This Is What ‘Self-Care’ Looks Like When You Have a Mental Illness

Singer Shamir Bailey, who has bipolar disorder, breaks down the difference between indulgence and self-preservation.

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Dec 8 2017, 9:23pm

Image: Emma McIntyre/Getty

On Edge is a series about stress in 2017.


In April of this year I had my first manic episode. I hadn’t slept for three days, was trying to self-medicate with marijuana, and ended up having a psychotic breakdown. I was hallucinating and seeing things for a week until I ended up in the hospital. My friends were with me, and my mom flew out as soon as she heard. After years of struggling, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

I’m open about my mental health because these issues are normal. I’m sometimes in the public eye for my career, but I want to be an open book—my work will never come before my health. If anything, sharing my experience on social media has made people reach out to me. It’s sometime seen as embarrassing to have a psychotic episode, but a lot of people have them—nearly 100,000 young peoplehave them every year.

With everything going on in the world right now, taking care of your mental health is more important than ever. But reading articles about expensive and unattainable “self-care” practices feel pointless. When I think about this idea of self-care, as it appears in magazines and articles, I think of yoga, getting massages, or running. But as the cost of living and education goes up, plenty of working class people work more than 40 hours a week, and mental health becomes an afterthought.

Read the full story on TONIC.