The question uttered by a colleague at a department picnic this past summer when I was still working as a college instructor. This colleague had known me for a few years. She had known me when I was still adamantly not going to have children. She knew of my diagnoses. And this was the first time she had seen me since giving birth. This was the first time she met my son who had just turned one year old.
And this was the question; a question about my fear of passing on my psychiatric illnesses. Not a question concerning the million other things that happens with new motherhood- a question of genetic loading.
I wanted to respond with my sarcastic self and give a blank stare and state, “why no, I never thought about that.”
Seriously, I waited until thirty-six to entertain…
My second book review on this blog, is as powerful as it captivating. When I wrote a post about Mama Ellen (as she is fondly called), that she was my heroine and idol,I had not even read this book. That title is a ‘prophecy’ made by an old man who visited the baby Ellen at birth. Great indeed she today is right? She will forever be remembered not only for her record breaking and holding especially in Africa, but also for her famous statement. She said:
“All girls know that they can be anything now. That transformation is to me one of the most satisfying things.”Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
I had the privilege to meet, talk to briefly and take a snap shot of Mama Ellen in November 2013 when I was sent on a near ‘mission impossible’ to get Mama to come and deliver the keynote address
at our inaugural summit. I succeeded, she came, delivered the keynote and told me she encouraged young dynamic women like me.
Synopsis of the Book
When I started reading that book, the very first page made me conclude, and rightly so as I eventually read, that most of it was written by Mama Ellen herself. I also noticed that it was published in 2009, that is three years into her first term as president and it meant that she was putting herself out there knowing fully well the ‘damage’ the book could cost her plans for a second term.
I say she took chances because she is as personal in several instances as she is candid. Who talks about her marriage to an abusive man when she was only 17 years old? Mama does. Who talks about her having four boys by 23 years old? Mama again. Who talks about knowing the pain of leaving your children behind at such tender ages (the last barely 1 year old) to go further your life? Of course only mama can do that. And of being unfaithful in marriage? Read that book for yourselves!
Yes, even on the political narration of her struggle, she is as candid. She tells how referring to the Doe regime in a speech as a bunch of ‘idiots’, landed her into serious trouble, earned her some jail time in one of those nocturnal confines (She actually says it did her some good, she rested and got to live first hand the life of an inmate), and above all, almost led to her being raped or killed. In each of those several narratives, she was saved she believes, by her mother’s fervent prayers and some ‘angel’ in the body of one of the guards.
Mama Ellen also tells of her campaigns to the Executive Mansion. The first time in 1997 was against the then all powerful Charles Taylor, and she says barely anybody supported her ‘folly’. Of course, she lost ‘woefully’ as she puts it, but she knows Taylor won by all ‘scrupulous’ means possible. Her inauguration day on that famous January 2006 is the best day of her life and the speech she made on that day, is fortunately annexed to that book.
I normally as in a previous book review, write about the author. But what can I write about Mama Ellen? Who doesn’t know her? I mean, for fear of not missing one of her stars, I will urge you to Google her and her book. Frankly, anything less than a five star will be lying to my own self.
I salute her, she is my icon, idol, heroine and you name it. I mean I was once asked who is the one person I will give my all to have dinner with, of course Mama I said. She even works in her cabinet with some former warlords and fighting factions and guess, Mr Taylor’s ex wife is a Senator in their Parliament. I have also met her and heard her talk well of Mama.
Dear gentle readers and followers, this is my modest tribute to this great woman and writer and I look forward to others too. And you, what’s your take on this? As for me, I’ve got to ask my mama if some one said anything when I was born :)
am so in awe at how much I personally stood to loose if I didn’t face myself in the mirror at one point. Frankly speaking, one of the reasons I miss my brother most is because I was hoping to walk the path of mental illness awareness and possible recovery with him, and that is – for both of us.
I know several people who know me (including my family) are and will continually be in denial of my having mental challenges. Actually, if my brother’s journey hadn’t leaped from epilepsy to what I know was Bi Polar and SAD and some others I still don’t know, there would still have been no ‘evidence beyond doubt’ that he was mentally ill.
Before I left to go bury my brother, my psychiatrist asked me a startling question. I still have to write a whole essay on that and revisit it with her. She asked me if I saw myself in my brother? Oh , I took it lightly then but with each passing day and having read his journal, I realize just how much similar we were. There sure are differences too.
