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Narrative: I couldn’t understand my sister’s unpredictable behavior

Bipolar disorder, like diabetes or heart disease, is a long-term condition and needs to be managed

I did not know about bipolar disorder until my sister was diagnosed with it. My sister completed her studies and went on to become a teacher. When she was about 24 years old, our family noticed a change in her behavior. She barely slept at night, and only up to five hours on the nights that she did. We could hear her all night, moving the furniture around in her room. On some days, we noticed that she spoke very fast and a lot of her words made no sense at all. She did not bathe for days, and wore inappropriate clothes to school even though she knew that there was a dress code for teachers. There was a marked change in her behavior because she would become overly aggressive for no apparent reason. This was different from the sister I knew before all this started.

After a few days, the school principal called my parents and complained about my sister and her changed behavior. With no signs of improvement, the school authorities asked her to resign. One day she became violent and got into a fight with our mother for no reason. That was when we finally decided to consult a mental health expert and have her admitted to the hospital.

In the hospital, she said she was a special messenger from heaven and the doctors had to release her. Assessing all these symptoms and studying her medical history, the doctors diagnosed the condition as bipolar disorder and started her on medication. She was in the hospital for a month. They eventually discharged her when they were satisfied that she had calmed down, and when the behavior we witnessed over the last few months had stopped, much to our relief. Initially after her discharge, she refused to take her medications and had to be readmitted for another two weeks. This time when they discharged her, she realized that it is good to continue her medication so that she can control the symptoms and manage her condition.

She completed a certificate course in special education and now works in a smaller school. She has not been admitted since then. She is married and has a child.

This narrative has been created with the help of mental health experts by taking into consideration symptoms and accounts from a cross-section of patients. The story is not a case study of any one particular person but is meant to be representative of a person suffering from the disorder mentioned.