Shades Of Grey

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He wasn’t supposed to sit at our table. He had followed George. You must know George.  Everybody in town knows George. George is the life of the party, a barfly, snake oil salesman. Always in a Polo shirt. I bet his pyjama top is a polo shirt. They had met earlier at this other local where George had gone to meet another friend of his for nyama. I suspect George had roped him in with his glib talk, his classic gung-ho mantras of life, strung with beautiful turn of phrase. George is the type who says stuff like, ‘there is no glory in sex and money, but there is glory in falling in love with yourself.” Or, “only choose a life in which you forgive yourself.” Or “you are a blue globe spinning, going nowhere, a rock hurtling through space.” “Your heart isn’t an honest heart if it refuses to admit its truth, so what’s your truth?” A mishmash of metaphors, allegories, and rich rhetoric that only reveal the turmoils of his past and sometimes his present. He normally tells me these things whenever we are having a whisky and I write them down on my Notes on my phone because they make me happy and because one day I know he will tell me his story when he’s done pontificating.  

He must have fed this guy his spiel, and the spiel must have resonated deep within him, because just like George, he was going through the wringer of life, buoyed by George’s lyrical prowess. So when George said, OK guys, off to meet some friends of mine at a local, this guy said he would not mind joining him. 

And we didn’t mind having him. He was a polite guest. He respected his drink and the act of drinking, never letting it get the better of him. He respected the unseen pecking order of the table. He was amiable. Whereas most loud people expend all their energy in the moment, the calm ones store theirs, which adds to their layers of mystery. At some point he said ‘when I was mad’. He just dropped it casually in a conversation like you would say,”I think it’s gonna rain.” I don’t even think anybody took much notice, but I did. 

As curfew loomed and the deejay packed his songs in his big box of music, we exchanged numbers. We Whatsapped randomly. In the following weeks he invited me for things that I couldn’t manage to go for because either they weren’t up my alley or I was out of town. I invited him back for a drink but he was busy with other things. One morning I texted him, “hey, why don’t we meet for breakfast you tell me about your bipolar?” He came with his laptop to show me videos he’d taken of himself during his manic stages: of him frenzied, talking to camera, a dusty Lilly(his offroad bike) and him on top of Mount Suswa, the wind whistling in the recording, him in Kilifi causing a royal ruckus, him in a tuk-tuk (rickshaw) talking about some inane stuff, him wandering aimlessly by the roadside in a maasai shuka and sandals, him in a car following a bodaboda with a woman at the back carrying her dead 11-year girl, him on a passenger seat videoing his pal crying about the dead child, him in an SGR with a bunch of strangers who he’s making laugh hysterically, him in a mental institution showing what a padded room looks like, in all of these videos he is talking and talking and talking and laughing . “That’s who I am when I’m manic.” It’s not the person seated before me. 

He orders a coffee and a croissant and he leans back and says, “what do you want to know about my bipolar?” 

**

“My dad died of AIDS. I remember him hosting parties, dinner parties in brightly lit hotels or carpeted restaurants or at home. Lots of people attended, some who I knew, others who I didn’t, people laughing, the sounds of glasses tinkling and spoons scraping plates and music in the background and his voice rising above this hubbub, strong and reassuring. I remember him coming back home late in shags after driving through the treacherous roads of Narok, the headlights of his car bathing the walls of the living room as he parked his mud-covered car, and I’d marvel at how heroic he was to make that journey in pitch darkness. I also remember him shrinking, getting frailer over the years as his sickness ate into him. Then one day I was picked up from school. He had died at home. When I got there they were just carting away the body. I was 14. I remember thinking, ‘Will things ever be the same again?” Things have never been the same, he’s the one who always held the family together. 

How I found out that he had died of AIDS was ironic;  a counsellor at school told me.  Yes, I used to see a counsellor in high school. I attended a posh all-white missionary school. I was amongst the handful of “token” black students. When my father died, I struggled to pay school fees. I’d stay home a week or two after school opened, as my family put together some money. My life was an irony, being a poor black kid amongst rich white kids. I was battling insecurities and self-esteem issues. Unbeknownst to me, I also had bipolar. I had insane highs and pit-bottom lows. I didn’t understand them, I just thought that’s who I was. You are who you are. 

To hide my insecurities I became a prankster in school. I hid behind comedy. I pranked these white kids. One day, on the fourth of July, the independence day of America, I burnt a flag. I had the knack for drawing a crowd. Students would gather around me because of my energy. I told stories. I rigged the students’ school elections and then gave a big campaign speech in the main assembly and stuck it to the administration. The students clapped and roared as I stood before them, punching in the air. In my state I was invincible, I was going to fix the school then I was going to fix this country then I would fix the world. I didn’t know I was in my manic state, a state of great delusions of grandeur, of psychosis, extreme energy and exaggerated thoughts. I was a general and I’d amass an army of faithfuls. Nothing I couldn’t do. No mountain I couldn’t climb. I could barely sleep, I was just vibrating constantly, looking for amazing things to do because I was amazing, I was greatness, I was the Pharaoh and the Chosen One. 

