This year my psychiatrist changed my initial diagnosis of severe depression to Bipolar II Disorder. For a moment I felt like my world had stopped spinning. I felt lost and betrayed because I did not know what this new diagnosis meant for me. For days I lived in denial and refused to accept it. However, a few weeks away from home taught me the following:
1. Doing what you love is important.
For a long time I wanted to stay in accounting because that is what I was told to do. I feared doing anything that meant moving out of the box the world had placed me in. I blamed myself for suffering from bipolar II. Perhaps if I didn’t try and be different all the time, I wouldn’t have to go through the constant ups and downs. However, I know that no one is to blame for a mental disorder, and doing what I love has helped me realise this. For the weeks I was away, I got to write, reflect and interact with people and practice yoga. I got to be myself without fear of what would happen if I stepped out of the box. In those few weeks, I was the happiest I have ever been.
2. Exercise is good for the body and the soul.
I never liked exercise; I saw it as a time consuming activity that left one extremely tired. It was only when the body stiffness became unbearable did I think of venturing into exercise. I chose yoga because everyone said it was easy. However, soon I realised that yoga challenged me physically, mentally and spiritually. I learned to relax my body and clear my mind. While doing yoga, I have no overwhelming thoughts; in that moment I can focus on me.
3. Healthy food is your friend.
My psychiatrist always tells me that a healthy diet is vital for recovery. I never believed her until I saw what an unhealthy diet did to me. I found myself agitated and stressed. Instead of practicing a healthy lifestyle, I continued to indulge in ice cream and chocolate. I found myself almost 10kg heavier and I was miserable. I saw that I used food to further hurt myself; it became a form of punishment for times when I felt overwhelmed and unsure. Now I choose food on the basis of how I wish to feel. I choose what will make me feel and look beautiful.
4. Those that love you are always ready to listen.
Any mental illness has a way of distancing you from your loved ones. Whenever I am going through the depressive phase of bipolar, I feel alone. I feel like the world is against me and I have no one to turn to. I begin to turn away from family and friends and then blame them for leaving. But those that love you never leave. They simply wait until you are ready to let them in. Friends and family have shown me continuously over the last few weeks that they always love me, even when I don’t love myself too much.
5. Travel more.
I remember standing in the Istanbul Atatürk Airport and hearing my flight to Skopje was delayed by 10 hours. I was alone in a foreign country and didn’t know what to do with myself. But instead of panicking, I saw it as an adventure. I was able to find a safe sleeping space after educating the immigration officials of where Namibia was located on the African continent. When I finally boarded the plane, I realised that I made it. I realised that I am capable of depending on myself, and this amazed me.