In many ways, Mariah Carey’s life is different than the average mama’s—Mimi’s a superstar after all—but as mom to 6-year-old twins Monroe and Moroccan, Carey is among the 33% of mothers who experience mental health issues.

She recently opened up to People to talk about mental illness. Specifically, Carey is being real about her struggles with bipolar II disorder, something she’s kept secret since being diagnosed in 2001.

The condition is defined as periods of depression and hypomania, and individuals diagnosed with bipolar II disorder typically can be depressed for longer periods of time compared to those with bipolar I, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Carey says that for a long time she confused her hypomanic episodes with a sleep disorder, as, like many moms, she was often unable to sleep.

“But it wasn’t normal insomnia and I wasn’t lying awake counting sheep. I was working and working and working,” she tells People. “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.”

That wall was depression, and Carey would find herself feeling lonely and sad, and lacking energy.

Unfortunately, the stigma around mental illness terrified Carey for a long time—but now that she’s in therapy and is taking medication for bipolar II disorder, she’s over that fear. “Until recently I lived in denial and isolation and in constant fear someone would expose me,” she told People. “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.”

Getting help is helping her find joy again, as a musician and a mom, and Carey says she’s “hopeful we can get to a place where the stigma is lifted from people going through anything alone.”

She doesn’t want anyone to feel as isolated as she did and has a message for other mamas who are struggling to accept a mental health diagnosis: “It does not have to define you and I refuse to allow it to define me or control me.”

Carey is proving her voice is a powerful force, and not just when she’s singing.

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