It has been 16 years now since I was first diagnosed with a very peculiar illness known as the Bipolar Affected Disorder. When I was initially diagnosed with it, I didn't know what hit me. All I knew was my brain was going on an overdrive and I had this surmountable rage that I cannot control. It was indeed a scary experience. At the time of the manic episode (not to be confused with maniac), I feel a sense of purpose beyond my comprehension. I became aloof and larger than life. Suddenly every thought that I had, absurd or otherwise made a lot of sense. Too much sense to the point it became nonsense.
The illness was my body's response to the extreme stress that I had to face at that time. Some people responded by having a heart attack or stroke, I, unfortunately, had a brain attack. No amount of agony can describe the anguish of having this illness. My wife said, she would rather I have cancer then this dreaded illness. We were simply not prepared to deal with this foreign yet endemic ailment. At the time I was running a thriving training and consulting company with a staff of ten. When the news got to my associates and employees, everybody packed their bags and leave. Literally, within a blink of an eye, I lost my business, my reputation, and the clientele that I painstakingly build for the past seven years. Not to mention the amount of guilt and shame I had to bear.
Treatment of the illness is not as easy as popping a few pills. Since it has to do with balancing the brain chemistry, I had to experiment with a plethora of medicines in order to find the one that suits me. Some medicines caused my neck to become stiff that I feel like a robot since I had to turn my shoulder to turn my neck. Others made me gained 30 kg in two years, while another made me feel like I was swallowing cotton balls when I sleep. At times I wonder which is worse, the illness or the medication?
Interestingly I also notice that the number friends that I once had dwindled rapidly. Bipolar is an embarrassing illness. During the depression, there is a constant dark cloud looming over my head that it's almost impossible to have a cheery conversation. On the contrary, during mania, the line between fantasy and reality becomes blurry such as it's difficult to follow my logical thought process. So the quick and dirty conclusion that most people had, including my father, was that I had gone mad. Perhaps beyond recovery I presumed. Otherwise, those once friendly and empathetic people will still be around.
The illness lasted well over a decade. During those times I was in and out of the psychiatric ward six times. When it happened, I admitted, I was not my normal self. I was in the world of altered reality. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes terrifying, and sometimes sad. Often I ask why, oh why, this happen to me? But as the song goes, there will be sunshine after rain, there will be laughter after pain, so why worry now?
If there is a lesson learnt for this experience, then it must be of love and rekindled friendship. Now I know for sure my wife and daughters truly love me. They had endured much. I may not have that many friends anymore but the bonding that I have now last a lifetime.
One out of four people today is suffering from some sort of mental illness. If you know any of them, please show that you care. The illness alone is already bad enough. We don't need the society to stigmatize it further.
I have a song to describe the manic episode. This song might as well be the song about it. Enjoy...