I was later summoned and sat before ten white men, a kangaroo court of sorts. They glared at me and needled me with questions. Then I think someone realised, this boy isn’t well so I ended up in the school’s infirmary. The nurse injected me with what I later learnt was Dormicum. I blacked out. When I woke up it was dark outside. My uncle was seated by my bed. He said, ‘Hi, you will just be fine. OK?”

I will just be fine? I AM fine, I don’t need to sleep. I should be up saving this goddamn school and this county. I was injected again. I woke up the following afternoon with lots of light coming into the room. I was losing track of time. Was it Monday or Tuesday? Has the weekend come and gone? I sipped some water. Then I was in a car. I saw trees pass. And a hill in the distance. Then I was seated before a man, an ageing man I’d seen on TV, a famous psychiatrist. We were in his office. He had a grave look. He listened briefly, more to my family than me. And wrote a lot. I don’t know why I was being treated like a sick person. I said I was fine. Why were these people sitting here wasting time with me when we could save the world, where was the Tusker spirit? Why can’t we save Kenya instead of sitting here asking me questions? They said, just relax, just relax. A nurse pushed a needle in my vein. 

When I woke up I knew I was at the hospital before I knew I was at the hospital. I smelled it. It was the same smell of sickness, of lurking death and of bruised life. My family was there, my sisters and uncle and people I don’t remember now. Over the next week they pumped me full of drugs; antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs. I became a zombie. I couldn’t feel myself. I didn’ have any feelings about anything. I couldn’t feel anything. Nothing made sense. My life had flattened. I could see my dad. He’d come back to life, he had never died. He was always around the corner or still in the car waiting for the opportune time to come and save me. I raised my hand and said, “Dad! Dad!” he looked at me, never answered but I was somehow assured that at the right time he would come!  

I was sad and in a constant daze. I slept a lot. When I woke up I thought of sleeping again. Maybe the old doctor came to see me, maybe it was in my mind. They gave me more drugs, these ones more intense. There is a drug that makes your jaw lock hard and your tongue to stick out. Then they gave me another one to stop my tongue from hanging out. I felt helpless. After a week, I was put in a car because a normal hospital was not the best place for me to be treated. I sat at the back, I don’t remember who was driving. I don’t even remember if it was a car or a carriage pulled by horses. I rested my head on the seat and stared blankly outside. The landscape seemed stripped of colour. The trees lacked the green. The birdless sky looked dry. An endless grayscale. 

I was institutionalized in a mental facility in Westlands. An ugly place with ugly metal doors. Other zombies walked about. A grown man was rocking and crying while seated on a sofa in a common room. The food was awful. The sounds of the night were like people dying, the end of the world. I was medicated all the time, I was numb. When we couldn’t afford it anymore I was moved to the village in Narok. Our home is on top of a hill. There are cows and goats. All around us spread farmlands. When it’s dry it’s dusty, during the rainy season everything blossoms. It’s astonishing how one place can have two personalities. Narok is bipolar. Like me. 

I spent days on end in bed in my room or on the couch, never looking outside. My mother spoke to me like I was crazy. Visitors spoke to me like I was crazy. I did nothing but sit in a chair or lie on a bed. Pastors came and laid their hands on my head, mumbling prayers because this was the devil’s work. Uncles and aunts came and prayed for me. Some days I felt like a woman who had given birth, all those people coming to see me. I sat there looking blank, as if I was in a parallel universe. All these things I remember vaguely. People, faces, events. But I remember how it all came to an end. There was this old friend of my dad’s, a Maasai man who used to come with his rungu [which he eventually bequeathed to me] to visit me every morning and just tell me stories. We’d sit for an hour or so then he’d go. One day he told me, “you have to get better so that you can be the man around here. You are the only son of this boma, so you need to get better but you can’t get better if you are taking this medicine.” So I threw the drugs in the fire. I slowly got out of zombie mode. I started smelling food and feeling the breeze on my cheeks. When I looked at the farmland around, I felt something, a recognition of beauty. 

When I got better I went back to school. It was very awkward. People pretended that I had never been unwell. You will break your leg and people will line up to sign on your cast, but not mental health.  Nobody wants to talk about mental health. The school gave me one condition for getting back; see a school shrink every week and another shrink outside of school – Kenyatta market – once a month. I was on Camcolit, a mood stabilizer. I refused to take other drugs to stop feeling like a robot.  I’d meet the counsellor guy in his office and sit on a wooden chair and spend time looking out the window as I  spoke about my life to this white fellow. He’s the one who told me my dad had died of AIDS. I looked at him and said, “hell no, he didn’t,” he said ‘yes, he did.” I thought damn. 

