August 16, 2020

Living successfully with Bipolar Disorder for 36 years and counting...

Trigger Warning: talks about bipolar disorder and manic episodes but provides hope of managing the condition and living a successful life.

By: Anonymous

It was way back in January 1984 that I suffered my first manic attack and I simply did not know as to what was happening to me. I was just yelling at every one and talking incoherently. Everyone in the office was perplexed as to what had happened to a very jolly and sincere person. I was about 700 kms away from my family when I had my first manic episode. My parents were contacted and I was brought home for care and treatment. In those days, it was thought as if someone had given me some toxic food to eat out of jealousy. It was also believed that a girl whose name I was repeatedly pronouncing could be a reason for my mania. I was taken to someone for cult treatments to get rid of any devil soul I was affected by. But all was in vain. Finally, I was taken to a doctor who initially diagnosed schizophrenia in me. At that time use of medication was not prevalent and I was put into a poorly organised mental hospital where the carers had no idea of what schizophrenia was and would treat the patients as a burden to the society. It was a slow progress but I recovered after a couple of months. Manic phase was followed by a spell of depression. Time passed and after an year, I got married to a beautiful lady and tried to put this incident in my past as a one off.

After another 6 years in 1990 while I was away from my wife and daughter with a colleague for work, I again had a manic episode and the same story repeated. My colleague took me to a nearby hospital and informed my family. My wife was unaware of my condition and called upon my family to help. The same procedure followed and my diagnosis of schizophrenia was unquestioned. I recovered after a couple of months and my wife gave birth to our younger daughter.

My family was not educated to take me to a psychiatrist or to ensure that I receive proper medical treatment. However, I wanted to deep dive into this to avoid reoccurrence of such episodes in my life. I went to see a qualified psychiatrist with my wife and was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. I asked the doctor, “can this reoccurrence be avoided ?” He replied very affirmatively that it can be avoided and asked me to take a prophylactic medicine  regularly for the rest of my life. He assured me that a mood stabiliser will help me to a great extent and the levels of this mood stabiliser need to be monitored regularly lest it may become toxic. That time counselling and therapies were not prevalent. I had the responsibility of my family and never wanted to take a chance. I vowed to never miss my medicine to ensure my mental health remained stabilised. I never went to see my psychiatrist again or did my blood tests regularly to monitor the level of the mood stabiliser in my body. To be honest in hindsight, it was not the best decision of my life.

The medication did work and along with normal duties of office, I was able to fulfil my family commitments. My wife was and has always been my sheet anchor and through her support, we raised our children in the best possible manner and both of my daughters excelled in life. My mental health condition never proved a hindrance after 1990 and whenever I had slight hurdles, my wife and I managed to handle the situation before it worsened. For everyone who believes your mental health condition can stop you from living a “normal” life, I assure you that it is a myth. I had a very successful well respected career where I reached to the second highest post at work. I was also able to give a stable childhood to my daughters, who never had any idea of my previous manic episodes or of my mental health condition.

Years went by and after 28 years, it was unfortunate during my trip to Europe in 2018 I had my third manic episode. I was with my wife and younger daughter and I suddenly felt that I had not taken my medicine for four days. I therefore took a double dose for four days. I never knew that if I miss my medication, I am not supposed to take a double dose.

It was my third manic attack after 28 years whilst I was on holiday. My wife still had an idea from my 1990 episode but my daughter was in utter shock. She never knew about my mental health condition and a brave daughter melted. I was hospitalised in an alien country for a month and then in my home country for about four weeks. It was a very tough period for me as well as for my whole family. Although it haunts me that taking a double dose was a very stupid mistake but in hindsight it came as a blessing in disguise for my family. It brought all of us a lot more closer and my daughters now understand mental health in far better measures than I can imagine. But this all has come after a lot of sufferings, as an individual and as a family.

I must say that mental health is far more important than physical health for it is more known to the person who suffers from it than the people around who have little idea of how to help. Mental health illness is not to be afraid of and it can happen to anyone. Substantial progress has been made in this field and counselling, therapies and medication collectively help. If the illness can not be vanquished, it can be kept under control. One has to take care of the symptoms and must consult psychologist and psychiatrist on a regular basis. A normal life can be lead with due care and without fear of the society around. I am fortunate to be a living example of this fact.

My health is my priority for myself and my family. I am always ready to help someone if I am deemed fit for it. I must say that I love my life bestowed by nature. I take life as it comes to me. My mental health condition does not define me, for it is a part of me and not my whole self.