Greetings, Bipolar South Africans!
Sanibonani, Molo, Hallo, Thobela, Dumela, Lumela, Abusheni, Sanibona, Avuwani, Salibonani, Hello!
Friends, humans, bipolar South Africans (and their global groupies), lend me your ears. We are gathered here today at the launch of Our Lived Experience, to bust a bottle of Grapetiser joyfully against her hull and then, in an accent vaguely reminiscent of Queen Elizabeth II, utter the following, “may blog bless her and all who sail in her”.
*eminem voice* Hi, my name is blahpolar, I’m a bipolar blogger…
Seriously though, if you’ve googled for South African bipolar stuff, you may have been as disappointed as I was. I love having access to the entire planet online, but I want local info too. No actually, I need it. You guys know what it’s like; in general we don’t get handed a diagnosis and any psycheducation and help with it. Bam, you’re walking out of your hectically expensive psychiatrist’s palace thinking “wtf? wt actual f?” – amirite? By now, you and I are a little wiser, a little more battlescarred, but every day, baby bipolars are born who need some local help too. This is my opportunity to thank Yvette a thousand times for this concept and for the dedication to follow through with it and turn it into reality. And we all know how tough that can be, with manic depression monkeys on your back… sincere thanks, Yvette and hopefully the rest of us will pull in to help and promote the project, to contribute to it and to spread the word. Guys, we’re bipolar, let’s get involved and get each other’s backs when we’re not doing so well.
Alrighty then, now that the effusive greetings and thankies are over, I’ve been asked to introduce myself and my relationship with manic depression to you. I’ve also been asked to tell you about my favourite place in SA, so let me hit that one first. Place. Singular. One. Just one solitary singular part of our freaking gorgeous corner of Africa… that’s a tough one. I love Jozi and Slaapstad, I love the karoo, the kalahari, every single bit of coastline and all of the mountains. I love the roads that link them all. One. Place.
The Eastern Cape, the poorest and most forgotten province in our ripped and faded rainbow nation. It’s the place known for deaths during initiation rites, the strangest and most disturbing shaman stuff, and for being at the arse end of nowhere. A radio DJ said that if SA needed an enema, they’d insert the pipe there. Now that I’ve made it sound completely barbaric and uncool, let me show you how very much the good outweighs the bad, kicks its ass and steals its girlfriend. Tough, flinty scenery, brave plantlife, clever animals, aloes, prickly pears, acacia, euphorbia and jackal buzzards and longcrested eagles keeping a bird’s eye on it all. It gave the world the dolos, which is a concrete breakwater. It has the finest elephant reserve in the country (Addo National Park), Hobbiton in the Hogsback, astonishingly quiet and pretty beaches, subtle skies – unassuming until they suddenly astound you with a light show that’ll run off with your breath, laughing. River mouths and sandbars, short trees and short people… I could go on listing jewels ad infinitum. Instead, I will suggest you have a thorough look at Greg Schultz http://www.gregschultz.co.za who is an artist who gets it right. If you visit the Eastern Cape, approach quietly and respectfully. Look before you leap, think before you speak and before you know it, the province will have gently slid its arms around you, pulled your head to rest on your shoulder and begun to sing you a lullabye.
Or stay away and leave it untouched for me.
Me and brother bipolar go way back; my psychiatrist reckons it was unleashed by trauma that happened when I was about five years old. I was only diagnosed in 2014 though, it took me even longer than the estimated decade to get an accurate diagnosis, because of my incredibly fragmented, shifting lifestyle. We could compare numbers, you and I; we could discuss homes, jobs, meltdowns and I am crotchgrabbingly confident that mine is bigger than yours. Anyway, I got the diagnosis.
I got the diagnosis and at the same time, my psychiatrist identified the hallucinations I’d had for a couple of months as psychosis. I’d been having them since 1995, at least. I drove home ina slight dwaal and when I got home, I slumped into a full on daze. You know that annoying fridge magnet that says, “sometimes I sits and thinks and sometimes I just sits”? I just sat, numb, so numb. I stared blindly at the sky, I sat; I just sat. Then the tears began. At first it was those involuntary hot, quick ones, that simply overflow like Midmar Dam in summer. Then I sobbed and felt sorry for myself – you know the drill, the sobs that wrench themselves audibly and violently from somewhere in the region of your solar plexus. And then I simply cried like a child and I don’t need to describe that one to anybody, because you know.
People kept telling me that bipolar is manageable, because that is what all of the official info out there says. Once I stopped just reading and began to interact, I found a whole other world. Time passed and I found myself experiencing some of the things I’d read. Medication side effects kicked my butt hard, my memory developed holes the size of that one in Kimberley and my reading and writing developed odd little issues that never, ever plagued me before. “Don’t worry, it will settle,” says my psychiatrist; “me too,” say my blogging friends and so we stand shoulder to shoulder and feel a little less strange and a lot less alone. And the relief! Fark. So much of relief.
We need it on a local level, these links, we really do. The first world takes care of the research etc, but we have very different needs and realities. They run out of psychiatric beds, we run out of meds. Did you see that photo of Baragwanath that did the rounds on VuisBoek? Shelves and shelves and shelves labelled with names we all know and swallow from our middle class pockets and medical aid – all empty, every single one. Those of us who rely on the state system are screwed before we even start. We have something like one psychiatrist per 300k people. Look at it like this, 1:300,000 – them odds ain’t good. Getting a diagnosis, let alone non existent meds, is a lucky dip, without bucks to chase it.
Hi, I’m blahpolar; I have continuous, rapid cycling bipolar 1 with mixed and psychotic features. There’s a side of C-PTSD and ADHD, and for dessert, we have some agoraphobia. I haven’t found that holy grail of the right meds cocktail yet. I hate blahpolar, but I am very glad to be here. I hope to meet you all here and at my own blog, https://blahpolar.wordpress.com
Chow, my chinas and mkhaye wam.
You can find Blahpolar here. This an exerpt take from her bio:
“I am not only bipolar and I am not all about bipolar, but this blog is (mostly). That’s why I made it. I figured I could inflict my incessant and obsessive process of getting my head around this on strangers online.
Dx: CPTSD, Bipolar 1 (continuous, rapid cycling, plus mixed and psychotic features) – early childhood onset, late diagnosis, ADHD.
Rx: Lamotrigine, Sertraline, Chlorpromazine, Sulpiride.
More obvious aspects of me are that I am South African, queer and incredibly, amazingly marvellous to look at and be with. Also, I tend to talk shit.”