First of all, I am thankful to my friends who appreciated this idea of sharing stories of people struggling with a mental illness. I am happy that Migo’s story touched other people’s hearts. Something as simple as sharing a story can have a powerful effect. When an experience of another is shared with you, it can provide you with a deeper understanding of what life has to offer. Through this awareness, we can help each other shift our consciousness into a higher level which will in the future allow us to contribute with more beneficial interactions to the society. We don’t learn by just ourselves. We learn from each other.
The second person I interviewed for the Share your story project is Phil. Phil is a friend I met through a support group having a similar interest in photography. Interviewing him wasn’t planned. Nonetheless, I am grateful he entrusted me with his story.
Tell me about yourself.
I’m 26 years old and I was diagnosed with bipolar 1 and social anxiety disorder.
When did it start?
If I’m going to look at my past experiences, I would say my symptoms started maybe around the age of 11; however, I only became aware of the term social anxiety disorder in 2013 when I was 23 years old. I felt that something was wrong about me so I tried to search on the internet about social anxiety until I stumbled upon different groups. I found out about the social anxiety support website. Then one day, I found a link which led me to ADSP (Anxiety and Depression Support Philippines).
Before, I thought that maybe I was just naturally shy so I tried to find out whether I really had social anxiety by leaving our home and going to Batangas alone when I was 23 years old. I didn’t know anyone there. I tried to work and live independently there but I felt that something in me was really different. My work was to handle delivery in SM. It was such a struggle for me going everyday to work. I cried before going to work and when I came home after work. I was really having a hard time with people. I told myself that something was really wrong. I only lasted my job for 1 month and 1 week. I went to Batangas because I tried to separate myself from the illness but I couldn’t do it. It was something that was an inescapable part of me. That was my first and last job. After that, I went back to Manila. It was the time I decided to seek help and was officially diagnosed with social anxiety disorder. I was started with medications Sertraline and Xanor.
So after I joined the support group (ADSP), I got to know many people and at the same time, they were the ones who helped me understand what I’ve been going through and also helped me how to socialize and get along with other people. They were a big help to me.
After 2 years, I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1. It’s like when I was studying in college, I have always been like that. I had extreme mood shifts. I also noticed I had a difference in my sleeping pattern, thinking, speech and behavior. I wasn’t really aware or I didn’t have an idea what it meant have Bipolar disorder. From the start, my concern was my social anxiety and that was the reason why I sought for help.
There came a point where I couldn’t sleep and I was thinking too much. I didn’t sleep for around 3 days and was becoming paranoid of people. I started hurting myself by punching myself or banging my head against the wall. I had a collection of medications from my treatment and had the urge of taking them all at once. I knew I was going to die if ever I took all of it. But somehow, I managed to control myself and told my doctor that I couldn’t handle it anymore. My doctor felt concerned especially that I was only living with my younger brother at home so he gave me his number to call him every night; however, I wasn’t able to do it since I felt shy to call. Last February 2016, I was admitted in Sunrise Hill for 2 weeks.
What do you think was the cause of your mental illness?
I had psychological trauma. I experienced physical and verbal abuse from my parents growing up.
How would you rate your improvement with your mental illness?
Maybe if I would rate it from 1 to 10, it would be a 7. In terms of my functionality, there’s already a big improvement, but not to the point of being fully functional.
What are the things that you can do today that you weren’t able to do before?
Commuting. Before, I always take a taxi. I couldn’t ride the MRT, bus or jeepney. Things like asking the jeepney driver to stop was hard for me. I also couldn’t converse like this before. I would feel myself shaking, stuttering and having mental blocks even with just having small talks. Somehow, now I already have a social life with the friends I met from the support group.
What is your advice to someone who is struggling with a mental illness?
Aside from the support from other people, of course, we also need to help ourselves. It should come from us. It’s just a bonus if we find someone who will understand us.
Share Your Story is a project aiming to provide mental health awareness by featuring stories of people who are courageously willing to share their experiences in struggling with a mental illness.