Moving to Cape Town: Am I coping?

This is my first post on OLE where I talk about a personal experience concerning my walk with bipolar (I’m usually the academic boring you to death :)). So I want to tell you about my experience these past three months. I have gone, and is still busy going through a big change: my husband and I have moved down to Cape Town from Pretoria and I have started my PhD in chemical engineering at UCT (kinda like starting a new job for me).


When we finally made the decision to move to Cape Town so that I can start my PhD, I worked out a plan of how I would avoid triggering an episode, afterall, I will be leaving my amazing psychologist and awesome psychiatrist behind as well as long time friends and family. Then there is also the change of scenery, going from a familiar city and campus which I could navigate in to the great unknown. Actually not all that unknown, I have been to Cape Town before, in fact I’ve stayed there for months at a time but I never had to drive alone in it. I also experienced some serious depressive episodes while in Cape Town so I kinda dislike the place. So as much as I was making plans to cope, I was already freaking out and getting little panic attacks two months before the move.


So you may ask, what clever plans did I make? Well first of all, I went to my psychiatrist and asked him to up my Abilify (mood stabilizer) and give me one month’s supply of Rivotril (beno, calming pill) for when I get panic attacks or lose the ability to sleep (lack of sleep is probably my biggest trigger). Secondly my psychologist and I discussed what I could do when I started feeling overwhelmed and we reminisced over how far I’ve come in the past two years, which boosted my courage and gave me things to hold on to when the going gets tough. He assured me that I am able to do this, if I wasn’t he would have told me. After that I found a new psychologist in Cape Town and booked an appointment in advance for the week I arrive. I also organized to see a psychiatrist (a girl needs her monthly Ritalin script).

Shortly before moving and upon arriving I felt extremely overwhelmed, especially since the workload for my PhD was (still is) so much more than what it was for my Masters. Doubt sneaked in and I found myself in tears on campus within the first week. I thought to myself once you start doubting you are screwed! Then everything you are working so hard to keep together will fall apart. So I phoned my old psychologist and he told me something that has made all the difference

“To doubt is human, it is where you go from there that matters”.

I can choose to fall into a cycle of only seeing how I’m failing or I can choose to celebrate my successes each day (including waking up at 6 AM and being on campus for 10 hours) ¬†Another piece of insight I got that has helped a lot is that any normal person will feel overwhelmed and scared and out of sorts, it isn’t the bipolar, it is the human condition. BUT if I let these emotions run wild and don’t process them, they can wake the bipolar ogre. I am experiencing some intense mood dysregulation (crazy bad moods that don’t last for more than a few hours) and I can feel my body is taking strain but¬†the ogre is still sleeping, I am stable.

One more thing I should say; I have learned to take it day by day whilst keeping the future in sight. Everyday I do what I need to do and try for a bit more, but I don’t push myself. I keep the picture of my future in front of me, it inspires me to look at a real hipster cape townian version of myself, slightly more tanned, working hard without breaking a sweat and cruising the streets of the city bowl like I own the place.

Look out for updates, thanks for reading, hope it helps.

Oh and here is a pic of where we stay now in Rondebosch




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