Reblog- Preamble to possible balance – pacifying the bipolar beast

It was supposed to be my final year at University. Instead I flat lined with an ear deafening label…. Institutionalised. It was a banner that was being lifted above my head; suffocating and blinding.  Clinical depression came to brand me 2 years prior and I thought that was going to be it. A daily fluoxetine […]

Dealing with Hypersensitivity

IMG_0213 rsz

I’m not an expert on the subject, but I do know what it’s like to be (hyper)sensitive.

In the comments section of my post about me talking about how sensitive I am, two of my favourite bloggers actually put a name to what I go through on a daily basis. I am, what they call, a highly sensitive person (HSP). Wow. I couldn’t believe it at first. Then I googled it. I tick most of the boxes, so I’m convinced. I grew up thinking for years that because I cried or was startled easily (to name a few) made me weird. And weak.

But I am not weak! I can be a little weird. But in a good way.

I decided to first profile what someone with hypersensitivity looks like and then look at ways to live with it. (I initially wrote “deal with it” but I found that a little offensive. I must be sensitive!)

Traits Of A Highly Sensitive Person

1. They feel (their own) emotions deeply.
2. They are sensitive to the emotions and emotional states of people around them.
3. They are easily hurt or upset.
4. They tend to avoid conflicts, arguments and other types of confrontations.
5. They tend to become agitated and/or flustered when surrounded by large groups of people or lots of activities.
6. They tend to need time to themselves each day.
7. They tend to be creative types who deeply appreciate art, nature and music.
8. They are prone to suffer from recurrent depression, anxiety or other psychological disorders.
9. They tend to be slower at recovering from intense stimuli, because they are sensitive to other people’s suffering, noise, light, caffeine, pain, medications, temperature, and other stimuli.
10. They tend to be introverted and have rich,complex inner life, because they are able to concentrate and process information deeply.

There’s a post over at wiki-how about how to “overcome hypersensitivity”. Again, I felt slightly offended because I don’t think one can just overcome something that is part of who you are. I don’t know if it’s a good post. I don’t want to say it’s a bad one, because I know someone spent some time working on it you know. I think the post incorrectly portrays hypersensitive people as overemotional people who are unreasonable and quick to cry or display uncalled for anger.

Being hypersensitive means you can notice a shift in someone else’s energy that they won’t even notice. This is an amazing skill, but it’s a huge burden to carry. We may feel hurt and not even know why. How does one move forward from here? Especially knowing that every step you take, you may be feeling emotions and sensing drama that is not your own.

It isn’t easy, but over the past few years I have learnt that putting healthy boundaries in place helps save me from drowning in emotions that are not my responsibility to feel.

So, the other day when I just collapsed in a puddle of gloom and tears, I could have prevented it, or rather- I could have made the puddle a little less deep by creating a boundary between me and situation I got stuck in.

I wallowed when I could have possibly swum through the muck.

I learnt about healthy boundaries at my time at the psychiatric clinic, but they focused more on healthy boundaries between people than between me and a broken PC or a broken phone. I think they could have touched on taking blame versus taking responsibility- how do I deal with myself in any situation? Or perhaps they could have talked about another way of coping like looking at the bigger picture-other than focus solely on the problem at hand (just for a few breaths). Being so sensitive means you have the ability to do that. You can focus your energy to zoom out. And no, this isn’t airy fairy stuff. It’s possible. It’s doable.

I’m not sure if this all will help, but I’m hoping it does. I’m still learning coping mechanisms myself. The more I learn, the more I’ll share with you all.

I am living,



bipolar disorder in africa

A great read on the prevalence of bipolar disorder in Africa by Blahpolar Diaries.

Our Lived Experience

Molweni apha. It’s time for another bipolar linkdump, but this time the links aren’t solely South African, there are some from the rest of Africa too.

