SINGAPORE – Sanity and happiness, Mark Twain once wrote, is an impossible combination.
In Yohanna Abdullah‘s case, it is all too true. She cannot afford to get too happy because that would trigger something in her brain and make her do outrageous things.
Like sunbathing in her underwear in Kallang Park, singing, dancing and flirting with strangers in public, and even marrying a foreigner she met online but barely knew.
The 47-year-old publications executive has bipolar disorder, a mental illness characterised by severe mood swings, from depressed (“low”) to manic (“high”).
Ms Yohanna has been diagnosed as Bipolar Type 1, which means she is prone to mania.
“I am generally a modest person but when I am high, I’m uninhibited and say or do as if there is no wrong or right. Whatever is right is what feels right at the moment,” she says.
She was diagnosed with the condition – which experts say is caused by many factors ranging from genetic to social – more than 15 years ago.
The divorcee and mother of two children, aged 17 and 19, believes it was triggered by a combination of factors: mother-in-law issues, the stress of juggling work and motherhood, financial problems and the discovery of her former husband’s affair with a colleague.
Her meltdown shocked many who knew her to be Miss Congeniality, an intelligent woman with a bubbly disposition and a promising future.
Chatty and articulate, Ms Yohanna is still grappling with the condition which turned her life into a roller-coaster ride, but says medication and the support of loved ones have helped her to manage it a lot better.
She had only a brief attack last year. This was a far cry from two years ago, when she had to be hospitalised in the Institute of Mental Health on at least 10 occasions.