These days, people continue to evolve and talk about mental health. They share their struggles and even their ways on how to cope especially this pandemic. Almost everyone I know faced difficulties the past year and a half and still striving to survive and adjust to the new normal that we all face. Do you have a friend that’s facing different mental health issues? Or are you facing these issues yourself? Here, I’ll be sharing my own cup of tea because I personally am going through it. So, are you ready?
Disclaimer: Things I share here may or may not be applicable to you since we face different challenges in life. Don’t self-diagnose, I tell you. Please find the courage to consult and seek professional help.
Trigger warning: This blog post may contain suicidal ideations or thoughts that may bother you. If so, you may stop reading.
Now, where do I begin?
Facing the anxiety and braving the truth about my mental health issues
My journey of managing my mental health began when I was still in law school. I encountered and faced anxiety that would cripple me every time I would go to class. Going to class prepared was one of the most basic things you need to do while pursuing further studies. However, when anxiety hits you, you forget all the things you prepared for. When you stand up in the classroom, it seems that all you studied days before being left behind in your seat once you stand up. Hence, I would end up feeling embarrassed or ashamed that I could not answer the question entirely.
Fast forward to 2020, before the pandemic exploded in the Philippines, I scheduled a physical visit to the psych at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH). Would you believe someone like me would go out physically? Well, yes. That’s before the pandemic struck and the country went through a lockdown. Therefore, I postponed my check-up for months. By December, I saved up all courage and defeated my worries about seeing a psych, and booked for a teleconsult. That started my journey of taking care of my mental health more.
What’s next? Now, I share with you some thoughts and stories from my experience about dealing with mental health issues as well as befriending people who face the same challenges as I do.
How do you converse with people who face mental health issues?
Honestly, this feels a bit tricky especially since different people possess different personalities. You may meet people who are introverted yet you are an extrovert. Well, that’s my life right there. I befriended and adopted a lot of introverts along the way and they taught me a lot about interacting with introverts. One of the most notable things about introverts, don’t force them to talk at all. Let them open themselves up to you. The more you try or encourage them to open up to you, the more that they will shy away from you. So, if you have introverted friends, just show and send them support without forcing them so much to share their challenges with you.
I learned the hard way, believe me. In my previous version, well think of it as Maria version 1.0, I continuously talk to my introverted friends without realizing that they feel socially tired. Worse, that I drained their social battery.
So, when you plan on comforting your friends who struggle with their mental health, make them feel that you are always there. However, I remind you to take care of yourself too. When you check in on your friends, remember that you may over-extend yourself and neglect your well-being in the end.
Here are other things you can do:
- Send them memes that would ultimately cheer them up.
- Ask how they are doing.
- Share quotes or even tips on how to take care of yourselves. Reshared posts work too especially if those come from reliable sources or even mental health platforms that encounrage the wellness of people.
- Tell them stories about your day and even your struggles too. We appreciate stories from people who we could relate to.
- Invite them to virtual parties or even virtual dates to catch up outside the usual chats. Emotions are conveyed better through voice calls or video calls. Chats rarely convey the true emotions that we want to express to the people we talk to.
Debunking assumptions about mental health
I personally experienced firsthand stigma about mental health. Do you want to know what happened?
It was the time that I am on the brink of stopping law school altogether because I know my mental health began declining already. I know in myself that if I still continued it, it will just be a waste. My mental health declined as I continued. I would frequently get anxiety attacks and would manifest through tummy aches or even through acid reflux. Then, I would visit the clinic or even take meds for my tummy aches but it was more than just a mere tummy ache anymore. My mental health was already manifesting physically and I knew I need to do something about it. Slowly, I started reaching out and consulting the counselors in school but I felt it did not help me at all. To be honest, the people there are nice but not really providing enough help for my mental wellness, let alone my whole health.
Hence, I sought out a different kind of help. I asked friends in the medical field who I trusted that will know and understand what I’ve been going through. Shout out to my dear friend, Rogelio, for helping me through the dark times and for being such a trustworthy friend through and through!
What myths or assumptions did I encounter?
It will take me a while if I will tell every myth that I encountered and surely, it will bore you to death if ever! So, I will list down the few myths that I feel almost everyone could easily relate to.
Here goes nothing.
