An Experience with Bipolar I Disorder, a Mental Illness

As a first-degree bipolar youth and a mental health enthusiast, I come open to the public as a victim of the illness for purpose of creating awareness and helping vulnerable people to manage and curb the condition respectively. A descriptive word for Bipolar Disorder is a chronic condition characterized by different episodes of mood swings that may vary from depressive lows to extreme manic highs. As a victim, I experienced my first manic condition at the age of 26, which is concurrent with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report on the common onset age for the condition. In the bimodal distribution of the illness, CDC also reveals that the condition can sometimes show at any age, provided that the underlying factors, such as a chemical imbalance in the brain are triggered.

Away from research, this article particularly focuses on my experience with the condition, which is a period of one year since I was diagnosed as a manic depression patient. Many thanks to Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH)- Eldoret Kenya for all the restorative actions that salvaged my life.

It started from experiences of racing thoughts of how it would feel if I achieved my dreams of becoming the best sports marketer in my field of work. As I was trying to ponder, it got to a point of shifting reality, and now it felt like the dream had come true. In regard, I was a brand ambassador at Nike, with more renowned clothing brands like Adidas, Calvin Klein, Under Armour and etc showing much interest in signing me to be part of their team. The over-excitement that came with the feeling was quite uncontrollable and I could not keep calm, but express to the world how it felt to achieve a dream that others may have branded impossible.

Still, in the midst of racing thoughts, I checked my bank balance and confirmed some amount that could apparently ‘spoil’ my two friends in one of the high-end clubs in Eldoret town, which to me, was like an after-party for my wins. To join the flow, I convinced my friends to accompany me to the club for dinner and they did not hesitate, probably because they had noticed my strange behavior. On arrival, I went straight to the counter and ordered top-shelf cognac drinks, particularly Hennessy and Martel VSOP, just to show the people around me that I was ‘the man.

With doubts about my ability to pay, the bar lady declined and only accepted to release the drinks upon payment.  Having left my handset behind and only carrying my sim card that had the money, I could not facilitate the payment and so one of my friends requested to have the line and use his phone for payment.  Apparently, I had left the phone behind for fear of being robbed, a characteristic of bipolar disorder conventionally referred to as paranoia. This hit-back got me running away to escape the impending delusional danger after which I found myself on the busy Nairobi-Uganda Highway at midnight. Gripped with fear and paranoiac chills, I reverted to singing songs of Nike from my own creativity as the best-ever sportswear brand. It then transformed into hyperactive and risk-taking behaviors like running right in the middle of the road regardless of the heavy transit-goods trucks and buses that operated at night until I got to my place of residence and fell dead asleep. At this time, I had forgotten about my two friends back in the club and viewed them as enemies after requesting to operate the sim card on my behalf.

The impulsivity did not stop the next day and I reacted to anything that crossed my mind. The situation got out of hand for my friends and they had to invite my parents and brothers to take control. At this point, I was taken to the hospital and examined after which the diagnosis revealed a chronic mental condition called Bipolar Disorder. Most importantly, the doctors reported that it had been triggered by the usage of Cannabis Sativa which caused some level of chemical imbalance in the brain.

With the diagnostic results, I am happy to report that I can perfectly manage the condition since I have first-hand experience with how everything transpires during manic highs and lows. Besides, I have engaged in much research from reputable bodies and resources just to keep up-to-date with the new establishments and scientific research about the condition. With clear comprehension of behavioral, cognitive, and psychological signs, I am out to help and support those who are vulnerable to the condition, those who are bipolar but are unaware, and those who are aware of their conditions but lack the knowledge of how to manage it in a manner that turns the illness to be a win rather than a loss. One word, let’s come out boldly and fight mental health issues. Your mental health is your most valuable wealth and just as Kenya Psychiatrist Association (KPA) puts it; No Health Without Mental Health!

Post by Dancan Odingo ([email protected])

A Mental Health and Fitness Enthusiast

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