Few months ago, back in my old room in Bondi Beach, I was supposed to wake up for a breakfast shift for my hotel training. I woke up at 5:00 AM… actually, no. I stayed awake until 5:00 AM. For several months, my anxiety has worsened.  I have been staring at the ceiling for more than a few hours. I have been crying myself to sleep. I have been anxious beyond the usual. I knew I couldn’t function like this so I called my supervisor and sent an e-mail to my training coordinator. I was NOT OK, so I finally decided to check with my GP.

I sat in the cold room. I was sleepless. My head was heavy, and I was sweating so bad though it was a cold winter afternoon in Sydney. “What triggered this depression and anxiety?” he asked. “Did you transfer to a new house which might have added to your stress?” I nodded. “I transferred to a new house, doctor. I transferred to a new campus, and I have a new job. I have to wake up at 3 in the morning. On top of that, I was diagnosed few months ago that I have a brain cyst, and I am going through divorce.” He shrugged and stopped for a while, his left hand covering his mouth. “Oh my… most patients who suffer from anxiety disorder have a trigger or two. You have more than five. Have you been sleeping? How’s your sleep?” Dr. Condoleon asked. I shook my head. “I can’t sleep. The slightest sounds wake me up. I can hear the wind at night. I can hear the trickle of water from the kitchen faucet.” The doctor wrote something on a piece of paper and gave me a prescription. He also added I should go through counselling.

 

Since then, I have been taking anti-depressants and sleep medications. My school had been very supportive as they gave me a leave of absence and access to private counselling services. However, it didn’t stop there. I carried on with life, but my zigzag emotions and cloudy mind always took toll on my daily activities. There’s one thing I wanted to do. I wanted to go home. I wanted to see Mom and feel the comforts of my own house. I thought maybe I would be better if I was in my comfort zone. I went back home in Manila, but my anxiety was still there. I was either too happy, or too sad, but mostly on the depressed side. I needed someone to adjust my medications. I truly believed they helped. I decided to see a psychiatrist. To cut the story short, I was diagnosed with a disorder that I never thought I would have. I thought it was simply “Major Depressive Disorder with Anxious Distress”. Apparently, my thrill-seeking disposition and my impulsive behavior are symptoms and episodes of my hypomania. My sudden depression and anxiety are depressive episodes associated with my final diagnosis. I was clinically diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 2 with Hypomania, and up until this moment, I am taking mood stabilizers, anti-depressants, and sleep medications.

It wasn’t easy at first, but as I held on to my support system and as I tried to embrace this disorder, I finally accepted it. However, it’s not as easy as ABC. Every day is a struggle for me. As I open my eyes in the morning, I would ask myself… “Are we OK today?” Simply balancing your mood and trying to keep it level is draining.

I am writing this not because I want sympathy, but I want to share my experiences to the public. Mental Health Awareness in the Philippines has been a socially relevant issue as much as HIV and Vaccinations. The stigma has to stop. NO, we’re not crazy (or at least, thankfully, not yet). NO, not everyone who has a mental disorder has a suicidal tendency. In fact, I now have a disability ID that says I have a Mental and Psychosocial Disability, but this doesn’t mean that we can’t function and contribute much in the society. My 2019 Advocacy is to spread more about Mental Health Awareness by writing about my symptoms, my triggers, how my diagnosis affected my daily life, and how we could help and support those who suffer Mental Disorders. There’s this thing called High Functioning Mental Disorder, and I believe I’m one of them. I still do function like usual, it’s just that my disorder has limited my ability to control my emotions and moods. I am too excitable, yet on depressive days, I feel no interest to do anything at all. Let us all try to stop the stigma and be aware that chemical imbalances in the brain exist. Believe me. You can’t just tell someone to pray (I pray 3 times a day); it’s not just about having a positive outlook (I travel a lot and I have dreams, but on depressive days, nothing seems to work). Having a disorder like mine is a physical impairment that is not visible to our naked eyes. My dreams and my loved-ones are worth the fight!

If you have a story to tell, or we share the same advocacies… Keep me posted. Let’s collaborate! Looking forward to hearing from you!