I finished high school. My friends all went overseas for further studies. I couldn’t afford to go to university so my mom held my hand and knocked on this door. It was my father’s friend, an Asian businessman. He runs a big business. She told him, “This is your friend’s son, he needs a job.” So the man hired me. They were in the motoring industry. I started off as a data entry clerk but I was smart, I spoke well, before long he moved me to his main office headquarters where I eventually became his assistant.  The Asian guy kept me close. He was like a father figure. He taught me everything about business. We went everywhere together, he showed me the ropes of the business, let me in on trade secrets and all. He treated me like a son. And because we dealt with things automotive and my boss trusted me I would be rolling with top-of-the-range vehicles that belonged to them, and wining and dining in big restaurants and hotels.  I would accompany him for pitches, with me standing before businessmen to present shit on oil and gas. We dealt in groundnuts from Uganda. We pitched in the UK, in Thailand, in Dubai. In Comoros, I presented to the President of the country. It was surreal! However even though I seemed to be rolling, I was 18, living with my sister and earning less than 10K. I was restless. I was lured by another guy who ran a bus company from Uganda, promised me 200K a month. I jumped ship, this guy never paid me a cent for two months and I went knocking on my former boss’s friend, who was in real estate. Oh and in 2012, I got married. This marriage didn’t work and as a result it caused me great pain and instability. But this isn’t about my failed marriage. 

At this new gig in real estate, the boss took me for training in Italy and Poland. I was thriving until I got greedy. I tried to undercut my boss by poaching one of his clients who was going to pay me many million shillings to do the job. The boss found out. I was out in the cold. But I had skills gathered over time so I opened my own shop in 2013. I built the business slowly over the next few years or so and the staff grew to thirty. But not everybody is a businessman. I’m not a businessman. I was making bad business decisions. I was paying 150K in rent for the business premises. I was turning over money but with nothing to show for it. Covid hit in 2020 and it decimated our business. I let go of my last  8 staff members. Then I met a fellow who said he’d pay me to make hand wash stations. I activated an old company and got cracking. He paid me good money. Then he ordered more, an 8-million job. I rented a place in Industrial Area, built a small operation that would produce 1000 handwash stations a day. We were in business. 

Then success got to my head. Or maybe it’s the disease that was already in my head. Over time I had figured out when my manic stages were coming and I’d take off to the village and spend a week or more just locked up there, doing nothing, not talking to anyone, not doing anything, phone off. Sleeping. When I felt confident enough to come back I’d come back to Nairobi. 

I know I’m manic when I start telling people truths. When I start speaking my mind without fearing hurting people’s feelings. When I start feeling that I know more than the next person and that there is absolutely nothing I can’t achieve. When the success of this job got to me I imagined I was destined for something bigger and better. So I announced an expansion. I called an event. I invited our biggest client and a pastor friend of mine, family, friends and employees. In the videos of the event I’m giving a speech and I’m crying. I had started experiencing my manic stage weeks before. I know this because I was shouting at people, causing scenes, and dreaming up impossible ideas. 

Not long after, I took an SGR to Kilifi with three friends. I was vlogging the trip the whole way. I met a band of people on the coach and we drank and laughed. A car company gave us a car to test drive. We drove to the beach. I took the car to a guy who I knew would make a car fly. I insisted on taking his two dogs for a walk and lost one who was never found. On a drive we saw a woman who was carrying a child to the hospital on a motorbike. I told my friend who was driving, let’s give that woman a lift. Turns out the child was long dead. We cried. This sent me into a deeper state of mania. 

At the house where we were drinking I saw a guy I didn’t know and I asked someone who had invited this guy to this house. I was mad. I stormed out at night and walked for 4km to the roadside where I checked into a hotel. I woke up and they told me the hotel didn’t serve breakfast so I went to a  kibanda where I met a madman seated outside. I tried talking to him. I eventually made him my friend. I told him, “those idiots I was with invited strangers to my house. I’m leaving them, I’m going back to Nairobi.” Only I didn’t have my ID. I went to the cop station to get a police abstract and they referred me to a Huduma center where I got one in record time. I vlogged about that. I talked about changing this country. How much we can do to save our country. 

I tell the Huduma guy, you are a great man, Kenya needs more of you.” I vlogged all these things. I took a tuk-tuk to Malindi, it was over an hour. I talked to the driver while I vlogged. I wanted to recruit him into this army that would save this country, an army of do-gooders, of ethically upright people, people with a conscience. The driver told me stories of the Mjikenda people, he was no army man. At the airport, I started talking to a random rastaman. Then I started talking to airport cops, 10 of them gathered around me to listen to my social manifesto. They were so impressed, one carried the small knapsack I had.

When I landed in Nairobi I went to my local church. I found three pastors there, and I told them my story. I asked them, do you think I’m crazy? They said, no, but you need some rest. The next day I go to a funeral in Nyandarua. I wrote a eulogy. I ditched the funeral. My sister, who I hadn’t spoken to in years, called me. I got back to Nairobi. I later remember walking to Ngong Road in sandals and a Maasai shuka, all the while Vlogging. My sister and uncle found me. Things got blurry. Maybe they lured me. Maybe there was an ambulance. But I remember the trip to the mental institution where they took my blood pressure, it’s above 200. I was then given Dormicum and put on a padded room like a crazie so that I don’t kill myself. They didn’t know I didn’t want to kill myself. I just wanted to save this country. 

