Mariah Carey is setting herself free.
In People's Apr. 23 issue (on newsstands Friday), the singer opens up about living with bipolar II disorder—and why she kept it a secret from the public for nearly two decades. Carey was first diagnosed in 2001, after she was hospitalized for a mental and physical breakdown. Back then, "I didn't want to believe it." For years after her hospitalization, Carey recalls, "I was so terrified of losing everything I convinced myself the only way to deal with this was to not deal with this."
After "the hardest couple of years," Carey recently sought treatment. "Until recently I lived in denial and isolation and in constant fear someone would expose me. 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," she says. Carey says she is now in therapy and taking medication to manage her bipolar II disorder, which is characterized by extended periods of depression, hypomania and mood swings. "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," she says. "Finding the proper balance is what is most important."
Carey once thought she "had a severe sleep disorder," but later learned it stemmed from her bipolar II disorder. "It wasn't normal insomnia and I wasn't lying awake counting sheep. I was working and working and working. I thought working and promoting for days in a row without sleeping was just part of my life. 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," the mom of two says. Carey adds that she was inspired to tell her story after seeing people like Pete Davidson, Lady Gaga, Dwayne Johnson, Demi Lovato and Kevin Love speak about their mental illnesses.
"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," the "Butterfly" singer tells the magazine. "It does not have to define you and I refuse to allow it to define me or control me."
For more from Carey, pick up the Apr. 23 issue of People, on newsstands Friday.