A big welcome to our first blogger, Elsabe Brits. She will be blogging for us monthly and we look forward to what she has to share.
Elsabe Brits (38) is a South African, science journalist at the Afrikaans daily newspaper Die Burger in Cape Town. She covers most academic research fields and current scientific issues including genetics, astronomy, biology, evolution, paleontology, archeology, physics and medicine. Elsabe has a special interest in the public advancement and understanding of science in the public domain. Elsabe has won several national journalism awards during her career and is currently the vice-president of the South African Science Journalists’ Association.
In June 2001, while she was still working as a crime reporter, her world came crushing down one day when she covered a murder story, one of many she has done before. It turned into a full blown manic episode. That evening she was admitted to hospital where she stayed for three weeks and had electro convulsive therapy after all attempts to stabilize her failed. During the following nine months she was admitted two more times and received ECT again. A long road of recovery was ahead.
Today, ten years later, she is a functional, established science writer, leading a full life and manages the illness with the help of clinical medicine, clinical psychotherapy (she has been seeing the same psychologist for 10 years) and stress management. Her Afrikaans book “Kyk my in die oë” (Look me in the eyes) was published in July 2011.
You need to talk
When I woke up that morning in hospital, ten years ago, she stood there. The psychologist I started to see about three months prior to becoming manic for the first time. I went to see her, because deep inside myself it felt as if something was “not right”, but neither of us had any idea I has bipolar.
“Please help me, don’t leave me”, I said.
“I won’t leave you,” she said. “I am sorry that I did not realize what was happening.”
Three weeks later I was still in the hospital and still manic. Thoughts racing through my mind like a million trains. I wanted to speak in all the languages of the world, but had only one tongue. I never finished a sentence because the next one was already in my mind. When the psychiatrist told me I had bipolar mood disorder type I, I knew immediately it must be true. I saw myself in the symptoms. It is me.
I don’t think of myself as a “bipolar survivor.” I don’t downplay it, do I get up in the morning thinking “I am bipolar”. But I do recognize that I have a chronic illness.
Today it is ten yeas later and lots have happened (more about that later). But central to me being where I am today, apart from taking my medication religiously and accepting that I have a mood disorder which is a chemical illness of the brain, was and still is clinical psychotherapy.
Sometimes I get the feeling that clinical psychotherapy is compared to physiotherapy. You have a back pain, you go to the physiotherapist who treats the particular area and after six treatments you are cured. Not true when you have a psychiatric illness.