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Mental Health Matters Journal for Psychiatrists & GP's

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Literacy is a luxury that many of us take for granted.  We depend on written communication for information, guidance, and access to heath care information That is why SADAG created SPEAKING BOOKS and revolutionized the way information is delivered to low literacy communities. It's exactly what it sounds like.a book that talks to the reader in his or her local  language, delivering critical information in an interactive, and educational way.

The customizable 16-page book, accompanied by local celebrity audio recordings, ensures that vital health and social messages can be seen, heard, read and understood..

We started with books on Teen Suicide prevention , HIV, AIDS and Depression, Understanding Mental Health and have developed over 30 titles, such as TB, Malaria, Polio, Vaccines for over 30 countries.

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To view the larger PDF version - click here

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MARRIAGE AND DEPRESSION NINA MENSING, AUTHOR OF MANIC MARRIAGE, SPENT 22 YEARS RIDING THE ROLLER COASTER OF BIPOLAR DISORDER ALONGSIDE BRADLEY*, HER EX-HUSBAND AND SUFFERER. SHE SPEAKS TO US ABOUT THEIR LIFE TOGETHER. TELL US THE STORY OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP. We met at school when I was 16 and he was 17. I had just returned from a year as an exchange student in Germany and, after all the freedom I had there, I was battling to cope with the restrictive rules of a South African boarding school. Bradley had travelled extensively with his family and had a much wider worldview than my schoolmates. He empathised with how I was feeling and we connected immediately. He had his first manic episode at school a year before we met. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder but was not put on medication. His next episode occurred three years into our relationship and nothing could have prepared me for the horror of that experience. Many devastating and destructive episodes followed. During some episodes he became psychotic, losing touch with reality. He was hospitalised repeatedly and once I even took the legal steps to commit him, although eventually this proved unnecessary. But it was not all bad! In between the episodes, there were long periods of stability, filled with good times and laughter. We shared a passion for travel. As students, we hitchhiked all the way WORDS: JEN GOY up through Africa to see the gorillas in Rwanda - the first of many wonderful travel adventures together. When I was 24, whilst we were in Thailand teaching English, I fell pregnant. We returned to Cape Town for the birth and then married (with me breastfeeding during the wedding!). Three years later we had our second child. In 2010, my book about my relationship with Bradley and his bipolar disorder was published. It ended on a positive note. It seemed at the time that, despite everything, we could make our marriage work. We have since divorced. The insurmountable problem was that Bradley continued to refuse to take responsibility for his disorder and behaviour during episodes. Despite promises, he would never stay on his medication. He also never acknowledged how difficult it was for me. Ultimately, there was no respect. HOW DID BRADLEY BEHAVE DURING HIS EPISODES? When he was manic, he would have immense amounts of energy and hardly sleep. He often became interested in things he'd never been interested in before and impulsively take on projects for which he did not have the training or skills to complete. For example, during one episode he discovered a 1960s Humber Super Snipe car for sale with badly rusted bodywork and an engine that needed a major overhaul. Bradley decided to buy it on the spot, intending to do the restoration himself. He got the car towed back home and there it sat untouched for years, eventually landing up in a scrapyard. During another episode, he walked past a group of street kids and instantly decided he would bring them back to our house and start an English teaching school. Often his ideas were actually quite good and, with the proper planning, could even have been viable. However, this just made it extremely difficult to reason with him and talk him out of his plans. He would give no thought as to how his actions would affect people. He was also extremely manipulative - always one step ahead. He manipulated everyone - his doctors, his friends and me. For instance, once when he was manic, I got him to agree to see his psychiatrist. She recommended that he increased the dose of his medication. However, he refused to make the change, saying that he'd agreed to see the psychiatrist but not to listen to what she said. During his depressive episodes, he 106 I ISSUE 05 I DO , MARRIAGE AND DEPRESSION :t II' 144700/6„10. ,4 ei 111, ;11;if ' 4, 4 1, a ANIMAip, ; lidstou ,Pop Aro, 1,10;,4,044,00,00,; 1:111,1;aigiVla -Atias-' :11 07,01, i, 10 r: would sleep a lot and watch TV, often coming home from work midmorning to do so. He also frequently had mixedepisodes when the low energy was accompanied by extreme irritability and outbursts of anger. WHAT EFFECT DID HIS DISORDER HAVE ON YOU? During episodes, I would be continually on tenterhooks, never knowing what to expect - I guess almost like a soldier in a war zone. I had very little support, both practically and emotionally. Family members lived upcountry or had their own issues to deal with. Also, other people would only see bit and pieces of what was going on and not the full picture. I think it's very difficult to understand how hard it is unless you've been in the same situation. After Bradley and I separated, one of his brothers took over as primary caregiver for Bradley whilst he was manic. He lost ten kilos in two weeks and admitted that he thought he knew what it was like, but actually he'd had no idea. I stopped talking about it to outsiders because of the inappropriate advice I'd often get (and perhaps that's one of the reasons there is such silence around mental illness). People would say to me: "Have a massage", or "Have a hot bath". But when you are in survival mode and only just keeping it together, those suggestions become laughable. WHY DID YOU STAY IN THE MARRIAGE FOR SO LONG? In the beginning, I was told (wrongly) that by his mid-30s it would all be over, which made it worth sticking out. The episodes were unbearably hard, but they were always followed by periods of stability when we were very happy together. I loved Bradley. He was my husband and I wanted to support him. I did start contemplating divorce relatively early on, but was aware that the kids would then spend time with him alone and, as they were still very young, this would not be safe if he was in an episode. If I was present, I had control. I DO ISSUE 05 I 107 WHAT EVENTUALLY MADE YOU LEAVE? I finally gave him an ultimatum - if he didn't take his meds I'd leave. He assured me he would and, because of the counselling we were having at this stage, I trusted him. A few months later, as we were leaving for a weekend away, I offhandedly reminded him to bring his medication. He laughed and said that he actually hadn't taken it for ages. That was it - the final straw. As my children were older, I was not as worried about them spending time alone with him. WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE TO PEOPLE WHO ARE IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH SOMEONE WHO HAS BIPOLAR DISORDER? It's very difficult to give advice as every person with bipolar disorder is different. There is the person and then there is the disorder - and there are not drugs to change a personality. I know several very happy couples where the bipolar sufferer is stable - taking medication and adopting a healthy lifestyle. There definitely needs to be an acceptance of responsibility acknowledgement of the disorder and open communication. If those things aren't in place, the relationship is most definitely not going to be healthy and it's best to walk away. DID ANYTHING POSITIVE COME OUT OF YOUR EXPERIENCES? I have become fascinated by mental health issues which has led to a new career path. For the past few years, I have been studying counselling at SACAP (South African College of Applied Psychology), and enjoying every minute of it. I am completing my fieldwork module at the moment and will then graduate with a Diploma in Counselling and Communication. I also give public talks about my experiences and hopefully help others by speaking out. I am able to empathise with sufferers of mental illness and their supporters. This, together with being open about my experiences, means that people feel safe enough to confide in me. I have also learnt what I want and need in a relationship and, because of that, I am where I am now -happy and in a new, much healthier relationship. THIS ARTICLE WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN THRIVE MAGAZINE - YOUR GUIDE TO MENTAL WELLNESS. WWW.THRIVEMAG.CO.ZA. FOR SUPPORT SERVICES CONTACT SADAG ON 0800 414243, SMS 31393, WEBSITE : WWW.SADAG.ORG , EMAIL This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , FACEBOOK "THE SOUTH AFRICAN DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY GROUP", TWITTER @THESADAG.


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