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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Inversely proportional

I've encountered this term several times when I was still in school. It's used in physics. It's used in mathematics. And now, I realize, it can be used in my daily struggle with my mood and emotions.

I've been thinking a lot about this, and I have come to this conclusion: My highs are inversely proportional to my lows. I don't know how high my mood should be for it to be considered a manic or hypomanic episode. But all I know is if I'm not wallowing in despair, I talk loudly, spewing out witty and funny comments with an unbridled energy. It's as if I don't run out of jokes and witty retorts. I make people laugh, especially my housemates in the boarding house. I love being in this kind of state, although I wish I hadn't spilled water over one of my housemates the other day while I was spewing out these spiels and wanted to demonstrate something funny. 

But this state scares me, because I know that when the energy and laughter have died, it will be followed by a deep downswing. It can come hours after this high, or at times, minutes after this high. My mood will slide and before I know it, I've hit rock bottom. Again. For the nth time. 

And when I am in this state, everything is a struggle. Waking up is a struggle. Getting out of bed is a struggle. Doing anything is a struggle. I don't want to go out. I don't want to be around people. I just want to stay at the boarding house with my housemates or go see PM, my boyfriend. 

Then, my mood would lift, but it wouldn't last long. I would again exchange funny banters with my housemates. My energy would be at an all-time high. Then, my mind would be so active that I would work like a beast until the wee hours of the morning. 

When I work at night, I don't take my meds until I'm done. Maybe it's the reason why my mind becomes active and I feel that I can do anything and everything. There's nothing that can knock me down and sleep. I can go and be a machine. 

And then again, when all these is over after a few hours, I would plunge again. The higher my energy was during my active moments, the deeper I would sink into depression. 

Maybe this is what having a bipolar disorder really is about. My psychiatrist Dr. G once told me that she doesn't see me having manic or hypomanic episodes, but she thinks it's because I am taking medicines for bipolar disorder (Quetiapine and Lamotrigine). I think it's also because when I see her, I'm usually in a depressive episode. She doesn't see me every day. She doesn't see me talk loudly and expel jokes one after another. She doesn't see how noisy and energetic I am when I am not having a depressive episode. 

I am supposed to see her today, but she has to attend a conference, so I have to wait until my next scheduled appointment, which is on Nov. 9. I wish she didn't need to attend to that conference, because I want to see her. I want to report to her everything that has been happening to me. I want to know her thoughts on this. 

I have to hang on. I have no other choice, even if these daily ups and downs are driving me nuts. 

Friday, October 14, 2016


Do you feel this, too? You're surrounded by a lot of people, each of them in their respective circles, but you don't belong to any. You're able to talk to different people at different times, but when the small talk has died down, you're left on your own. Or you simply feel that you're not a part of a group you're supposed to be a part of.

This has been happening to me recently, and when I can't take it anymore, I ask myself, "Do I see and feel these things because of my psychiatric condition? Am I being too aware of my inner thoughts and emotions that I come up with different interpretations of certain events? But a friend of mine told me not to blame my condition. Some people are just like that--they live in an exclusive bubble.

I've been in this place before. I've experienced being an outcast in school, with only one or two friends. Back then, I endured all their parinig. I endured their whispering behind my back. I endured all the things they (some of teachers included) did to put me down. I was 12. Now, I'm 28, and I can't believe I am again experiencing how it is to not belong to anything.

Every day, I do my best to set aside this feeling and instead focus on my tasks, on what I am supposed to do. But sometimes, it becomes overwhelming that I find yourself crying at midnight and wishing I have someone to talk to but, unfortunately, all my friends are already asleep.

Last week, my therapy session went great. Again, I wasn't a disaster when I got out of the clinic. There was no crying, there was no meltdown. In fact, I felt proud of myself because I was able to identify recent events and thoughts as cognitive distortions and what I did about them. I thought things would get better. But then, as what usually happens, I'd be feeling great for maybe three to five days, then something would happen that would ruin everything, and I'd be back to zero. And I would be zero for weeks and it would go on and on and on, until the next three- to-five-day period of stability, and then I would go back to zero again.

Three Sundays ago, I opened up to a friend about my insecurities and everything that I am experiencing. I was pleasantly surprised because even if we're not particularly close, he took time to listen to me and offer kind words. I felt that wow, there's an additional person out there who gets me. Yey! It is during these moments that I feel I am not alone, which is ironic. When I am surrounded by people, I feel alone because I am not part of their circle. When I am literally alone and I am talking to friends through FB messenger or text, that's when I feel that I have company.

Maybe I feel this way not because I have a psychiatric condition, but because I trust the wrong people. And I trust the wrong people because I think that they have even a small amount of empathy in their system. Apparently, some (if not all) of them have none. I guess it's hard to ask that of people.

