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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Little achievements

Yesterday, I had another session again with Dr. G, my psychiatrist. She had to attend a conference two or three weeks ago, so my appointment (as well as others') got postponed. Thankfully, I managed to secure a slot in her schedule yesterday.

I wrote here before that I lent her my personal journal--my purple journal with an elephant in front. It was the journal I had been keeping before Dr. G gave me a homework of keeping a thought journal that follows the CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) format. Yesterday, she returned my purple journal. "Thank your entrusting it to me," she said. I think she read the entire journal that's why she wasn't able to return it to me sooner. I was a little surprised because I thought she would just browse through it, but she read it. And I appreciate it.

For the second time, I didn't emerge from her clinic as disaster. After my session last month, I didn't emerge as a disaster either. This counts as an achievement for me. It makes me feel that even if I frequently have depressive episodes, there are days when the sun shines on me. In fact, I haven't had a major depressive episode lately. Sure, I do get visited by anger, frustration, and anxiety, but there are days when a dose of happiness and calm comes knocking on my door. And I let it in.

I showed my thought journal to Dr. G yesterday. My thought journal now has doodles and letterings, aside from the usual narrative text that I write there. I don't know how to draw, but it doesn't matter. My thought journal isn't just a homework. It's another venue for me to express my thoughts and emotions, which Dr. G and I analyze every session.

I am to see her again mid-December (that is, if someone cancels). She told me yesterday that perhaps, she can start weaning me off my meds if I keep being in this calm and stable state. That means, if I won't have depressive episodes in the coming weeks, she can start decreasing my dosage little by little (and maybe take one medicine out of the three that I am taking). I hope it happens.

Aside from this small achievement of mine, another thing that makes me happy is the fact that some of my friends have started talking about their psychiatric struggles on social media. That they, too, are openly talking about it. That makes me happy, because why do we have to hide in the dark and talk about our struggles in hushed tones? It's about time that we break this stigma. When my friend Pam and I started talking about our condition in our respective blogs, there's a part of us that hopes we can make a difference--even just a tiny difference. Or even just a dent in our friends' lives, a dent that will prompt them to feel that they are not alone, and it is okay to talk about their struggles. That there is someone out there who is in the same boat and who is willing to listen.

And because of this blog, these people didn't just find me. I also found them. That's why I keep writing on this blog of mine as honestly as I can. You don't know how happy I am when people send me messages that say they read my blog. I am not doing this for page views or likes. I am doing this to share my story (and consequently, myself). It's my way of saying, "Hello there, you're not alone."

The Philippine Psychiatric Association is pushing for the passage of the Mental Health Act through this petition. The Department of Health is prioritizing mental health (read the article here). If you have a few minutes to spare, I hope you could sign the petition. Let's help spread awareness and break the stigma.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

A year of sharing

November 4, 2015. This was the day my friend Pam and I first wrote about our struggle with mental illness on our respective blogs. Fighting an invisible war, as I had called it. I have, since that day, written about my experience of dealing with bipolar disorder. I didn't hold anything back (and I am not planning to). I have opened myself up to the world. I have let myself become vulnerable. And I have shown how I can be both weak and strong at the same time--weak in often succumbing to a variety of triggers that pull me into a dark, downward spiral, but also strong in a sense that I still manage to hold on even to the thinnest of strings that connect me to my sanity.

To be at war with one's own mind is probably one of the most difficult battles out there. For how can you protect yourself from your own thoughts? How can you shield yourself from your mind's violent attacks that cut, wound, bruise, and maim you? Oftentimes, I just want to lock myself in a bathroom stall or hide under my pillows and blankets just so I would feel protected from the vicious attacks of my chaotic mind. But every day, every time my phone alarm rings, I know I will be facing another 24 hours of unpredictable moods.

Whenever people send me messages of support on Facebook, I can't help but be thankful. But I think the most beautiful thing that came out of my blogging about my condition is how friends of mine became open to talking about their respective struggles. Mental health and mental illness are, let's face it, still considered taboo and are not openly talked about. Even I didn't tell a soul when I first sought the help of a psychologist (and later on, a psychiatrist). But when everything got so overwhelming and the thought that what if someone out there is looking for company dawned on me, I decided to write about my own struggles on my blog so in my own way, I could tell that someone that hey, I'm here and we're on the same boat.

I've been receiving psychiatric treatment for a year and a half already. I am not in a position to assess myself, to say if I have improved or not. But all I can say is that I saw and felt the difference between my pre-treatment self and my current self. My medicines have done a great deal in improving my mood, even if I still sink into depression from time to time. I swing back and forth, from being okay to not being okay, from being terribly anxious and restless to being calm, from being happy and cheerful to being down. I swing back and forth every single day. This is the reality of my condition that I have come to accept.

But God is kind, and He has sent angels my way. I have my boyfriend PM, who has absorbed a great deal of all this; my hotline friend Pam, whose number I dial whenever I am in an emotional emergency; my family, who tries their very best to understand me; my aunt who has been so generous in giving me financial support; and other people from whom I've received kind and encouraging words.

This war may be invisible, but it doesn't mean we have to fight it alone. Let us not live in fear and shame. Let's get all the help that we need, and let's be there for each other. The whole world may ignore us, may judge us even, but if we have each other, we got this.