Bipolar Disorder: Mood Swings & Mental Illness Signs

by Ella

Robert Kinyua found his mind inundated with thoughts, veering toward the fear of being labeled “crazy.” As a 30-year-old accountant, his experiences ranged from talking excessively to periods of intense highs, where his speech pattern would become rapid and erratic.


“My triggers then were lack of sleep, loss of appetite, irritability, and paranoia. My mind was consumed by the fear of being perceived as crazy. I became overly talkative and restless. When happy, I was ecstatic, but when sad or angry, I spiraled to the other extreme. There was no equilibrium in my emotions,” he recounts.


For Robert, these mood swings began taking a toll on his newly formed marriage, leading to frequent disagreements with his spouse and prompting interventions from concerned neighbors to seek medical assistance. His journey culminated in a diagnosis of Bipolar II disorder after being admitted to the psychiatric ward of Nakuru Teaching and Referral Hospital.


The path to diagnosis, however, was not straightforward. Initially, Robert underwent treatment for various ailments before receiving clarity on his condition, a common experience for many individuals grappling with mental health challenges in Kenya.


Stigma surrounding mental illness further compounded Robert’s journey, with societal misconceptions exacerbating the already challenging situation. Despite the hurdles, Robert’s resilience, supported by his family, propelled him toward acceptance and management of his condition.

Bipolar disorder, characterized by extreme shifts in mood ranging from manic highs to depressive lows, affects millions globally, yet accurate statistics within Kenya remain elusive due to historical underreporting of mental health data.

Robert emphasizes the importance of destigmatizing bipolar disorder, advocating for greater awareness and understanding of the condition’s lifelong management requirements. Stressing that bipolar disorder can be hereditary and triggered by various factors, including stressful circumstances, Robert aims to dispel misconceptions and foster a supportive environment for those navigating similar challenges.

In his journey toward stability, Robert found solace in a supportive work environment, highlighting the pivotal role employers play in facilitating the well-being of individuals with mental health conditions. However, systemic challenges persist, with access to psychiatric services and medications remaining limited, particularly in rural areas.

Addressing these gaps is paramount, emphasizes Dr. Patrick Boruett, founder of the Bipolar Heroes Foundation and a medical professional living with bipolar disorder. Dr. Boruett’s journey, marked by periods of denial and eventual acceptance, underscores the importance of peer support and access to accurate information in navigating the complexities of bipolar disorder.

Through the Bipolar Heroes Foundation, Dr. Boruett seeks to amplify the voices of individuals with lived experiences, offering a platform for shared learning and resilience-building. Online support groups and caregiver meetings serve as vital resources for those grappling with bipolar disorder and its associated challenges.

Despite strides in mental health advocacy, significant barriers persist, particularly in access to psychiatric services and medications. Dr. Boruett highlights the need for increased investment in mental health infrastructure and resources, particularly in underserved regions.

As Robert and Dr. Boruett continue their advocacy efforts, their experiences serve as a testament to the resilience of individuals living with bipolar disorder. By fostering dialogue, dispelling stigma, and advocating for improved access to care, they pave the way for a more inclusive and supportive society for those navigating the complexities of mental illness.


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