The beginning was nearly 19 years ago when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in  Ward 12 of National University of Singapore. I was more in shock than devastated by the news for I then I had no clue on what the implications meant. I had lost touch with reality and the best option was to perform Electro Convulsive Treatment. I was neither scared of it nor was I shocked. I just did not comprehend my surroundings thinking that I was in an alien spaceship of sorts and that my doctor with the triangular face was the head alien in the spaceship that I was in.

I was glad for the courtyard garden where we fellow humans in various degrees of consciousness mingled and took solace in music and companionship; where my young children play when they visited me. I spent a good 10 years of my life in NUH topping up my medicines and being admitted once or twice a year as my mania spun me out of control.

Looking back it was a life time away. My children Hykel then 10 months and Ayesha, 2 years saw me in various stages of mania and depression and supported me in their own way by being very good children, even as their mother is naughty especially during celebrations and public holidays.

Those are years I don’t like to dwell in, especially since my children are 21 and 19 now and I have stopped getting myself admitted in three years, a record that is hard earned. I trust myself that through all my ups and downs to recover at home with my family support.

It takes a village to care for a mental patient. Mine is Club HEAL with its cooperative spirit and support and encouragement from all around. As its writer and editor, I am kept busy with various projects and duties and I am actively supporting my peers through Artz programme and Peer Support Group and mental health advocacy.

Going bonkers have its plus points, it takes a creative mind – devil may care and I dare – to well go crazy and this is expressed fully in me, with the greatest joy of mania. Sometimes it feels good to let my hair down and express my happiness and despair in all its glory

In many ways, my mental health challenges have been a blessing as I found a voice in the mental health communities. I have written three books with Club HEAL and these three are also available in my mother tongue Malay to reach out to the Malay individuals who are in distressed over their complicated mental health challenges.

Written by Yohanna Abdullah

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