Recently on an airplane, I finally found some time to myself to do some catching up on news events and on my favorite topic, star gossip! I’m well aware that I am not up to date on current news events and such, but little did I realize that I was 2+years behind!
I remember hearing something months back, or maybe even years back about Catherine Zeta Jones and Bipolar II Disorder, but quite frankly two years ago in my head brings me back to two children in diapers, bottles, and some everyday chaos that did not allow for any leisurely activities. So, just recently I read about Catherine Zeta Jones and the news which was revealed regarding her struggle with Bipolar II Disorder. I’m totally aware that this news is by no means considered new news, but in my fast paced world where Doc McStuffins, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Angry Birds take priority, I am just now reading about this.
Immediately following the confessions of the actress, there were numerous opinions about Catherine’s decision to discuss her diagnosis and her struggles. Much of the feedback I read appeared to be criticism for going public with this “very private matter.” As a therapist in the field of mental health, I found myself becoming angry at the feedback of which I was reading: “I’m not sure why she would want to discuss this matter publicly, it will affect her career.” “Now when I see Catherine Zeta Jones all I am going to think about is the fact that she has Bipolar Disorder!”
I guess I take it for granted and assume that most people are aware that mental illness can affect anyone despite their social status, beauty, or wealth. I guess I also take it for granted that most people agree that mental illness is not stigmatized, because in my professional career, it certainly is not. The reality is that we have come very far with how we perceive mental illness and the struggles of such, but we as a society still have a long road ahead as evidenced by some of the highlighted comments about Catherine and Bipolar II Disorder.
Although, I cannot relate to Catherine’s diagnosis of Bipolar II Disorder, I can certainly relate to those women who have suffered from postpartum depression after giving birth. After reading about Catherine, I felt the need to talk out my own feelings, even though it is almost four years after my second, and last “baby” was born.
What a crazy thing… my husband and I tried for years to conceive a baby and finally the momentous time had arrived, the day that my husband and I were allowed to bring our new bundle of joy home from the hospital! For months on end, everyone prepared me for so many wonderful moments and shared with me many helpful tid-bits of information. Prior to giving birth, I felt as though I would be the most prepared new Mama out there. I was prepared for the “falling in love” moment the second you lay eyes on your baby notion. I was well prepared for the new wonderful smells of a newborn. I was prepared for little tricks that Moms and Dads have to do when changing an infant boy, so to prevent this new little bundle from peeing all of me. I was also prepared for the large amount of opinions that I would encounter when it came to breast milk vs. formula.
What I was not prepared for and what I was not expecting was to dread the day my husband had to return to work. I wasn’t prepared for finding myself walking around my house crying and thinking, “what did I get myself into?” I certainly was not prepared for feeling less than 100% ecstatic. I felt like a terrible person and the worst new mother ever- how could I ever admit that although I was in love with my new baby, I was also sad and overwhelmed by my less than perfect transition into motherhood?
I remember going for a walk a few days after my son was born and I was talking to my friend, Jill on the phone. Jill is someone who knows what I’m feeling before I can even make sense of it…. She began the conversation with telling me “you know it’s perfectly Ok if you are not feeling that ‘over the moon’ feeling all day…everyday.” Although this sounds like common sense, this statement from my friend changed my entire outlook on motherhood. I now felt validated and knew I wasn’t the only one who may have struggled with a newborn. I also became more verbal about the feelings I was hiding. I realized that the more open I was with myself and with others, the more that I learned that there were many, many other new Mothers with the same initial feelings. The issue here, is that we are not prepared for the outcome other than the complete bliss outcome. People generally do not talk about their real experiences, rather we talk about our “white picket fence” and “facebook” experiences, for the world to see. And, this is what happens with issues on a larger scale such as, and including mental health issues. Most of us are not educated enough about the real stuff out there that touches us every day; whether it is directly or indirectly.
Although it is two years later that I finally learned of it, I am happy to see that Catherine Zeta Jones is the “face” of Bipolar II Disorder, if there is such a thing, because in my mind she represents strength, responsibility and overall the reality that anyone can be affected by any kind of illness whether it be physical or mental illness. The news about Catherine has allowed those who may have an illness to feel validated and less alone, especially knowing that a celebrity has the same struggles. The fact that she was brave enough to share this news and describe what life has been like, to me is admirable.