I’m Not Okay… and That’s Okay

Written by Yen Cantiga
by STAIL Team

To be perfectly honest, writing and talking about my mental health becomes really tiring– as tiring as my mental health issue itself. However, I perfectly recognize the privilege of this platform that’s why I still let people get a glimpse of my life while I live with bipolar disorder.

 

I remember the day I was diagnosed with this mental health issue. I remember the feeling that I might be going crazy and the fear that these people in white might lock me up. My brother drove me from home to the hospital in the middle of the night because I can’t stop crying. I don’t even know why. I just know that I am angry and sad and everything is not going well. I keep saying that I want to end it… but up until now, I still don’t know what I want to end– was it my life? The fear of not knowing where I’m going? The pain of not having someone understand what I’m going through? I don’t know.

 

Fast forward to almost two years later, I am certainly doing better. I have a name for all the craziness. I can now identify severe anxiety moments and have several tricks up my sleeve on how to calm down. And most of all, I can write all of these down in hopes that it might help someone battling the same thing. I am not an expert nor do I think I give sound advice on how to deal with all of these but I am hoping that my experience will make someone feel that you’re not alone. And that someone out there gets how you feel, that someone has had bad days, and that it will get better even if there are days when you don’t want to believe it will.

 

The thing is, whenever I speak up about having a bipolar disorder, I get pitying and judging looks from people. It’s as if they’re sad that I am sick. And when they discover that I am taking medication, they just go, “Oh, really? That’s sad. How do you manage?”

 

 

 

 

You see, that’s the biggest challenge for me as a person with a mental health issue– the judgement I get from people who don’t know how to respond. I just say to myself that I need to make them understand, to educate them more on what I’m dealing with… but then again, it’s not my job to make them understand because at the end of the day, dealing with someone who has a mental health issue such as mine all boils down to respect. Respect for privacy, respect for the need to be alone, respect for not being the same as everyone else.

 

Ever since this pandemic happened, I have had more anxiety attacks. I wake up in the middle of the night crying. I freeze in the middle of the day because I read some devastating news. You see, having bipolar disorder is different than when you’re depressed. I get really high moments when people think that I am okay. I play, I write, I sing. I get really funny during my highest of high moments. Because I feel so elated. Then come the irritability and the outbursts. I shout at every little thing, get annoyed when my things are not in the same place I left them, and that’s when everything blows up– ruined relationships, fight with family and friends, abandonment.

 

Then comes the lowest of lows. I shut down. I can’t write. I sleep a lot. I disappear from everyone. I feel so empty that I can’t even bring myself to answer messages. The depressive state is harder to deal with than the elated moments… because I can’t even explain to everyone why I’m sad and why I have no reaction to things that used to get me so excited. How can you explain it to another person when you don’t even have an explanation yourself?

 

And the hardest of it all is admitting to myself that I am not okay. I haven’t been for a long time. It’s easy to fall into this trap of having to pretend that you’re perfectly fine to avoid confrontations and those pitying looks. I did that for about a year– the judgement, the fear, the shame of this happening to me just took its toll that I don’t want to deal with this anymore. But I’ve learned to pretend that I am fine always serves as a form of escape from the negativity… and what’s the deal with escaping? You just go into a loop without addressing the problem. It’s easy to believe that little voice in your head that being positive all the time will do the work; that you have to be okay all the time. But you don’t have to be okay all the time, that’s the realest thing on this planet, if there’s such a thing.

 

And if I’m going to leave one form of advice to anyone reading this: it’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to cry, sit with your sad feelings, get angry, and worry about things happening in your life. It’s okay to get help. It’s okay to feel all these things because they are part of being human.

 

I think that owning your humanity– admitting that you’re not, in fact, okay– is the strongest thing you can do.

 

And come on, there’s really nothing wrong with being human, right?

 

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