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May is Mental Health Awareness month.

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I don’t talk about my ordeal openly because I honestly still don’t have a complete grasp of it. Every episode feels fresh and the medication can only do so much. Nature-nurture. No matter how many pills I down every day if the root issue/s from my environment persist, things just fall into a cycle.

I am grateful to have found the courage to get medical help last year. For years I thought I was just having mood swings, a bad attitude, pollution causing other health issues. But the mood swings got worse, I kept getting allergies and body pains out of nowhere, I was very angry inside most of the time. I started to dislike being around crowds. I avoided friends, flaked on countless dinners, basically just stopped showing up. I spent weeks on 1 to 2-hour naps because I couldn’t sleep. I had fits of crying in the middle of my commute, while doing chores, while trying to fall asleep. I disliked a lot of the drawings I did. Personal work was painstaking to do. I couldn’t figure it out but I took all the blame. Whatever it was, it must be my fault somehow, because what else could it be? I had survived on the faith of other people in me because I didn’t have a lot of that for myself anymore.

One night, sitting in a jeepney on the way home, it dawned on me that I wanted to just be gone. I just wanted to not to be anywhere anymore. I didn’t want to take my life, it wasn’t really about the verb, the process, but I got it. I understood why other people did it. That was when I knew I needed help.

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There was a lot of crying during that first trip to the doctor. Nobody had ever been that serious in asking me those questions about myself before. About my family, my relationship with others, what I like and dislike about my life. And somehow, because I knew that it was to a scientific and objective end that these were being asked, there was this big wave of relief. A) I finally told someone about those things and B) not everything was my fault. I had been carrying this burden upon myself when I didn’t need to. It was the first time in my life I had been told that not all of the problems of the adults in my life are my problems. That I don’t have to blame myself for everything. That I’m not wrong every time. That I don’t have to be sorry for all the little things.

“It’s important to give it a name,” the doctor said. “And to figure out where it’s coming from and why it’s here. That’s how you fight it.”

I really, really disliked my pills. I used to take a couple, with one that made me feel like a zombie every waking hour of my life. There’s only just one now, but I still dislike taking my meds though it does the job.

A common misconception about anti-depressants is it’s an almighty magic happy pill that changes your life completely, and you come out the other end the happiest person you can ever be. It doesn’t work that way. At least speaking from my own experience, this is very false. You know that there’s-nothing-really-going-on-today okay feeling you get on a ordinary uneventful day? That is the bare minimum. My meds, at the very least, help me get out of bed in the morning and stay on a functioning wavelength until all the day’s work and interactions are done, then I sleep. Wash, rinse, repeat. I know sooner or later I would have to explore a more sustainable way to cope that doesn’t involve medication, but for now this is what I can afford with money and time.

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I spent the past year feeling my way into the new system. I had to change habits and slowly reconnect with people I avoided the past year/s. Until now I still get sudden episodes but I am more aware of them now, and as much as I can I try to do something to counter the feeling or to calm myself down. While I still can’t bring myself to tell my family about this, my friends who know have been very supportive. They made for a healthy environment where I can talk about myself without feeling judged or isolated or damaged.

On top of everything, I got myself into an Official Relationship™ with a very comfortable person. The whole thing just very quietly fell into place. This is my first relationship after many, many years of not getting myself to trust anyone enough to date them at all. It still surprises me sometimes because here I am at my worst, and yet.

There is no complete cure for mental illnesses, I think. But there’s overcoming. On my best days I remind myself to be determined to pick myself off the floor, and get my life together as much as I can, given the circumstances, given whatever chemical imbalance. Of course, it’s so much easier written on a journal entry than done, but I like to keep my spirits up during moments like this when I’m not glued to the bed and when I actually can think straight and form coherent sentences.

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One of the more important things I’ve been learning about is how to be more sensitive to others’ concerns and feelings. It’s tricky because it’s hard to set expectations from other people who can’t understand what I’m going through, in the same way that I can’t understand it myself. I just try to be as patient as I can, and keep trying to see the bigger picture. A lot of stuff don’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

That is my little story for now. It’s no professional account or legit advice. I have no long-term experience to share or super wise words to bestow. Kwentuhan lang.

Friends, it is my hope that you are all in a good place right now. Today, this is painful for me to say because it hasn’t been a very good day for me. In any case, my email is open for you 24/7 if you need someone to talk to. I can also refer you to my doctor (he is in QC) if you’re ready or if you think you need medical attention.

For those who have loved ones who are in the same situation as I am, please know that they will not reach out at will even though you tell them everyday to do so. If anything, it gets annoying.  Here is a useful article about how to help your troubled friends and family.

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Filed under: most days

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graphic designer, illustrator, maker of things

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