Mother of two, Catherine-Zeta Jones checked herself into a mental health facility for bipolar disorder. Her stay was short but necessary. After seeing her husband, Michael Douglas through his cancer treatments this past year, she was understandably stressed.
Celebrities, especially celebrity moms, have a unique chance to affect others when they share their struggles. It’s no doubt that Zeta-Jones will help improve the stigma often associated with bipolar disease. More importantly, I hope it will also help other mothers recognize that getting help is a positive thing.
I have had quite a few friends in the past week alone facing parenting challenges and the overriding problem preventing them from getting help has been fear. It’s primarily fear of people finding out that they are not the perfect mother. But there is not such thing. Any mother will tell you that there are days when being a mother is not only tough, it is overwhelming. Sometimes, it is too much for us to handle by ourselves. Getting help is not only commendable, it is vital.
If more women were not afraid of what other people thought and realized that seeking professional help was the only way out, we might be able to prevent these horrible situations where parents hurt themselves or their children. Just today, another story broke of a mom, Lashanda Armstrong who killed herself and three of her four children after a domestic dispute. Neighbors report that they had no idea there was anything wrong. She likely suffered in silence.
While bipolar disorder is often known for wild outbursts and destructive behavior, many people manage a successful career and a family life, right along with their disorder. Like autism, bipolar disorder exists on a spectrum, so some forms of the illness are more severe than others. Bipolar I is more severe. Zeta-Jones suffers from bipolar II which has less noticeable symptoms.
In this way, bipolar can be a hidden disease and one in which people can suffer from in silence. Like bipolar, depression can be hidden and go undetected. Time reports that many people with the disorder remain undiagnosed:
It remains unclear when Zeta-Jones received her diagnosis, but it is important to note that many patients may go decades believing they are depressed, without realizing they have bipolar disorder.
By Zeta-Jones’ publicly sharing her story, she not only made a life changing decision for her own children, but she showed other moms that there is no shame in seeking help.