“I can’t stand this living all alone. I can’t stand this living all alone. I don’t want to be, I don’t want to be alone.”
By the time Phyllis Hyman sang this lyric of her hit song Living All Alone, the singer was at the top of her game. She’d already landed at the top of the Billboard charts, garnered a loyal following, and was approaching worldwide acclaim.
But alas, fans realized her lyrics rang truer than they realized when nine years later, she was found dead by suicide just hours before she was due for a performance at the Apollo Theater.
Nearly two decades after her 1995 death, pervasive rumors still imply that Phyllis Hyman overdosed on sleeping pills because of a failed love life. But, it’s become clear over time that it was much more complicated than that.
The statuesque singer long suffered from drug and food addictions as well as alcoholism. Phyllis Hyman had entered drug rehabilitation facilities a couple of times, but couldn’t stay clean for long. At the time of her death, her weight had ballooned to more than 300 pounds and she was experiencing financial difficulties.
At the crux of her issues was a bipolar disorder, to which she received a diagnosis 10 years earlier, ironically just a year before the release Living All Alone. Though she sought therapy and was prescribed medication it was just too much for her to manage.
Her suicide note read, “I’m tired. I’m tired. Those of you that I love know who you are. May God bless you.”
Much like the singer herself, bipolar disorder is still largely misunderstood and often misdiagnosed.
What is bipolar disorder?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, bipolar disorder (formerly called manic-depressive illness or manic depression) is a mental disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, concentration, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.
There are three types of bipolar disorder. All three types involve clear changes in mood, energy, and activity levels. These moods range from periods of extremely “up,” elated, irritable, or energized behavior (known as manic episodes) to very “down,” sad, indifferent, or hopeless periods (known as depressive episodes). Less severe manic periods are known as hypomanic episodes.