How Nthati Phakoe Fought Through Bipolar Disorder

Nthati Phakoe

People talk ignorantly about how time is a healer. Unfortunately, for some, time often feels like an elastic stretch to pain. Day and night, Bipolar Disorder patients experience an endless cycle of unpredictable emotions.

Some try to fight it but some decide to sit all alone in a black hole of depression because the cycle is tiring. Basotho youth are no exception to the highs and lows of mental disorders and this was a very bitter pill to swallow for 36-year-old Nthati Phakoe who is diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and Acute Depression.

Growing up, Nthati describes that she was a very hyperactive yet unpredictable child. She was a very intelligent and creative young girl and was happy most of the time. As time moved and she transitioned from adolescence to teenage-hood, things started to spiral out of control.

Slowly, she started becoming overly sensitive and would cry at the slightest provocation, which ultimately led to self-loathe, feelings of worthlessness and self-pity. At that time, she was still a high achiever but she hated the idea of living another day. The desire to live started diminishing slowly. It was unfortunate since she too did not know what was happening to her and she gravitated from utter hyperactivity to deep depression in a very short space of time.

Feeling alone and miserable in her own body, Nthati resorted to self-harm. She started to slash her arms and thighs to feel better. Blood would gush out but her pain would never subside.

The more time passed, the more she felt trapped in her own body because she too could not explain how she wanted to die yet be everywhere all at once. She was overwhelmed by deep sadness and depression and it never seemed to end.

There is nothing as painful as going through pain yet no one seems to understand. Living with a mental illness became a societal joke in her opinion because people took it as an opportunity to make fun of her. Their comments ranged from ‘you are too spoilt’ to ‘you think you are white’ and all the ignorant comments you can think of. Living became difficult because she knew that there was no way out. Minutes seemed like eternity and it was difficult to keep moving forward.

Nthati was finally diagnosed with Bipolar Mood Disorder and Acute Depression and Frontal Lobe Epilepsy topped it. Unfortunately, she was not faithful to taking her medication or even psychotherapy. This made her move back and forth. She would relapse to a deeper depression each time and slit her arms and thighs – it was utterly devastating!

Today Nthati has grown dramatically. After 15 years of back and forth, she is a walking miracle. A Walking Miracle is someone who got to the verge of losing all hope but decided to give hope one last try.

After 15 years she reports, “I have grown significantly – exponentially even. Now, I understand and love myself for I wear my scars with pride.”

She has developed a relationship with God and is faithfully taking her medication. She has become focused and driven by the love she has for her sons. In addition, she is kinder to herself and is not afraid to allow herself to grow.

The pain she went through has cultivated self-empathy and although she is not Bipolar free, she is a perfect example of how to build a monument out of the shambles pain makes out of one’s life. Most importantly, she has developed healthy emotional outlets such as prayer, therapy, her medications], music, as well as physical activity.

Nthati currently works with an NGO called Tunasafiri. The NGO is aimed at raising awareness for mental illness. She offers survivor support to people struggling with mental health disorders and her biggest dream is to participate in eradicating the notion that mental health is a myth.

Nthati has come very far in her journey. Her advice for people living with mental illness is thus,

“Take care of yourself. If it was a broken leg, you would rush to the hospital. Therefore, treat your brain with respect and pause when you have to. Adhere to your medication and talk to someone when it gets tough. When I look at myself now, I really wish I had taken my medication because I would have saved myself and those around me the heartache.”

Nthati Phakoe is indeed a Walking Miracle!


Grace Makwaza
Grace is an uprising youth activist who uses her voice to inspire and inform. She has worked internationally as the Deputy Secretary General with Model UN Impact. This is where she advocated for youth inclusivity in the implementation of the SDGs and further launched projects such as PHAHAMA MOSALI. She is currently the youngest SDGs Ambassador for the internationally renowned Global Citizens Innovative Solutions SDGs Challenge.