I went through a tribal exorcism in Senegal that involved a great deal of ram’s blood and that I’m not going to detail right now, but a few years afterwards I was in Rwanda, working on a different project, and I happened to describe my experience to someone, and he said, “Well, that’s West Africa, and we’re in East Africa, and our rituals are in some ways very different, but we do have some rituals that have something in common with what you’re describing.” And he said, “But we’ve had a lot of trouble with Western mental health workers, especially the ones who came right after the genocide.” I said, “What kind of trouble did you have?” And he said, “Well, they would…

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Are YOU a mental health blogger or open about your mental illness?

If you’re a mental health advocate or just someone who wants to have a say about mental illness in South, then join the network.

Blahpolar Diaries designed a new badge to make talking about mental health so so cool. ;o

#mentalhealth in #SouthAfrica

Our Lived Experience

Blahpolar Diaries is one of our resident authors at Our Lived Experience and she’s also quite talented in other areas like design and probably eating chillipoppers (Jalapeno peppers stuffed with Feta cheese and then deep fried). The latter is a guess but I wouldn’t be surprised.


She designed a beautiful badge for bloggers associated with OLE (check our blogroll on the right hand side of the screen). If you’re open about your illness and write about it, we’d love to hear from you!

We aim to create a network of bloggers where we can:

  • Examine issues relating to a particular group of people (Bipolar Disorder, Depression, OCD, Borderline Personality Disorder etc.)
  • Develop into a national network that would provide a basis for mutual support (which will enable sharing of ideas and experiences)
  • Work toward raising awareness, education and thereby de-stigmatizing mental illness in our country

We welcome you to share who you are with…

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Fix the Patent Laws

Quotes like “Some (South African) cancer patients would rather go to other countries, like India, for treatment. The combined cost of the flight, medical services and drugs is cheaper than buying the drugs alone in South Africa,” said Bernice Lass of cancer group, CanSurvive, in an IPS interview.” really gets my blood boiling. Illnesses are more like opportunities to make money than anything else.

I’m sure I saw on Cart Blanche how some famous cricket player goes to India to Cancer treatment. Apparently, we don’t know what we’re doing here and it’s too expensive. So sad.

Source of quote:

Our Lived Experience


Dunno about you, but this pisses me off on so many levels. Not many of those levels are about me either. You guys know the drill – South Africa may be “Africa Lite” (I cracked up laughing when Trevor Noah said that, it’s so accurate), but we still have 30-40% unemployment and a lot of poverty and our public health care is a joke and… well, just read this quote and then you’ll know why I’m so ratty about it.

Doctors Without Borders and Treatment Action Campaign argue that South Africa grants patents almost indiscriminately on most patent applications it receives, allowing companies monopolies on medicines, and keeping prices higher in South Africa than many other countries.

And this too.

“Some (South African) cancer patients would rather go to other countries, like India, for treatment. The combined cost of the flight, medical services and drugs is cheaper than buying the…

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The pains and griefs of Motherhood- mentally ill or otherwise

I wrote this to my close friend, Dyane Harwood, a little while ago. We usually cheer one another on (we are both writers and need positive reinforcement regularly) but this ventlike email to her followed my depression episode. It came like a thick fog out of nowhere. It came at the time my family needed a totally sane and organised person to handle our big move to a new town. But I failed.

“I’m writing this because I thought I’d let you know. I dragged myself out
of bed for one reason only. I had to buy nappies for the kids. We ran out last night. So, as I got ready I did some thinking. I miss my brighter, happier, sexier self. I miss eyes on me. I miss being in love with the person in the mirror. I don’t look in the mirror anymore. Some days I don’t bother tweezing. Some days, okay, I don’t even shave anymore.

Motherhood and mental illness has dragged every bit of oomph I had right out of me. How my husband bears it I’ll never know. And I don’t want to know. I’m afraid he’s here out of pity. I pity this woman I have become. I have turned into the woman I never wanted to be: that woman . You know that battered woman who sacrificed herself for all of until she had nothing more to give but bitterness and greyed stretchmarks.

I wish I would just go poof, disappear and start all over again.

Madness has taken my glorious womanhood and turned it into fiery riots
where I die painful, violent deaths every time; where I scream for the
sanctity of others; where burn I for all to see and chant for equality for all.

