I used to think of mental illness as taboo for a very long time until my personal experience with it. Now, I’ve grown to accept mental illness as just another way for the body to communicate it’s priorities. I’m sharing my experience with Bipolar Disorder hoping it can resonate with others who have had mental health difficulties at some point in life. I think an important message that I take away from it is that I am not alone – love unites us.
I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 2012. At the age of 26 – it was one of the toughest phases of my life. It started with a period where I experienced episodes of high anxiety, worry and fear which I also believe was triggered due to certain situational factors, followed by episodes of Mania.
Mania for me can be described as moments where I considered myself supreme without a weakness. I started judging and thinking less of others around me. Something I think I’ve always chosen to stay away from earlier. This phase can be categorized as a stage with a very high ego – something I now choose to live without and the blurring between what is real and not (unrealistic feelings like someone wants to hurt me). The tough part about Mania is the inability to know that something is wrong. It had gotten really terrible at one point that the lack of sleep and insufficient rest over a period of days had got me hallucinating at which point my sister noticed the difference in my behavior.
My sister has been a great support. She recognized a difference both in my behavioral traits and a marked difference in my manner of acting and offered to take me to a psychiatrist. When she told me, I resisted and was in denial – I didn’t want to visit the doctor. I kept thinking that I was absolutely well. In hindsight, I was not in a position to understand what I was going through. This was followed by episodes of sudden change in my emotions – yet there I was in a stage of mania where I felt I was being a very big person by going with my sister to meet the doctor. I feel blessed to have a caring family and a wonderful friend who supported me through that period.
Before meeting the doctor I felt a sense of immense fear that I don’t totally understand. However as mentioned having my sister and cousins come with me and be my side enabled me to meet with the psychiatrist. He initially prescribed medication that put me to sleep for a period of close to two days where I just woke up, had my meals and went back to sleep. I still remember how the medicines helped me get out of the period of Mania and I was beginning to feel a bit normal (before mania phase) again.
Things were slowly beginning to feel better for me personally; however, the tough phase was not over yet. This period epitomizes my intense guilt I had for feeling the way I did during my mania phase, mostly for thinking I was faultless and supreme. I wondered why I had these thoughts, this illness and a feeling of worthlessness.
In continuum came the period where I began to feel I was worthless and alone – this again is a phase where I undervalued myself and began to feel that I am no good. This again is an unreal phase since I was unable to identify my strengths and primarily looked only at my weaknesses and my negative thoughts were all I had. It was also a phase, in which I was unable to be productive with an incredible amount of my time. This again was the scariest period since I had thoughts of suicide that slid by without my knowledge. The cycle of Mania and Depression so far has been the toughest period for me.
Apart from the medicines which play an important role in managing the illness – another critical part is to know the triggers to of Mania and Depression with Bipolar illness:
Mental illness is tough since it is of the mind and you’re fighting yourself. Beyond the medicines, self-awareness is a constant pursuit. Most important to better mental health, is the love you receive and share to all. I do think that illnesses of the mind are also communicating something very important – it helped me better understand my actions and my thoughts; feelings and emotions. I’ve begun to believe that challenges are only a way to get to know your inner self better. Am I going to face more challenges, maybe yes but I choose resilience always!
Experiences shared are personal and intended for the intent of breaking the taboo around mental illness and society’s acceptance empathy towards those experiencing it.
Bijoy Jose is a social entrepreneur – a postgraduate (MSW) from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.