When I woke up, I banged the door. I want to go back home, I shouted. You can’t hold me against my will. They moved me to a different room. More drugs. Sleep. More drugs. I started hiding some of them under my tongue. I didn’t take the other cocktail of drugs they give me, because I know where they take me, they make my tongue hang out, they stiffen my jaw, so I take Camcolit only. I wanted my laptop and phone. I threatened them with the law if they didn’t give me my laptop and phone.  I get better. I really do. I was discharged after a week. When I left the place I went straight to the cop station and reported the crime. I told the cops that  I was abducted, institutionalized in a padded room against my will. The cop asked me, did you run away? I said from where? From the hospital? I said, yeah! He refused to write my statement. 

When I come out I learn of a coup, a mutiny, at work. My partner had told our biggest client that I smoke too much weed and can’t be trusted. I tell my mom that I never want to see my sister and her hubby. My mom feigns ignorance when it comes to my sickness. She never discusses my situation. People walk on eggshells around me. My uncles talk about it behind my back. My psychologist told me that to get better I had to leave my flat which was like a frat house. I found a house in Tigoni and when I told the landlady that I had mental health issues, she changed her mind. 

When you have mental health issues, you lose work, many people write you off. Your family talks behind your back. You lose friends. I have lost a lot of friends. When I’m in my mania stage I’m very vocal and maybe rude.  I’m delusional. But I know how to handle it. I go away to Narok, on the farm and I lock myself there till that tide passes, that’s what I do. It’s always either depression or mania. When I’m depressed I don’t move, I stay in the house. I’m sad asf. I can’t work. I can’t think happy thoughts, I just stay alone. When I drink or smoke weed I either get depressed or become manic. Alcohol is the trigger. When I’m drunk and depressed I will sleep on a table at the bar. When I’m manic I will be the most interesting person. Why don’t I stop drinking? Because life is boring without booze. 

I met a girl I have been dating for a while now. One day I was on a four-way call with some people and I was in my manic state and she sat there listening to my phone conversation with that who-the-frrk-are-you look. When I hung up she asked, how can you speak to those people like that? I told her that I had bipolar. She didn’t talk to me for a few weeks. I went looking for her because I liked her. I explained to her what the disease was about and what medication I can get. We started dating. A year now. I want kids though I’m not sure I can take care of a kid if I can’t take care of myself. 

Why don’t I take my medicine? Because medicine flattens my life. There is no color or excitement. They are also costly. When I’m on meds I just sit in the house doing nothing, but I can’t afford to just sit in the house because someone has to pay that rent and guess who that is? Yes, the person just sitting in the house. Money is a trigger for me. When I’m broke I get really depressed, I sit in the house thinking. But when I have money to burn, perceived success causes my mania. I can’t stay still. 

 

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164 Comments
    1. Dude, are you for real? And you saying you read it twice? Are you all thinking what am thinking, something along school and school fees and cows?

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    2. In all fairness, the story was disjointed and manic too – I suspect it matches the person the story is about and the nature of the disease that he is battling.

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    3. It’s about a brilliant guy going through life with added responsibility than the ‘normal person’ . It’s the best description of what bipolar is. He is brave and he is living;refusing to be put down by the added responsibility

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    4. What is the story? This is the story. It is a person’s voice being taken from them. It is the assumption that you can make drastic decisions for someone,without completely understanding their state. It is being pumped with drugs till you live like you are dead. It is people avoiding the most obvious, that you have mental health issues. It is a crumpling support system. This guy has to hide, alone, when he senses that he is about to go manic. Doesn’t that feel lonely? It is expensive medical care. It is harsh medication. That’s the story. Should I add more?

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    1. Had the exact opposite feelings. Wanted to add on this but am afraid the Pharisees around these digs might decide to stone me. But they say Life is a rollercoaster ride. Hope on it and enjoy or cry.

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  1. honestly, that was heavy! I feel like that and I barely know him so you can imagine how hard it must be for him to make real connections. I hope he finds a support system a group of people who can just understand him and ground him when he is floating , I hope his girlfriend never leaves him, I hope he finds a balance and My wish for him is to be happy because we are all the same in the eyes of mother nature.

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  2. Mental Health!! Mental Health!! I hope we learn to speak about it and accommodate people with mental health issues!! There is no Shame in anything to do with Mental Health!! Hugs to anyone going through anything to do with mental health. XOXO

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  3. Wow. This guy has a pure heart. Even during the mania attacks, you do and want to do good.

    Hats off to your business acumen. I pray you overcome the illness and still retain your core self.

    Am not supposed to laugh, but I couldn’t help it with the conversation at the police station.

    I hope more people suffering with mental illnesses get to grasp their conditions as good as you on how to manage.

    Marry the girl.

    Keep Winning

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    1. my mom held my hand and knocked on this door. It was my father’s friend, an Asian businessman. He runs a big business. She told him, “This is your friend’s son, he needs a job.” So the man hired me….

      The Asian man taught this guy his ropes. Treated him like a son. All because he was a friend to his dead Dad.

