P.S. I wrote this in an episode. Bear with me if it seems jumbled or too ‘everything’ at once.
Someone once described to me what having bipolar disorder should look like. He told me what he felt Bipolar Disorder should look like, and how I look very ‘non-bipolar’. Till date, I still don’t understand all the things he said or why he felt he could say all that without having the disorder himself. But then, he did say ‘If everything seems to be happening at once or you’re happy and sad at the same time, get help. With time, you’ll stop having it…by his grace’.
I like the fact that he asked me to get help. However, I would like to tell you about my experience getting ‘help’ in Nigeria.
Oh…I guess I should start from how I felt I needed help….
I like to think of myself as a ‘creative’. Well, I am. Sometimes, I think I am a superhuman, far above the reasoning of disgusting mere mortals. Sometimes, I refer to people as ‘you humans’.
Sometimes, I come up with grand plans and business ideas and strategies and I actually see myself explaining my inventions to multitude of people in a huge Ted talk show. Haha!
Sometimes, I think about so many things, my head feels like a big wad of cotton wool and hot air mingling with little thoughts, clashing with big thoughts…like hey guys, are you not feeling the heat in here. Stop making so much noise!!!
Sometimes, I get really sad for no reason… (well, sometimes, there’s a reason but I shouldn’t be thinking of wanting to jump off a bridge just because there are no buses at the bus-stop and my feet hurt) With time, I learnt some of my mood swings are affected by “triggers”. I swear, I hate that word.
All these didn’t use to bother me. Sometimes, I’m fly, sometimes I’m super sad, sometimes I’m very angry and everybody keeps quiet while I huff and puff around the place. Sometimes, I feel like royalty when my friends say ‘Your mood swings are crazy o’. It used to make me feel like a baddie….but sometimes, it hurts. Really hurts. Sometimes, these episodes don’t show up in a long time, then all of a sudden, it pops up. So inconvenient.
I didn’t think it was anything huge until I literally stopped being a baddie. I couldn’t function well, I couldn’t eat, I was losing so much weight, I was coming up with excuses not to go out and see people, I was thinking of just cutting my wrist ‘small’ to feel less numb, I wasn’t the office hero, I couldn’t complete tasks, I was working for several hours without working on anything, the thought of going to work was frightening, I would purposely injure myself just so I could avoid going to work, I would pray for an accident that would make me stay indoor, I started losing clients, I couldn’t go through with strategies I came up with, I started forgetting things, I started bingeing on Coke (coca-cola o, please), pepsi, coffee, anything for energy, my body started feeling like it was too heavy for me to lift.
These things didn’t happen at once, they came at me one by one (merciless bastar…okay) so I spoke to a medical doctor, and she told me I needed to get ‘help’ and see a psychiatrist instead.
First of all, when most people tweet ‘get help’ to a suicidal or mentally challenged person, here’s a breakdown of what happens….well, now I definitely can’t speak for others or their experiences but here’s mine.
I TRIED TO GET HELP ON MY OWN
As mentally aware as I was, I was still a bit embarrassed about having something wrong with the wires in my head. It wasn’t my fault I felt that way but I still was in denial. What if I don’t have a mental illness after all, what if I was just very tired abi pregnant (well, I wasn’t).
So here’s what I did. I decided to go to Yaba Psychiatrist hospital cos I couldn’t afford private clinics and I didn’t want to bring my parents into it yet. I read up about how psychiatrists assess first time patients, and I had prepared myself or so I thought. I struggled to iron my tee and wore loose pants. I even managed to comb my hair, so they don’t think I’m completely crazy and lock me down over there….then the whole world would know. No o. Abeg!
I went to the hospital with about N10,000 cash and my ATM card because I didn’t know exactly how much I would need.
My biggest mistake was going alone. Believe me, you might want to brave it alone but you need the moral support and sometimes physical support.
I went there early in the morning cos I wanted to sneak in and sneak out without bumping into a familiar face. What a joke! The doctors will start attending to patients from 9am, so if you like, go there by 5am, you gon wait darling.
I was told to go into the emergency ward to make inquiries or for consultation. At the entrance, I met a nurse and two orderlies (I guess). I said good morning and made to enter sharp sharp.
“Hello, where are you going?”
“I want to to to to see a doctor sir” I turned to face three unsmiling men that looked like I had disturbed their 7:30am important discussion.
“I don’t know yet but I’ll explain to the doctor” I was actually trembling at this point and I was super nervous and embarrassed already.
“Tell us why you want to see doctor”
Eii God! My father, my God! If they had turned back for a minute, I might have fled the hospital premises. “I think I have a problem” I mumbled.
“Can’t you talk” One of them shouted. “You people like to waste time”
“It’s like you don’t want to see any doctor today. What is your problem gan gan” The third one said. I’m guessing he’s from Ibadan. He has that lovely accent.
“I think I have a mental problem sir” I said in a small voice.
“Ha!! Okay o.” Mr Ibadan chuckled. “This is what this place is for. Oya go inside and see that woman over that counter”.
I was already exhausted and tired. The doctor got in around 10am and asked the nurse to bring people in for consultations. He was a young and really nice doctor but he asked so many questions, my head started aching seriously. Then I paid N4000 for lab tests, consultation, and registration/card fee. Then I walked to another building to make payments for a blood test which I paid N4,500 for. I had to go back to the doctor for more consultation. He prescribed some meds which I got for N780 at the pharmacy, asked me to go for CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and told me to come back on Thursday. I had explained to him that my job wouldn’t allow for Thursday hospital visits but he said he couldn’t do anything about it. That’s standard clinic day and it’s a government hospital. If you don’t show up on your clinic day, you won’t be attended to till the next clinic day, except it’s an emergency. Anyway, I spent a total of N9,280, and I was super stressed and tired and thirsty. I wished so much that I had gone with a friend. I felt so alone and exhausted.
