Allowing Myself to Own My Experiences

Author: Mihlali Mqushulu


For months I have been contemplating this. It was not so much about sharing my experience with this lifelong rollercoaster I’ve been handed at quite a young age; But more so about if my experience will seem valid enough for anyone reading. Will it be good enough? Will it reach the people it needs to? Am I capable of addressing the daily challenges I face when I have barely started living? But I guess there’s only one of knowing. So, let’s go…

Coming from a small town in Southern Africa, it comes to no surprise that my knowledge on mental health was limited.

In fact, I wasn’t even aware of its existence. I would only hear different adult individuals refer to such subjects as incredibly taboo. So, you know what that means: ask no questions. This wasn’t primarily because I was too young, but because they simply didn’t have the answers themselves. But lo and behold, without even asking, the information all fell on me, via living it.

22 and thriving – I had my dreams right in front of me and waiting for the universe to cooperate. Until I realised there was something lacking on my side: patience. That soon turned into irritability which led to rage and thereafter, unidentified depressive episodes. With my voice shaking I had to come to terms with the jarring realisation: “I don’t think I’m okay”. The taboo subject had fallen on me, and I needed some help.

Terrifying. Unimaginable. Where on earth do I begin? With the understanding that to handle the business that is my dreams, I immediately had to handle the business that is myself.

Following a minor breakdown, I was placed under the care of a brilliant clinical psychiatrist who gave me my diagnosis. I wasn’t shocked at first, in fact I was quite indifferent. “It’s life”, I thought. “It could’ve been worse”. But nothing could prepare me for the amount of work I had and still have to do for, practically, the rest of my life.

Soon after receiving the medical treatment, I needed, I honestly thought the worst was over. It wasn’t until another depressive episode showed its head that I realised I had the great responsibility of educating myself on how to further handle this. I will admit, that was one of the hardest parts during the early days. This was mainly because of the fact that I could not, under any circumstances, judge myself. I made this tough decision because I realised that if I don’t learn more about this, I will inhibit myself so gravely and I will never reach my full potential, in every single aspect of my life.

So here I was in my little judgement free zone, and I had one thing lingering on my mind. Believe it or not, I started feeling a sense of gratitude. Unreal right? Let me explain. In a time when I could’ve shut down and resented my mind and body for betraying me, I sat and thought about my initial reaction upon my diagnosis: “It could’ve been worse.”

I started to see, one by one, the number of things I had at my disposal.

I had books, medication, access to wellness programs and unwavering strength from the higher power I believe in. Thats something I could not take for granted. The fact that I had someone to call when my head was ringing with fear and waves of emotion, was what brought me to a place of utter gratitude. Because what I do know is that not a lot of people have that, and I know this because I have seen it. This was probably the first of many steps i have and still yet to take on this lifelong journey.

When it comes to coping mechanisms, I noticed quite early on that my thoughts were the leading factor. Because they are quite dominant when it comes to conditions such as these, I had to and am still careful on how they affect my actions. Self-affirmations came into play a lot when I realised the stigmas and will always be a part of my life. But I decided that I can control what I take in because at the end of the day no one knows me more than myself. With that knowledge, I find it easier resist falling victim to people’s opinions.

Before I was diagnosed, I had started doing yoga to subdue my anxiety. As time went by, I decided to be intentional with every little thing during my 20-minute flows. Breathing and meditating were essential. And the result: a lot of emotional release. It also gave me time to calmly reflect on the course of my days because, again, life goes on.

What I did next, over the next couple of months, was to take certain qualities about myself that I’ve grown to love and instill them on my day-to-day life them when needed. It started small and like a seed and I’ve been watering it for 4 years now. Don’t get me wrong, I still ask the “why me” questions now and then, but I think what I am doing now, as I am typing these words is the answer. To share, to communicate, to heal others and myself with a truth I had to accept, and I am currently living. And to do all of this with grace and handle myself and others reading this, with care.


The content of the International Bipolar Foundation blogs is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician and never disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read in any IBPF content.
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