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 its 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.
Toughest Phase Of My Life- First Episode And Being Diagnosed As Bipolar
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 were triggered due to certain situational factors, followed by episodes of mania.
Mania Phase – The High Phase
Mania for me can be described as moments where I consider myself supreme without a weakness. I start judging and thinking less of others around me, something 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 become really terrible at one point when lack of sleep and insufficient rest over a period of many days had me hallucinating, at which point my sister noticed the difference in my behavior.
Family And Friends’ Support – A Critical Factor To Identify A Mental Illness
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 first 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. In retrospect, I feel blessed to have a caring family and a wonderful friend who supported me through that period.
Tackling The Denial Phase – Meeting The Psychiatrist
Before meeting the doctor I felt a sense of immense fear that I didn’t totally understand. However, 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 nearly two days, where I would wake up, have my meals and go 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 more normal (before mania phase) again.
Guilt Phase – What Was I Thinking?
Things were slowly beginning to feel better for me personally; however, the tough phase was not over yet. This period epitomised the 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 worthless and alone. I undervalued myself and began to feel that I am no good. This again was an unreal phase since I was unable to identify my strengths and primarily looked at my weaknesses, my negative thoughts were all I had. It was also a phase, in which I was unable to be productive with most of my time. This 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.
Acceptance Phase – Importance Of Medication And Identifying Triggers
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:
- Sleep: I’ve observed that sleep is important for me to function at my best. I make it a point to at least sleep for a period of eight to ten hours which is what my body requires at the moment.
- Intoxicating substances: I’ve realised the need to keep a check on alcohol consumption and the need for avoiding any other substance that alter my behavior.
- Medication: I am on Lithium & Quitipin and have been for the past four years. I hope there comes a time when I don’t need the medication – but that is something I would have to rely on my doctor’s opinion that I trust.
- Self-Control: Another aspect of the illness is to act less on impulses. I am making an effort to be conscious of my impulses and then either delay or take steps to not indulge them.
- Stop Fearing and Continue Loving: I believe that anger, worry, and anxiety are certain things that affect our mental health a great deal. Essentially, I’ve come to believe that loving each other and also importantly, forgiving oneself and others constantly are key to a more healthy and happy living.
Self-Awareness – A Key To Better Mental Health
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. 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. This article has been earlier published on Bijoy’s blog here.