Philani Ama Kinyabo is a 33-year-old positive lady who was born and raised in Harare. She has two sisters from her mother’s side and seven from her father’s side. She described her childhood as normal.
“Our family moved to England for about five and a half years, where I acquired education, and later on came back to Zimbabwe and attained my degree at the Midlands State University, which is in Gweru,” Philani told The Weight She Carries.
In 2011, Philani went through something she had never experienced before; neither had anyone in her family.
“I had my first [manic] episode in 2011 whilst at home with my sister and mother,”she said. “I remember vividly during this stage, I would speak to myself, laugh a lot and out loud. I had so much energy and joy. I would go for days without sleeping and would have crazy ideas.”
Philani was diagnosed with a condition known as bipolar disorder, which is a chemical imbalance in the brain.
Mayo Clinic defines bipolar disorder, formerly called manic depression, as a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression), which Philani was diagnosed with and had to receive treatment for.
“I have to take medication so that I am able to manage daily and be stabilized. With the condition, I have learnt and experienced that it’s either one goes manic, meaning one goes to the extreme of things such as laughing a lot or shouting a lot,” she explained. “I also went to the extreme of giving away a lot of things and money. There is also one side where one can be really depressed and it becomes hard to get out of it. It’s as though life is drowning someone and one does not enjoy laughter or interaction with people.”
Philani went through both these extremes during the four times she has experienced episodes.
“After the manic episodes, I had depression which took years to get out of which was in 2014. The last episode was in 2017. In this case, the change of medication helped a lot. The current medication makes me stable and makes me feel free.”
Bipolar and depression also affected her relationships. She would spend a lot of time indoors, but part of the reason she made it through was her family.
“Despite bipolar [being] a new thing in the family and it was alarming, the good thing has always been my family supports me a lot. My siblings and family would always support me with kind words and my sister and her husband would buy medication. My mum, and sometimes my sister, would take me to the doctor.”
When asked how she was able to overcome her mental health challenges, Philani credited “prayer and having a relationship with God,” a strong support system, and taking things one day at a time.
“I had moments I was angry with God. I would ask myself why it happened to me, but strengthening my relationship with Him made it better,” she said.
Coming out on the other side of her struggle, Philani is able to appreciate the little things in life. When asked what her achievements were, she said, “Smiling and keeping at it daily. There are days when I would never find anything funny. I would not laugh or smile. I would listen to music and not feel anything. I have come to realize that being able to laugh is on its own a blessing we should all be grateful for.”
Philani offers the following advice to young women who might be going through bipolar or depression:
- Don’t give up. There is light at the end of the tunnel. There are times I felt I would die and I had no point to live, but I had to push on and I made it out alive.
- Enjoy every single moment. The little moments make it worthwhile.
You can contact Philani through Facebook (Philani Ama Kinyabo) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).