Jane Pauley was at a fundraiser locally earlier this week, talking about her battle with bipolar disorder. “Pauley, 57, is best known for her 13-year work on NBC’s The Today Show and 11 years on the network’s news magazine, Dateline NBC.” A local newspaper, The Patriot Ledger, had the coverage of her comments:

“My goal in talking about mental illness is to help people with mental illness see themselves differently,” she said. “And more importantly, to help everyone else see us in new and powerful ways.

“Because this stigma thing is more than mean and ignorant, it inhibits people from facing a medical issue that’s treatable. It keeps parents from getting kids timely treatment, and that can be dangerous.” […]

“Bipolar is an isolating disease, and that can be dangerous,” she said.

“Some people say the high-energy creative phase is almost worth the devil that lurks behind it,” Pauley said of her manic state followed by a “deepening depression.”

“At best, I enjoyed a few weeks of high-octane creativity and confidence, but after that, it was just an idling engine on overdrive. The intensity of thought was exhausting. Living with me had to be very hard.”

“I had my first bipolar episode at 50, not 30, which is typical, or 14, which is becoming more common,” she said.

She added, “I had a 30-year career behind me. Everyone I cared most about already knew. I had little to lose.”

I appreciate her point of view as someone who grappled with late-onset bipolar disorder, but repeating the mantra of childhood bipolar disorder as though it’s a new epidemic that must be properly recognized and treated was a bit unfortunate to read. Childhood bipolar disorder (if it even exists) is an extremely rare disorder and doesn’t really deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as adult bipolar disorder — which is recognized as a serious and sometimes life-threatening condition. And one where the stigma is still far more prevalent and debilitating.

But I applaud Pauley for not only writing her book (Skywriting: A Life Out of the Blue) to share her experiences with this disorder, but also going around and speaking to local community groups such as this one to help educate and promote the idea that mental illness is a normal, everyday condition that no longer deserves to be stigmatized.

Read the full article: TV journalist Jane Pauley shares pains, joys of bipolar disorder