      That’s profound. A Loyal friend. God Bless that Asian Man. May we all have such friends

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    1. I thought it was a very good read. Amply describes the battle with bipolar. May have areas where information is repeated,but overall a good awareness of the condition is presented. I wish the guy well and hope he finds peace one day.

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  4. I read the italicized part while holding my breath…took a deep breath, then read the rest. It seems he was manic when narrating this to Biko but he’s right about one thing…”You will break your leg and people will line up to sign on your cast, but not mental health. Nobody wants to talk about mental health”. Now more than ever, Mental health awareness, support and resources are needed.

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  5. My brother is a psychoaffective which means he has a mood disorder and paranoid schizophrenia. Reading this… I know exactly what this man is talking about because we (my family and I) have lived it. The thing that has had the biggest impact is prayer (because my brother lives and works out of town) we can’t always be there to supervise so we have to entrust him to God. As a family we have rallied around him. We have video chats every week and we call and check on him everyday. As a family his condition has caused us to always be in constant communication with each other and that has made a big difference in helping us cope whenever there’s a surge in his symptoms. There are certain psychiatrists in this town who just medicate. During a previous episode a psychiatrist pumped him full with meds.. he was just a zombie. Pacing and having a flat affect completely unresponsive to anything and he is really hilarious when he is well. But because God is good we found an excellent psychiatrist when we were committing him to the psych ward at Avenue. Since then we have a doctor we can call when we notice his symptoms changing. Navigating mental health illness is challenging it takes a toll on families and if anyone needs a space to debrief their experiences I’m happy to offer my time experience to support that. Please reach out.

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    1. Hey Wanjiru
      I have a close family member battling with the schizophrenia .Please reach me on 0783988870 ,I would like help on how to navigate through it

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  6. Thank you for this. Walking in the shoes of the person who goes through it instead of being on the outside looking in.

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  7. he needs meds, then he doesn’t need them, he shouldn’t be drinking or smoking weed but yet he does, money gets him maniac yet he can’t live without money. Being alone is depressing yet not maniac. being happy is free and not depressing yet it’s maniac!! I’m so CONFUSED by his state and I wish him WELL. May he find healing one day!

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  8. Tough! Bipolar robs you of that which is you. It takes from you the very core of your being and replace it with something that is completely opposite of who and what you truly are. I pray that the gentleman and any other person going through mental illness find healing eventually.

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  9. “Medicine flattens my life. Money is a trigger for me. When I’m broke I get really depressed”. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

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  10. As Someone Experiencing Living with Bipolar Disorder, i resonate. Not Having Money is A Trigger, a misunderstanding that is too Heavy , Lack of Sleep even Change all are triggers. Medicine is all i rely to so I don’t experience another manic stage. The pain of coming from a Psychotic moment is too large to Bear. I hope Balance finds its way for Him.

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  11. Never been this early. I support mental health awareness. I have family members who suffer from bipolar. They are on medication and the highs are really highs and the lows are well, rock bottom low. They have very few friends and it is really sad that society alienates people who are different. When they are low, everyone leaves. I really hope we can somehow get to a point where this stops being a hush hush topic and we as society learn as much as we possibly can to support them. It is easy to post on social media about mental health as a trend but very difficult to actually walk the talk in real life.

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  12. You are brave and you are loved. Love yourself immensely. Don’t lose hope. I was once in that institution you mention. I struggled with the meds, but I also wanted to find something that works for me. I realised there’s no one way to do this. A combination of therapies worked but I had to take the initiative to find what works. You are your greatest gift. Try meditation, walking, running, sports and painting paired with the medicine that works for you. Schedule time every day or every week to intentionally contribute to your growth or wellbeing. Learn yourself and treat yourself well. Anything can be a trigger but you don’t have to free fall every time. Sending you love and grace ❤️

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    1. So happy to hear that you were in it and now healed from it. This would well serve as an inspiration to those battling mental health. Someday they all shall overcome.

  13. Oyaa George’s friend, What a life! Tell you what, even though you are bipolar you just might have lived many people’s lives around here. And Biko, you outdid yourself for this storo, the flow is insane, the diction is awesome, and the storytelling?! Wacha tu. Bestest writing I have soma’d this year.

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  14. People battling mental illnesses need a strong support system;it’s never a walk in the park right from the negative symptoms and the positive symptoms experienced and the side effects of the drugs especially the extra-pyramidal side effects…
    We should create more Mental health awareness since there is no health without mental health…

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  15. Mehhnn I am speechless. I recently became friends with someone who is bi polar and after reading this everything makes sense. We should be very supportive and let people know they can count on us through anything. Thank B!

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  16. Nilikuwa nimekuja hapa na kiherehere ya “we want to know about your broken marriage!!” then I finished the story.
    Weh! That was intense.

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  17. One word; tragic. I read this and my head was spinning. It really is a gift; to live peacefully inside your head. To know what peace and quet feels like.