I am Stubborn and he wasn’t
It is I who started combing the internet to research on various mental illnesses, people living with different conditions, medications and their side effects and much more. I mean, even starting a blog was a stubborn initiative in itself giving that I had to seek some ‘sort of approval’ (say inform her maybe?) from my mum knowing much of what I will blog about will be considered ‘dirty or private laundry’. My brother simply never did that and wouldn’t have. When during some of his manic episodes he thought it was his duty to save America or inform even the White House of one thing or the other via email, that was ‘prayed over’ until it passed. Eventually, he withdrew from social networks and even isolated from us all for a good while.
He had a Signature Smile and I don’t
My brother had what I now consider a signature smile. Indeed, even during his manic episodes like when he held my 10 month old son upside down and threatened to drop him down, he had that smile on. That is why in a post I wrote on his (or even our) being just another figure to add or to subtract, I said I am not sure he ever consciously harmed a fly.
I don’t have such a smile, hell no, no more. I smile now when it’s ok by me, and piss people off when I think the situation so deserves. Men, I took off my mask and I am so glad, free and proud. If doing so will reduce the rate at which I was called a nice girl, so be it.
I will rather be mentally ill and prepared to thrive than otherwise
I admit it over and over, there is no need to pretend to be normal anymore. It’s my life and I have just one shot at it. I am not looking forward to meds and all, but I will rather stay with my Shaggy bunch than with the ‘normal ones’. I mean, for me it is similar to my having sinusis right now or any of the other ailments which come and go. I didn’t create my genes, or my environment or my psyche or whatever is the cause. But I know I can seek help and I can go for therapy and I be better alert and even read all those dreaded side effects of meds if need be.
I know we all (My family), deal with my brother’s passing and face the future differently. I am working on his book and I am telling it as I rightly or wrongly lived it. No editing of content will be allowed without my approval, they could simply write theirs if they wish.
Dear gentle readers and followers, I urge us all to take good care of our hollistic well being and be full of empathy and understanding towards those suffering from both diagnosed and undiagnosed mental illness like myself. We are just humans, (intelligent ones for that much) who are trying to understand their own selves too.
Dear Kevin, sad to say this, but from my experience, there are still several families who don’t face it or try to deal with it the way you put it in your write up. Maybe it is shame, stigma, lack of resources, tradition, religion, and what else? Gosh, it is all so difficult on both the individual and the family/loved ones. Thanks for sharing as usual.
I had once done a post on the difficulties I had managing my great emotions – the least I do when touched by someone’s largess, is hide and cry some more.
Wow, I was nominated for this award two days after I was stunk by death. What a consolation? Thank you so much dear Kyrosmagica for this award.
And what is special about this award is the fact that there are no questions to ask or answers to provide. This indeed is simply wonderful and to show my gratitude all the way, I will try my best to be a deserving member of the e-team.
1) The nominee shall display the Wonderful Team Member Readership Award logo on his/her blog.
2) The nominee shall nominate 14 bloggers s/he admires, over a period of 7 days, all at once or little by little, by linking to their blogs and informing them about it.
In case any of my nominees would prefer not to accept the award, please simply consider this a token of my appreciation for your awesome blogs. No worries. ;)
My pal T whose blog takingthemaskoff, inspired my personal post on just that – he is such a fierce blogger, his posts will make a good and challenging read for anyone interested in Mental Health
My friend of at least two similarities over at Pieces of Bipolar : http://piecesofbipolar.wordpress.com/
Nicolemoncada with her poetic Bipolar Tapestry over at http://nicolemoncada.com/
bpdyke whom I recently discovered, with his soul searching blog over at http://bipolardyke.wordpress.com/
Kitt O’Malley and her enlightening blog over at http://kittomalley.com/
And there we go for the time being and maybe for better? Lets see how it goes in my search of the remaining 7 members :)
Dear gentle readers and followers, it is for obvious and not so obvious reasons such as this, that I surely can’t relent either on this blog nor in all other work I do. If only one person is inspired or motivated by my work, I will work on :)
I lack of appropriate words to comment on this post. Yes, I will be denying it if I say I don’t feel guilt at my brother’s suffering and demise. There are so many ifs, I know several will say it wasn’t my fault but then if only if…
There is no denying that it is a hard, hard road, loving someone with bipolar disease. There are times when you want to scream, days when you think you can’t do it anymore, weeks when you know you haven’t made a difference and only wish you could, moments when you want to turn your back on it. It is their problem, not yours, and yet it becomes yours if you love the person suffering from it. You have no choice. You must stand by them. You are trapped, as surely as the patient is. And you will hate that trap at times, hate what it does to your life, your days, your own sanity. But hate it or not, you are there, and whatever it takes, you have to make the best of it.
