Yesterday Catherine Zeta Jones revealed that she had recently undergone treatment for Bipolar II disorder, and I think that is amazing. Catherine Zeta Jones is one of my favourite actresses, but I admire her even more now. She has shown a great deal of courage in revealing she has the disorder, as there is still a stigma around mental illness. Most people suffer in silence and shame, and that's just wrong.
According to the Mayo Clinic, Bipolar II disorder is a form of Bipolar disorder marked by irritation and a mildly elevated mood - a state known as hypomania. It's generally less debilitating than Bipolar I, a condition marked by mood swings and a severe mood elevation known as mania. Previously it was called manic depression because of the mood swings.
People with Bipolar II can generally continue to function, Dr. Thomas Wise, professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical School, told CBS News. "It can cause excessive energy and lots of optimism and being really flighty in terms of ideas," he said. "The symptoms can be a little annoying to others, but people can still work." Wise said stress can sometimes trigger symptoms of Bipolar disorder, but typically in people who have a hereditary predisposition to the disorder. Those with Bipolar II tend to have more depression, with the mood swings spread over a longer time and the "up" periods less elevated. The episodes can be triggered by major stress or life changes. With appropriate treatment - often drug therapy with lithium or another mood stabilizer and psychotherapy - people with Bipolar II generally have an excellent prognosis, said Dr. Wise.
I believe my mother suffered from a mild form of Bipolar disorder. I adored my mother, and in retrospect, I feel so bad for how she must have suffered. Her mood swings were like an itch she had to scratch. She would let off steam by yelling and hollering, and then she felt better. Once it had happened, my brothers and I were in the clear for perhaps a few hours, or even days or weeks, until it all built up again. Often my mother would go for days without speaking to anyone, she would be in such a deep depression. Those times were the worst. We, of course, felt like anxious, weary, battle-scarred little warriors. The sad thing is, when she was angry or depressed, we all thought she didn't love us. But she did love us, and and she would be devastated to know what a profound and lasting effect her moods had on our lives.
My mother was a very creative person, and often creativity and Bipolar seem to coexist. I was very proud of my mother for her beauty, her artistic abilities, her charm, intelligence and warmth; she had a certain je ne sais quoi that none of my friends' mothers had. She was magical and she had that mysterious thing called star quality. But I realize now she also had Bipolar disorder, and she was as much a victim of her disorder -- if not more so -- than we were. Today is the anniversary of the passing of my mother from this earth. She left behind so many beautiful memories, but also some very deep scars which have taken time to heal. I wonder how different our lives might have been if my mother had received the treatment she so obviously needed.
Margaret Trudeau suffered from Bipolar disorder all her life, until she finally sought help. She said, "There is no shame in having the disease, the shame is in having the disease and not getting help for it." In that regard, I applaud Catherine Zeta Jones. The spotlight will not only be on her, but also on her courage.