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  18. I rarely comment but this story was really powerful and important. I know several people with Bipolar condition. Note to the writer, Biko, don’t say your bipolar. It is a condition. You wouldn’t say your malaria. It suggests choice when really no one choses to have this condition. But other than that, well written! Thank you for using your platform to shed light on mental health.

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  19. Drug therapy is a strange thing. Is it really helpful?
    “Money is a trigger for me. When I’m broke I get really depressed, I sit in the house thinking.” Money is indeed a trigger, even for the relatively ‘normal’ people.

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  20. Love them through it. There will be harsh words said, deep, hurting truths revealed, tantrums thrown, violent resistance to assistance given. But Love them through the tears and rejection. Be there for them always. ALWAYS!!

    This hit home.

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  21. Mental illness is real and people should stop the stigma against those with it. May the Lord remember you and may you stabilize. I think we all have the threshold of mental stability at some point in life.

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  22. I thought I had bipolar by self diagnosis yet upon reading this I’m convinced I’m not. I really feel the statement of George’s friend when he narrates to you Chocolate man that, ” You will break your leg and people will line up to sign on your cast, but not mental health. Nobody wants to talk about mental health”. It could be a traumatic experience making you have a whirlwind of emotions or an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or any condition about your mental and no one would get you except that person who tell’s you, ” I can’t blame you, I know where this behavior could be coming from.”

  23. Is it strange that I find his life very interesting! He reminds me of tycoon Howard Hughes played by Leonardo DiCaprio. I hope he gets a point of balance between his manic and normal self.

  24. This is a very intelligent person. I wonder if it would have been the same if the father was still alive? Anyway, I still get confused between being bipolar and mental illness. Those two aren’t the same but from this person’s story it appears that the bipolar triggers the mental illness….. Wishing you a great future ahead…..and marry and raise a family. Possibly, that might be your healing…. Namaste

  25. Nothing matches the reality of bipolar. Even with such succinctness, the real struggle from manic and depression and everything between can never be put well enough on paper. Schizophrenic depression in the sufferer is worse than all world wars combined.

    We just hope to die in your sleep for fear of what you are to endure tomorrow, which is depressing as well.

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  26. This hit home. Someone close struggles with the condition. And about family talking behind your back is very true. Some have gone to the extent of saying they do that to get attention, but the things they do in their maniac state are sometimes so “shamefull” you wonder who would do that just to get attention. It’s so sad seeing the parents give up and even think that their kid is bewitched coz they have tried everything and nothing works. The medication is terrible, no wonder they keep running away for treatment and sometimes out of institutions . Also, in our society, very few people understand there are different types of mental illness, so everyone who checks into a mental hospital is labeled “mwenda wazimu”,(heard a debated where it was said locally we don’t have a name for mental illness, we call all of conditions “ngoma” loosely translating to demons, so everyone in Africa is seen as having “demons” when they have a metal illness) so who wants to stay in the hospital? Its sad.

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  27. When you say do-gooders do you mean good-doers?
    Anyway, it is time we treated matters affecting or involving mental health as any other (organic) ilnesses. We must speak. No more stigma.

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  28. The only time Biko has listened from start to the end without any annotations.

    That’s how deep this was.

    Just like the Maasai friend, May God send an angel to rescue him.

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  29. Hugs to everyone battling mental illnesses.And thank you Biko for writing this story. The more we learn about these illnesses, the more as a country we will start making accommodations to our fellow Kenyans even at work places so that people don’t have to lose jobs.

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  30. I am glad that you know you. That you have faced your truth and you are living the life you have been dealt with courageously. You know your triggers, the onset of the manic stage, the effect of drugs and what to do to ride the wave. Its wonderful to know that you have a support system around you ..of a loving family. You are already doing better than yesterday. You are dating, want children, and just like any human being, you want to be a good parent. Provide and protect them.
    I am proud of you. Keep doing you. One day at a time. I celebrate you and wish you God’s blessings all the way.

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  31. This write up is a rollercoaster on its own, a mix up of very many emotions.
    Had to laugh at the cop station part.

    Keep your head up and all the best

  32. Wueh! Ok, firstofo I’m still stuck at the part where he lost someone’s dog after insisting to walk them – we would fight. Second, it’s all the rage to be politically correct and I shouldn’t say this but I feel for his family & loved ones. What a pervasive, disruptive & painful monster to battle (the disease that is).

  33. Oh my! Thank you for this piece Biko. I am glad he knows what to do and which medication works for him. I wish him well. Hugs.

  34. Love and light your way.. we all are going through the most.
    Atleast you recognise how to manage it.. just keep the momentum for another day more and more and more.
    It is well!

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  35. Thank you for sharing this piece. As a people, talking about mental health is a taboo of some sorts, but this article sheds light on this issue and hopefully may start actual conversations about mental health.

  36. This makes so much sense because it clicked closer home, and again, it doesnt need to make sense. Just mental health. It is something we all need to be aware and understand it. So we can help those who suffer from it and not treat them like they are less human and less deserving.

