Month: June 2019

10 things I Know about Bipolar Disorder

Did you ever meet someone who spoke about something and you thought:

“I have heard about it, but I know so little about it!”

A couple of months ago, one of our members spoke about his/her bipolar journey and triggered my learn more process. I knew the basics, but not the depth and width of it. So I set out to learn with the plan to share my findings with you.

To compose this list, I have gone through Denis Muthuri’s posts on International Bipolar Foundation (ibpf). I have read the study Epidemiology and Burden of Bipolar Disorders in Africa: a Systematic Review of Available Data From Africa by Oluyomi Esan & Arinola Esan. Hours of internet browsing led me to Paul Aloyo’s story where he shares his Bipolar journey, while keeping his job at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT). On You Tube, I found Kenyans telling their stories of survival, love, treatment etc What I am saying is, there is lots of material and testimonies to learn from.

In Kenya, there are approximately 800,000 people diagnosed/living with Bipolar disorder and 88 registered psychiatrists. There are many more who are undiagnosed. To cater for this need, a little over 1% of the Kenya national budget is allocated to mental health.

1. Background

Bipolar disorder was previously known as manic depression. It is a mental disorder that causes periods of depression (very low mood) and periods of abnormally elevated mood. The elevated mood is significant and is known as mania or hypomania

Hypomania is a mood state characterized by persistent impulsiveness and mood elevation (euphoria). It may involve irritation. Hypomania is less severe than full mania.

2. Types

There are 2 types of Bipolar: 

Bipolar I which displays severe mania, which is generally easier to identify than in Bipolar II. Hypomania occurs more often than depession.

Bipolar II disorder’s manic episodes are mild and can pass by unnoticed. Note that depression symptoms in bipolar II occur more often than hypomania.

3 Bipolar vs Depression

Bipolar and Depression (Unipolar Depression) differ that unipolar depression has no manic episodes. As we mentioned above, bipolar II is marked by intervals of hypomania.

4. Triggers

Bipolar disorder can be triggered by pregnancy and obstetric complications, early parental loss (in particular maternal), birth month/season, stressful/traumatic etc

5. Onset

Bipolar disorder commonly begins to show itself in the late teens. Bipolar disorder in the teenage years is serious; it’s often more severe than in adults. Adolescents with bipolar disorder are at high risk for suicide and/or self-harm.

6. Diagnoses and Misdiagnoses

About half of people with bipolar disorder have seen three professionals before being diagnosed correctly.

Anyone evaluated for depression should also be evaluated for a lifetime history of manic or hypomanic episodes to rule out Bipolar.

People with bipolar disorder are frequently misdiagnosed as having depression. As many as 20% of people complaining of depression to their doctor actually have bipolar disorder.

It takes an average of 10 years for people to enter treatment for bipolar disorder after symptoms begin. This is caused in part by delays in diagnosis.

7. Treatment and Management

Medicine is available for the management of bipolar disorder. Talk therapy has also been proven to be very helpful.

Patients with both depression and bipolar disorder respond well to highly structured routines. Creating a routine helps patients know what to expect. Routines also make it easy to follow through with medication management independently.

Family support is very important because we all really want to be supported and loved as we are, by the people we call family.  

8. Aditonal Complications

Most people with bipolar disorder have additional psychiatric conditions (such as substance abuse or anxiety) that can make overall diagnosis very challenging.

Substance abuse is bipolar disorder’s partner in crime. Substance abuse often complicates the diagnosis and treatment of bipolar disorder. Some studies show that as many as 60% of people with bipolar disorder also abuse drugs or alcohol.

Untreated substance abuse can make it virtually impossible to manage the mood-swing symptoms of bipolar disorder if both disorders are present. It can also be hard to make a confident diagnosis of bipolar disorder when someone is actively abusing substances that cause mood swings.

9. Legislation and social accepttance

Bipolar is accepted as a disability in some countries because it can render people unable to work. Even after treament, it can take years before an individual can fully function in a workplace.

Bipolar disorder, like other mental health conditions have the potential to make it difficult for a person to find and keep a job. Once one finds a job, some find it hard to function at work, especially if symptoms blow up and mood swings can be severe.

Extreme Bipolar symptoms can lead to sudden “violent” outbursts and even destruction of property during the very manic phases. This can lead an individual to be excluded from society, hospitalized or even in police custody.

