Arguably, there is no laboratory test applicable to determine whether one is Bipolar or not. The diagnosis is primarily based on individual historical background with unclear mechanisms for each level. For my case, after being deeply engrossed in the management, coping strategies and diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, I hereby ink down my history, which could be possibly linked to my condition. This is particularly to help in self-diagnosing, which has been a real deal in managing my condition.
For the last twenty-seven years, life has not been easy to navigate for myself and the people I love. The trauma of poverty in my lifeline began just one month after my birth when my biological father passed away. Whatever followed after that has been a myriad of mysteries. Not about the old single-room grass-thatched house that dad had built for mother and us years before his demise, not about constantly falling victim to measles and kwashiorkor that resulted from improper care and conditional mal-nutrition since my jobless mother could hardly maintain right diet for a family of four, not about high infestation of jiggers that permanently deformed my toe-nails for constantly going to the local primary school on bare-foot, just but a few case scenarios.
Honestly, the trend of our childhood life kept me terrified about what the future had for me. While growing up, I had completely given up on life and never believed in education as a saviour as was purported by my kindergarten teachers, conventionally called the nursery. I had then developed a behaviour of intentionally missing classes while spending time on a sugarcane plantation with my friend, just to chew enough of it since I was always sure that surviving on sugarless white porridge for the whole day was routine back home.
One evening, after spending my whole day at school for fear of my mother realizing that I had started missing classes, something awful happened. As usual, I left school for home hungry, hoping to find some porridge in the jerrican, but this was not the case. Having noticed a despairing response on my face, my eldest sister took to a nearby avocado tree that belonged to my stepmother to find some ready or almost ready fruits to feed me on. In the trial and error process, she had wasted many avocadoes and my stepbrother could not just take it since my father had raised a conservative family, a trait which was also fostered by poverty at home. He then tried stopping my sister but since the mission was still incomplete, she went ahead trying to get a ready fruit. In no time, they had engaged in a physical fight, with stepbrother belting her continuously and carelessly. As per the adage, a hungry man is an angry man, I got uncontrollable and picked a heavy stone, as young as I was, and charged it towards my stepbrother at top strength. The only thing I remember after that was my brother following me closely for an act of revenge with the same stone but I was able to escape into a nearby maize plantation.
The scenario created constant upheavals between my biological mother and stepmother until I was sent to stay with my uncle, just to cool down the tension that went through the healing process from the stone injury. Again, at my uncle’s place was a different life altogether that shaped a lot of things in my life. First, school was mandatory and reviewing daily classwork was a routine so I had no option but to stick to it. In no time, I greatly improved my class performance and changed from the bottom five in my previous primary school to the top five, thanks to the daily night tutoring with my education-oriented uncle. At this time, I had started believing that the only tool I had to transform our life and deliver me from experiencing a replica of the past life was education. I decided to give it my all and became a top student up to my last paper in the secondary school which got me to the University.
After completing University and graduating with second class honours- Upper Division in Communication and Public Relations, I was now ready to serve my family, and the community at large since I was a first-degree victim of poverty, with a better part of my education funded by the society. However, this did not happen so fast, which again caused me to frequently picture my life before engaging in active smoking of marijuana with a delusional belief relieving stress. Just to fulfil my family’s expectations, I engaged in online freelancing services where I got some writing projects on different topics from students in the UK, USA, and Australia. Still, this could not sufficiently support my siblings’ school fees and I did extra work to manage my basic bills. Every time, I kept hoping that things would change for the better and get a job placement to support my dreams, which has not happened up to the moment, not even winning interviews.
One day after a long struggle with sourcing for the freelancing projects, I was able to access a great pool of clients, who supplied me with many tasks at better rates. From prompt payments to constant referrals, I was unable to handle the instant shift of my financial situation. The excitement that came with the looming success made me more anxious than ever. I therefore found myself impulsively buying goods from close friends with the feeling of building their business as buddies as well as expressing my emphatic nature. In no hours, I started feeling paranoid of fear that someone may have known my account balance since I had heavily and carelessly spent within my then location. The thought triggered my manic episode that was only clarified at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital after being admitted by the psychiatric department, thanks to the facility.
From the brief history, it is clear that my reactions/emotions/moods are highly dependent on the surrounding environment or situations/factors at hand. Besides, at such triggers, I am unable to control myself, but the environment does. Just from the ordeal with my stepbrother, my childhood trauma of poverty that made me give up on school at a tender age, my change of performance after staying with my strict uncle, and the point of the full-blown first manic episode after a temporary change of finances which was very short-lived since I had to spend some time in the psychiatric ward. The mentioned scenarios are some of the characteristics of Bipolar Disorder, which one should watch out for when they constantly undergo similar experiences. In short, amidst the triggers, a victim of the condition always makes abrupt decisions without necessarily pondering over the impending predicament at length and this can only be helped by professional psychiatric services and medications. No health without Mental Health, always watch out and consult with psychiatrists around you to stay safe.
Article by Dancan Odingo ([email protected])
..a fitness and mental health enthusiast.