These Wildly Successful People Will Prompt You To Rethink What It Means To Have A Mental Illness
The Huffington Post | By Lindsay Holmes
Approximately one in four American adults suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. This staggering statistic goes to show that mental illness can touch anyone — from entrepreneurs to presidents to celebrities.
Given the stigma attached to mental illness, despite its prevalence, many people suffer quietly instead of reaching out for the support they may need. But as the wildly accomplished individuals below prove, just because you’re battling a mental disorder doesn’t mean you should feel alone — or incapable of accomplishing your goals.
It’s also worth noting that the conversation around these disorders used to be much quieter. And while many prominent people have publicly revealed their diagnoses, there is a whole host of luminaries who historians suspect suffered from one disorder or another: Renowned, innovative creative-types like Steve Jobs, Charles Dickens and Charles Lindbergh as well as gifted politicians like Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson.
The Academy Award-winning actress, who is the picture of poised on the red carpet, revealed in 2011 that she was diagnosed with Bipolar II disorder. Zeta-Jones said the condition, which causes a series of deep, depressive lows with extreme manic highs that don’t reach full-blown mania, has had a huge impact on her personal life as well as her professional career. Zeta-Jones has been open about her battle and remains optimistic about treating the illness (last year she checked back into a health care facility for additional treatment). “This is a disorder that affects millions of people and I am one of them,” she told PEOPLE magazine. “If my revelation of having bipolar II has encouraged one person to seek help, then it is worth it. There is no need to suffer silently and there is no shame in seeking help.”
The upcoming author and sister of acclaimed actress Glenn Close was diagnosed with Bipolar I disorder at the age of 47 after struggling with it most of her life. “When I was finally diagnosed, I went through a long period of grief, because I had so many instances where I was manic and not in my right mind,” she told CNN earlier this year. “It’s a difficult thing to look back on a life when you’re already 50 years old.” After receiving an official diagnosis, Close joined Glenn in launching Bring Change 2 Mind, a foundation working to end the stigma and discrimination of mental illness.
The “America’s Got Talent” host is one of more than 2 million people who suffer from OCD. The condition, which is associated with repetitive thoughts and impulses, affected Mandel for most of his life before he finally sought help as an adult. “We take care of our dental health,” he told CNN in February. “We don’t take care of our mental health … I think the solution to making this world better is if we would just be healthy, mentally.”
The Maroon 5 crooner has struggled with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder for most of his life, and created a public service announcement earlier this year about how he’s still dealing with the condition. Since filming the PSA, he’s been open about his battle — even admitting that it sometimes affects him in the recording studio — and hopes his public status can help someone who may be suffering from the same disorder. “ADHD isn’t a bad thing, and you shouldn’t feel different from those without ADHD,” Levine wrote in ADDitude magazine. “Remember that you are not alone. There are others going through the same thing.”
Best known for her role as the captivating Princess Leia in the “Star Wars” franchise, Fisher has received several accolades for her activism for the mental health community. In an interview with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, she explains that people with mental illness shouldn’t feel like they have to give up their dreams just because of a disorder. “Stay afraid, but do it anyway,” she advised. “What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.” Fisher had the confidence to not let bipolar disorder define her when she publicly announced her diagnosis on 2000. “People say ‘mental illness’ like it’s not a part of the body,” she told Forbes in 2011. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
The goofy, lovable actress wasn’t always the picture of happy that she is today. Barrymore struggled with addiction to drugs and alcohol, which ultimately led to severe depression and a suicide attempt. In an interview with Teen Ink, Barrymore offered advice for teens who are struggling with similar demons: “Persevere and find people who are safe and honest and who will give you tough love and will guide you through the times,” she said. “You really can’t do everything on your own. You need love and support around you. Believe that you will get past these times. You will overcome. Things will get better. Life is a series of ups and downs and the good news, when you’re in a low, is that it will go up again. And things will become safe and clear and beautiful.”
The most-decorated Olympian of all time also faced ADHD growing up, Everyday Health reported. His inability to focus was concerning for his family — but they noticed that while he lacked discipline in the classroom, he was able to cultivate it elsewhere: the pool. “Michael has a mental toughness. He’s very intense, but he never used to be able to focus,” his mother Debbie Phelps told Everyday Health. “But even at ages 9 and 10, at swim meets he would be focused for four hours — even though he’d only be swimming himself for three to four minutes — because swimming is his passion.”
The pop star has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and depression, Everyday Health reported. O’Connor has been public about her battle with mental illness, and spoke out about her advocacy to end the stigma against mental disorders with TIME magazine in 2013: “Unfortunately there’s such a stigma about mental illness or perceived mental illness that people are bullied and treated like sh*t and the illnesses are used as something with which to beat people, and in a manner than a physical illness wouldn’t be,” she said.
Ludwig van Beethoven
It’s possible the musical genius also suffered from a bipolar disorder, which may have even influenced his creativity. According to François Martin Mai, author of Diagnosing Genius: The Life and Death of Beethoven, the composer showed signs of depression and episodes of mania, some of which was even reflected in his own works. In a review of Mai’s book, the New England Journal of Medicine points out some of the author’s logic, citing that Beethoven was still able to channel creative energy:
Mai thoughtfully analyzes the ways in which Beethoven’s chronic illnesses and psychopathology may have contributed to his creativity. But it is also important to acknowledge that Beethoven had an inner impulse that demanded expression — even in the face of many obstacles.