Roller-coaster life of a bipolar sufferer

Mahita Vas has written a book on her struggle with bipolar disorder.

She was at the top of her game as a group business director at a renowned international advertising firm here in 2005.

Ms Mahita Vas, 49, had high standards in her work and handled accounts for big-name clients.

But things went awry that year when she suddenly lost her temper at a young female colleague.

She grabbed the girl's wrist and even shouted vulgarities at her. Ms Vas said: "Everybody was just stunned. A few people came to me and said, 'you can't do that.' But I didn't know why I did that.

My reaction was totally out of proportion."

She initially blamed her actions on stress but, when she went to see a psychiatrist weeks later, she learnt that she had been unknowingly battling bipolar disorder. She could not believe the news and sought a second opinion, only to be be given the same diagnosis.

A year later, stress accumulated from hunting for a new home took its toll on her and she quit her job to recuperate.

The mental illness is characterised by extreme mood swings that can cause irrational behaviour.

Bipolar disorder affects 1.2 per cent of the adult population here, according to a 2010 study by the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) that involved 6,616 Singapore residents aged 18 years and above. The number of bipolar patients seen at IMH has risen from 902 in 2008 to 1,069 in 2010.

Two years ago, after many outbursts, suicide attempts and medical treatments, Ms Vas felt compelled to write a book in a bid to raise awareness among other sufferers. The 240-page tome, entitled Praying To The Goddess Of Mercy, chronicles her struggles, providing first-hand accounts of her life experiences and how others dealt with her.

Ms Vas said: "I'd like to be the example that mental illness does not have to compromise your life. (Seeking) treatment can lead to an enriched life."

Her condition is now under control with a combination of medication and counselling.

Most recently, she ran a bed-and- breakfast service in Bali in Indonesia, but returned to Singapore in April to promote her book full-time.

Her saving grace came in the form of words from her 59-year-old pilot-husband, who saved her in the nick of time during a suicide attempt. He had told her: "You revoke the right to think about yourself when you are a parent."

Ms Vas is mother to 20-year-old twin daughters. To others like her, she said: "You can be treated. You can battle this debilitating and destructive illness. I am not my illness."

Those in need of help may call the Samaritans of Singapore's 24-hour hotline on 1800-221-4444.

Praying To The Goddess Of Mercy is available at all major bookstores from next month, at S$18.50 (before GST).


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