INDIA. Mumbai: Vijay Nallawala, 58, inspires not only because he lives with Bipolar Disorder, but also because of the path he has embarked upon. BipolarIndia, which he founded in 2013, helps support persons living with Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, and their Caregivers.
Bipolar India began as a website to spread awareness and initiate conversations around mood disorders and has now grown into a thriving Peer support community for both persons living with mental illnesses and their family of caregivers.
The success of a community is a spirit of compassion and willingness to be of help: that is now exhibited in ample measure, with quite a few members now assuming leadership roles and mentoring others.
A personal tryst and an eventual triumph
He had been running an enterprise successfully for fourteen years when there was a dramatic twist in his life.
It was May 2003, at his age forty when his simmering moods escalated into full-blown mania which led to his diagnosis and a stay in hospital.
This manic phase of his was marked by aggressive behavior and delusional beliefs that he had supernatural powers, that he had been sent to Earth as a savior of humanity!
Nallawala told Transcontinental Times, “Bipolar disorder causes extreme mood swings and if not managed can be highly destructive and disabling.”
He went on to add that “the human mind is complex as well as mysterious. A bipolar disorder condition has its roots in the“Biopsychosocial”: biological predisposition, the mind factors at work and the environment one lives and works in.”
What was diagnosed a full 26 years after onset went unnoticed all those years due to scant awareness about mental health in the Seventies?
The first dreadful signs of severe depression
It showed up at age fourteen when he was in his critical 10th Standard. Depression reared its head again when he was studying in College yet he did complete his graduation.
The turmoil he experienced during these phases was intense and crippling, more so because his condition “didn’t have a name” to it and his behavior and attitude were mistaken for growing up pangs that an adolescent or young man experiences.
A complete loss of interest in life
A person experiencing depression loses complete interest in life.
This affects functionality and is a hindrance in one’s studies, work, and interpersonal relationships. Hopelessness and helplessness can bring suicidal thoughts.
Was everything hunky-dory in the intervening years until diagnosis? Far from it. His behavior had abnormal patterns such as extreme irritability, impulsiveness, episodes of uncontrolled anger, and acts of recklessness.
The diagnosis came as a rude shock, especially in the context of the stigma that mental illness carries with it, in those days (and still does). A casualty was the shutting down of his enterprise.
His self-worth took a tremendous beating and there were long periods of struggle when he had to fight his inner demons and the mood swings which kept troubling him for a decade even after treatment began.
This was truly a challenge for even the people around him, his family, later wife, and friends.
Family support is much needed at every stage in life
He owes a lot to his entire caregiving family and, particularly his elder sister who first took him to a psychiatrist and clinical psychologist. She would interact with the Psychiatrist and observe Vijay’s moods.
He told Transcontinental Times, “now my medications are minimal and I am in remission (a period of sustained stability free of mood episodes).”
Physical and mental dimensions
“The maxim sound mind in a sound body and vice versa,” cannot be overemphasized, he said. “We tend to put mental and physical health into compartments, hence, in my book, I’d talked about a holistic way of healing.
Mental health affects physical health and vice versa. Along with bipolar disorder, I have overcome serious co-morbidities: acute and chronic asthma and several other illnesses. Hence it is necessary to have a 360-degree approach to health and well-being,” he said.
Vijay Nallawalla took the challenge to newer heights
He told Transcontinental Times, “ Writing is known to have therapeutic value and in my case, it turned out to be a cathartic journey that helped lighten my burden.”
Vijay is the author of a successful book “A Bipolar’s Journey: From Torment to Fulfillment.” Currently, he is writing his second book.
“The more challenging the path I walked on, the greater the transformation it brought about in me,” he said.