Teen Mom OG couple Tyler Baltierra and Catelynn Lowell have definitely been through their fair share of emotional ups and downs over the years, going from being teens grappling with the difficult decision to place their daughter up for adoption, to a married couple raising their second child together. But even their seemingly happy ending hasn't been smooth sailing: Lowell suffered from postpartum depression after welcoming their now-3-year-old daughter, Novalee, and after having a miscarriage in November, she went to treatment for depression and suicidal thoughts. Now, Tyler Baltierra has opened up about having bipolar disorder, and though his recent diagnosis must have felt like yet another challenge to overcome, Baltierra's example is proof to men everywhere that struggling with mental illness doesn't at all diminish their value as husbands or as involved, caring fathers.
Baltierra has made no secret of his own mental health issues amid his wife's struggle, and on social media, he's previously made an effort to be honest and open about his decision to go to therapy while Lowell was in treatment. But on Monday night's Teen Mom OG reunion show, Dr. Drew asked the 26-year-old reality star about what seemed to be his symptoms of depression, at which time Lowell noted, according to People, that her husband had actually recently been given a clinical diagnosis.
Baltierra then confirmed that he'd actually been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and on Twitter following the episode, he offered up a bit more of an explanation. When one user commented that they hadn't realized that Baltierra had actually been diagnosed with the illness, he wrote back and said that, actually, his diagnosis was really recent, and that he hadn't even necessarily planned on discussing it on TV when he did. But after Lowell mentioned it, he realized that there was no value in keeping it a secret (in fact, Baltierra admitted that "it’s actually been a little easier to digest since [he has] been talking about it more.").
Though it's actually a bit concerning that it wasn't exactly Baltierra's decision to make his mental health diagnosis public knowledge, it's really encouraging to hear that he was happy with the outcome, and that talking about it has proven to be such a positive thing. He then went on to explain in a follow-up tweet that he was still figuring out a treatment plan, and that he's "been doing non stop research on the diagnosis," in an effort to learn as much about it possible.
One detail he has seemed to decide on though, at least for now? He doesn't feel ready to begin treating his illness with medication. Baltierra wrote that he "wanted to try all of the natural remedies first," and while he didn't elaborate exactly what he meant by that, his Instagram feed might provide a few clues. In his latest post, Baltierra shared a photo of himself taking in the scenery on a mountain hike, along with the caption, "Nature really is the best medicine," suggesting that he may be trying to incorporate exercise and time outdoors into his treatment plan.
Preliminary research suggests that's probably not a bad idea: a 2016 study from the Center for Youth Bipolar Disorder at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Toronto, Canada, found that even as little as 30 minutes of aerobic exercise could have a "normalizing effect" on brain activity among teens with bipolar disorder. Yet that doesn't mean that medication doesn't also have significant, proven value when it comes to treatment: according to the Mayo Clinic, medication and psychotherapy are still the primary treatment options for bipolar disorder — a lifelong condition that needs continued management — and many individuals find mood stabilizing medications particularly helpful to control manic and hypomanic episodes.
Given everything he and Lowell have already gone through, Baltierra's bipolar disorder diagnosis likely felt like yet another obstacle in what has already been a year filled with them — and he may still have many challenges ahead as he navigates his illness. But if there's one thing that he's already made quite clear, it's that his mental health struggle doesn't define him, nor make him any less devoted to his family. And while he certainly seems deserving of a bit of a break, the fact that he's going through this publicly will almost certainly help others — especially other men who might feel afraid or ashamed of their own diagnoses.
Mental illness might be difficult to talk about, but effective treatment options do exist, and there's no reason that anyone should have to feel bad about trying them. Yet the general lack of understanding continues to perpetuate dangerous myths about mental illness and psychiatric medication, so the more that people like Baltierra are willing to discuss their experiences without shame, the better it will be for everyone who is suffering.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.