(his bright light – danielle steel)
Words like those in the quote are true and loving…
It is so scary to finally get to that point when you so want a divorce!
That was me and I finally got one when l recently returned to Cameroon my country and place of birth.
I used marriage as a refuge from my mother’s house. I was running away from a home where I felt so out of place as I rightly or wrongly assumed I wasn’t welcomed. But, I also wanted to be married hoping the new status as a Mrs X, will shield me from my self harm and provide me some sort of ‘one in all social and emotional package’ that I longed for.
The foundation of my marriage was already damaged and so was the marriage itself. The abuse started soon after and before long, it became clear that the Marriage I had ran to, was now threatening to devour me and at some point I remember spending several days and weeks contemplating suicide. I needed to escape…again.
This time, my route out of my unhappiness consisted of having one affair after another seeking validation and attention from others. Needless to say that this behaviour only made me feel worse each time but it also led me to realise that if I were to save myself, I would need to leave my marriage.
I knew how divorce was viewed by those around me and I knew that I risked being labelled as one of those women who allowed her marriage to fail, who was unable to hold on to her man. But I also knew that that was what I needed if I were to survive.
The Divorce Process
Obtaining a divorce isn’t the easiest of processes and it’s not just about whatever is written on paper declaring that a marriage has been terminated.
For me, the divorce was getting ready to let go of six years of my Life, owning up to my mess, and being ready to start off again but most importantly and making the very difficult decision to leave my children behind.
At first my now ex-husband and I wanted to go ahead with the divorce procedure after 7 months of living apart. I thought I was ready but he wasn’t and he made it clear that he would make my life hell. I knew I wasn’t strong enough to go test his threats so I left him to take his time and make up his mind when he would need the divorce too.
It took a whole year, or thereabouts, before he was ready. He informed me on the eve of filing the papers and I being a lawyer, advised him on the most effective procedure, guaranteeing I would not make any claims other than the right to see my Children whenever I came home. I never sought any financial support.
Once filed, the procedure took barely 5 months. I did not make a court appearance nor was I represented by anyone. This was a deliberate choice and one made out of need to simplify procedure. A divorce by default is easier to obtain in my Country.
What took a long time in my case, was obtaining all the necessary papers for a final judgment to be established.
Realizing my ex had lost momentum in a procedure he initiated, I got in touch with his lawyer, a senior colleague I knew and had actually encouraged my ex to retain, paid whatever fees he was reclaiming and I followed up the divorce I now so badly needed.
I finally got all the papers I needed to proceed to my change of status and today, I am finally divorced!
Although the memories will forever stay with me, for a long time coming, I really don’t feel bad about that period anymore. Yes, my sons don’t live with me but I know their father loves them and is an even better dad now than when I was around.
Divorced and Happy!
Although I never got to meet my ex when I was recently in Cameroon, I really wasn’t bothered.
I called him a few times, I even brought him a gift which he acknowledged out of politeness. I don’t care if he decides not to keep it for whatever reason but there’s a part of me, my flesh and blood, which he would never consciously give up – our children.
He is very firm when he tells me they are HIS SONS. He even denied me contact on the eve of my departure even though I had had them alone for two weeks. No ill feelings though, no trauma, no painful emotions to address in that area. I am moving on and I know my well being is of utmost importance at the moment.
I knew my memoir had to be carried in bookshops back home. I really looked forward to striking a deal with one of such bookshops at least for a start. Fortunately, I had been both on TV and on radio discussing both the memoir and other current societal ills and issues.
It is funny that the deal was finally struck as I went home to bury my brother. Indeed, not only did Pressbook who had initally been reluctant to carry the memoir now agree to do so, they gave me a
good deal and received the entire stock of about 500 copies on that same day. They have outlets in almost all major cities of the country. A copy goes for 4000 frs and I know it is worth those francs.
Disclaimer: S.A.D as abbreviated above has nothing to do with the feeling of loss, a loser or unhappy being. If for anything, the author is a Survivor as you will find out if you read his book and blog among others. His names as is, were too long hence the abbreviation :)
On that now ‘infamous’ August 2nd 2014, when I was stunk by Death, I had just purchased four different books on the Amazon. My Choice quickly settled on reading this book because I kept feeling it was my brother saying something. Well, by 11 pm that day, I got the news that I had failed to save my brother from himself. I however courageously decided to finish reading this master piece and I am glad I did and now attempt a befitting review.
