Putting a face to a bipolar disorder

Hillary Verardi is a bold, bubbly, beautiful YouTuber who usually posts videos reviewing the latest eye shadow palette or a tutorial on waterproof makeup. But recently, Verardi used her channel, Putabowon, to open up about her current depressive low. Shedding some tears on camera, Verardi bravely bares her soul to reduce the stigma of mental illness.

Laurier alumni Hillary Verardi (24) shares her story about having bipolar disorder. Photo courtesy of Hillary Verardi
Laurier alumni Hillary Verardi (24) shares her story about having bipolar disorder. Photo courtesy of Hillary Verardi

Up until two weeks ago, Verardi, 24, had hidden her bipolar disorder from everyone except her immediate family because of the harsh stereotypes people attach to the diagnosis.

“My biggest pet peeve is when people use bipolar as an insult and assume that they’re ‘crazy’ and can’t lead a normal life,” she said.

Even though she must sometimes face “uncontrollable crying” and feeling “trapped, isolated and deflated”, she has graduated Laurier with a bachelor of arts, earned a post-graduate certificate in Integrated Marketing Communications at Conestoga College, and even started her own communications business.

“Having a mental illness doesn’t make you any less of a person. We can all live fulfilling and rewarding lives if we work hard at it,” she said.

Verardi explains that she has bipolar II disorder which differs from bipolar I disorder by not having psychosis or mania and her depressive lows are quite often. On the other hand, her ‘highs’, officially called hypomania, are rarer and consist of high energy and spontaneity.

“I’m not ashamed of what my diagnosis is. Yes, it’s an extra obstacle to deal with, but I’m pretty proud with how I’ve been able to manage it.”

Since being diagnosed four years ago, Verardi has taken anti-depression, anti-anxiety and anti-psychosis medication to help but treatment has many more levels. Verardi meditates, goes to therapy and practices Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Simply put, this is a therapy that helps people become aware of their emotions and choose coping mechanisms effectively. Verardi also keeps a journal, mood chart and an anonymous mental health blog.

Every fall season, Verardi hits a depressive low due to the changes in her life whether that be starting a new year at school or moving to a new home.

Verardi volunteers with Partners for Mental Health by attending support groups for people whose loved ones have a bipolar disorder. She also promotes their campaigns on her strong social media platforms, and, of course, corrects people when they say mental illness slurs or offensive terms.

After she released her video called “Not Myself Today – This Is Depression”, Verardi received “amazing support” from her friends, family and mental health community.

“A lot of people have told me that I’ve provided them with the confidence and courage to not be ashamed of their mental health diagnosis,” she said.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Canadian Mental Health Association and Partners for Mental Health retweeted her video and Canadian Olympic medalist and Bell Let’s Talk spokesperson, Clara Hughes, even tweeted her.

“What I want people to understand about what I’m going through is that it’s not my fault and that there’s way more people than they may think that have a mental health diagnosis.” Feeling depressed, not just sad, is not a choice.

“[If depression was a choice], I would choose happiness. I would choose joy. I would choose the typical person that I am.”

Verardi hopes that one day people feel comfortable talking about mental health without awkwardness or shame.

In her video on her beauty channel, Verardi apologizes to her audience for not wearing makeup and diverting away from ‘beauty’. But if you ask anyone who has seen it, I am sure they would tell you that this is her most beautiful video yet.

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