Few people in the world have even the slightest idea what it’s like to be THE KIM KARDASHIAN. Wearer of waist corsets, teeth bling and million dollar diamonds. Your harrowing experience in Paris is also out of the realm many of us will ever experience in life. But right now, with what you are going through as Kanye gets help for his mental health symptoms, you are in a new tribe. We are the hundreds of millions of people around the world who love someone with a diagnosable mental illness.
In some cases, there are people like myself who have a mental illness who also love someone with a mental illness. In others, the partner is stable and mental health is truly an unknown.
You seem to be misunderstood in your other world. In this world, you are understood.
In 1994, I opened a kitchen cabinet and found half an onion where a glass would normally be. The refrigerator door was open and there were papers covered in writing on the kitchen table. I looked at one and it said, “A Message to Bill Gates. A new software program that will revolutionize the world. If only BILL GATES will listen!”
It was my partner Ivan’s 21st birthday that day. The night before he forgot how to write a check. We laughed. He tried to tell me how to parallel park the car even though he is French and doesn’t drive. We laughed. He told us he had a solution to all of our relationship crises. We laughed. His eyes were as wide as saucers and he was sweating. There was a weird grimace on his face and when he looked at me and said, “Ok. Tell me the truth. You’ve been with your ex haven’t you?” I remember thinking, what in the world is he talking about? I haven’t seen my ex in over four years damn it!
I Woke Up At 2:00 AM and He Was Gone
I didn’t know anything that day over 20 years ago. I thought he was just being weird. That night, I woke up at 2:00 AM and he was gone. Vanished. I knew then that I had to get some help. I called the police and they asked me where he might be and suggested I call a hospital. I called the ER and when they asked, “Is there mental illness in the family?” I said, “I’m not sure. I did hear that his father has something called manic depression.”
I was so naive. (What are the chances that two people who met in a Tokyo bar would have what we now call bipolar disorder and neither knew it when they met!) After he disappeared, I found him and called the police to take him to the hospital. This started the odyssey that changed my life forever. He was in the hospital in a manic and psychotic episode for three months and then went back int the hospital when his mania and psychosis turned into suicidal depression. It was hell.
I write about this experience in all of my books and right now Kim, you are going through the same experience. No matter how famous your are- no matter what great doctors you find to tell you what is going on, no matter how much money you have, you are in a new world where the person you love is gone and you are looking at the symptoms of an illness that you have to study and understand in order to figure out why he acts as he does and why a relationship so filled with possibilities and love has been rough for so long.
One year after Ivan was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder one, I left him to go to China to ‘experience the world! and was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder two with psychotic features. If diagnosed today, I would get a schizoaffective diagnosis.
Kanye has shown the signs of bipolar disorder for many years. I should know as I have the same symptoms and he is acting exactly as Ivan did when I had to call the police. I don’t care about labels. I don’t care about being right or wrong, but I do know that when it comes to a mental illness like bipolar disorder, the symptoms are so obvious it eventually becomes impossible to ignore them. Don’t get me wrong. Kanye can ignore them. The people around him can ignore the symptoms and call them ‘exhaustion,’ and ‘sleep deprivation psychosis,’ but you Kim, you are the partner. And partners, unlike any other person close to someone see it all.
Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder that has depression and mania. It’s very simple to diagnose. Mania manifests in high energy. It can be a positive feeling which is called euphoric mania or it can be the super nasty negative energy called dysphoric mania. I suggest reading Bp Magazine and the excellent Bp Magazine blog. It explains bipolar disorder in detail and it has many stories from people in the industry. The latest being Richard Dreyfuss and Lady Dynamite herself Maria Bamford.
While the World Focuses on Kanye, You Can Focus on Educating Yourself
Kim. Everyone is going to focus on Kanye. I’m writing you to offer something different. I suggest that right now, this is about your education. You are a pioneer. You try new things and learn from your own experiences. This will suit you well as you figure out what is really going on in Kanye’s mind and get the help not only that he needs, but the help that you as a family need. I remember the young girl who sold clothes from her own closet. That person has all of the strength needed to get though this.