Maybe the best thing for me to do is not to be so hard on myself and stop blaming myself for everything that I see and feel. I may have a psychiatric condition, but I have a fully functioning mind and heart. I am not making things up. People are just showing their true colors, and now, I am seeing them for what and who they really are.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

What type are you?

A friend once told me that he didn't see me as the type who listens to Paramore (he didn't mean anything bad by this, by the way. It was just an honest observation :) ). He said he pegged me as more of a Taylor Swift fan. Well, I am a Taylor Swift fan, a Demi Lovato fan, AND a Paramore fan.

A classmate back in college once told me that she didn't think I am the type who throws and breaks things when angry. Well, I am. In a fit of rage, whenever my dad and I would fight, I would break almost anything that I touched. I had broken almost everything that was on my desk in my room at home. In a fit of rage, I even broke plastic storage boxes, which were supposed to be unbreakable. I once threw my cellphone across my room. Good thing it didn't break.

When another friend learned that I'm dealing with bipolar disorder and depression, she told me she didn't see me as the type who would have these struggles. For her, I am a jolly person. Which I am. I can exchange jokes with people. I can talk to people at events. I can introduce a friend to my other friends and professional contacts and make them talk to each other and exchange contact information. She meant it as a compliment, and I took it as such.

But looks, as they say, can be deceiving. Not everyone who wears a smile has rays of sunshine inside. In my case, I do wear a smile. I have sunny days. But I have a lot of rainy days, stormy days, days when everything feels like a tornado. Most of the time, my soul feels like it's in an eternal winter solstice--nights are long and dark while days are short. And on those nights, there's no moon or any star in sight. It's just plain, black darkness.

There are times when dark thoughts linger in my mind. Sometimes, these thoughts are about what it would be like when I'm gone from this world. And then, I'd feel scared because I'm afraid of death itself. I still want to live. But aside from this, other dark thoughts also linger in my mind, thoughts that aren't as dangerous as death but are just as powerful in pulling me down. When I think and feel that I am inadequate, when I think and feel that there's nothing "special" in what I do because everybody else can do it anyway, I feel down. It's as if I am not doing enough.

This plain, black darkness keeps me up at night. Without my meds, I won't be able to sleep. That's why it was I and my cousin (who was studying law and who was comfortable reading at night) who worked the "night shift" during our grandmother's wake. Our parents and aunts would sleep at night, while my cousin and I would stay awake. Then I would take my meds by 2 or 3 am when one of the grown-ups was ready to continue the "shift."

This is insomnia, and this is not healthy. Insomnia got me through college, when 24 hours isn't enough to finish all my academic requirements and things I had to do for my college org. I was able to survive with just four hours of sleep, or even less, daily. But this isn't a healthy way to live. And when you're dealing with psychiatric conditions, it is best to have a regular sleeping schedule, as advised by my boyfriend who is a doctor.

When I still wasn't seeking treatment, and dark and sad thoughts would occupy my mind, I would cry for no reason. This would probably come as no surprise to other people because it is pretty much an established fact that I am the type who cries a lot. I am the type who cries at movies even if the movie is a jolly, animated film. I am the type who cries when I feel cornered. I am the type who cries because I easily get hurt. I am the type who cries and breaks down when filled with overwhelming sadness or anger or rage. But people never saw me as the type who would have a psychiatric condition.

Once, when I bought my meds at one of the leading drugstores in the country, the pharmacy assistant told me that I didn't look like I am taking those meds. He probably meant it as a compliment, but anger and disappointment and sadness did cartwheels in my mind so fast that I wasn't able to process what I was really feeling at that moment. I just smiled and let out a short "haha" then left. Because really, what is someone who's dealing with psychiatric issues supposed to look like? Who or what is the type who has these conditions? And when you're a pharmacy assistant handing out medicines to anyone who's afflicted with any kind of illness, shouldn't you just keep these types of opinions to yourself?

This made me realize that we really have a lot of work to do to raise awareness about mental health issues. It's still a taboo. We can't talk about it openly. A lot of people are still afraid to step forward and tell a friend or someone else that they're dealing with something invisible, something dark, something that cannot be explained. Even I didn't tell a soul when I first sought treatment. Then slowly, I opened up to a few people, until I started writing about it here in my blog last November.

This is the type of issue that we should be talking about. It's not the type of issue that we can just sweep under the rug and pretend that it doesn't exist. It's not the type of issue that only a few people should care about.

So the next time someone tells me that I am not the type who has a psychiatric condition, I'll politely tell that person that psychiatric conditions don't have a particular face. They have no specific look. But we can do something specific about them, and that is to seek professional help.