Bipolar has been a sensitive topic for me since my diagnosis. Besides the stigma that surrounds mental illnesses in black communities, I hardly talk about it, mainly because I have mixed emotions. Often times people are ashamed to speak out about any of the mental issues that they might be facing in fear of being discriminated against.
In our communities topics relating to depression or any other mental issues are never discussed. If you hear of a person suffering from depression or any mental condition, you hear statements like ‘You are being dramatic’, ‘Snap out of it’, ‘You will be fine’, ‘You are overreacting’, ‘Why would you feel that when way out of the blue’, ‘Just be positive’.
People expect to see you eating out of a dumpster, talking to yourself, or maybe to stop taking a shower as an indication that there is something wrong. This will then expose you to being labeled as crazy. That will then be followed by people’s thoughts that one day you will wake up, grab a knife, and start stabbing people around you.
What is Bipolar Mood Disorder?
According to the Mayo Clinic, Bipolar disorder, formerly called manic depression, is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypo-mania) and lows (depression).
When you become depressed, you may feel sad or hopeless and lose interest or pleasure in most activities. When your mood shifts to mania or hypo-mania, you may feel euphoric, full of energy, or unusually irritable. These mood swings can affect sleep, energy, activity, judgment, behavior, and the ability to think clearly.
Types of Bipolar Disorders
- Bipolar I disorder. You’ve had at least one manic episode that may be preceded or followed by major depressive episodes. In some cases, mania may trigger a break from reality (psychosis).
- Bipolar II disorder. You’ve had at least one major depressive episode and at least one hypomanic episode, but you’ve never had a manic episode.
Manic/hypomanic Episode Symptoms
- Abnormally upbeat or jumpy
- Increased activity, energy or agitation
- An exaggerated sense of well-being and self-confidence (euphoria)
- Decreased need for sleep
- Unusual talkativeness
- Racing thoughts
Major Depressive Episode Symptoms
- Depressed mood, such as feeling sad, empty, hopeless or tearful (in children and teens, depressed mood can appear as irritability)
- Loss of interest or feeling no pleasure in most activities
- Significant weight loss when not dieting, weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite
- Either insomnia or sleeping too much
- Either restlessness or slowed behavior
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
- Decreased ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness
- Thinking about, planning or attempting suicide
From as young as I can remember, I always had very low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy, and never expressed my feelings. I was sexually abused a number of times in my early and late teens and kept it to myself. This fuelled my lack of self-esteem and I had to learn to perfect hiding my pain. I learned how to bury my trauma, my emotions, and live a life of pretense.
I always joke about the fact that I have a bad memory, but this is a skill I developed and has become a part of me. I go through life sifting and burying certain things in my mind. Things that remind me or trigger certain emotions are kept hidden so that I go through life like a normal person. As I grew older and started tertiary/college, I developed this loud, talkative, life-of-the-party type of personality, to try and hide how awful I felt inside, and for a while, it worked.
My friends and family think that I just woke up one day and I was depressed. Actually I started by getting sick physically. I had body aches, inflamation in my joints. Visited a number of Physicians and so many blood tests and scans were done but, they could not find anything wrong with me.
The last Physician I visited actually referred me to a Pchocologist because he could see that my problem was mental and not physical. I did not take that referral to heart and didn’t book a session or speak to anyone for that matter. I thought everyone was wrong and that there was something seriously wrong with me but they just couldn’t see it.
I woke up one day and on my way to work I was almost hit by a truck. I can’t put into words what happened but, that triggered something inside of me that was laying dormant for a very long time and that is when I started having constant suicidal thoughts.
These thoughts then escalated to racing thoughts which resulted in restlessness and insomnia. As usual, I never told anyone about what was happening inside of me and thought I will snap out of it. I was in pain both physically and emotionally but couldn’t articulate what was wrong. I didn’t know where to start or who to turn to. How do you approach a person and tell them you just want to die?
Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months with suicidal thoughts almost every day. One particular day while at work, I found myself on the floor with a tight chest and not being able to breathe. I was rushed to the in-house Doctor who told me that I had an anxiety attack. It was my very first time ever hearing of a thing called an anxiety attack.
I was prescribed anti-depressants because apparently anxiety is associated with depression. I also scheduled my first appointment with a Psychologist so that I can finally be able to voice out how I was feeling. My first session with the Psychologist was nothing special really, I don’t even remember what we spoke about.
All I know is that I didn’t want to be in those therapy sessions. I didn’t feel that they were of any help and I just couldn’t take it anymore. I just didn’t want to tell a stranger about my awful past or the fact that secretly I feel like I am losing my mind. I got home one afternoon and took the entire box of my anti-depressants just to stop my racing thoughts, stop the pain, finally get some silence and end my life.
Fortunately or unfortunately for me, I thought at the time I woke up the next morning. I remember being dizzy like I was drunk and having slurred speech or something like that. I was immediately rushed to the emergency room. I don’t remember much about what happened during those few hours. I just remember waking up to what looked like a convent.
I was actually admitted to a Psychiatric Hospital. I spent my time there for 2 weeks but it felt like 2 days. That is where I was told there is a name for what I was going through and its called Bipolar II Disorder. I am not sure what the regulations or procedures are for these institutions but half the time I was drugged and sleeping, the other half I was in therapy sessions with a Psychologist and Psychiatrist.
I got to pour out all my struggles, trauma, and demons that have tormented me for most of my life. The time came for me to be discharged and to be honest, I felt like a Zombie because of all the medication I had been given. I was prescribed a medication called Lithium among other things and was told I would have to take it for the rest of my life.
My family on the other hand just could not believe what was going on. They were walking around on eggshells trying to make sure I don’t get upset or depressed ever again. They just didn’t know how to interact with me anymore and couldn’t comprehend what had happened or why I had tried to take my own life.
With the help of therapy, facing my fears, and opening up more and more, life slowly got back to normal. Although some days are better than others. I can not say that I don’t get upset or depressed anymore but not to the degree that I did before.
Reclaiming back a life I never knew
It has been a very long process for me to get to a point of self-love and acceptance. I am still learning every day about myself because some of the memories have been buried so deep that I don’t remember much of my childhood experiences, especially the good ones.
I am no longer on therapy, I don’t believe a person should go to therapy forever. I am not a danger to myself or anyone. I am a firm believer in the word of God. I claim and access that healing every single day of my life. There is no magic home remedy I can offer except the word of God. This is the only thing that has kept me sane and I thank God for my sanity every day.
Some of the things that have also worked for me is exercising at least 3 times a week. It really helps to reduce stress levels and boost your mood. I have also eliminated sugar from my diet. I do not take any drugs or alcohol as this may worsen my symptoms and cause a relapse.
This is the hardest article I had to write. I hope it brings light and courage to someone like me, who has lived their lives in fear of being judged or called crazy. Every person’s journey is different and some things that have worked for me might not work for you but the most important thing is to reach out to someone and get help before it is too late.
In South Africa there are 23 suicides a day recorded and 230 serious attempts. Do not suffer in silence. Get help or call on behalf of a loved one, colleague, or friend.on: Suicide Crisis Line 0800 567 567 or 24 hour Mental Health Helpline 0800 456 789.
Leave a comment below if this blessed you and please do visit My Journey page for more content about my journey in this thing called Life.