Thriving with Bipolar Disorder – Meet Billy in Johannesburg!

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This is an interview with Billy from Johannesburg, Africa. He liked and commented on one of my Twitter tweets and out of curiousity I clicked on his profile. He wrote bipolar in his short bio so I took the chance to reach out and connect then asked if he’d like to do an interview.

He put quite a few smiley faces in his replies – too cute. He’s got a lot of personality and put some serious effort in sharing his story. Much appreciated Billy.

Don't Even Think It... I Already Told Billy He Needs to Stop Smoking. LOL.
Don’t Even Think It… I Already Told Billy He Needs to Stop Smoking. LOL.

1.  Thank you for taking the time to share your story. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Hi πŸ™‚ I am Billy from Johannesburg in sunny South Africa. I’m a Learning and Development professional for a large finance company, but I still use my calculator πŸ™‚ I am 41 years of age yet my mind insists on telling me I’m 22.

Note from Molly: LOL.

I live in a developing country which has it’s own challenges. I dabble in poetry and writing. A huge fan of British stand-up comedy. Gregarious, inappropriate and fun loving (as long as I don’t have to do anything that can be construed as exercise). I assimilate information very quickly and can easily extrapolate on that information which gives the fantastic illusion that I am smart πŸ™‚

I don’t hold grudges, they’re a complete waste of my energy and time. I love spending time with small children and watching them experience a world that is exciting, new and full of promise. Sadly I have none of my own. I’m independent, borne out of necessity. I enjoy reading and my favourite genre’s are fantasy, horror and quantum physics (spot the cognitive dissonance πŸ™‚

Note from Molly: LOL again.

I value connection between people, open conversation and think the most beautiful gift you can give someone is a sincere smile.

 
2.  What events led to you receiving a diagnosis of bipolar disorder?

That’s a tough one. Give me a minute to dredge this from my less than reliable memory.

My first diagnosis was depression, back in the mid nineties, at the local government clinic as I had no medical insurance. I was urged to get assessed mainly due to my behaviour being so out of character. I was energetic, fearless (quite literally), highly confident and almost unstoppable. That should have been a clue in itself.

After several years of struggling, in 2000, I met a fantastic woman that encouraged me to see an independent psychiatrist for an assessment (affordability aside). She diagnosed me as being bipolar with psychopathic tendencies. I find the rate of progression rather staggering. Only 4/5 short years. I’ve been with the same psychiatrist ever since and under no obligation.
 

3.  If you don’t mind, can you share how old you were at the time of diagnosis and what type of bipolar illness you have i.e. Bipolar I Disorder (BP-1), Bipolar II Disorder (BP-2), Cyclothymic, etc.

My diagnosis in 2000 was of BP-2. Although I believe it has ‘evolved’ since. I experience the proverbial roller-coaster several times a day, not to mention the suicidal thoughts, delusions, paranoia, rage, etc., etc.

We, my psychiatrist and I, have attempted, by agreement, to wean myself off the medication, but I have come to the conclusion that I’m on for life. Which is in no way demotivating. I’d rather function to the best of my ability than not.
 

4.  Do you have other diagnosed medical conditions besides bipolar (physical or mental)? For example, I have fibromyalgia and deal with chronic fatigue. I also have a form of subclinical hypothyroid. All of these have affected my bipolar states and when treated successfully my severe bipolar illness states (mania, suicidal depression) improved much.

I am also ADHD. I suspect that I have always had this. LOL Physically I have no known conditions despite a familial history of cancer, heart disease, tourettes and osteoporosis.
 

5.  Now for the good stuff! What things – medications, vitamins, therapy, books, alternative treatments, etc. – have helped you to not only survive this difficult illness but thrive in your life?

As far as medications go, I generally have to readjust and change brands every two years or so. My daily medication intake consists of two types of antidepressant, antipsychotic, anticonvulsant, mood stabiliser, methylphenidate, sleeping tablets which don’t really help keep me asleep.

A lot to go through in a day πŸ™‚

In 2013 I was encouraged by my boss to attend a ‘life skills’ workshop. It’s really the only way to describe what they do without giving anything away. In this workshop they address many issues through the use of processes, conversation, lectures, etc. in a short space of time; 2 1/2 days.

It had a profound impact on me and helped me immensely in acknowledging and accepting myself for the person that I am. It helped me change my perspective in the moment and brought to the fore my love for life and exuberance that I had steadily suppressed over the years.

I have subsequently attended other workshops and am due to attend a workshop in December this year called Dark Side, with the same people. They have a very intimate approach and it’s done with sincerity and love.

I volunteer as an assistant on workshops when I am able. Spending a weekend in service of others with no expectation of reward is humbling and grounding. Bearing witness to the personal awakening of each person at the end of the weekend is fulfilling and renews your faith in humanity.

Not to mention the tears of joy that flow down my cheeks over my goofy, unrestrained smile for each beautiful person.

I now take cognisance of my own thoughts and change them when necessary to be more positive. I have embraced my being and accepted love of self as an integral part of receiving and giving love. Not to mention the value I have experienced in my life and the remarkable achievements I have made. There
is no ego in that statement, but rather amazement filled with humility.

