It’s a common worry among people living with bipolar disorder – will the prescribed medication alter my personality to the point that my career could be affected? Even fictional character, Carrie Mathison, on the Showtime series, Homeland, avoids taking her pills for similar reasons. It’s not surprising, therefore, that comedian, Maria Bamford, felt the same concerns.
Bamford’s new Netflix show, Lady Dynamite, is a hit and she’s using the spotlight to open up about her diagnosis and how hard she has worked to rebuild her life after suffering a devastating mental breakdown in 2010.
In an interview with People, Bamford explains: “I went through a nightmare, but it means a lot to me that other people with mental illness tell me the show has helped them and made them laugh. Getting that reaction makes me feel like I’m being useful in life, and that’s good.”
She had been on the fast-track to success before her mental health deteriorated. She was touring the world and is unsure of what may have triggered her suffering but knew pretty quickly that she would need help.
The 45-year-old comedienne explained: “I don’t know if it was a hormonal change or stress, but I’d never felt that bad before. I absolutely melted down. Every single moment was unbearable.” At the time, she was battling suicidal thoughts while cycling through manic and depressive episodes.
She felt unsafe seeking outpatient care so, over a two-year period, she checked herself in for psychiatric care and was once committed under California’s 5150 hold by her doctor. Still, she was hesitant to take the medications she had been prescribed.
“I was anxious I’d never work again. But eventually I got to a point where I didn’t care,” said Bamford. “I didn’t feel immediately better, and the side effects from this medication are hair loss, weight gain and tremors, but it’s been manageable.”
While Bamford does sleep about 12 hours a night as a result of the medication, she has made modifications to her lifestyle to accommodate her treatment plan. Instead of traveling often for work she stays close to home and also takes naps during her lunch break to counteract the long hours on set. .
Fortunately, things began to improve with 2013 being an incredibly pivotal year. Not only did she meet Arrested Development creator, Mitchell Hurwitz, who helped her develop Lady Dynamite but she also met her future husband on OkCupid. “He was so accepting of my mental health history,” Bamford said of her partner. “Being in a psych ward made me realize that you can’t wait to be a perfect person to commit to a relationship.”
Today, in addition to working on a successful series, Bamford finds meaning through her work at the Downtown Women’s Center in Los Angeles. “I’m happier than I’ve ever been,” she says. “This is how people should feel.”
She’s absolutely right.