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Monday, June 6, 2016

Just like Audrey

My chick lit streak hasn't ended yet. Or should I say, my Sophie Kinsella streak hasn't ended yet. I've mentioned before that "serious" writers may frown at my choice of books, but what the heck. I've been dealing with depressive episodes and bouts of anxiety that all I want is to be entertained. I want to laugh. I want to free my mind from all the stress, even if it's just temporary.

Anyway, I've finished Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic series up to Mini Shopaholic. Those books were hilarious. Then, I tried reading another chick lit novel by another writer, but I didn't like it that much, so I went back to Sophie Kinsella and read Undomestic Goddess and Can You Keep a Secret?. These books were hilarious too that I found myself laughing while reading.

Now, I'm reading Sophie Kinsella's Finding Audrey. When I saw the synopsis, I knew this book was something I could appreciate not just because it's funny. Finding Audrey is a young adult novel about Audrey, a 14-year-old girl who has Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, and depressive episodes. As a person struggling with mental illness, this is something I can relate to.

Audrey wears dark sunglasses even when indoors or even when it's raining and she's outside. She finds it hard to make eye contact with people (even with her family), let alone talk to them. Talking to a stranger (even if it's her brother's best pal) gives her panic attacks. Her psychiatrist gives her projects to help her overcome her anxiety. I haven't finished reading the book. But the chapter where I'm at tells how Audrey is filming activities in her house and interviewing people so she could practice communicating with them without making eye contact. That's the project her psychiatrist asked her to do.

I can definitely relate to Audrey's panic attacks. Encountering (or sometimes, even merely thinking of) certain people sends my brain into panic, as if all my brain cells and nerves have been fired up. My fight-or-flight response is immediately activated, and my brain automatically chooses flight. And by flight, I mean breaking down into a catastrophic flood of tears despite religiously taking my mood stabilizers (a combination of anti-psychotic and anti-epileptic medicines).

This is how I panic, just like Audrey. I don't wear dark sunglasses, but now I wish I do, not because I can't make eye contact. I want to cover my eyes so people won't see me at the verge of tears. I want to cover my eyes so I have time to make a mad dash to the bathroom before I break down. And at times, I want to cover my eyes so people won't see the fury in my eyes when they piss me off.

I think I also need to do a project to overcome all my issues, just like Audrey. Maybe this is where I can channel my creativity and make something good out of my situation.

Friday, June 3, 2016

What feeling small feels like

It has been a month since I last wrote here. And in those weeks, a lot has happened. Or maybe not a lot. Just... significant.

I've been to a couple of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with my new psychiatrist, Dr. Evelyn Gapuz. She's a kind and caring doctor and not intimidating (well, I think she should not be intimidating. Hehe). Over those sessions, I've once again told my story--my childhood and adolescent experiences up to the time when I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. which morphed into a more accurate diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

I can't talk about all these experiences without shedding a tear or two. Okay, without crying. Even if it has been years (heck, decades!) since those unpleasant experiences, they still resonate as though they just happened yesterday. And I can still remember them, small details and all.

On my second session, I was asked to answer a form called depression index (I forgot the exact name of the form). Each item consists of four statements that describes a range of emotions and situations, from mild to extreme. It's something like this: I feel happy and good about myself; I feel bad at times; I often feel terrible; I feel like a train wreck all the time. Something like that. And then, I am tasked to tick the box that closely resonated with my experience over the past two weeks.

I didn't know if I was to answer it casually, without thinking about each item too much, just like those psychological or personality tests we answer in school. There was no time limit though, so I took my time answering each item, reflecting carefully on what I had been feeling for the past two weeks. When I gave Dr. Gapuz my form, I thought she would study it already and give me her assessment. But she didn't. Maybe I would here of her assessment on my next session.

The one thing that she picked up from my narration of experiences is how insecure I am of other people. In every stage of my life, there's always one person I'm insecure of. Some people might find this surprising because I was never the shy type. When I was a student, I was active in class recitations. I used to volunteer for certain tasks. I used to lead prayers, was a reader whenever there's a holy mass. Even in college, I share my opinions and comments with rest of the class.

But deep inside, I feel so small. An orgmate of mine in college once asked my why I underestimate myself. Maybe it's because of my fear of getting frustrated with myself. I never aimed to be the best (if by some sort of miracle I become the best at something, then,well, great!) because I was scared of failing. "If you can't be the best, be a little better than the rest." This quote was my mantra. I just want to be a little better than the rest. It's okay if I'm the bridesmaid, never the bride. It's okay if I'm second, or third, or whatever.

And yet, when I see people (classmates, batchmates, even friends) who seem to have it all, I feel small. I feel unaccomplished--that my vocabulary is not wide enough; that my singing voice is problematic; that I'm not really good at playing musical instruments; that my diction is horrible; that I'm not smart enough to comprehend a certain theory that everyone else understands; and so on. I often ask the universe, "Why do some people have it all? And why do some of us don't have much (and I don't mean money)?"

"You shouldn't compare yourself with others," says everyone on earth. Yes, I agree, but it's easier said than done. Especially when you've felt small practically all your life. Especially when you've been bullied in school. Especially when you've experienced teachers discouraging you and putting you down instead of giving moral support. Especially when you've experienced being hated by everyone in class (or at least, the "queen bees") that you don't want to go to school anymore and your grades have suffered. Who would emerge all bright and shining from those experiences?

Based on everything that I've told her, Dr. Gapuz has come to the conclusion that I am insecure of others over these two things: talents and intelligence. That feeling of not being good enough because, well, somebody else does it so effortlessly well. And then, my time was up--this will be discussed on my next session (which I only have a tentative schedule of because Dr. Gapuz will be gone for a month for further studies abroad).

Dr. Gapuz's conclusion made me look at myself in a different light. Talents and intelligence--I'm not lacking on those departments (people have said). I don't know what to make of this, actually. But I think it's good that we've established the things that make me so insecure. And I need to "fix" this; otherwise, I won't be able to advance in life.

So that's it for now. I'm still taking the same dosage of meds (300mg of Quetiapine, 150mg of Lamotrigine). So far, this dosage has been making me stable. I haven't had full-blown, catastrophic depressive episodes lately. Or maybe this is just temporary. That was last month. I don't know about next week. Or tomorrow. Anyway, maybe I should have only the present to think about.