- When I shared something about my mental health to my immediate family, they sarcastically asked, “Why? Are you going crazy?” That remarked hurt me because I was just looking out for myself and they treated it negatively. I shared to them my intent of seeking professional help and that’s the response that I received.
- Just because you are seeing a psych, that does not mean you are a hopeless case.
- Pill shaming
Seeking professional help for your mental health
In my list, this proves to be one of the most challenging. It took me a number of years before I saved up the courage to seek and ask for professional help. I experienced anxiety and the denial stage that I do not need one but truly, I really did. For one to successfully seek and consult professional help, they need to acknowledge that something is not right with them. If they deny and just say, “everything is okay” well in fact it isn’t, then it is square one all over again.
My period of denial or anxiety about seeking professional help differs from the period of time that you’ll need in order to accept in yourself that you need to consult a psychiatrist. In my case, it took me years. To others, it might take them a few months before they sign up for a psych consult. That is okay. Promise!
There’s no specific timeframe that everyone should follow. Make sure you listen to yourself and evaluate yourself too when it has become too much to handle too. When you no longer are able to do your normal functions or routine, think of consulting. If work feels such a burden and waking up every day feels like a survival game, think about consulting a psych because you might be struggling with depression.
For those living in the Philippines, there are different clinics and support groups that share valuable information about mental health professionals that are open for a consult. Some of those can be found here.
End pill shaming
For someone like me who got diagnosed with depression and anxiety, my psych prescribed me anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds. I take my anti-depressants in the morning because when I take them at night, I end up struggling with sleeping. My insomnia got worse. On the other hand, my anti-anxiety meds help me calm my mind when I’m thinking or worrying about a lot of things. Plus, it gives a relaxing vibe that helps me combat insomnia. These have been helping me survive 2021 and I know I’ve been making progress ever since I got these meds.
Others may feel weirded out when people get meds for their mental health.
Think of it this way, when you have a fever, you drink paracetamol right? The same thing goes for our mental health. You rush to drink your meds whenever you feel. The same should be with your mental health. The rush to take care of it should be present. Also, please stop pill shaming. We all drink pills at some point in our lives, it will do no good, to be honest.
Be a friend to those in need
One thing I learned about engaging in different mental health communities, they always help however they can to people who need it. From a stranger, that help really helps you overcome those insecurities and anxieties that cripple you over time. Sometimes, all we need is care and reassurance that we do not usually get from the people around us.
Being a friend to those in need proves to be one of the most traditional ways of being supportive. You may feel that it may not do so much but it truly does! As someone who has been on the receiving end of it, it helped me survive a lot of humps and episodes throughout this lifetime. Plus, having a solid support system truly helps you claw your way out of your dark abyss.
Suicidal thoughts or even ideations
In some instances, people like me have suicidal thoughts or ideations. That usually happens and sometimes could be amplified by the meds that we drink. It results as a side effect. However, we sometimes feel the urge or the call to overdose by our meds themselves. Then, when we look at things that remind us why we continue to fight, we get pulled back to reality. We get reminded that people or even our pets depend on us to live and survive each day.
Now, if you worry about your friend/s who may have been withdrawing from gatherings or just simply not wanting to attend or flake last minute, I suggest that you check in on them. Remind them that they can always talk to you or even lean on you for help or comfort. Sometimes, we all need someone who’s willing to stay and listen to all of our random blabs or even bullshit.
Just be there for them, it’s enough. 😃
Here’s one of my trusted friends, Erika, sharing a piece of her mind.
We may be in our own boats, conquering and basking through the same storm. But the thing is, we differ in terms of what kind of boat we are in or what kinds of waves we are riding through. Some may be sailing a smooth ocean, while others are facing huge waves that seem perilous on their own. Nevertheless, the common denominator to all of this is that we keep our heads above weather through empathy. We never stop empathizing with others who may share the same pain and struggle as we do. Through that empathy, we survive every single day with a brave face.Erika Mae Macasinag
Everything comes to an end, right? These are some things that I feel everyone needs to know especially if they know someone who’s facing mental health problems. That way, you will know how to comfort them or co-exist with them without causing more harm or even triggering them.
Remember, that being an empathetic person will help a lot of people. Not only yourself but also the people around you, you give them the light that will guide them to find their way back home. Some may give up along the way but kudos to those who stayed until their friend or loved one conquers the dark road!
Remember, be kind to yourself and to others around you!