.and then unexpectedly there’s calm,
all I thought I knew about myself and the
World becomes the fleeting thoughts of
Man under siege from his own mind.
The storm has passed for now.
I have spent the better part of 3 years researching aspects of my condition that help me manage my symptoms and fully embrace the terminal aspect of having a mental illness. ‘Researching’ does not mean that I formed a focus group, a hypothesis or a statistical matrix that is processed by a quantum super computer. That is still the stuff of fiction. My research is an introspective and self-searching experience through advice, therapy, proper medication management and self-acceptance. It seems I have it all figured out, but having bipolar disorder is sometimes like crossing a figurative murky river in a leaky boat. You plug one hole for another to sprout elsewhere. You know a sunken boat would mean having to swim across the murky river or drown. I would like to name this boat ‘anxiety’ and the leaking holes are anxiety triggers.
1. FEAR OF THE PAST
Every time I write an article or come out to friends and family regarding my mental illness, there is a two-dimensional aspect to this decision. Firstly, speaking out might help people understand my personality and get by with the roller coasters of my temperament and my current frame of mind. My boldness has also helped other bipolar patients fill the void of feeling along, thus ‘smoothening the path’ for others that will come after me. Mental illness is a taboo topic in my country. In Kenya the common consensus is that all forms of mental illness are as results of witchcraft or ‘generational curses’. So in a way my decision to come out is a groundbreaking feat in this society. Secondly (and sadly less groundbreaking) my mental illness has been a ticket to absolve me from the irresponsible actions or inactions from my past. Every time I meet someone from my past, I feel like I have been marked with a bulls-eye for the phases of mania and alcohol abuse that ensued years before my diagnosis. In my deepest recess I always wish this past did not exist. I wish that everything had turned out different, but it did not. Whenever my anxiety fires up in such moments, my motto has always been ‘I am fully responsible for who I was 24 hours ago and in a stiff competition with who I will be in the next 24 hours.’ The past will remain a constant.
2. FEAR OF LOSS
I would like to meet a single human being that has truly felt liberated from a bad relationship or was content with the bereavement of someone close, because in essence, the deceased can be considered free from the anguishes of our world. Instead all of us, whether with a mental illness or normal have a deep dread of losing something or someone held dearly. Be it romantic love, family, friends, money, employment, social status and all things we consider fundamental to our wellbeing, loss is something we cannot rehearse for. My anxiety always lurks in shadows like a grim reaper around all my comfort of status quo. I am continuously gripped by paranoia trying to control the outcomes of all things I consider treasured. Having overcome an alcohol abuse servitude, I have made gains career wise, spiritually, mended some broken relationship in my extended family, improved my health and even my worldview is geared toward the right livelihood and a slight grasp of wisdom. In my elements I have achieved a lot more than I ever thought possible. Once the anxiety is firing on all pistons my mind is thrown into anarchy and I question: What if I lost it all? What if I have a severe relapse into mania? What if my girlfriend left me? What if I am bereaved? What if the world suddenly comes to an end? What if I get into an accident? What if I get another terminal illness? What if I die? There are more what ifs than I can count. In suchlike moments of crippling anxiety I remind myself a wonderful quotation from the bible, ‘there is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven; a time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. ’