Although she was diagnosed with the disease in 2001 when she was hospitalized after a mental and physical breakdown, “I didn’t want to believe it,” she tells PEOPLE editor-in-chief Jess Cagle.
“I didn’t want to carry around the stigma of a lifelong disease that would define me and potentially end my career. … I was so terrified of losing everything, I convinced myself the only way to deal with this was to not deal with this.
“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. As hard as this is, I also knew it was time to finally share my story.”
Carey says she’s in therapy and on medication for bipolar II disorder, which involves periods of depression as well as hypomania (less severe than the mania associated with bipolar I, but can still cause irritability, sleeplessness and hyperactivity)
RELATED VIDEO: PEOPLE Exclusive: Mariah Carey Is Managing Her Bipolar Disorder With Medication & Therapy
“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,” Carey tells PEOPLE.
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She says she decided to seek treatment on the heels of “the hardest couple of years I’ve been through” — years that included a brief engagement to mogul James Packer, an E! reality show and professional upheaval.
Carey, who’s coparenting her 6-year-old twins Monroe and Moroccan with ex-husband Nick Cannon, says she’s now “in a really good place,” and is speaking publicly because “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.”
For more on Mariah Carey and her battle with bipolar disorder, dealing with fame and raising twins, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday. For mental health support, contact the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance at dbsalliance.org.