10. Short-term and long-term effects and consequences

The inability to function at work combined with societal misunderstandings can keep people living with Bipolar isolated. It can also consume family resources leading to other family complications and family dynamics that worsen Bipolar disorder.

A Kenyan report by Dr. Ndetei indicated that up to 42 % of psychiatric inpatients in prison were being managed/treated/medicated for bipolar disorder.

Substance abuse, such as alcoholism, that usually accompanies Bipolar Disorder can impoverish a whole family which leaves generational ramifications and re-curring/inherent mental health problems.

Do you know anything about Bipolar Disorder? Do you know someone who lives with Bipolar disorder? Tell us about it in comments!

o jewa ke eng? – What is eating you up?

There is a Lesotho tweet by a user calling herself/himself Keabetswe, on Twitter. It is a simple question – o jewa ke eng? – that has received lots of responses. The responses vary from the unemployed narrating the pitfalls of unemployment – rents unpaid, school fees backlogging, meals missed. Some are looking for work. Others tell about deaths in the family A few told about cheating spouses and partners. Others are asking for help to promote their businesses. A few post their families or friends who need donations for medical treatment, or for school fees. The stories are endless and the outpouring of support is heartwarming.

The straightforward definition/translation for this phrase is ‘what is bothering you’? It can also be translated as ‘what is it that is eating you up?’

As with many African phrases, o jewa ke eng is difficult to translate into english. If rightly translated, the deep meaning of o jewa ke eng would be something like ‘what is it that is bothering your spirit or what is disturbing your soul — something like a deep pain inside of you that you want to let out.

What I find interesting with the thread on Twitter is how so many people share their worst experiences, problems, challenges etc without necessarily saying what the struggle makes them feel. The word desperate is used in some cases 🙂 But when you read the post, you can feel empathy for the person anyway, almost feel what they must be feeling. It has made me realize that you don’t have to say everything when you are sharing that which is bothering you.

You don’t have to show tears.

Nor do you have to seem broken.

You don’t have to express anger.

All you ned to do is say what it is that is bothering you, put it out there – to your friend, to a family member, on the internet, in a notebook etc and see what happens. Just the sharing of whatever is bothering you is the beginning of healing because:

(i) you get the chance to vent pent up frustration and

(ii) it gives you a chance to reflect over the situation.

When you say “my marriage/relationship is falling apart…it is breaking my heart…” you are also saying “I really don’t want my marriage to fall apart.

Mind your words, they can become your reality

As soon you say something out loud, or write something down, your mind starts to deal with it as a fact. If you are lucky, your mind and those around you can help you reverse a bad situation. Or they can help you get through it. That is why we are told to mind what we say. Mind what you ask/pray for.

At Growth Catalysts (GC), we keep asking you o jewa ke eng? WHAT is eating at you? What is bothering you? Of course, we hope you are training yourself on how to reply to this question with some depth. Once you reply to o jewa ke eng? we do our best to help you reply to:

  1. WHY the thing that is eating at you is eating at you
  2. HOW to stop the thing that is eating at you. You get to make a list of
  3. WHAT you think/feel/believe you can do to stop the thing that is eating at you
  4. WHEN is now!
  5. WHO is you and us!

The GC community and members seem to understand what we are asking and we are receiving responses, stories, poems, questions etc Sometimes, you are telling us what is eating you. Other times you are asking us what is eating you. Mostly you are reaching out because you know something is eating you or someone you love and you know it needs fixing.

Please keep talking/communicating. what is eating you up?

Postpartum Depression – Chebet’s Story

Chebet’s story, written in her own words.

Chebet finally gathered the courage to share her story about post partum depression. She first shared it on whatsApp where she received lots of feedback. She found out that 15 of her contacts had gone through postpartum depression too.

Confirming our knowledge – whatever you are going through, you are not alone in it, someone else has or is going through the same.

As Chebet was sharing her story on WhatsApp, we @Growthcatalysts were planning an event together with @mymindourhumanity. One of Chebet’s contacts, @thuku_gideon had seen the poster for the event, and he shared this poster with Chebet. So, she contacted one of the organizers @damiann_juma to check if she could share her story with others at the event. Damian said yes. Of course.

