TALES OF COURAGE: My battle with bipolar disorder

Wednesday June 19 2019

Mr Peter Gitau Waweru, a teacher at Rigogo Secondary School in Solai, Subukia during the interview at Nation Office in Nakuru on April 30,2019. PHOTO| JOHN NJOROGE

Mr Peter Gitau Waweru, a teacher at Rigogo Secondary School in Solai, Subukia during the interview at Nation Office in Nakuru on April 30,2019. PHOTO| JOHN NJOROGE 

MARGARET W. MAINA
By MARGARET W. MAINA
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Peter Gitau Waweru, 49, was diagnosed with bipolar 15 years ago.

The Egerton University graduate, who teaches at Rigogo Secondary school in Nakuru County, talked to Margaret Maina about is battle with depression.

“I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after a series of mood swings and unexplained stress. This condition saw me face rejection both from my own family and friends. I have to undergo counselling sessions and I am on daily medications to help me deal with my condition.

I was first employed by the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) in 1995 and became a deputy teacher at Rutune Secondary School for 10 years. During my tenure, I had many run-ins with the administration as we failed to agree on a lot of things.

I was later transferred to a boys’ school that had high indiscipline levels which put me under so much pressure and the administration had to give me two weeks to rest.

NOT EASY

It was not easy for me. I experienced moods fluctuation, became easily irritable and stressed but what I did not know was that I was sinking into depression.

After two years, I got transferred to a different school where I became the head teacher.

Mismanagement of funds that I hoped the board would have used to construct a computer laboratory but they wanted to put up a dormitory brought a tug of war between me and the Board.

This conflict had me demoted.

At some point, I could barely contain myself and would blabber for long. I would go to all the education offices wanting answers although I was not violent, mostly I was very restless.

In 2006, being a regular teacher I sought to be to be transferred to Rigogo Secondary School, my current designation so I could be near my wife who is my strongest support system.

ADMITTED

As the unexplained mood swings and stress weighed me down and took a toll on me, I sought professional help. I was admitted at Nakuru Level 5 hospital for three weeks and was diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder.

Fear of rejection and social exclusion keeps people with bipolar disorder from coming out to talk about their condition, and this is why support groups for people like me are uncommon.

In Kenya, Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (USP) is the main organisation that offers support to people who have been diagnosed with psychiatric issues.

USP was established in 2007 and is mainly concerned with advocacy and creating awareness to address stigma and discrimination targeted at persons with psychosocial disabilities and to promote their inclusion at various levels of social life.

The organisation also provides psychosocial peer support where I attend some chapters in Nakuru.

For thirst to understand my condition better, I pursued higher diploma in psychosocial counseling.

I have learned that bipolar disorder is not a disease. Neither is it a personality type as people tend to imagine. It is just a condition. One that you can live with if well managed. I have accepted my condition.

The school principal has supported me tirelessly and I am the head of Department of Guidance and Counselling in the school and also as scout leader.”

MORE ABOUT BIPOLAR DISORDER

Proper diagnosis and treatment help people with bipolar disorder lead healthy and productive lives. Talking with a doctor or other licensed mental health professional is the first step for anyone who thinks he or she may have bipolar disorder.

Dr Joseph Njau, a government psychiatrist, says that bipolar disorder has no cure. it is a lifetime condition that can be controlled through medication.

“This condition affects both gender on a 1:1 ratio. Through proper mediation, a patient can be able to control his or her moods. This condition is mostly genetic,” he says.

People with bipolar disorder experience periods of unusually intense emotion, changes in sleep patterns, activity levels, and unusual behaviours'.

Talking with a doctor or other licensed mental health professional is the first step for anyone who thinks he or she may have bipolar disorder.

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