She is assertive.
Laughs out loudly.
But on some days, sadness swims on the surface deeply affecting her jolly nature. She has learnt to embrace positive emotions to manage bipolar, a mental health condition that she says does not define her.
This week we speak to Priscah Angwenyi, a public relations and corporate communications expert, who shares her personal story on managing bipolar and how to keep smiling beyond the rough tide.
- Tell me more about your childhood.
My childhood was interesting. I was born in Kisii county, raised in Mombasa county and I later studied at the prestigious Pangani Girls’ School. I stayed on in the capital city, Nairobi, to study at Kenyatta University.
- While interacting with you, I notice that you have very strong traits that are characteristic of first borns. Are you one?
Yes. I am a first born in a family of 5. However while growing up , I had a fair share of challenges including battling low self esteem most of my childhood. My family has been very supportive and they have walked with me everyday. This is very rewarding and a gesture of their immeasurable love.
- Tell me more. What is your life’s biggest epiphany: the moments of life-defining change that shaped you into the person you are today ?
I was diagnosed with bipolar in in 2018 after various tests. This was my first encounter with a psychiatrist. Looking back, I had been experiencing headaches on and off for two years continuously but never took it seriously until I consulted a mental health specialist who has walked with me all through. I also had an unexplainable see-saw of my emotions. I have been admitted thrice and spent most of the time under close supervision undergoing treatment.What triggers set off your bipolar diagnosis ?
The most possible triggers in my life were social stressors such as abusive relationships, poor academic performance, poor performance at work.
People living with bipolar disorder tend to perfectionists and tend to have activities done in a specific way. Bearing this in mind, when things are not done their way then this becomes a contributing risk for for bipolar disorder.
- Social capital is an important support base when going through treatment of any health condition. I believe this is the same for you while managing bipolar disorder.
Yes I have received tremendous support from colleagues and friends in equal measure. Sadly, I have also experienced discrimination from some circles but today, I choose to focus on the rose flower than the thorns.
My special basket of gratitude overflows. I begin with the women ministry of Nairobi South SDA church, my parents , siblings and everyone who have helped me through social support, financial as well including paying my medical bills and purchase of medication. I also want to extend special regards to my friend Ascar David who stood by me all through my lowest moments.
- Is bi-polar disorder common in families ?
Genetics may play a major role in this mental health condition. However, it doesn’t work if you self-diagnose. This link can only be done through the help of a counselling psychologist who will help you draw your family tree to see the linkage. The same also applies to other life threatening conditions.
- What next after a bi-polar diagnosis?
That is not the end of life. Anyone with a mental health condition can live a normal life. Learn your environment, your triggers and your support system. Learn to take a step at a time. Take your medication without fail, go for your clinics and therapy. Always visit a counsellor. You also need a reliable, non-judgemental and trustworthy accountability partner who will understand when you have mood fluctuations and keep you in check reasonably
- You recently hit a milestone in your treatment journey. Share the good news.
I am very excited.
Being off medication feels good.
After 3.5 years, the doctor recently handed me a clean bill of health which means so much to me and my family and friends.
I can now return to school and finish up my masters programme which I had put on hold to concentrate on treatment.
Today, I can make decisions independent of the treatment.
It’s like I have experienced a new kind of independence.