  37. Hugs such a rollercoaster ride.. a reality for most people with bipolar.. this only makes sense to those who’ve gone through the same.. I just hope he gets the right combination of meds to avoid a relapse.. he also needs a support system that will take him through the highs and lows

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  38. Wueh, hugs to him. My brief interaction with PPD taught me to really treasure mental stability. I really thank God that I can barely watch a movie for 15min without falling asleep. As in sleep coming naturally and also embracing the beauty of life, getting excited about a pizza or a holiday. All these things I had once taken for granted. And God healed me. Completely. It served as family planning though..

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  39. I have laughed so hard the part of the lock jaw and tongue sticking out . I thought it was only my childhood friend who goes through that when she’s manic. It’s tiring being around someone who has bipolar . Sometimes I want to dump her but I can’t she’s my friend and I love her . These days I even know when she’s about to have an attack that’s what she calls it , that’s when I dash her to hospital if we are together.

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  40. Mental health is real!! Sad man. Made me remember a movue used ti show on KBC- After the promise….some kids were sent to a mental institution..sad af…Pole to this guy..

    This part was funny though… “The cop asked me, did you run away? I said from where? From the hospital? I said, yeah! He refused to write my statement. “

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  41. Mental health awareness!
    Let’s talk about mental health.
    I don’t think we talk enough about mental health,
    It’s like we’re scared to have this conversation candidly.
    We just whisper, we don’t talk about it openly

    I’m sending lots of love your way.

  42. You will break your leg and people will line up to sign on your cast, but not mental health. Nobody wants to talk about mental health.

  43. Glad to see many understanding folks here. Just know that you don’t choose your mental health issue, and we sure do feel the shame and burden of placing our loved ones in difficult situations.

  44. The problem with the society is that mentally ill persons are given drugs institutionalize them instead of helping them fully recover.

    This guy knows that is the reason why he is here giving his story. He knows his condition and tries to manage it otherwise, he would have been zombified for good in Mathari Hospital’s Ward 9.

  45. This is purely greatness. I love the richness of the story and how its gonna help out people to understand bipolars dealing with this mental issues.

  46. Thanks for this Biko. Let us openly talk about mental health and wellness and support those in varied zones within these spectrum.

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  47. I have cried buckets. Because I feel you…..even though my situation any comparison to yours. I have to get up and be there for my kids …yet many times I can’t. A psychiatrist in this town put me on sooo many medications I was a zombie for a week and I said well alcohol is much better than this shit and I stopped. I am seeing an excellent clinical psychologist now and I have hope again because life had become hopeless. Often I ask myself, if Kanye can’t be well …who am I to be well? And that thought scares me because I start to fear that there are probably no solutions. Don’t even start at the medical covers rarely covering mental illness. A day in the life of those with injured minds.

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    1. Damn, I would advise not to compare your situation to celebrities. Kanye West? He’s human. Like the rest of us. And struggles like everyone else. Sending you Love and light

  48. Acceptance for this particular guy deserves an applause. Society has been at it, on mental health , way back as it is now. Somehow, you have managed to soldier on, painting your positiveness. Mental health is everyone’s issue. You and Me.

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  49. The roller-coaster in today’s yarn has taken me to Malindi and back only to realize that 90% of Kenyans are either manic or bipolar or both. We really don’t need meds just someone who understands us.

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  50. Wow! Wow! I’m a Mental Health Ambassador and currently running a non profit organization which focuses on mental health and wellness. we are based in syokimau junction katani road along Mombasa road. Do you mind a partnership?

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  51. Awareness, education, advocacy and more awareness is still required on mental health issues. Note: mental health is a blanket term for the capacity to function well generally. Therefore as an individual it helps if u know various mood and personality disorders so as to really know the right terms to use. That said bipolar as written, is a mood disorder. On medication, there are 2nd generation medication now available that do not have severe side effects such as tardive dyskinesia TD (sticking out of tongue and repetitive involuntary movements) . a patient can opt for that. Also therapy n medication has to work hand in hand. Your doctor can help u regulate your medication;ie when to increase or reduce your dosage. There are some episodes that can also be managed by talk therapy only. So don’t get tired of looking for good and qualified medics to help you through the journey. Support from family and society is also very key.

  52. I really enjoyed this read, she’s so much light on mental health particularly bi-lolar. I’ve been on a journey ery trying to understand mental health. More specifically psychosis and MID and its all so enlightening and mind blowing.
    Thanks for this story, we really need more of these perspective coz only then can we help and live better with those around us.

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  53. Things people are so afraid to talk about. Yes, I’d seize that energy.
    When he said he jump-shipped to some other company and he went 2 months without a pay, that crossed my mind, probably that would be a story for another day 🙂

  54. I lived with someone with bipolar though I didn’t know she had it at the beginning- she was sharp as a tack! Brilliant with killer sense of humour and energy like the energizer bunny. I now know why she needed to go out so much. Luckily I loved to dance so we were a match. The drugs did her in- she would zone out, soak clothes for a week, her body would swell, her tongue heavy. Then when she stopped taking them she would be normal,… I would forget… until the next time. She tried to commit suicide 3 times. She passed away some years ago. I meet gentleman years later, again brilliant mind, lots of energy but again is afflicted by this condition. He uses weed, alcohol and women to medicate. He has also passed through Westlands but there is no long term plan on how to manage the situation.
    Mental health is draining on family and friends especially as they are ill equipped to know how to deal with it.
    I will be exploring the effects of alternative medicine on this, including CBD and meditation.

