In Her Shoes: Braving Through Bipolar Disorder

Photo provided by Christine Miloyo

My name is Christine Miloyo, and this is my experience with psychosis. I know how it feels [to be] the sole person responsible for averting disaster that would crash the entire internet. I know how it feels like to help NASA calculate the speed of light. I know how it’s like to believe I am going through these experiences would be more accurate.

I have bipolar II and these are all examples of a type of psychosis I have experienced. Delusions and hallucinations are forms of psychosis that people with bipolar disorder may suffer from during full-blown manic episodes.

I lived my life like any other young woman you may know. I grew up with a loving family around me. A community of people that love and embrace people. People that call each other brother and sister. I always had this thing that I could not put my hand [on], though. I could be happy, preparing dinner for my family, and then the next minute I want to chew grasshoppers instead. It’s really a hard place to be. [It’s] even a harder one to know that you could be having a certain condition, mostly having people get irritated by your fast mood swings and the reactions [thereafter].

One morning in July 2015, I was seated on a bench in a hospital bench room waiting for results. The guy who handled the files bore news that somehow changed my life. It changed by knowing that I had something I did not know I did. He read the results as his voice began to echo in my [head]. [It’s like] the way you zone out of a conversation and the people talking to you sound [as if] they are very far away from you and they are shouting, but all you can hear is their voices hit your eardrums with a little more force than required.

He said I had a bipolar disorder. He explained what bipolar disorder was. I saw the restrictions associated with a cerebral condition, and I was defeated. However, this was a hurdle I had to cross.

This happened before I could graduate, which was long overdue. Being on campus for eight years is not something to be taken lightly. It was a real struggle for me having begun in the year 2007 and [graduating] many years later. It is a story of resilience and hard work to finish what I had begun.

My hard work paid [off] as I made it among the best students, awarded with a first class honours in environmental studies and community development in December 2015. I had that thing the doctor said I had, but then I was wearing a square hat and flowing robe adorned with graduation things. I could afford a smile.

Now the hard thing came into explaining the eight-year duration on campus. They wondered what I’d been doing for that long. There are places you are required to give a medical history and the things about your well-being that you think the employer should know. There was no way I was [going] to hide my bipolar. I remember I was rejected for a certain position on the basis of my mental well-being.

It took me time to get over this, like all painful things. It is a huge task to rebuild all the good things broken by people who should have been builders but chose to destroy.

I was good at what I [did], but then I would get these attacks. They affected the quality of my work at times, but then I kept myself in check. And if a job I had needed to be done, I never gave excuses. I showed up and did what was required of me.

One day, I was called into my bosses’ office [and] handed a letter that advised me to go on leave for a whole month. I was sacked as my reporting date approached. I was removed from the organization’s WhatsApp group. It was done so unprofessionally and in a dehumanizing way.

It was then that I decided to embark on a journey of founding my own organization. I was clueless, but what I knew [was] I had a passion for children and the love for community work. These two things, coupled with my knowledge in working with civil society organizations on and off campus, placed me in the market though without a particular target in sight.

Photo provided by Christine Miloyo

There is an event that took place on October 29, 2016: Art and Disability Rethinking Disability through Art. The guys gave me a platform. I was among the main speakers, and so I gave a speech on how people with disabilities can create change in society. This event was an icebreaker for me. I had found my niche. I saw things from a whole new perspective and learned to love myself for who I am and appreciate my special abilities.

In November 2016, I decided to take my ideas to the next level. I thought of a mental wellness project that utilizes music, art, fashion and sports to create awareness on mental health. My project looks to create a curriculum for children with intellectual disabilities (autism) that incorporates music, arts and sports learning took sans use of culture. [This will] help the parents gain some hands-on skills to help them fend for their families and the needs of their special children. To this end, I am honoured to be working with various organizations.

The reason I share my story with the world is because I think everyone deserves a chance in life. Mental illness is not a condemnation. It should not be a reason why people miss out in life. I would like to see more people come out with testimonies of their battles with mental illness and their triumph over the same. I also desire to celebrate the ones who champion this agenda. I want people to know that people like me and others with different conditions are beautiful in the way they are gifted and skilled.

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