For decades Mariah Carey has been one of the entertainment industry’s most iconic pop divas and despite a life and career in the spotlight, Carey is only opening up about her battle with bipolar disorder now.
In an exclusive with PEOPLE, the 49-year-old said she “didn’t want to believe it” when she was first diagnosed back in 2001 after being hospitalized for a physical and mental breakdown.
For years Carey admits to suffering in silence and living in denial about her diagnosis, but recently sought treatment after facing some difficult years with her E! reality series and her highly publicized relationship, engagement and split from James Packer. “Until recently I lived in denial and isolation and in constant fear someone would expose me,” she told the publication. “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.”
“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,” Carey said of dealing with her bipolar II disorder.
The singer admitted that she kept dismissing the effects of her bipolar II disorder as something else. “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.”
Now, the mom of 6-year-old twins Moroccan and Monroe, says she decided to speak out because “I’m just in a really good place right now, where I’m comfortable discussing my struggles with bipolar II disorder. I’m hopeful we can get to a place where the stigma is lifted from people going through anything alone. It can be incredibly isolating. It does not have to define you and I refuse to allow it to define me or control me.”
PEOPLE’s issue featuring more on Carey’s exclusive interview hits newsstands Friday.