I told my boss a lie and went to the hospital on Thursday morning by 7:50 something. I wish I could show you a picture of the waiting room. It was packed and very stuffy and rowdy and noisy. At that time of the morning. Someone tapped me and said I should go and submit my card to get a number. I almost could not breathe anymore. I had to call a friend of mine who worked there. He was the one who told me about “amenity ward”. Basically, amenity section is the VIP area. You’re attended to on time by smiling and jovial nurses, it’s at the rear of the hospital, you can sneak in and sneak out, you can go at any time and any day except weekends and public holidays. The only thing is that amenity is more expensive than the general outpatient clinic. Consultation fee is N1500 and the drugs are also more expensive. For starter, I paid N4000 at amenity for registration, card and some tests (which I didn’t do) and asked them to help transfer my files from the general clinic. From then, amenity became super sweet to attend until I couldn’t attend anymore.
I COULDN’T CONTINUE GETTING HELP
I had to stop taking my meds because I went totally broke. Now, I come from an average…forget it, we’re poor. You’re either rich or poor in Nigeria. We manage to eat thrice in a day, pay for GoTv subscription, and that’s it. They didn’t think it was very important to pay for hospital meds of a minor mental issue. Shebi with time, it’ll go. What they didn’t know was that I was struggling so much to be fine, I was struggling so much to live, I was struggling so much to make enough money, so I could get my meds. I didn’t have cancer or a life threatening disease, and I wasn’t tearing my clothes and biting people around, so of course, I was absolutely fine. Why buy drugs when you can buy food for the family….
Then I quit my job. Honestly, the job was a tad bit stressful for me but for the life of me, I can’t really remember quitting. I know I was in a kind of mood, then I sent an email to my boss. See ehn, when you’re in an episode, it’s almost like reaching cloud nine. You mumble a lot of incoherent words and you’re all up in your feelings. You know what you’re doing but you can’t exactly stop yourself from doing those things. I CAN’T CONTROL MY MOOD SWINGS. I wish I could paste this on my forehead. ALSO, I DON’T KNOW WHY I’M FEELING THIS WAY. When you keep asking me, it makes me feel like a bad person, like a burden because I almost can’t explain why I’m feeling what I’m feeling. So of course, I’ll try to cover it up with anger. Then you say I’m being grumpy. Okay na.
Back to my job, I quit cos ‘I was too tired to continue’. Then I lost some other clients because ‘I was too tired to work’. Let me tell you the culprit. Some of my meds, and depression, of course made me feel absolutely useless. I would come up with a lot of plans and you’d think I was super brilliant…Time to work, and my brain would refuse. I hated it when people thought I was unreliable. I kinda have a strong work ethic, so what people thought of my ability to handle projects bothered me a lot. Well, bipolar disorder doesn’t care.
So I went to the hospital to complain and they gave me the same drugs with a lower dosage. When I complained about it again, they increased the dosage of another one. The thing with this illness is that it zaps your emotion, your time, your money, and your strength. Think twice when you say it’s just ‘mood swings’. It’s like a freaking experiment that your body has to adjust to. It was too expensive for me, so they gave me a cheaper alternative, and it was horrible!!!! It made me feel more useless, drowsier, thinner, hungrier, more tired, and I had series of suicidal thoughts. I stopped. I stopped taking those meds cos they were killing me. They were causing more damage, and I didn’t have money for the old ones.
Then I totally stopped going to the hospital. Most times, I feel very guilty for not going again. I love my health o, but getting help became difficult until I started getting some cash by the side.
People save to buy themselves nice things. I save to buy my drugs. You’re saving for Christmas fun; I’m saving for Christmas drugs.
Then the anger…did I tell you about the unstoppable rage that comes with it? Oh My God! It’s overwhelming and destructive. When I enter into a rage, I say hurtful things and fly off every handle…screw whoever gets hurts. I always always try to control it but tell it to a confused boyfriend who you were loving up with few minutes ago or someone that just asked a simple annoying question. They gon’ get it anyway. No matter how understanding humans are, they never understand that rage. I don’t understand it myself. It just erupts like something being pressured. You can’t stop it. You get in its way and dance to whatever music it allows. This thing is destructive…but I’m working on it, I believe.
A lot of people don’t realize other people go through stuff because they don’t look it. You don’t have to talk about someone’s rapid weight gain or weight loss if they’re uncomfortable with it, you don’t have to sound smart or woke if your friend tells you about their mental struggles, you don’t have to say something deep and unwise when someone is suicidal. We need you to be here, being a source of support. Just be here and listen and don’t ask too much questions, don’t put yourself in my shoes, it could never fit you. Don’t try to fix me, been there, done that. Don’t say you know what it feels like when you don’t. Don’t ask me what I use my money for, I’m only trying to live. Don’t tell me you don’t think I have bipolar disorder. So I’m lying now? Who created the cool group for this illness? Please remove me. I’m not interested.
Don’t try to love me out of being bipolar, it doesn’t work that way honestly. Don’t tell me I don’t pray enough. I can’t even begin to explain how God has been helping me through this, you think I’m not close to God or it’s a punishment? Think again. Eventually, I’ll be fine. I just need you to hold my hands and be around in the times that I am not.
This is my experience and it’s been overwhelming yet exciting. I do not regret getting help at all. It has helped me get a lot better, and I’m still alive. Haha!
My name is S. A. I am the 1 in 4.
MANI’s focus this month the 1 in 4 campaign about Bipolar disorder. If you want to share your story and your experience, kindly send to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you.