Bebe Rexha opened up about sharing her bipolar diagnosis to the world: “I’m not going to be imprisoned by this.”
For most of her life, Bebe Rexha has kept her bipolar disorder a secret, not only from the world but from herself. In April 2019, the singer-songwriter revealed her diagnosis to her fans on Twitter writing, “I’m bipolar and I’m not ashamed anymore. That is all. (Crying my eyes out.)” But in a recent interview with SELF, Rexha explained that she had only gotten official confirmation of the diagnosis herself just days before she shared it with the world. Before then, she said she had spent her life telling her family and therapist that she didn’t want to know.
Rexha shared with SELF that after years of trying to cope with the symptoms of her mental illness, she was ready to get help, but she wasn’t immediately ready to confront the diagnosis.
“I was very fearful,” Rexha said. “I didn’t want to think there was something wrong with me.”
But when she was ready, Rexha asked her therapist directly. “I was like, ‘Can I ask you a question? Am I bipolar?’” Her therapist’s response was reportedly bemused but empathetic saying simply, “Yes, hun.”
The stigma surrounding mental illness and bipolar disorder were largely what kept Rexha from confronting her diagnosis initially, but they’re also the reason she wanted to be open with her fanbase.
“That was my worst fear all my life: going crazy, she said. “I felt like me opening up to my fans was me finally saying, ‘I’m not going to be imprisoned by this.’ 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.
Even though Rexha made the decision to tweet out her diagnosis rather quickly after getting confirmation herself, she had grappled with the potential consequences of being transparent about her mental health for a long time.
“It’s the war you have inside your head: Will it affect my career? Will people judge me? Will they want to work with me? If people have been calling me crazy, are they going to be like, ‘Well, that bitch is fucking crazy’? she says.
In addition to considering the outside world’s response, Rexha, a child of immigrants, opened up about also struggling with the cultural approach to mental health issues within her own home.
“Especially European 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. “But 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 now that it’s all out there, Rexha feels more freedom, even if there’s still fear.
“It’s scary, but at a certain point you got to say, ‘Fuck it, this is who I am.’ Or you just keep it to yourself, she concedes. “At the end of the day, it’s nobody’s business. But, for me, I like to be very transparent with my fans…and I won't allow it to label me. It’s something that I’m going through, but it’s not me.
Rexha made it clear that her diagnosis does not define her. But as she works to create more understanding and break down the stigma surrounding bipolar disorder, her upcoming album will reportedly approach the topic even more explicitly with honesty and vulnerability.