5 minutes ago. I’ve left keys in the door. I’ve done some tasks only to realize I already did them. At work, all I can say is, “Thank you Baby Jesus for Outlook reminders.”
The price of stability may be high, but I’ll pay it. No mania and no depression so bad you don’t get out of bed for days. I am able to work and live a “normal” life. If I were to rate my mood and feelings on a scale of 0-10, most days fall in the 4-6 range. I don’t want to go back to having 4-6s, 0s and 10s. This is why I paid the price and would do it again if need be.
So, I thank Catherine Zeta-Jones for sharing her diagnosis. I wish her well and hope she feels better soon. And finds a good med cocktail. It can get better.