By Isabel Jones
Apr 11, 2018 @ 8:30 am

For the first time, singer Mariah Carey is opening up about her long and secretive battle with bipolar disorder.

In this week’s issue of People, the chart-topping icon reveals that she was first diagnosed in 2001 after being hospitalized for a physical and mental breakdown.

“I didn’t want to believe it,” Carey said. “Until recently I lived in denial and isolation and in constant fear someone would expose me.”

Today, Mariah has come to terms with her diagnosis and is making steps to ensure her health and happiness.

“It was too heavy a burden to carry and I simply couldn’t do that anymore,” she explained. “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.”

Michael Stewart/WireImage

“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. Finding the proper balance is what is most important,” the singer said.

Before learning of the intricacies of her illness, Carey thought she was dealing with a “severe sleep disorder.”

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

Mariah suffers from bipolar II disorder, which is characterized by depressive episodes followed by periods of hypomania. The difference between bipolar I and II is in the severity of the manic episodes, which are less intense in the latter form.

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“I’m just in a really good place right now, where I’m comfortable discussing my struggles with bipolar II disorder,” the mother of two shared. “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. It does not have to define you and I refuse to allow it to define me or control me.”