Too much pressure can tip a person over the edge.

IT’S not easy being the child of a teacher. It’s even harder if your parent is a professor. My father was a professor at Universiti Teknologi Mara. He treated me strictly and his expectations were always high.

I can’t fault him because as the son of a professor, all eyes would be on me if I did anything wrong and people would say, “You see! The son of a professor also behaves like that!”

That’s how it was. I had no choice but to be a role model. As the firstborn son, I had to endure the only kind of upbringing which my novice father knew, all the good and bad. My mother, equally clueless in child-bearing, was soft and submissive, and allowed my father to lead the family without questioning, which I felt proved to be a huge mistake.

During my secondary years, my father educated me in a forceful and ineffective way, and I was constantly under huge pressure until eventually, I went mad. I began hearing voices and music. I had feelings of grandiose. I felt as if I was the greatest man on earth and I talked incessantly. I was electrified with energy: charged with ideas that were mostly regarded as nonsense.

My teacher made a phone call to my father who picked me up from school and sent me directly to a hospital. A female doctor assessed my abnormal behaviour. She said that I was suffering from bipolar disorder and proceeded to give me a jab to calm me down, after which she discussed with my father the options I had.

For the first time in my life, I had choices: I could either be admitted or go home. They decided that I should go home as even the briefest stay at a mental ward would cast a long and gloomy shadow over my future.

I began taking medications – Risperidone and Epillim – which turned me into a whole new person: I gained 10kg in just a few weeks and looked like a zombie from World War Z. I was perpetually tired and sleepy. My uncle thought I was not cut out for books and offered me a job at his business for RM700 a month. He said, “Come help me manage my retail shop.” But I exclaimed, “NOOO!!!” and proved him wrong when I sat and passed my SPM with satisfactory results (6As) and went on to take a course in Mathematics at a private college.

After I graduated from the college, while others were busy looking for jobs, I went to bed at 7am and did not wake up until 14 hours later. I eventually found a job as a programmer and learned more about my disorder.

Bipolar disorder is a strange condition. I can be extremely overjoyed now and drop immediately into deep depression at the next moment for no obvious reasons. My self-confidence fluctuates according to these manic phases. Google says bipolar disorder is a common disease amongst architects, writers and composers – people who are engaged in creative art works.

So, I’m beginning to try and write these days – I feel better when I write and have joined two writing classes so far. Society will always stigmatise people with mental disorders, I realise. It’s hard to change how people think. Hence, it’s more important and easier to change ourselves to adapt to society. I learnt how to conceal my “illness” from society. Today, I am on lithium 400mg and Seroquel 400mg. I’m writing, and I’m feeling great.

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