Madness has taken my beauty and made me fight fiercely for the life of
others. And in itself it’s a kind of it’s beauty, this plight in freedom
for all.”

I feel a little less negative today but most of these ideas still ring true to me.
Still I realize that there’s more to womanhood than prettiness and romantic lens flares. I’m a mother and a mental health advocate. I guess sometimes I just miss the luminous glow of those burning feminine embers.
Although I am exhausted, and I’d complain about it. I’d still choose both in a heart beat. I was designed to fight the good fight.

You know why?

Because I won’t stay down, unshaven and all.


If you can’t concentrate, you can’t remember

One of scariest aspects about living day in and day out with my illness, is this feeling that I’m losing my memory (ies).

I’m scared because I may forget the life I lead today. It’s so full and meaningful now. What if, in a couple of years, when my boys are older, I can’t remember the simple things I cherish today?

Many of us at the clinic complained about our ‘foggy’ memory, how we’d walk into a room and forget why we’re there. This may seem familiar to those not suffering from a mental illness. We were reassured that this was just due to our inability to concentrate.  When you’re depressed,  your concentration span often goes down south and so you cannot remember.  How can you remember the moment if you weren’t in the moment to begin with?

But is that all that’s to it?

During my stay at the psychiatric clinic, I had two roommates, one worked as a carer at another psychiatric hospital.  She had some knowledge about our medication which helped a lot. She also loved bipolars. My roommates and I grew very close and we were often inseparable. We were like sisters. Then one afternoon out of the blue, I felt dizzy and couldn’t remember one of their names. Why did it happen? I felt quite present in the bloody moment!
I also felt quite embarrassed.

This wasn’t the first time it’s happened.  A few months back, I  couldn’t remember my best friend’s name. In my attempt to find the name, I felt like I’d been grabbing objects in the dark, stumbling over nonsense and realising I had been in the wrong room anyway. My husband had to flip the switch and hand over the name.

Is it the medication?

Is it the Bipolar Disorder?

Can I really blame this monster for everything?

At least it gave us all something to laugh about in the clinic.

And it’s a major driving factor for me to complete my memoir.

I don’t want to leaving this world with blank spaces. I don’t want to leave my family with empty pages. I want to live and remember this book called Life.

Be alive in the moment.

Psoriasis and Psychosis- My Pet Peeves


I cannot and will not sugar coat how awful scalp psoriasis is for me and to me. Psoriasis is a skin condition that looks like it’s in same family as eczema but it in my case, it was caused by long term use in lithium. This I learned the hard way.

I have blogged about it before here, but after being taken off lithium, I expected it to die out completely. But no. The beast lives on my head, and shows its face at time of stress, like now.

During my hospital stay I was weaned off lithium and now I’m on Tegratol, Divalproex Sodium and Zyprexa. This proved to be great for my scalp, but we are still monitoring my mood with the new meds.

We have confirmed that we are leaving the city life in Cape Town for the quiet town life in Saldahna Bay, on the west coast of South Africa. With the stress of another move coming up, slowly but surely the psoriasis has flared up again, so its back to R200 bottles of shampoo and daily routine of getting the ointment being put on. When I was admitted in the clinic, it was easy to maintain the bugger with a good routine set in place; it’s a little tricky at home. I still haven’t established a good routine for goodness sake. Sometimes I feel that the clinic made me more sensitive as I am so much more aware of myself and my “signs”.

Speaking of “signs”,  psychosis is something I have battled away in the unquiet room that is my mind. It was really something I found to be embarrassing and never spoke of it- or failed to recognize it as. Something I should mention to a health practitioner. Psychosis forms part of my manic episode where I have trouble or disturbances in thinking or perception. So, I see things or hear things that are not there. I does not sound as creepy as it is. To me, it’s just frustrating and makes me jump up at every sound I hear. We live in a pretty big house so I walk up and down, finding the cause of the noise when its in my head. Or, I see things in the corner of my eye, like someone standing there or something running. I have coped for years with this and it’s a bit of a relief knowing there is a name for it. In the same breath, it is a warning sign, and I know I need to do less “stuff” and relax a bit to keep myself from reaching a full manic episode. (I accidentally typed magic instead of manic, how weird is that?) So I know I have bipolar disorder, for all those nonbelievers out there.