Kim, when Kanye gets all creative and his gorgeous brown eyes glow and he loves your body and wants to touch you all of the time and tell you about his new shoe line and how his models will look on the runway and how he is going to do this in concert and how he is going to do a book about your relationship and then how he is going to dress your kids and take you to this event and that awards show and how he is going to………..
Do you get tired?
Most partners do.
When he can’t get out of bed and tells you he is worried about life and how he won’t be able to finish what he started, how everyone is out to get him, the media hates him and how his friends are turning on him….
Do you get scared?
Most partners do.
Bipolar disorder is an episodic illness. This means that those of us with the mood swings will have periods of time where we are just fine. This makes the other episodes seem like anomalies. I have noticed this with Kanye. I notice it in myself. We can explain away our manias because we are simply smarter and more creative than everyone else. Well, when creativity and intelligence leave and are replaced by sadness, crying, self doubt, hopelessness and irritation, we can then examine the contrast that can live in one person. Those are mood swings and have little to do with personality.
The majority of us with bipolar disorder who are artists, writers, singers, actors, activists, politicians and basically anyone in the spot light get praised for our manias. We learn to feed off them. “You wrote an outline for your book and got a book deal in a weekend, Julie. That is amazing!”
In reality, it’s amazing until it’s not and you haven’t written a book in many years due to symptoms, you have lost your marriage and people simply think you can’t get your act together. This is where I was for years. This is where you are now with Kanye.
The hardest thing for many of us with bipolar disorder is seeing mania for what it is. It’s simply the other side of the bipolar disorder coin. Depression is on one side and of course we HATE it, but we have to learn to HATE the mania just as much. Mania is often far more destructive than the depression we all hate so much.
You Can Recognize the Signs of Mania
The majority of people with bipolar disorder who have massive manic episodes where they don’t sleep and are not tired, talk with what I call machine gun mouth, make incredibly rash financial decisions, want a lot of sex, can’t let others talk, are overly creative and absolutely wild with energy, get pissed off easily, will fight and take on anyone they feel has been insulting……. also get psychotic.
I love it that you and the people around you are openly talking about Kanye’s psychosis. You are using the word paranoia, which is a psychotic delusion. Bravo. When Britany Spears went through the same mania and psychosis, remember the Vegas marriage, shaving her head, the police coming to her house when she locked herself in the bathroom? the media coverage was appalling. Words such as ‘crazy,’ ‘insane,’ and ‘damaged,’ were regularly used. I have always felt that by not talking to us about what obviously happened- believe me, your parents do not take over your estate for physical illness, Britney missed a chance to change the world for the better.
Kanye’s ‘rants’ that were caught on tape during Saturday Night Live and his last ‘rant’ in the concert before his hospitalization were not rants. They were manic psychotic talk. We all sound the same when we are manic and psychotic. I’ve read Kanye’s song lyrics for many years. That is creativity. I read what Kanye says when manic and psychotic and I see illness.
There Are No Tortured Artists
I don’t buy into this. Kanye is only tortured when he is in a mood swing. He seems like a level headed, interesting and deep thinking man when he is stable. When an artist of Kanye’s talent gets manic and psychotic in today’s world and we talk about it openly and without fear, it’s a chance for a change so huge that we will never have to go back to the dark ages of mental health ignorance.
Kim, you have now lived with someone who has all of the signs of bipolar disorder and possibly my diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder and you are scared.
I know this. I’ve helped partners for 20 years who are going through this. I was so scared when Ivan was sick and in the hospital I had breast pains for months and couldn’t work. I would get in my car for the drive to the hospital and prepare myself for not knowing what I would see. I remember taking the elevator to THE FLOOR. There was a phone I had to use to get into the locked ward. Nothing was marked. I saw heart unit floors and burn units and cancer units, but Ivan’s unit was blank. The shame of that upset me so much! Why doesn’t it say mental health! Why do we hide our mental illnesses when we so openly talk about AIDS and ALS and MS and other illnesses!
I lovingly encourage you to say, “My partner has a mental illness and we are going to love him and help him the way we would if he had type one diabetes.” People will listen.
Kanye Has His Own Path
I know what he is experiencing and it’s going to be hard. If he wants to keep his marriage, be a loving father to his children, create and perform, travel and move forward in life, it will have to be with his mental health in mind at all times.
