(NEW YORK) — Fans of Bebe Rexha know that she’s an unapologetic rock star. She’s able to command an arena full of people with her confidence-filled, upbeat songs and she’s also not afraid to wear her heart on her sleeve.
And while many may shy away from talking about the challenges they face, Rexha, 30, is fearless when it comes to being real with her fans.
In a recent Self magazine interview, the singer unabashedly opened up once more and spoke about living with bipolar disorder.
“I was very fearful,” she told Self magazine. “I didn’t want to think there was something wrong with me.”
Rexha first revealed her battle with bipolar disorder last April to her 1.6 million followers on Twitter.
She wrote, “For the longest time, I didn’t understand why I felt so sick. Why I felt lows that made me not want to leave my house or be around people and why I felt highs that wouldn’t let me sleep, wouldn’t let me stop working or creating music. Now I know why.”
In her interview with Self, Rexha said that throughout her life, she had experienced symptoms like mood swings, anxiousness and overwhelming depression. And in the midst of it all, she was also diagnosed with premenstrual dysphoric disorder, a condition that occurs a week or two before a woman’s menstrual cycle, which can cause severe irritability, depression or anxiety.
“My mom would call it code red,” Rexha said. “A day before [my period started], I would feel like my world was ending … I would get into these funks and be really depressed and not want to leave my house.”
Rexha said it wasn’t easy confronting her illness, especially as a child of Albanian immigrant parents.
“Growing up, when I had anxiety and depression, they’d be like, just get over it. It’s all in your head. Take a walk,” she said. “For my parents, it was hard because they felt like it was a sense of failure. But it’s not their failure at all; it’s just an illness.”
But the singer wanted to get better, and with the support of her friends and family, she found a therapist and eventually started taking medication under the guidance of a psychiatrist — something she delayed after fearing that medication would change her as a person and as an artist.
“I waited a very long time until I took meds. I was really scared that it was going to flatten me out,” she said. “[Medication has] maybe helped me be a little bit more insightful and learn things about the world and also allowed me to be a little bit more centered so that I can actually write about my feelings.”
She said that it wasn’t until much later that she directly asked her therapist if she was bipolar, which prompted Rexha to share the news with her followers on Twitter.
Now, the singer is putting a spotlight on the illness and hoping to help destigmatize the way people think about the disorder by sharing her story and how she’s coped with it.
“I felt like me opening up to my fans was me finally saying, ‘I’m not going to be imprisoned by this,’” she said. “And maybe it’ll make somebody not feel imprisoned, in that moment, if they feel like they’re going through a rough time. That’s why I decided to really open up and to free myself from that.”
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