People have a lot of uninformed perceptions about mental disorders. I term this as uninformed because many do not take time to research about this but form their perceptions based on sentiments that have been passed down to them. Receiving a bad perception from the progenitors without checking them and analyzing them critically is worse and please permit me to say it’s evil. If we do not improve our perceptions of some basic things, then education has failed to fulfill its course for as many of us that term ourselves literate. Please do not mind my tone, I only intend to speak the truth withholding nothing.
One of the views of many is that those with mental disorders are meant to be pitied. Pity as used in this sense means “A feeling of sympathy at the misfortune or suffering of someone or something.” I strongly believe that having a mental disorder isn’t similar to having a misfortune fall on you. Most mental disorders are just as a result of hormonal imbalance. How could someone think of this as a great misfortune; thus the pitying from the ‘good’ mass of the population; and the not so ‘good’ ones tend to ostracize the ‘ones that a great misfortune has fallen on’. This is so twisted.
Another twisted view that a considerable amount of the population has is that people with mental disorders are less of a person. That in itself isn’t right because mental illness as I perceive is like any other illness but the site of the attack is the brain. If people with other illness are not seen as being less of a person, then why should people with mental illness be seen so- this is being unfair to humanity.
Defining mental illness
Basically, mental disorders are defined as a wide range of conditions that affect mood, thinking and behavior. Funny and simple right? That’s what it is. If I want to be sarcastic, I’d be right if I say that some people suffer from mental disorders from time to time [strangely I believe that most people that claim to be fine are ignorant victims of one mental disorder or the other; probably disorders that have not been defined yet.]
Having defined what mental disorders are, I’d like to define what it also means to have a good mental health. The general and I presume the most accepted definition of a good mental health does not really draw its deduction from the physiological state of the concerned but rather it does from the psychological state of the being. “Mental health is defined as the psychological state of someone who is functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioural adjustment.”
My Bipolar Episode
I had my first episode of Bipolar Affective Disorder on the first of November 2016. I was a first year student of Medical Rehabilitation in the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University. It is believed that Bipolar affective disorder can be a function of genetic factor especially if first degree relatives are victims [nobody in my family has ever had mental issues, at least that none that I know of]. The fact that I had a mental disorder was one bitter stew everyone had to taste.
Asides that, my own episode of bipolar is very much connected with the rigorous things I made my brain do. I tasked it to study school books extensively and contemplatively that when I had racing thoughts, they were thoughts of physics, chemistry scriptures and books that I had read at that time. Yes, I made my brain do a lot of things.
Everyone has to be aware
I’m studying physiotherapy [Medical Rehabilitation specialization] now in ‘GREAT IFE’. I’m presently a part two student in the university’s medical school. If you are well aware of the modalities of things in medical school, you’d know what I’m into. I’m happy to inform you that I still task my brain more than I do before, and even now, I believe I can say heavily. When a lecturer finishes a whole topic that’s worth studying for two weeks in one class, you understand that you need to not just study but grasp quickly more than you can. Now, my point is this – I do a lot of things now but I haven’t suffered a relapse. If I was well informed about mental disorders when I resumed OAU, maybe it would have helped me to take better measures in helping myself. Because of this episode I lost a whole session of study in medical school. Even now, I still do other things, I’m into music and if you’re into that, you’d know that music in itself is absorbing. I play the bass for my fellowship, meaning that I’m a chorister. Let me not even start telling you how demanding being part of a choir is.
This goes to everyone, be informed about mental illness. It never crossed my mind that I could have one. What if I had known about it the way I know about malaria and typhoid. I could have done something early because it wasn’t sudden, I had energy rush, mild racing thoughts and complications with sleep before the whole outburst. Sadly, I couldn’t connect the dots.
Easy access to professionals in the field of mental health is key
1st of Nov, 2016 was the first day of the lecture-free week for the harmattan semester and I wanted to ace all my papers because I have this sense of excellence in everything I do, especially Academics. You can infer that I was studying well. That morning, I saw no need to eat, I was just excited for no reason. Before then, I’d been really sad because I couldn’t proffer solution to a chemistry quiz out of many. Strange, Right? I know. But then, right from secondary school that has been me. However, the aftermath of my inability to proffer solutions that day was strange. I wept uncontrollably but still I didn’t discern. I couldn’t have anyway. I later got to know later that it’s called ‘weeping spell’.
Unfortunately, after the first lap of the weeping spell, my mood swung magically and I became ecstatic. I didn’t know it was a bad thing. But it felt good. So, immediately I rushed off to the school library with that ecstatic mode. Luckily, that was when the whole thing blew up and I knew that something was wrong, the racing thoughts were so much that I found it hard to understand a simple solved example in hydrostatics. So, I started misbehaving [really that’s the summary] in the school library. I rushed down to some places and I misbehaved too, I became delusional. I was getting out of reality, I was hallucinating too but that was just very brief.
That same night after rounds of euphoria and weeping spells, I was led to the health center by a friend and unfortunately, I was asked to come back the next day. I believe that’s part of what caused my dwindling. It wasn’t attended to, and later I was taken home. My parents were alarmed by the fact that their beloved son was misbehaving. The place of knowing too also comes in, I was managed in a hospital where there was no mental health specialist; that gave rise to complications which I see no need to expound.
I was privileged to be managed in one of the hospitals in Nigeria with one of the best mental health care facilities; Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Aro, Abeokuta. It was different, but how many would be able to afford this? The environment was good for recuperation, and asides that, they were health care professionals, indeed there was a medical team that was seeing to the well-being of patients. For me, I was inquisitive and I learnt and got exposures which made me appreciate medical sciences more. That was my experience but it wasn’t cool at all. But then, I dare say it was cool. I made friends too. I’d like to talk about one of them. She’s Rhoda, she was on her clinical posting then and we got talking. I can’t remember how. She probably doesn’t know, but she helped me a great deal. We got talking, and she always had a different perspective to things and was apt to correct [ she’s older anyway]. But really, the exposure was cool as the services rendered was holistic and such should be for every hospital that claims to have mental health department.
After I was discharged and I resumed school, I started my follow up treatment at the university teaching hospital.
Life after Hospital Admission
I can say of a truth that I’ve not had a better yesterday with my mental health life. I cannot overlook the fact that I had family and friends around that were just there to make sure that I didn’t have a relapse. I had very brief moments of very mild depression but I stood with God and his promises for my life because God and I started out so long ago. Did I mention that faith and your belief in a supreme being helps too? Well, if it’s working for you, you should not forget to let it go hand in hand with your medical treatments and therapy.
I actually enjoyed myself throughout that period. For me, I can say bipolar disorder didn’t sink me. I don’t think it should sink anyone either. It was a springboard for me.
The crux of it
I very much believe in the power of self-motivation. If you are defeated in the frame of your mind; you are defeated for real. And I mean for real. The fact that you are challenged doesn’t mean you’re less of a person. You’re not. Keep dreaming big. All you need is a new formation. If you play PlayStation soccer [PES], you can relate well.
You don’t need to look down on yourself. Use your medications if you have them and you can afford them. I understand that not all can afford them though. That cannot be over-emphasized.
You don’t have to bear your burdens alone. C.S Lewis once said “Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.” You don’t have to die in silence, there are still people you can share the weight with if it’s still heavy.
PLEASE BE FINE!!!