There’s only one thing that makes waiting in a queue at the supermarket bearable… magazines at the checkout! I’m an avid reader and can’t help myself from flicking through a magazine or two while I wait – perusing what’s going on in ‘celebrity land’.
A couple of weeks ago, I was approaching the check-out when the front cover of ‘The Australian Women’s Weekly’ caught my eye. It wasn’t the glamorous picture of Nicole Kidman channeling Grace Kelly on the front cover that interested me, but an ‘exclusive’ with Jessica Marais: “I am bipolar”.
For those outside of Australia, Jessica’s name might not mean much. But for those of us ‘Down Under’, Jessica Marais (pictured above) is one of the most gorgeous, talented and best loved actresses to grace our TV screens. When she fell in love with her on-screen boyfriend and they had a sweet baby daughter not long after, it seemed like she really was living a fairytale life.
Which is why, seeing this headline made me so curious. I quickly bought the magazine, loaded the groceries into the car boot and sat in the front seat reading the article.
I wasn’t disappointed by Jessica’s soul-baring interview. In it, she revealed her family had a history of bipolar disorder and how she was diagnosed at 12 years of age – after the stress of seeing her father die of a heart attack triggered her first bipolar episode.
Alongside glamorous photos of the actress, were quotes where she explained how bipolar was part of her life – but didn’t define it: “..It’s become a manageable part of my life. I acknowledge it, I know when an episode is coming on and I work hard to manage it.”
For a moment, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed when Jessica pointed about she’s “had cognitive therapy training, so I choose not to be medicated.” Part of me started thinking this comment was irresponsible, and might lead to someone suddenly going off their medication. I also found myself thinking, “she doesn’t know what it’s like to have to be on medication… with wonderful side effects like gaining weight and having your hair fall out.” But then I caught myself, and focused on what she was doing – which was bravely sharing her story in the media in the hope it would help others:
“I just think it’s important to talk about depression. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. And the more we talk about it as a community, the more we remove the stigma.”
Hearing such an admired, high-profile mother explain her condition in such a matter-of-fact way was heart-warming. While the article went on to mention her new film, it was clear this was more than just a cheap tactic to generate publicity. She had put herself out there to help dispel the notion that people with bipolar disorder are not able to lead amazing, productive lives.
As a woman and a mum, this article gave me a bit of a boost… yes I have bipolar disorder, but that’s just one small part of who I am. I am also a wife, a mother, an employee, a sister, a daughter and a friend.
Although I’m not a celebrity, I too work very hard to manage my condition. Having had bipolar disorder since I was 18, I can now tell when anxiety is taking hold or when my mind is unable to slow down. Sometimes, with the help of others, I’m able to nip these episodes in the bud. Sometimes, I’m not.
In the past year, I’ve discovered the ‘blogosphere’ and enjoyed reading stories from other women in similar circumstances. It wasn’t long ago that women with bipolar were discouraged from even having children – so reading about the many wonderful mums out there who are raising incredible children, while living with this condition, is encouraging.
So thank you to all of you out there who are bravely sharing your journey with all of us. You may never be featured on the front cover of a magazine, but your story is every bit as incredible as Jessica’s – and there are lots of us out here who draw inspiration from you!