Photo: Neilson Barnard (Getty Images)

After years of suffering in silence, Mariah Carey has opened up for the first time about her experiences with bipolar disorder.

In an exclusive interview with People magazine, Carey talked about her struggle with accepting her diagnosis and seeking treatment. She was first diagnosed in 2001, she said, following a physical and mental breakdown, but “didn’t want to believe it.”

It took her more than a decade to seek treatment, and Carey revealed that “until recently I lived in denial and isolation and in constant fear someone would expose me.”

The burden became too much for Carey to bear, which is what prompted her to seek treatment, she told People’s editor-in-chief, Jess Cagle.

Carey suffers from bipolar II disorder, which is characterized by periods of depression and hypomania. As People notes, this variation is typically less severe than the mania associated with bipolar I disorder.

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Carey said that she initially mistook her bipolar disorder for “a severe sleep disorder.”

“But it wasn’t normal insomnia and I wasn’t lying awake counting sheep. I was working and working and working,” Carey told People. “I was irritable and in constant fear of letting people down. It turns out that I was experiencing a form of mania. Eventually, I would just hit a wall. I guess my depressive episodes were characterized by having very low energy. I would feel so lonely and sad—even guilty that I wasn’t doing what I needed to be doing for my career.”

The singer, who’s currently working on a new album, said she is in a “really good place right now,” going to therapy, taking medication that doesn’t leave her feeling too tired and sluggish, and opening up about her struggles with understanding and accepting her diagnosis.

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“I’m hopeful we can get to a place where the stigma is lifted from people going through anything alone,” she said.