By Amarachi Okpunobi
Before now, I have had a wrong perception and misconception about mental illness. I have always seen mentally ill people (mad person) only as people who are vagrant. That is, people who hoard dirt and sleep in dirty places on the road and also persons who feed on spoilt foods in the dumps. I run away from them, in fact I dread to walk in the path they step their feet on, with fear of being beaten up by them. But these are misconceptions. I have learnt better.
Believe me, we all have manifested in one way or the other, mental illness as we perform our daily activities of life. I have come to learn that mental illness is not just about being vagrant.
You are mentally ill when you are depressed, extremely anxious, obsessional, overly excited and overly gloomy. You are mentally ill when your affect does not concur with the situation that poses before you. You are mentally ill when you have poverty in speech and also when you have rapid speech. You are mentally ill when you excessively seek attention. You are mentally ill when you are paranoid and traumatised. I have come to realise that We all have traces of mental illness.
I have also been opportuned to stay with the mentally ill persons par say and have had interesting stories so far. Stories that are real. Stories that will leave tears in your eyes. Stories that ink finds difficult to write and stories that bleaches can’t wash away. I wish to share with you one of them.
Enjoy the reading!
It all began in 2014 September when I had my first panic attack. I was at my work place. I was taken to my uncle’s hospital in Lokoja. I was lucky to be around known faces but I didn’t like the word depression.
It was only after the Ms.Kate interview I got the courage to face this condition. I am a procrastinator and I wish I was not like that then. It took me almost a year to go and seek help. I had my panic attack again on September 2015. I was then diagnosed with bipolar type 2 along with other above mentioned conditions. Since then I am on medications. I conditioned myself and empowered myself by watching movies related to mental health. Read books, article, anecdotes, memoirs and other materiasl to keep myself self aware. There were many ups and downs in the process. Some got me overwhelmed and some comforted me. I only knew one thing, if life gives me 1 chance to live against many number of chances to end it, I will choose to live. I struggled all alone. I had friends, family but I was alone. Always echoing this too shall pass phrase. It worked for me.
I had decided not to get married. I did not want to be a liability to anybody. I had infact asked my twin brother to go ahead marry the girl whom he loved. I knew I was signing up for many curious eyes who would question why did I do this. I didn’t give damn. I enjoyed that day when my brother got married. I knew I am going to lose on to the experience of having companionsip.
May 2018 I decided to move to Kastina. I had to take a chance. I had to change my therapist. One of my close friends recommended a therapist. It costed a bomb. She asked me to stop all the medicines. Ridiculed people who have suicidal symptoms as stupid. I was hurt. I decided not to visit her. However I had stopped medicines. This backfired and caused a huge anxiety wave inside me. I stopped walking on the Marine drive. I did not want the ocean to succumb me. I some how took courage and travelled back to my hometown. I had no work, no good health. I felt defeated. I wanted to give up on that train journey but a stranger who was a blessing in disguise helped me cope to things till I reached home safe and sound.
My therapy at my hometown started. I had left Lokoja and Kastina. I was in front of a psychiatrist who barely knew my case. I told him I was feeling suicidal and I don’t want to die.
One evening I got a call from Lokoja based PR agency for an interview. I travelled again to this beautiful city who knew who I was and was kind enough to endure my condition. Sooner I got a job and things finally started falling in place in September 2018. As days passed by my parents got me a marriage alliance. I was earlier rejected because of my mental health. I had made it clear to my family I will only marry after I disclose my condition and it is acceptable in the guy’s family.
This time there came a man who spoke to me at length and understood what I had to say. Drove from Mangalore to Bangalore only to respect my feelings and to talk to my psychiatrist who has been treating me since September 2015. Usually couples go to Cafes or any other interesting joints to spend time. We had an uncoventional route. We had to know each other in the waiting room at a hospital. After finally getting to know my condition from my doctor as well as other credible sources, we both decided to enter into courtship.
October 14, 2018 we exchanged rings in a an intimate affair. I had tears in my eyes. And so did my family of 7. Now I proudly say that both my partner and I are #notashamed. He is not ashamed to have me in his life and I am not ashamed of who I am. Our marriage is slated for May 12, 2019 in Lokoja.
I am still having bumpy rides with anxiety, bipolar episode and depressive symptoms. I know I will have to deal this until I reach my grave but I will endure it and make sure to bring change around the people I live.
We all have in one way manifested mental illness or abnormal behaviour but the good news is, something can be done to help. Admit that you are mentally ill and seek for that help. Speak with a psychologist or psychiatrist. Talk it over with family. Don’t get your life wasted in silence. Speak up and seek help.
If you are also opportune to help another, give the best you can. Do not stigmatise or discriminate. They are equally human just like you. Treat with dignity and integrity. Show some care and do the best you can to alleviate the mental illness.
Don’t let them tread that path alone. You may never know, you may be the next to have yours fully manifested with psychotic features. Always remember, we all have traces of mental illness.