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Hi friends! Today’s topic is a little hard to write about, to be quite honest. I don’t want to overshare about what’s happened to me the past couple of months, but I feel like this has to be shared, to an extent, mostly to educate, but mainly for me to get this off my chest and try to live with the fact that I’m mostly not okay. And that it’s okay. I know, it’s getting confusing now. Let me discuss the topic for you clearly:
Last May of 2017 I went to a consultation with a psychiatrist. For the past couple of months I’ve been feeling wrung out; it’s like the world has squeezed so much out of me that I’ve become a husk of what I used to be. And that’s not fair. I’m a regular employee in a regular company, living a regular life with my regular family and friends. I’m not part of the military where I experience horrors people cannot even imagine, nor am I a doctor or nurse running more than 12-hour shifts. I’m not in any position to have been this burned out. I’m fine! Except I’m not. I would just lay in bed all day, wondering how the once young and vibrant me is now this dried up and weepy. It seemed a bit of an overkill, if you know what I mean. I get that I could have lost a bit of that youthful spark, because you know, I’m an adult now. Some things are not what they used to be and I have responsibilities so it’s fine if the enthusiasm for life’s dampened a little. But to completely black out to the point where I was actively thinking of peeling my skin off? Where I was thinking of killing myself? It’s a little worrying. Okay, a lot worrying.
So I went to a psychiatrist and spilled my guts out and thankfully, I got a therapist who was really kind and compassionate enough to inform me that there is something I have to fix and that she could help me, as long as I am willing to help myself. I was willing, because I have this deep-seated feeling that I deserve better. Even if I’m not the prettiest, smartest, most amazing person in the room, I am something, you know? I’m worth something. I don’t want my life to end like this. So she prescribed me medication, and I took some, and some didn’t work, but that’s okay, until I finally got to this point where the meds and I are compatible. It’s like we’re a team, battling against the evil of brain chemical imbalances.
In months of battling my bipolar disorder, there a several things I learned about myself and how mental health is perceived by the people around me. Some of these things may help you guys deal with, manage, or even understand more about mental illnesses, or it may not help you at all, but I’m going to share these anyway.
1. Mental illness in my country is still a stigma
The Philippines is a poor country. A huge percentage live below the poverty line, so it’s understandable for people to worry more about where they would get their next meal rather than deal with whatever mental issues are present around them. This way of thinking has made Filipinos ignore mental health and how they can improve it. Personally, I’ve dealt with this as some people whom I told I have bipolar disorder either shunned me or told me that it’s not that serious and that I should just get over it. Sadly, it’s not that simple, so it’s really hard for me to find a decent support system here. I’m really lucky though that I have my parents by my side and that they love and support me regardless of whatever it is that I’m dealing with.
2. It’s lonely
As there is a stigma of mental illness in my country, it’s hard to find other people dealing with the same problem. Some of them may be hiding theirs so they don’t get to be shamed and some of them may even deny that there is something amiss with them. I personally do not know anyone with bipolar disorder or depression. I have no one to talk to about my illness who can relate to what I’m saying or feeling. Because of that, I kind of feel isolated and lonely. But I guess that’s a blessing because it means no one is suffering like me.
3. Self-forgiveness is a daily activity
When you’re dealing with depression, it feels like everything is chaos and you feel that there is something fundamentally wrong with you. It’s like everything you touch turns to stone and that there’s no purpose to your life anymore. There are a lot of “so what if x, what is the point of all of this?” and “so what if y, I can die anyway and things won’t matter anymore.” When you try to heal from depression, the first thing you must do is to constantly forgive yourself for being you. For being flawed and lacking. You have to acknowledge the fact that you’re not perfect, or you’re not the ideal. You’re not the best version of yourself, and that’s okay. In fact, that’s great. Because that means you have something worth living for, that you are worth something, even if you haven’t achieved what you want to achieve. Forgiving yourself everyday is difficult, but it is something essential if you want to move past your dark days.
4. Self-care has to be a routine
Self-care is a little different, I think, for those who have mental disorders like me. I have to make sure that I take care of my hygiene and that I do my chores regularly, as I tend to enter depressive states that leave me just laying around doing nothing. Because of that, I often neglect doing the most basic things, like taking a bath or brushing my teeth or cleaning my room. I know, disgusting, so what I do is I keep a tracker to make sure that I do these things everyday. My bullet journal is particularly helpful. I have a daily and weekly tracker there that specifies the tasks I am supposed to do. Making sure I do them has been more enticing as it means I get to mark a check sign on the days I accomplish them.
5. Meds and therapy are not enough; you must also exercise, eat well, and have a steady support system
As it says on the tin, medication and visits to the psychiatrist are not enough to heal. You must also develop a routine that will help you strengthen your mental well-being. It’s long been proven that a good diet and exercise enhances health and happiness, so incorporating the two in your life will help improve your mood. I know mine has. I’ve been exercising every other day and eating moderately, and I’ve already seen improvements in my mood. Aside from a balanced diet and exercise, if possible, you must also have a steady support system. You must have people you can talk to about what you’re feeling so that it doesn’t build up inside of you. You must have people supporting you in your journey to be well and not drag you down in negativity.
6. The illness may never go away
I used to think that after a few months of diligently taking my meds and talking to a psychiatrist, my illness would go away, like the flu. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. I may have this disorder for the rest of my life, and the idea of that really terrified me at first. It’s so hard having to deal with a mental illness. You’re always tired and you miss out on a lot of things in life, from the smallest things like social gatherings to bigger ones like milestones. That’s because you’re always busy trying to keep yourself together all the time. So it’s hard to admit to yourself that you’re going to have to live your life with your illness. At this point though, I’m slowly accepting the fact and I’m doing my best to live my life to the fullest despite my disorder.
Mental illness is a difficult thing to deal with, and sometimes you have to sacrifice a lot of things for your well-being. The most important thing though is that you have to take care of yourself and prioritize what is good for you. You have to constantly choose what’s best for your health. For me, that’s the only way to survive and live well.
What about you guys? What lessons have you learned regarding mental health? How are you coping with having one or having family members or friends who are dealing with the same problem? I’d love to hear your thoughts about the topic.