I was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. How can I be better for myself and my children?


Be wary of those doomsday agents who will tell you that you must leave him at once because of this first episode. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

I got separated and started acting out such that I would abandon my children and go binge drinking and have many men. I was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I want to be better, for myself and my children. Please help!

Your case brings to mind a book you might find helpful titled An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison, who is a professor of psychiatry and psychology at Johns University in the US and who has taught at Harvard and Oxford universities.

Since adolescence, she has lived with bipolar disorder, just like her father and several of her relatives. Her personal life is very much like yours and because she writes as both a patient and expert, her accounts of the disorder are perhaps the best that I have come across.

When you tell us for example that “I would abandon my children and live a life of binge drinking and having many men…”

I see you in the manic phase of bipolar disorder. In this phase of the illness, you would have felt extremely happy and joyful and nothing in the world would have been impossible let alone difficult.

Your need for sleep would be minimal and you would have boundless amounts of physical and sexual energy.

Your ability to persuade other people would surprise you and others. A woman we saw a while ago was able to borrow Sh60 million after she had persuaded her banker that she had a brilliant business idea and was on the verge of buying the nightclub she was frequenting at the time.

As happens in manic states, she spent all the money in a few weeks, often buying customers alcohol on their promise to patronise the bar once she had bought it. She kept no account of her expenses.

One day she drove to Nakuru at breakneck speed to pick up two potential customers who were drinking at “the wrong place.”

Like you, she had increased libido and decided to contact all her past boyfriends to see for herself which had been the best for her.

Her ideas were grandiose. She would no longer be an ordinary advocate and aspired to obtain her PhD and to lead a happy life by the following year by forcing the government to make her the minister of outer space.

Told that no such position existed, she would get angry and call people stupid. She exaggerated all her past achievements including claims of having been the top student in all her exams. Her speech was rapid and at times incoherent.

She was, like you, so busy she did not have time for her children, and again like you, her husband left taking the children with him.

Then came the low. This is the phase when the patient becomes the opposite of the manic phase. She could not sleep or eat properly.

She lost weight a great deal and was anxious and fearful of people and stayed in a dark room all day. She felt sad, hopeless, and a total failure.

Life was no longer worth living and the only option available was to end her life. All her friends she said, had abandoned her and even the pastor now seemed too busy for her.

Death was the only way to peace. We saw her after she had survived an overdose that had kept her in intensive care for 10 days.

The good news about bipolar mood disorder is that of all the major mental disorders that we treat, it has the best outcome.

Your doctor will tell you what to do or not to do, for example, to avoid alcohol and interpersonal conflict to the extent possible, medication might be advised.

Mood stabilising medications are extremely effective as is Lithium which is an inexpensive safe product that has been in use for many years.

Please follow the advice from your doctor and chances are good that you will sort yourself out and lead a happy and stable family life.

Send your mental health concerns to [email protected]

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