When I’m of a mind I write. I dabble in poetry and erotic short stories. The poetry is for myself and serves to express and order the plethora of diverse thoughts that run through my mind constantly. Erotic short stories are more in the line of graphic romance. I don’t write these often as they rely heavily on emotion and generally reserved for the special person that may be in my life at that given moment in time and space.

I’m a sexual being, like everyone, but I have embraced it, unashamed of it and make no apologies for the fact.

I surround myself with positive people wherever possible, follow positive boards, twitter accounts, pinterest boards and so on. I take inspiration and solace where I can get it provided it serves me and my integrity. That is in my sphere of control and choice. I still struggle with asking for support as I forget that there is no expectation of the way that support will be given unless I specifically ask for it.

Another great way I create value in my life is to be careful and cognisant of the language I use and how I express my thoughts. I don’t mean swearing. I swear like a trooper.

I actively seek to communicate in the first person (I) as generalising or using the third person somehow diminishes the credibility of what I am saying. Of course, this is not for others, I cannot control how others will think, react or feel.

I use this tactic for myself so that I can determine my convictions. It does serve others as well, especially being a very honest person, this has helped me to express my opinions with care and gentleness (not always possible in the heat of the moment).

I am open and honest about my state of mind. It takes enough energy in the day to manage my disorder, it certainly does not need to be exacerbated with diversions, untruths or misdirection. Being open and honest leaves me able to focus on myself, my goals, my passions and my loved ones.
 

6.  What advice do you have for others who may be overwhelmed by the symptoms (hypomania leading to impulsive behaviour, rapid cycling mood changes, hospitalizations due to severe depressive episode or a manic episode resulting in psychosis…) and feel discouraged or without hope?

Wow, advice is not easy. Every person is unique, disorder or no. Having said that… do what you like, just don’t get caught. LOL.

Note from Molly: LOL!

Seriously though. Never underestimate your own worth, It might seem a pointless exercise at times, I know this well, however, each person in their uniqueness has a beauty that cannot be rivaled and is a beauty that noone else possess. We owe it to ourselves to live as best we can manage. To be the best of who we are as people for ourselves.

Laugh. Laugh at yourself because you know you’re a beautiful being. It’s OK. This is another one I tell myself often. It’s OK to feel the way I do, just don’t wallow in it.

My tattoo is in latin: Amo Vivo Exulto, meaning I Love, I Live, I Rejoice. It serves as a reminder to me from me that I am human and that I deserve these things, I am capable of these things and I can actively live these things.

The choice is yours. From what you do to what you feel is your choice. When it is all too much and you’re on the brink, remind yourself, β€œthis too shall pass”. Nothing is written in stone. Not even our genetics πŸ™‚

Love yourself as you are. There is no judgement or opinion that has greater impact than your own.

Consciously and actively practice the tools and techniques you learn at managing your disorder. Work at your thoughts and words, especially when least feel like it. Change your habits and you can change your life. Embarrassment, anger, fear are all reactions of your ego. Decide what is more important to you, how others perceive you or how you perceive yourself. The choice is yours.

Let me share the three statements I make to myself on an ongoing basis. Perhaps it will serve you too.

  1. I BELIEVE IN ME (yes in capital letters πŸ™‚ )
  2. I AM BEAUTIFUL
  3. I AM AWESOME (in it’s original usage of awe)

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I sincerely hope that you have gained some value for yourself. And if not, that is OK. Keep searching, keep believing. It has been very therapeutic for me to write and share with you.

Thanks a mil, Billy

Thank You!

Such a great interview with such detail and heart-felt sharing. Very nice, loved it. Much appreciate you taking the time to share your story – I worry about the number of meds you are taking (it will make you sicker) but that’s for you and your doctor to work out.

And yes, I did get value out of reading this. I’m not so sure about the Dark Side conference – I got led into a cult-like environment when younger by older siblings. The usual, a egotist-narcisstic leader who controls and manipulates others and takes advantage of their weaknesses.

I stay away from groups with ‘followers’ that are religious or other claims. I think I’m the best person to help myself and am agnostic in belief. True communities (healing, educational) value input from members, a cult-like environment is run by one person who claims to be something or other.

This guy thought he was Carl Jung incarnate (said he came to him in his dreams). Funny, yes? The point is to be careful.

Best to you, Molly

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2 Comments

  1. Billy said:

    Thanks so much Molly. Fortunately they are most definitely not a cult. Mama didn’t raise no fool. Lol 😁 Just a wonderful few people that have a passion to help others be the best they can for themselves, by themselves. Not based in religion.I’m quite excited to learn new techniques in managing my condition. ☺ Thanks again, it was oodles of fun.

    November 3, 2016
    Reply
    • Molly said:

      LOl, no, I did not think she did (raise a fool) – was just a comment as lots of these things are lead-ins to cult-like environments and I would not want anyone to not understand that. When dealing with any illness – mental or physical – we are vulnerable. And there are plenty of people out there who will take advantage of that. That’s all.

      That’s awesome if it is helping you and you are around others who inspire you. I’d love more of that in my life πŸ™‚

      hugs

      November 4, 2016
      Reply

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