Synopsis of the book:
I really prefer to post as is, excerpts from the author’s own description of this power work. I reserve my take in the assigned section to follow soon. So here is what our very Seb says about his memoir:
“My upbringing was pretty good. There were a few fucked up moments and I didn’t learn any helpful coping skills that would suit me as an adult, but I wasn’t locked in a cage and fed baby birds to eat. The first part is about those few fucked up moments and my family dynamics taught me some messed up coping mechanisms such as lying about my emotions until they exploded in my face. I also talk briefly about how the genetics of my family attributed to my mental illness because mental illness is a combination of environment and genetics. I do talk briefly in this part about how I cross dressed in my sister’s clothes once in a while when I was a teenager. You should read it just for that tummy tickler.
“In Part 2 I move into my early college years where I struggled with psychotic thoughts, mild bulimia, unstable identity, had a suicide attempt, stayed in a mental hospital, had multiple therapists and more.
“Part 3 focuses on my time in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and trying to understand myself. This part includes the time when a therapist talked me out of suicide.
“Throughout the journey I am labeled with depression or possible borderline personality disorder or bipolar or emotional dysregulation disorder. Pick a therapist/psychiatrist from my past and each one will have a different diagnosis for you. All I know is that I was struggling to survive. It is quite dramatic parts, so maybe I’m histrionic. I once use to believe I was the reincarnation of Ted Bundy and I would kill a bunch of people so therefore I needed to kill myself before that happened. That’s the kind of “weird” things you can expect in this book.”
My Take on this work:
Now, from the above synopsis, many will agree this memoir is not one to be thrust aside until the final sentence is read. Were it not for my grief at that particular moment, I would have finished the book on that same day. There are some weird things in that memoir and some very daring, brave, shameless and candid revelations too.
I know what I am talking about because my own memoir (My Unconventional Loves…) published in February, was pretty as revealing. I mean, I was scared by it myself until I published it and then knew I was now out of the closet.
You need to read Seb’s thriller of a memoir to learn of his sexual fantasies and idealizations, his brush with homosexuality, or even his coping with the abortion of his child. Indeed, of all the causes of mental illness, there is so much power in and around our minds, to pull or push us around. I know those of us in the psyche world understand what I mean.
There definitely was no way I could give Seb’s work anything short of a five star. He is a survivor because he is still around inspite of all what he’s been through. I really really would not hesitate recommending this memoir to all I know. Either for yourself or for a close one, it is good to read such first hand account from someone who’s hit rock bottom and is fighting each day to ‘stay afloat’.
“I use to run a website for personal growth and mental illness called http://www.findingonespath.com. I stopped doing that for various reasons around May 2013.
I decided to start Personal Growth 4 Life after undergoing over a year of intensive therapy. In total, I have spent a lot lot lot of time in therapy. One thing I learned is that personal growth is something that is a lifelong journey and is something you have to work on continously. It is very easy to step back into old habits.”
You can also read what Seb had to share on writing his memoir right here: We met on that blog when I was hosted by the very kind Madeleine (I am yet to do a review of her memoir which is another power house of a mother dealing with her son’s suicide after suffering with Bi-Polar disorder and al).
Thank you dear gentle readers and followers, thank you Seb. I just returned to Brussels from a grueling trip back home and I knew I had such a wonderful e-family to return too.
A site about my thrilling life, emotions and mental illness
I am many things, a wife, mother, friend, advocate, survivor, teacher, writer... and I am also a person who lives with schizoaffective disorder. Schizoaffective disorder is a blending of schizophrenia and a mood disorder, such as bipolar disorder. So, I balance the many roles in my life with the reality of living with a severe mental illness. This blog is a collection of my insights into living my mommahood with the diagnosis we find in the DSM under the code 295.7, Schizoaffective Disoder.
Surviving the aftermath of losing a loved one to suicide. We are forging our way through as a family since the loss of our boy (my youngest son) Jaie. This blog will be trying to get the word out there about depression and suicide. To remove the stigma played on these topics by society. We need to let those in need know they can speak about their illness just the same as if they had a broken arm or a heart attack. And in case you judge me for some things I write, understand that I write from a place of grief and severe loss. And the pain is simply too much to bear.