Monday, May 4, 2015

May 3 to 9: Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week--Because it's not "all in our heads" #MHActNow

Depression Awareness Ribbon
Depression Awareness Ribbon
Anxiety Awareness Ribbon
Anxiety Awareness Ribbon

May 3 to 9 is National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week and I think it's fitting that I talk about these things because I actually suffer from them--and it would be nice to try to open up our minds to the reality of these conditions.

You see, here's the thing: A lot of people, especially in this country, often think that these conditions are just "all in the head"; that they're not "real"; that they're "drama lang". Sure, it might look that way at times, but the truth is so much different from that. 

Let me tell you a little something about these conditions. Look at the two circles below.

So, the first circle you see is all about Anxiety. Anxiety is so terrible that you get to have all these thoughts in your mind--all at the same time. I'll give you an example:
1. You think about what you'll tell your boyfriend when you see him later; as in you rehearse in your head the sentences you want to say.
2. You think about what your cats have in mind.
3. You think about which photo you're going to upload on Instagram.
4. You think about something that hurt you a while ago.
5. You think about something that hurt you ages ago. 
6. You think about how hot it is, or about maybe doing something wrong at work, or about not getting paid or losing money (even when there's no basis),about seeing people you hate, about hearing their names, about other stuff.... 
...and so on and so forth.
And all these things are in your head ALL AT THE SAME TIME. So, just imagine how that feels. And imagine how it would feel when something doesn't happen according to what you have in mind--like scheduling conflicts, or things that would just pop up. (I actually do like surprises when they're good but when things kind of disrupt my schedule, and these things are not those "happy birthday surprises" or whatever, they could really make me cringe)

It's so, so, so not easy. And people can say stuff like, "Oh, it's all in your head, lalala. Oh, there's no basis to that". YES, WE DO KNOW THAT. I do know that. And that's the thing--Anxiety plays with your mind like that. It makes you so fearful. It makes you feel like you're not yourself anymore and you have no idea what happens next.

On the other hand, the second circle is an illustration of how Depression feels like. It makes you feel empty. It drains you of any energy you have and literally makes you not want to stand up from bed. It makes you want to cry for no reason at all--or for all the reasons in the world. 

Imagine going back and forth between these two. It's so exhausting. It's so exhausting but you have to fight it. It's so exhausting but you still have to live your life because it's all you have.

I think I started having Depression at age 4 or 5. I remember packing my bags at that age, actually wanting to leave home. I remember feeling like, "this isn't what I want". (Told you, I grew up early) And, over time, it just grew worse. And the worst part is that in a family who believes in traditions, who are you know, full of norms and all that, it's hard to make them understand that it's something that you do not want to happen--and yet it happens. 

The anxiety also worsened over time. There were times (especially back in college) when I just wouldn't be able to sleep; times when I'd cry myself to death, and even hurt myself. Even now, there are days when I couldn't help but feel like escaping; like I just want it all to end because it's so, so, so exhausting. And it is an everyday battle. 

The pain is physical, too. Your chest tightens, you feel like you're literally gonna die. Your head aches, you get flushes, your blood boils, you feel so bad. You don't want to hear sounds; you don't wanna hear any noise. You want the world to be quiet. You want to have peace. 

For years, I really, really wanted to die. There would be times when I'd take more medicine than I could handle because I couldn't stand the pain anymore. But, I'm still here--still fighting.

Some 3 years ago, I had a breakdown, was brought to the hospital and all that. My mom said didn't believe that there's "something wrong with me", even though she almost always said that while I was growing up; that I wasn't normal, etc. It also hurt when you'd hear things like, "Oh, this didn't happen", or "Oh your memory's wrong". It's about a refusal to get help, because there's a stigma that when you have these conditions, you're "INSANE". And I guess, I understand why it's hard for her to accept that so eventually, I really had to leave home. It's toxic. A house isn't always a home. Your family won't always be there for you; won't always accept you--sad, but true. 

No, I didn't write this to get pity or whatever. And it's also not because I want to put the blame on my family. One thing that most people don't understand is that it's really not the fault of the people around you--and it's not your fault, too. But, that shouldn't become a reason for people to think that "it's all in your head". I wrote this because I want to help some people understand that hey, this happens.

We celebrate people with Cancer, right? We know it's not their fault. So, why can't we celebrate people who actually try to fight their mental illnesses, too? Just because someone has a mental condition doesn't mean that he's crazy; that he's making it all up. Just because we can't see the symptoms doesn't mean it isn't real. Just because you can't feel the pain doesn't mean that it isn't there.

On another note, it's sad that there's no Mental Health Bill in the Philippines--see how stigmatized these conditions are? But we can try to change things.

This week is just one week to try to understand Anxiety and Depression, but it's always more than that. For us who suffer from these conditions, and those who suffer other mental conditions, it's an everyday battle. All we need is a little bit of your understanding. All we need is acceptance.

Because really, that matters a lot. It really does. 

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