By: Donsy Kunene
October is the month where we celebrate, recognise and commemorate several milestones while promoting awareness around health issues, thus we are focusing more on Mental Health. Allow me to invite you to my sacred space and count yourself lucky for me letting you in.
Would you be surprised if I tell you that NOBODY knows me not my very close friend, not my family and not even my acquaintances. Obviously there is no surprise on that statement, think about it – who can claim to know me when I don’t even know myself. I am just lucky that I do have those few who understand me regardless of the fact that I am a mysterious individual with an anthropocentric mindset; who is a stranger to herself.
Without wasting any time, let me just be straight with you before you try guessing or asking around. I was diagnosed as having bipolar more than 10 years ago. I really do not have all the diagnostic details gathered by the psychiatrist who treated me that led to that conclusion. I will try and find out from my parents when I have the strength to face the truth. All I know currently is that my parents collogued against me with my favourite late Psychiatrist Dr Ndlovu, who was a close friend to my Dad in Politics, Dr Zweli Mkhize, (thought provoking revelation as I type this; let us deal with it some other day, when I release my book).
I used to think that a mentally ill person is the one that resides on the streets with physical attributes of a mentally disturbed person. It was a lack of knowledge and ignorance that made me think that way. Sadly I only realised the complexity of mental illness when it hit home. I now understand some of the elements involved with each mental disorder. I told myself that for the sake of others let me read and learn a lot about mental disorders. From there onwards, I seemed to attract more and more individuals suffering from the similar disorder and I feel more human and relevant around them than being with those who are ‘normal’.
I decided at that moment that I don’t want to be normal – normal is boring and lacks creativity and versatility. I am an upcycled individual who is a proud bipolar sufferer. Bipolar is not curable but controllable, therefore the only choice I had was and is to accept it as part of my whole entire life. Bipolar disorder is a mother to all sorts of emotions that you cannot control which makes people see you as a nuisance and an attention seeker who belongs to Lonely-Hearts, with symptoms of anhedonia and sobersides. I am branded as with polyhistors and all sorts of people groups that are identified through the eyes of normal people.
In my own space, within a split of a minute, I can find myself between a state of oceanicity and assuage to uninformed laughs; then I vociferate as if I am told someone just died. This is my almost daily experience. An emotional roller-coaster indeed.
Regardless of how my unpredictable emotions affect those around me, I am still a lucky person to have people who understand me without judging or showing some signs of being fed-up. I can name the few but let me just say my Daughter Mandisa who is always watching me like a hawk to ensure that I am okay – I can’t eat junk in front of her because she knows the outcome; my God-sent twin, Thabi who survives victimization due to my Bipolar everyday; then it is my crazy God-sent Sister Shasha who taught me how to be crazy and not give a damn. These three special people allow me to be what my Bipolar decided for me to be at that particular moment without the apprehension and fear of judgement. I just feel sorry for them sometimes when my episodes attack. My episodes are so selfish, inconsiderate and emotionally draining. Regardless, my people have no intention to leave me alone but stick by my side. Maybe they also belong to the same circle of mental disorder sufferers. You may never know where their tolerance and understanding comes from .
I must say that I always wonder and it worries me, if my two brothers understand my triggers and if they know how to help out when my ‘friend’ strikes and threatens their normal lives. I have a team of four; these want nothing that threatens my well being. Once my demon has arrived they don’t panic but monitor the situation, my little sister, my two Son’s and my Mom.
As a result I have given my Bipolar a few names ‘Umehluko’ and ‘Mastermind’ these two have given me superpowers, an ability to live beyond challenges, problem solving skills and many attributes you can hardly find from ‘normals’ . If I can be normal my life will be boring and the people around me will never enjoy the benefits of being close to ‘Umehluko and Mastermind (Ungqondongqondo).
Let us engage on mental illness more than before, let us try and understand each other, look carefully around you and observe closely, teach each other and be tolerant.
My name is Donsy Kunene, I am unique, I am weird, I am different and I do not want to be normal.