My name is Afrika and I’m a 23-year-old musician who was diagnosed with bipolar a little over two months ago.
Pre-diagnosis I kept up a busy life holding down three jobs as well as trying to climb the music industry ladder. My illness affected me by driving me to become over productive, filling my entire day with work, anxiety when not working, manic episodes and irritation. On the 4th of November 2013, I was admitted into hospital with hypermania, I stayed there for 2 months.
Whilst in hospital I found my preconceptions of mentally ill patients were strongly challenged. There weren’t padded cells, straight jackets or people being held down. But rather determined people working through their own issues by talking and coming up with a recovery plan with a specialist team of nurses, occupational therapists and psychiatrists.
‘There weren’t padded cells, straight jackets or people being held down. ‘
Outside the safety of the hospital I had fears about work that people would think I was faking my illness mainly because it’s not something you can see. I feared I would be treated differently in my music work, that parents would be concerned about me being left alone with their child whilst teaching them. I never told my employers about my diagnosis or why I was admitted into hospital, I just said I was recovering from stress. I believed that if they knew they wouldn’t take me back or would think I would be a danger to the students. My experience of informing people about my condition tends to be that I’m surrounded by friends who are walking on eggshells worrying about what could trigger a downwards spiral of my mental health.
I feared I would be treated differently in my music work
It’s too early to say whether I am getting better or what recovery looks like for me but I manage life by throwing myself back into my work
and trying to progress each day.What would make things easier is if I could be kinder to myself and if people could be kinder to each other and for friends to keep being understanding and supportive, but not oversensitive to my condition.
I believe people who have experienced mental health difficulties almost have a duty to break the stereotypes of mental health patients as being dangerous, irredeemably mad and useless. This could be done by re-engaging with friends, families and neighbours and talking about their conditions where appropriate and becoming just another member of the diverse communities that form our world.
‘..people who have experienced mental health difficulties almost have a duty to break the stereotypes of mental health patients as being dangerous, irredeemably mad and useless.’
(Take a moment and think about this: what happens when you’re in a relationship and your partner dies? What do you do? In our part of the world where there are various misconceptions about relationships, how do you handle such a loss?).
It was the beginning of an academic year and her boyfriend had passed away, her world seemed empty, she was sad and devastated. Not a member of her boyfriend’s family knew about her or her relationship with the deceased. She joined the friends and classmates category just like everyone else and even in school where people knew of their relationship, it was no different than whispers and fingers being pointed at her as the girl who’d lost her boyfriend.
Martha was surrounded by people, yet she was lonely. She had so many thoughts and could hardly concentrate. Martha was depressed and needed help, but who would help? Her friends thought she probably just needed time and space to grieve her loss, but none of them took a step to talk to her about how she really felt, but instead they were waiting for the worst to happen then they could say, “I saw this coming”, “I knew it”. What if she committed suicide in the end? Continue reading The stigma that kills
Talking about depression makes me feel understood and makes me know that I am not alone. Don’t be quick to judge me. I had a life all figured out, before this battle to keep going began. I am going through an uphill mental battle and would need you to help and support me through it. I am irrational, not unintelligent. I had been trying to stay strong for too long and never considered myself weak. I wish I could get better and live my life to the full like everyone else, but I cannot simply snap out of it. I need your understanding and support, not your judgment, I have already done enough of that to myself.
Be supportive, do not be judgmental!!!!
The night before was no different from the previous nights in the last few weeks, feeling exhausted and weary from doing nothing. But then, I was hopeful, believing that I would wake up feeling better and with renewed energy, after all, I had listened to several messages telling me anything was possible with the right mindset and I just needed the willpower to overcome it, perhaps I could even work on my assignment.
But all I had the following morning, was a meaningless memory of the hopeful persona I was the night before and my only desire was to waste away in bed. I wished I could at least take a shower or get something to eat from my kitchen in the basement of my apartment (a deed which had become dreadful in that instance), but even these had become for me tedious everyday tasks I could no longer do. And there I was, cradled like a baby in the arms of depression and I couldn’t get free.
I was entangled, and in its grips and my branches would never sway freely in the wind. I had fallen prey to this vine of depression. In that moment, I knew I was never going to come out alive. I needed more than willpower to live, (not mine, but someone’s), I needed someone to hold me up and tell me they would stay with me through this, I needed a constant reminder that I was not a lost cause, that someday, somehow, I would find my roots and blossom again, and like a bird set free from its cage, I would fly and touch the skies.