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Overcoming Manic Depression*

Trinidad Express / My name is Nicole Cowie and I live with bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression). This is a revolutionary idea in a country that so heavily stigmatises mental illness. The core and basis of my activism and indeed my life is that you can live a good and productive life with a mental illness, with treatment and working hard at your recovery. I wasn’t always an activist though; I was once much less comfortable with the idea that I had a mental illness. When I began to have depressions at 18, in Bishop Anstey High School, I knew that something was wrong. I went to counselling for the depression but I was totally resistant to the idea of medication. I thought if I took the medication, it made me ‘mad’. By the age of 21, I spiralled out of control and was admitted to St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital for three months. It was there that I was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I finally gave in to the idea that I had to take medication. I hate taking medication but I do it so that I can live the life that I want. After I was discharged from St Ann’s Hospital, my life was in a mess. I had no job and I felt all the shame, guilt and stigma associated with having a mental illness. Only a few people really stuck by me as friends. The rest basically abandoned me. My parents were the ones who stuck by me.

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