Mon | Apr 6, 2020

Within the Mind: Bipolar Disorder

Published:Sunday | February 26, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Bipolar Disorder

"When you have a child and you recognise that they are acting up, do not be too quick to say that they are a bad child. Sometimes there is something that is just wrong," Margaret Johnson* told Outlook emphatically.

She should know. This was the case for Wilson as she was deemed as a feisty and unruly child.

Wilson knew that there was something wrong with her from an early age. Her moods fluctuated between highs and lows. Then there were days when she just lost gaps of time. There were family members who thought that there was something of a supernatural nature at hand.

She remembered being taken by a relative to an 'obeah man', to undo whatever they thought was done to her. Even after being medically diagnosed with depression and then schizophrenia, Wilson's medication was, at times, withheld because there were members of her family who believed that she was under another kind of influence. It was not until 1998 when she was in her early 20s and she had an episode that lasted weeks that she decided it was time to leave home.

"Up to this day, I cannot tell you exactly how long. I know it was over a few weeks - I just lost gaps of time and no one would tell me what had happened to me or what I did. That is part of my life that I have lost," she told Outlook.




The incident was due to her not having her medication, and having them kept from her at the risk of her life was frightening. She realised that it was time to take her life into her own hands. She left home her home in Portland without telling anyone, and went to an aunts home that lived in Kingston.

It was then that she was properly diagnosed with bipolar disorder. According to Associate Clinical Psychologist Justine East, bipolar disorder consists of common fluctuations in mood, activity level, and the capacity to fulfil daily activities. She noted that there are different types, and in some cases, one excessive elevated, excited, or irritable mood with increased energy.

This diagnosis seemed a better fit to what Wilson was experiencing, and she was looking forward to moving on with her life. For the next seven years, she has battled moderate to severe bipolar disorder some of which she blamed on herself.

"There are times that you feel like the medication is working and you lower the dose. Then you start to lose touch and realise that it was the fact that the medication was working that you felt better. Do not self-diagnose or play doctor. If your doctor says take something, just take it. He will know when to change it," she admitted.

Wilson was doing well. She was studying and moving up the ladder in her professional life. But once the rumours and/or the fact that she had this disease came out, there were some individuals who treated her differently.




Now married for four years and with a son, Wilson admitted that these were things she never thought she would have. She has fallen in love before, but her illness was always a factor.

"When he found out that I had bipolar disorder, he started to poison me and then accuse me of being mad. I got pregnant for him and lost the child after four months," Wilson reflected.

Listening to her doctors and religiously taking her medication, has prevented Wilson from having an episode in the past seven or more years.

She currently holds a Bachelor's in Business Management from the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean, and a Diploma in Marketing from Excelsior Community College. She is also an entrepreneur owning her own clothing store.

Wilson does not believe that her illness is an excuse to not be successful. She has made a success story of it, and believes that once someone believes that he or she can achieve anything, is determined, and puts their faith in God, he or she can be successful.

East lists five symptoms of bipolar disorder.

(1) Frequent changes in mood and energy levels.

(2) Engaging in a lot of risky behaviour such as unrestrained shopping sprees, sexual indiscretions, unwise business investments.

(3) A decreased need for sleep (for example: feels rested after only three hours of sleep).

(4) An extreme increase in goal- oriented activity in areas of one's social, work/school or sexual life or lack of goal oriented activity.

(5) Depressive feelings, such as feeling sad, hopeless, loss of interest or pleasure in most activities, major weight or sleep changes, loss of energy, and thoughts of death.

Do not self diagnose, see a psychologist if you suspect that you might be suffering from this of any other mental illness.

* Name changed on request