I am disabled greatly due to my bipolar disorder. I don’t lie about this. I almost didn’t write this piece due to the inevitable panic attack I go through when I step out into the world. We need people like you to help us survive. Stable partners. Stable mothers and fathers. Stable mothers in law and sisters in law to help us. You have created a dynasty of caregiving people. It is as though you were preparing yourself for this year Kim.
For me, learning that I had bipolar disorder at age 31 saved my life. I never thought I would make it to 50. I was wild, out of control and unable to get a handle on why I couldn’t slow down. I’m over 50 and plan to stay alive.
I still see and feel myself dialing that number on the psychiatric ward to go see Ivan. I would be let in and there he was. My beloved, sweet man. In a hospital robe, strapped down to his bed because he was violent, refusing his medications and telling everyone that he had an affair a few months before and then saying to me, “It was only one time Julie! It was only one time.” Every day for months I heard this. I would look into his eyes and say, “Ivan? Where are you? Why are you doing this to me? Don’t you love me? Where have you gone?” I blamed him for doing something to me to harm our love. I had no understanding of what he was going through.
No one helped me. No one explained that bipolar disorder is episodic. No one told me the basics of what I needed to expect when he got home. (Kim, what goes up must come down. It’s time to create a plan for the depression Kanye is probably going to experience soon. And another piece of advice, anti depressants make us manic Kim!) It would have been so simple if people had talked to me. It is so simple. If I had heard, “Julie, Ivan has a genetic illness passed from his father. He is manic and psychotic which is why he acts as he does. The psycho babble, the odd hand gestures, the wild eyes, telling you he wants a divorce, asking you if you had been shot, telling you how to hold you fingers in a certain way as they represented a message from the Freemasons is simply how all people who are manic and psychotic talk. He is in there and he will be back.It’s going to be ok Julie.”
No one did this.
I am doing this for you now.
It’s Going to Be Ok Kim
Kanye will be back. He is going to be very, very tired. I always say that even one day of full blown mania and psychosis is like running a marathon. The adrenaline we produce is off the charts. He is going to be embarrassed. He is going to be out of his mind with worry that right when you needed him most, after what happened in Paris, he is the one who got sick. There are videos on Youtube by Dr. Jay Carter called Bipolar Light that can explain the brain chemistry changes Kanye is going through right now. They can help the whole family.
Eventually, Kanye is going to ask what happened. He won’t remember everything. We rarely do. Here is what you can say to him Kim to help him get through this.
Kanye, right now all that matters is your stability. The future will wait. I am here and you are here and we are all safe. You have an illness called…. (Your words here Kim). Millions of people around the world have this illness. You are normal Kanye. You are my beloved husband and father and it’s ok for husbands and fathers to get sick. I have people around me to help me with what happened in Paris. You are not responsible for me. I am going to be fine. You need rest and support. And now, it’s time for us to educate ourselves on what is creating the behavior that is no longer just creative and fun. It’s time for us to find the real you and the you that has mental health symptoms. We are detectives. I am here for you. We can do this together.
Kim, the chances that Kanye won’t be able to join you on this detective journey at first are high. Lack of insight is one of our main symptoms. Don’t let this stop you. Read books on bipolar disorder and educate yourself. If the symptoms fit, that is your discovery. There are books to help you get through this as a partner. I know as I wrote the first one. You can help him no matter how much he joins you at first. Educate the whole family. Educate yourself. Educate the children.
Partners Can Change the World
You have worked so hard to get where you are today. I doubt you ever thought that maybe, just maybe you could use this hard work to open our eyes to the reality that 25% of the world’s population is affected by a diagnosable mental health disorder. We are not freaks. We are not crazy. We love and are loved.
Join us Kim. I encourage you to be honest with what you are going through with Kanye. Use the big words like bipolar disorder, psychosis, anxiety, PTSD and OCD. Use your incredible style and flair and make what you are going through another work of art.
We embrace you in this time of need.
Julie A. Fast is the author of Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder: Understanding and Helping Your Partner and Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder. She was Claire Dane’s original consultant for Homeland and writes for Bp Magazine at www.bphope.com. You can read more about her work at www.JulieFast.com