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A Mental Health Advocate Sends Love and Light to the World

My name is Sitawa Wafula.

I am from a small town 40 Kms from Kenya’s capital called Ngong.

I am a mental health blogger and advocate for people living with mental health conditions and their families.

As a kid, I never envisioned myself getting into this line of work. In those early days, I did not know about blogging or mental health. I was sure I would end up doing something that involved Mathematics, but life had another script for me.  (more…)

In Discovery With Bipolar Disorder

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“How was the class trip to the aquarium?” asked my husband Steve at dinner that night. “The bus ride was crappy, with all the loudmouthed kids screaming their freaking heads off,” I replied, casually. “But when we got to Baltimore it was better. I was in a small group with one of the dads, and at least he kept his goddamned mouth shut.”

I still remember the variety of reactions around the table. Julie, my fifth grader, who had actually been there with me, looked scared. High schooler PJ barely glanced up from his plate. Our Swiss exchange student, Maurus, looked puzzled. (A lot of things about the US puzzled him. Maybe he thought all American moms swore like sailors.) Steve looked sad, and resigned. Throughout the rest of the meal, my frequent comments were shot through with profanity and negativity—in other words, the new normal for me. (more…)

Hospitalized for a “Break From Reality”

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Mom, Dad, and my friend Meredith tell me that we are going for a ride. When I was a baby this is how my parents would get me to fall asleep, perhaps that’s what they are aiming for. But I am restless. They say that if we go to the hospital then I will sleep.

We are driving through the town in which I grew up. I know it well, but today everything looks clearer, closer. The autumn leaves are beginning to fall, making piles of red and orange on the front lawns of houses that we pass. I ask Meredith if I can wear her thick glasses; for some reason I want to see things differently. I put them on and take them off, allowing my eyes to adjust and readjust. I repeat this pattern, fixating on the red and orange. I watch as the shapes morph through the lenses of the glasses. The car is in motion but it still can’t keep up with the pace of my thoughts, or my eyes. I take the glasses on and off and it feels as though my eyes are changing, growing stronger.

We arrive at the hospital quickly (as if my need to be there willed the car to move faster). I am on an important mission. The hospital will prove that I am ready to go on to the next stage of this quest and I can return to New York, to school, my friends, and boyfriend with new information. It is all very important.

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A Molecular Biologist With Bipolar 1 Disorder

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My name is Samina Raza Egilmez. I am a molecular biologist. I am 55 years old. I have been married for 27 years to a wonderful, patient and loving husband. I have a beautiful 25-year-old son. It sounds like a wonderful life. And it is. But I would be lying if I didn’t say it has been a hard fought one. I suffer from bipolar 1 disorder. Here is my story. And believe me, for each line that I’ve written, I could write volumes. (And one day I will!)

For the first 24 years of my life, I didn’t know what bipolar disorder was. I would have preferred to keep it that way.

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Not For The Faint of Heart: Recovering From Co-Occurring Illnesses

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Living with bipolar disorder is not for the faint-hearted. It’s exhausting, and your will to live must be strong. You must win the same battle over and over again. The thing is, it doesn’t get easier. The brain is cunning. It turns right where it once went left. It’s slippery, elusive, and difficult to pin down. As soon as you think you’ve mastered it, the cycle repeats itself. Of course, I’m talking about when my bipolar is treated and well-managed. Undiagnosed bipolar disorder is a monster in its own right. It causes pain, destruction, and chaos. It rips apart families and it can be lethal. Frankly, I’m lucky to be alive.

Intense childhood panic attacks mark the beginning of my story. My family would push me out the front door toward the school bus as I would hysterically cry and push back. “Oh she’ll outgrow them,” my pediatrician said. So, instead of therapeutic intervention, spankings answered my literal cries for help.

Middle school brought with it depression and self-harm, which were also minimized. I believe that’s when I “toughened-up.” That is, I began wearing a figurative mask and learned to act as if nothing was wrong.

But it was in adulthood that living undiagnosed became most problematic.

Not even my mask could hide the madness within me. (more…)