I have psychotic symptoms.

There, I said it. It does not make me weaker that any other person, it just adds another part of me – as it is something I need to monitor to stay the same Yvette you know and love. 🙂

I wanted to add, if I’m a little distant, know that I’m busy with life. That should be a good thing, no?

I’m brave.

PS A really great book to read for people diagnosed with bipolar disorder as well as their support is, the Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide-what your family really need to know by David Miklowitz PhD.  It is available at your local library in South Africa-or ask them to order it for you. Or just buy it online! Another great read should be the book on I haven’t read that one yet but the two authors are great to follow for insight into living with bipolar disorder.

How do we see mental illness?

How do we view mental illness?

This piece may seem a little academic than my usual pieces, but I’ve been wanting to explore this you all for while now.

If I take the simple question stated, “How do we view mental illness?” a flurry of ideas comes to (my)mind.

Firstly, let’s take two key words and turn them into the topics I want to tackle:

“how” and

“we”: who is the ‘we’ are referring to? Is it the doctor or more broadly, the health practitioner ‘s view or the view of the patient? Or is it the view of the supporter (family or friend)?

I am sure many would agree it is the integration of all three. And in the same breath because of all the contradictory views or insight each may have into the illness, it can cause havoc, worsening the negative effect of the illness. Please note I use the word ‘patient’ but I always do it. I don’t like it- but it’s better than sufferer.

Looking at that relationship between doctor, patient and supporter, if there is a breakdown in any of those, it could potentially affect the patient’s well-being, whether it is the way in which the patient is treated or understood by family or the correct medication and treatment plan is administered.

As a patient myself, I’ve had first hand experience in this mental-illness love triangle:

Doctor ==> patient ==> family.

This is where my academic voice tapes off.

In South Africa, stigma surrounding mental Illness is rife, and with poverty and little education driving change, the role of the support structures is usually weak. Patients may be perceives as ‘lazy’ or the classic one ‘you just don’t want to work’. These types of comments and general dismissive attitudes often result in frustration and distress for the patient. It may escalate, and worsen t condition’s grip on the patient, changing or adding new symptoms and behaviour the doctor now needs to treat.

Organizations like SADAG have a tough job to educate people, increasing the understanding mental illness awarness as we’ll as how it can be managed.

The doctor in the triangle may also be to blame for misdiagnosis- their view of mental illness is merely a checkbox affair. Patients are then not prescribed the correct treatment plan.

In my experience in 2012, I was diagnosed by a GP I’d been seeing regularly at my university. He advised that I see the psychiatrist there. Quick not to follow the GP, his view was then that I continue my therapy sessions, “Let’s not rush that (bipolar) as a diagnosis.” A few weeks later, I attempted suicide, fell pregnant and dropped out of university (for the second time). I couldn’t get the help I needed from him. I went to a new psychiatrist and I was diagnosed in the 1h30min session. After some time, he went on leave and I had to switch to his partner. I believe we formed a great relationship from the beginning and I understood that I needed to communicate all my symptoms to her. I realized that it’s a team effort, even when I’m down. I tell her I’m drowning and she watches me lose air, scribbles a few notes then tells me why I feel like that, with that lifting me up to the surface again.

So whilst we as individual patients try to manage our anxiety, stress, racing thoughts And psychosis, we also have to be able to communicate exactly what we’re going through. This, to both our doctors and supporters alike. It’s a tiresome job balancing moods, we don’t just sleep and pop pills. We have lives outside of our illness too.

The “how”, in my opinion, relates to what mental illness looks like in the media, in hushed conversations as well as what comes to mind YOU think of a person who is mentally ill?

Be Brave!