  55. Are you my son? His manic episodes are worse and he stays in hospital for a few months! The lows gets me depressed just seeing him. We have been on this journey a few times and it’s so frustrating. I wish you could stop the weed. I keep preaching to my son the same. I suppose he is lucky in a way because he doesn’t have to pay for medication or worry about daily living expenses. I am still waiting for that day that he will “snap” out of his weed and start taking control of his bipolar. You can too but the weed and alcohol will have to vamos. Life will still be fun. You will find other interests, but only you can come to that conclusion. Good luck in getting better. You CAN do it!!

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  56. Not enough being done in this country on mental health. Yet the disability of the mind is the worst disability one can have.

  57. Most of the people in the comments say the story is disjointed. However, to me it was not and in my head it flowed perfectly.
    Might be because I have struggled with my mental health for a while, and life on this side does feel like a rollercoaster.
    I can’t wish him to get better, because some of these invisible illnesses are for a lifetime. I just hope he learns how to cope.

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  58. This is so profound. Mental illness deeply affects individuals. I wish the many kenyans who are not able to seek professional help and medication are able to. These services are so expensive in this country.

  59. I left this open on my browser for over a week, Glad I came back and finished reading it. Reminds me of people I know who’re are pretty much getting on with their lives despite the challenges of mental health. Self awareness is key. Unfortunately medication comes with side effects. New research shows that mental health issues are linked to the gut, I wonder about that.

  60. As someone who also suffers from bipolar disorder, I believe I would be dead without my medication. The trick is consulting as many doctors as you can and finding the right dosage of the medication. I also struggled with the meds in the beginning, but working with your doctor to find the right amount that will not affect your life negatively is key. I wish him the best and he should know that he is not alone.

  61. It is a very comforting when people share stories you relate to. Makes you not feel alone anymore. My dad went through the same, but now I believe he is dancing with the angels. A man with a big heart, and oh my, I miss his highs, he was the most interesting character I ever met. Thank you Biko. And may the lady find enough strength to follow through.

  62. Wow there are so many grey areas in this guy’s life.God is good.life is good.The conversation with the police though I had to laugh.I wish he’d keep off booze and weed but I feel for him when he says life is boring without booze.

  63. Biko; Ashe Oleng (asante)

    We met, you wrote.

    You put into words what I have never been able to express clearly. You made what has always had negatives, positive.

    Biko’s readers; you get me, you relate, you don’t judge, you sympathise. Asante

    It is well, I am good, I am fine, I excel, I fight the bad always. I will never go under. Your comments, in the words of my neice, Wow.

    Those close to me; I had one condition, anonymity, but ‘Kumbe’ u read Biko, and what we never discussed is in the open. I am fine there is nothing you can do now, I have dealt and continue to deal

    I am not sick. My brain is different and so is my BMI. But my BMI has never institutionalised me or ostracised me.

    Guys ‘My Madness’ is me and I am my madness. Meds, alcohol, weed, medicine, women, riches, poverty, speed, heat, cold, counselling, excercise, bumming etc…. react uniquely to individuals and there is no standard for judgment. Najijua, Najielewa. (I understand myself)

    If you live this well told story, Tuungane (unite), so next time they try take me to an institution you guide ‘them’ to Narok or to a councilor/physiologist to talk to and send me home and not to be Zombified by 8 men using force at a very high cost.

    First timers, me at 17, do not understand ourselves and need intervention, but it does not have to be drugs, institutions, zombie then hope for the best.

    ‘They’ do the worst out of love as they know no better and they too are scared. There is no need to be scared or feel woiye (pity). There is a need to understand that 1 in 10 Kenyans suffer some type of mental disorder and ni kawaida (its normal) and TLC goes along way just as with any other illness and steel bars, green nurses and Mad Houses dont.

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    1. May I get your contact? I would like to be part of your support system. I am healing from stuff too and I realize BMI or bad decisions both need a support system.

  64. I felt like protecting the young man from his own family that doesn’t understand him and therefore they don’t talk or discuss “it”. He needs a networked support system and Biko please help him build one. Like a biz partner who holds fort when he is in the manic zone. And a Wairimu Kimani or 2 who know whom to call when and share details of rapid response for the manic time and a safe place for him to be himself always. Biko do you feel me? Please start a whatsapp group for him and let him get tangible help. Twaweza.

  65. Such a coincidence..iam being interviewed for a mental health nursing position real soon and this felt like home…it is an honor to hear this story from his perspective..

  66. A very educative read. Mental health is a topic we cannot sweep under the carpet or wish away.
    I really wish him well.

  67. These days we throw around the words “Mental Health” like we need to be cool, informed people. Seeing what it is when it is not simply inserted as an ingredient in a word salad has knocked the wind out of me. May he fight on.