The more we share our stories, the more others going through similar fates realize that they are not alone and gather courage to speak out. Opening up about the difficult experiences in our lives can save our lives, and the lives of others with similar or worse experiences.

Chebet went to the event and shared on stage. She says it was nerve-wracking, she had stage fright and she broke down on stage at some point. Most of us would, if we had to share our difficult, humbling experiences on a stage.

Chebet believes it gets better. We agree and we know from experience that it gets better. Once we start sharing our pain, we become a vent where our pain is released, and we become a sluicegate where all those who meet us can open up, vent, start healing and growing.

Awareness – the simplicities and complexities

In previous posts, we have written about Shame and we have written about Harmony. This week, we move on to nr. 3 of the SHAMAR wheel of mental health (Shameless, Harmonious, Aware/Attitude, Motivated, Accountable, Resourceful).

Awareness is one of the building stones to good mental health and in this context, awareness comes in 2 different packages:

  1. Self-awareness –  involves being mindful of your thoughts and feelings, your coping mechanisms, your strengths and vulnerabilities, and most importantly the values that motivate your goals and actions.
  2. Surroundings awareness – is the state or ability to perceive, feel, or be conscious of what is going on around you, the objects near you or the feelings, often referred to as ‘sensing’ you are experiencing.

1. Self Awareness

There are 2 sides to self-awareness

a) Thoughts & emotions

b) beliefs & attitudes

a) Thoughts & emotions

The best advice I ever received about self awareness was: give a name to your thoughts and emotions. If well-learnt, this identifying of thoughts and emotions allows you to observe thoughts and feelings as they occur. Which in turn means that you do not react to thoughts or emotions, you let them pass, you reflect afterwards, and then you react if you need to.  This was so good because as soon as I started, I had control over whatever it was that was affecting me. If I was angry, I could just say to the other person and to myself “I am angry at the moment, I need a minute to calm down.” This decreased the conflict inside me, and reduced the conflict with other people.

This is also a good way to meet other people’s definitions of your emotions. When somebody asks: “why are you so angry?

You are already aware that you are not angry, you are just sad. So you can reply calmly: “I am not angry. I am sad because xyz.”

To learn to understand and control your thoughts and emotions, train yourself to keep asking yourself

  • what you are thinking? and
  • what you are feeling?

If you wish to go further, you can ask yourself why 3 times.

  • Why am I thinking this? Why? Why?
  • Why am I feeling this? Why? why?

b) Beliefs & attitudes

Immigration Advisers Authority NZ

This is about knowing who you are as a person and what traits define your character.

Beliefs – are ideas that a person holds as being true. A potential belief sits with the person until they accept it as truth, and adopt it as part of their individual belief system. A belief can come from different sources, including:

  • a person’s own experiences or experiments
  • the acceptance of cultural and societal norms (e.g. religion)
  • what other people say (e.g. education, conditioning or mentoring).

Attitudes – are the mental dispositions people have towards others people and the current circumstances before making decisions that result in behaviour. People primarily form their attitudes from underlying values and beliefs. However, factors which may not have been internalised as beliefs and values can still influence a person’s attitudes at the point of decision-making. Typical influences include the desire to please, political correctness, convenience, peer pressure, and or psychological stressors

2. Surroundings awareness

You know how something happens to you and you later say “I sensed it!” meaning that you sensed it even before it happened. Or how you dream about something and it happens? This is part of Surroundings awareness. Your mind and inner eye caught something, and stored it, but you did not digest it and understand it. So the event is not surprising, you had expected it, although you do not know why. The best surroundings-awareness is the one where you:

  • are conscious of the things you see/feel/sense around you
  • you trust your feelings about things and people
  • you understand the things you see/feel/sense
  • you can act (make a decision) on the things you see/feel/sense

This is the true meaning of being woke. Or as we say in sheng kaa riitho. This helps you to almost predict things and therefore avoid the things you do not want to participate in.

For example you know that a certain friend is behaving strangely and it is hurting you. If you are aware of the things this person is doing that are hurting you, you can avoid situations where this person acts in certain ways. It saves you from anger, frustration, petty fights etc which are not good for you in the long run.

Any thoughts or emotions on this post?

Please comment below!

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies. 

%d bloggers like this: