Highest of Highs to Lowest of Lows: by Michael Kinyanjui: My Battles with Bipolar Disorder
Imagine living within several rooms with no way to escape or get out as the doors are sealed, the locks are in place and you feel helpless and have nowhere to go. What happens when your mind is locked and veers in so many different directions that you have no control over your words, voice, opinions, actions or understanding. Within this memoir you will meet several different Michaels at different points in his life as he struggles to find the real Michael and learn how to rid himself of the false ones.
Bipolar disorder creates confusion within the person that unfortunately is a victim of this disease and one that is plagued with mania which is when the person with this disorder as the author states goes through a state of mind that gives him in this case high of amounts of energy, delusions and high self-esteem. Manic episodes are often experienced like the mania with the main focus on the episode. Misdiagnosis is often prevalent and some consider these people to be depressed and some when an antidepressant is prescribed a manic episode is triggered. Within this memoir you will hear the voice of the author as he enters many different states of being and exhibits behaviors that in the end he is remorseful for and hopes that anyone he inflicted his moods, anger, rage and violent actions on will forgive him.
We start with an encounter with an officer named Tanner and the fact that the author was high on drugs and alcohol, which helped him to commit a crime and get arrested even though in his mind under any other circumstances he might have realized that Michael is or was a nice person. Chapter one takes us inside the police station, the charges filed and the end result going to jail. Chapter two continues with his jail time and then we meet Dr. Robinson who was concerned that the author might take his own life. He didn’t get what the real issue was and prescribed antidepressants for him and the end result was Prozac. Needless to say the end result was not exactly positive and the final outcome was Michael was one person at work, different with other people, using coke, other drugs and after two months on the meds he quits his job and decided to take up beer and another encounter with the law. Chapter Three lets readers inside his jail cell, the cellmates and going to AAA meetings and getting money to buy a new car and saving twenty thousand dollars to pay the fine and set aside time for community service. His parents were supportive throughout the memoir as you meet them at different stages of his life, his transgressions and how they tried to help him but it would take more than just this jail time, fines, lows, and losing jobs and more for Michael to face the harsh realities of bipolar disorder.
Let’s go back in time to when the author lived in Kenya where he was born and the problems he faced with family, friends and the teachers in the school that mistreated him, used abusive force, ridiculed him and allowed other students to mock him and make him feel unworthy of just being there. Getting expelled in the first grade did not phase him and thinking how he would like to use the stick on the teacher who hit him is not anything anyone else would not think when someone wrongly hurts them. No one realized that he had a problem, no one saw the signs or even knew about this disorder so as time goes on it only got worse. Drug dealers and prostitutes were his companions while sitting in a van in Mexico and knowing he was in trouble with the law. The end result should have taught him a lesson.
Part 3 brings us back in time to when he lived in Kenya before he knew about his illnesses and he thought he was just a lunatic. No treatment available or given and no winning with this illness his episodes were many and the depression took him over. With this illness even as a child he realized that there were many mood swings and at times he felt like two people coming from two different worlds living in one body. Never speaking up or asking for help he was living a nightmare that he would not wake up from for a very long time. How frightening for a young child! The author shares his life before this illness set in and the memories of his childhood. Born in 1993 in Kenya and talking about the many different tribes and how they fared. His grandfather was wealthy in that he had a lot of money but managed to have a lot of land, which helped him care for his family and other people. Michael lived his life on a tightrope that could snap at any time but his grandfather always gave him some sense of security and love. His parents were traditional and very well brought up and he describes them quite vividly and his relationship with both parents was different than with his grandfather. Finding jobs was scarce and hard at times and he talks about how his father drove a small truck and delivered corn. His family dynamics were not that different from anyone else’s family’s dynamics it’s just that he lived in a different place or environment and how even his mother had to work and with an aunt ran sort of a warehouse business buying and selling corn. The remainder of Chapter focuses on his grandmother, his grandfather’s mistress and how he loved his grandfather and the fact that he treated him and talked to him as an adult. The next chapters that follow continue with his life in Kenya and the one that stands out the most is Chapter 11 which focuses on the abusive at times treatment inflicted on him by his parents and why. It follows with chapter 12 which focuses on his time in primary school and what he had to endure at the hand of the teachers and principal. I realize that corporal punishment was allowed but what was inflicted went way beyond that at times.
Friendships were vital to the author and he meets Gegard who proves to be more than just a friend. To live in the United States that gave out fifty thousand permanent residents visas to winners his family was lucky to be one of the recipients telling how that came about and what documents were needed. School was hard for him and his teacher was Mr. Mousavi who did his best to help the author catch up. Gegard was in his best and everyone called him G. Isolated at times both boys became good friends. Chapter 16 tells about his teenage years and the struggles with mood swings that he had as he was one person one day and an alter ego or another person the next. Depressed at times and in his sophomore year in High School he was not mad or sad even when having trouble with girls.
The story continues with more about his years in high school and his English teacher and the many social interactions and girls that he met and his relationships or non-relationships and his reaction when they worked out or did not. Athena, Melissa and many other girls are part of his journey before he realizes that he needs some serious help before it’s too late. Melissa was someone that did him a favor and pretended to be his girlfriend when he needed someone to take on a date with some friends and he did not want it to seem that he was alone. Pride was at stake!
Chapter 28 is where it takes off and we learn more about his mania his struggles and realizing that Bipolar disorder creates many different realities such as feeling like the most gifted person on this planet. His first or initial manic episode was during his senior year in high school and gave way to providing a false hope for the future and what came next. His first year in college started off with Michael realizing the disorder created delusional thoughts and he thought about dropping out. Medications were given like Prozac and Dr. Robinson prescribed it to help with his full- blown mania with psychosis sending him on a rampage and getting arrested. Out of control and hard to handle his own personality switches at times and he entered a phase called mixed episodes. Going home to his family in 2016 provided some type of hope and security and yet he was sad. This is one disorder that is hard to alleviate unless you are properly treated and at this time the author had not found his mainstay as yet and telling us about his friends, and the fact that they did not deserve what happened in Mexico then spending time in his own apartment and going back to driving strangers and telling his grand plans for creating his own business and the focal point of the chapter is titled Tenderloin is quite revealing and telling as you get to understand the manic episodes more and his difficulties dealing with people, money and just life in general. Speaking about the illness took courage and the emotional upheavals and frustrations are clearly noted. The book explains in detail through his episodes, drug use and violent actions leading to several arrests and more what happens when someone does not realize he had bipolar disorder and it shines a bright light on this illness. How do you live with something you can’t control? Floundering from job to job and handing in many applications became his goal until Dr. Hatzakos in Chapter 32 defines it all and understands and explains the disorder and the definition of mixed episode and takes action when defining his disorder as Bipolar Type I. There are four types of Bipolar disorder and the one mains are Type I and Type 2. The remaining chapters explain the medications he was given the ones that worked, the side effects and how the author responded.
Lithium was one and the second given along with that powerful drug was Wellbutrin. The rest and what he learned you will have to read for yourself as with any mystery or ending that the reviewer does not want revealed Michael shares what he learns about the disorder, himself and advice to those that might need to seek help plus resources that will help anyone that thinks he/she has bipolar disorder. A must read and an important book to help those with any mental illness understand how to cope with it before it’s too late.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine