Depression

A Patient Psychologist

Allow me to explain why I am opening this up to scrutinizing netizens, potential employers, and academic professors (although the likelihood of the latter two randomly stumbling upon a blog like mine is 1 out of 50000). I am not doing this for attention, as I worry people might assume. As a student in clinical psychology, nurse, research assistant for a study on mental health, and basically a concerned human being, I believe it is my duty to raise awareness on mental health issues and to reduce the stigma that comes with it, especially for something as common as mood disorders. I hope that, by sharing my experiences, people will understand that mental illness can happen to anyone, and it does not always automatically equate ‘psychotic’/out of touch with reality.

One of the many things that keep me up at night is worrying about whether I will be an effective clinical psychologist, given my condition.

I have a mood disorder and some form of anxiety disorder, generalized, I think. I was diagnosed in 2011, after seeking help when I realized I was so close to believing what my inner demons were making me feel.

I am considerably in a more consistently better mood now, thanks to a combination of medication, therapy, and a support system, although I still have bad days. Keeping to myself most of the time does not help, either, but during these bad days, I find it really hard to go out of bed and face people, especially crowds, because I feel suffocated and bare, like I am being laid out like a choice cut of beef shank in a butcher shop for discerning, loyal customers.

Because of this overwhelming difficulty trying to interact with human beings, I sometimes wonder whether I can interact with my potential patients suffering from the exact same disorder, whether I can help a depressed person when I cannot even help myself, not really. What comes after this are discouraging automatic thoughts like, “Face it, you should stop while you still can. You are just too psychologically unstable to help the unstable. It’s like the blind leading the blind!”, and “What makes you think you can be the authority for mental health when you have gone through it?”

I am fortunate that my line of work gives me opportunities to expand my knowledge regarding therapy, such as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Combined with the principles of CBT, depression forums and websites, and my fondness for constructive arguments, I formulated a series of rebuttals for these intrusive automatic thoughts.

Basically, whenever I start doubting myself and my capabilities, I get my strength from my knowledge. I read that it can actually be helpful if a therapist has suffered from a depressive episode. Similar to the principle of former alcoholics facilitating an Alcoholics Anonymous charter, as a patient myself, I can easily step into my patient’s shoes and get the picture of what he/she is feeling/not feeling, because I have been there, and when I say I understand how you feel, I am not only spouting out recommended phrases for therapeutic communication, I really do understand how you feel.

My automatic thoughts are telling me I sound conceited for thinking that I can be good at this. Go figure. I automatically shoot back with the only retort I can think of during this time, “Fuck off”. It’s weird arguing with myself, but basically, that is what I usually experience in a depressive episode. A battle with myself. A battle I hope to someday overcome and not become the casualty. I don’t know if it’s the interplay of neurochemicals, satiation, and the positive encouragement by people over psych forums over mentally ill psychologists, but I think I just might. 🙂

 

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Writing

Back and Here Again

Due to bursts of creative writing energy at the worst possible time (just before bedtime), I have decided to return to blogging. I initially wanted to start a whole new blog (an old habit of mine), but I really have no time to micromanage it. Plus, I want to continue what I have already started here.

Here I am, then, back to my favorite writing exercise (writing about myself. Does that sound conceited or is it socially acceptable since for me it is technically the written equivalent of ‘selfies’?). I am now fortunately in a field that allows me to be verbose, albeit scientifically. I am also now in a field that challenges me to hone all of my communication skills. As a nurse, this is important, but as a psychologist, good communication is what you have to rely on to best help your clients.

I guess the snippets of the missing year (2015) will probably creep into some entries, and I added a whole new category for when I get consumed by dementors and lament about everything (to analyze my thoughts and to have something to show on the next therapy session), although my late night muse is inclined to pitch issues affecting the country today, a huge upgrade from old blog entries (thank heavens for maturity!).

 

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Feelings

No More Tears

I watched Miracle on Cell # 7, a wad of tissues and a pillow on either side of me. I was fully expecting to sob, as it is a touching story about a father and his daughter. Stories that heavily feature father-daughter relationships make me sad, because while I know from my childhood memories (the ones I can vividly remember) that my dad loved me very much, I did not get to spend a lot of time with him, thanks to the illness he tried to fight for almost a decade, but eventually claimed him.

This outflow of feelings is making me uncomfortable, so I shall try getting to the point.

Sure enough, I felt the proverbial tugging at the heartstrings, but not enough to bring on the waterworks. Thing is, I know for sure that letting it all out makes me feel better, but years of trying to repress my emotions have rendered me unable to fully show how I really feel. I can only comfortably show my feelings to a certain extent; more than that and I will try veering towards a different subject. Case in point, the sentence above this paragraph.

What I find strange is that, in spite of this, I am touted as sensitive, as in, my feelings get hurt easily. Apparently, it’s all over my face, whatever emotion I may be feeling. Sans the tears. So maybe I’m not as repressed as I think I am. Still, I know for sure that I have a long way to go in getting the hang of this.

I know bursting into tears isn’t an indicator of me getting a hold of my feelings (the irony in that statement), but for me, it is a very, very big step.

 

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Feelings

Greasing Up Those Bets and Betters

Sometimes, whenever I’m in the middle of doing something, I get this nagging feeling that I ought to be doing something else, that I am wasting away precious time doing whatever task I’m doing at that moment. I try not to let it get to me, lest I overthink and be guaranteed to fall (yet again) into the vortex of doldrums. The thing is, I am very, VERY aware of what I am supposed to do. I even have a checklist of goals and objectives for it! But sometimes, things get delayed and you’re at a crossroads as to whether you should continue to pursue it, or erase it and change it to something more feasible to the circumstances you’re in. I am looking at other options, but the thing is, I have so many options to look at, I can’t decide which one would bring me closer to my goal. So I just end up singing the Scissor Sisters’ ‘I Can’t Decide a la John Simm’s The Master (Doctor Who). It does help ease the anxiety that comes with being confused, but it does nothing to put a check on that perfect square checkbox beside one of my objectives.

As I am writing this down, the nagging feeling creeps in again, as if to tell me, “Stop writing and focus on me instead”. I think whatever is nagging me is my impatient side. I am a very impatient person. I detest long queues. Whenever I ask someone to do something for me, I try to hold back on telling them to finish it immediately. Strange thing is, while I am very impatient, I am also a huge procrastinator. To tell you the truth, I practically crammed my way through school, from elementary to university, even until the board exam. And yet, I’ve never had the nagging feeling as strong as the one I keep having.

Maybe I should finally do something about it, to at least give me a peace of mind. It started creeping into my dreams, and I want it to stop, because I am very in touch with any residual feelings from my dreams, good or bad. It’s enough to bother me all day, hell, when I was a teenager, it was enough for me to develop a full-fledged crush!

Yes, I will finally do something about it. Tomorrow. I haven’t really kicked the procrastinating habit yet. It’s on my to-do list, though, which I have yet to do, naturally.

 

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Depression

Hangdog

When I have particularly bad days and the dementors are more eager to feed off of me more than usual, negative thoughts and words sink in and go up, up, up towards my storm clouded mind, until I start believing in them, overruling what I know in my mind to be true.

Sometimes, there is an attempt to vent these feelings to other people, but I try to exercise caution when doing so, because I know I will only be told to get my head out of my ass, and that there are people having worse problems. And I know there are. Oh, yes, do I know. And it is unfair that I am being compared to them because I certainly do not hold a candle to what these people are going through. That, however, does not make my feelings irrelevant. While I do have people (sometimes in the form of childhood friends, sometimes in the form of internet strangers) willing to listen, at the back of my mind, I think that I am bothering them with my inane problems, adding it to the daily stresses they have to deal with, hence, I just mostly keep myself to myself.

I suck at endings. I’ll leave it here until the next entry, which I hope will be eons happier than this one. You win tonight, dementors.

 

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Books

Gone Girl

Gone Girl

One thing you need to know is this is a spoiler-free review/reflection of sorts for Gone Girl. I’ve been spoiled by reading the comments on the trailer for the upcoming movie on YouTube and I felt awful about it. It hardly dented my experience, but I feel I would have enjoyed it more had I not obsessively looked for anything Gone Girl-related while in the middle of reading it. The second (and the last) thing is I expect you to indulge me on a lot of gushing and praise for this compelling psychological thriller.

I haven’t been this blown away by a book in AGES, and I read a lot! I am just over the moon that it was as amazing as I expected it to be, because I sought after this book for months in the Philippines. I remember scouring bookstores, only to leave disappointed as it was always sold out. I’ve been planning to purchase it to devour over a tedious eight hour flight to Dubai (for the holidays, 2013), but to no avail. Although by a weird stroke of luck, I was able to buy a copy at the duty free store in Dubai International Airport just before we left.

Then life kept me busy, and I was not able to devote any reading time until August.

I was completely hooked after reading the first few chapters. I brought it everywhere, from paying taxes, doctors’ clinics, emergency rooms, malls, even to a taping for a reality television singing competition! In hindsight, maybe I shouldn’t have done that, because I tend to get expressive as the plot twists or thickens, and I’m sure my flabbergasted facial expressions and “Oh, my gods” received a few strange, ‘What is wrong with her?’ stares, especially in that blasted bank where I pay the taxes.

You’ll understand how I feel if you read it. In fact, if you haven’t yet, and you somehow happen to stumble upon this entry for God knows why, I strongly suggest you read it, and get back to me, because I’ve been dying to discuss it with someone, because believe me, I have a lot to say about it.

I can’t really comment on how it altered my point of view on romantic relationships, as I often tend to lean towards the negative aspects of it anyway, with a few exceptions (my relationship goals with whoever is courageous enough to take on the storm that is my psyche). I will, however, comment on the part that struck me the most, one I consider as one of the major themes of the book: expectations on how other people should behave and how you should behave around other people.

In my opinion, it is a given that people will have a perceived notion of you, and it is up to you to either play it up because you see that this persona greatly pleases them, or decide to shatter that illusion at once and show what you’re really made of. As much as this generation claims to be ‘real’, I know that, one way or another, we’ve all been victims of adopting a persona just to be appreciated.

Sometimes, it works out for the best, as some people become a better version of themselves and successfully integrate their actual personalities while maintaining this mask, until both are meshed into a unique brand that is solely them. Sometimes, it doesn’t work out and they get so fed up of keeping up with this caricature they’ve created of themselves, they resent the ones they think made them do it in the first place. This is how seemingly smooth relationships become volatile.

Gone Girl explains its benefits and consequences in detail, mixing it with a mystery that should have been a cliche, but will have you turning the pages and losing sleep over obsessing about the latest development on the case of Amy Elliott Dunne.

Or maybe that’s just me.

 

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Self-esteem

I’m Afraid She’s Rather Odd

There is a certain stigma that comes with being a bookworm. In fact, I’ve experienced being shunned because of it, up to the point that I was seriously contemplating on changing my whole personality. I wanted to let go of my favorite hobbies just to be accepted. Note that I was in my preteen years at the time, and with that age bracket comes the emerging desire to belong.

Unfortunately, for my preteen self at least, I cannot find it in me to give it up. It is probably my inert stubbornness that refuses to give up something that is not wrong in the first place. My interests do not harm other people. I contribute to society by not belonging to the constantly growing population of ignoramuses whose life motto is “YOLO”, a term I highly dislike because it is being used as a rationale for irresponsible life choices. Furthermore, reading broadens my horizons and has taught me to accept and respect different beliefs and opinions, something a lot of people astonishingly find difficult to do.

A decade later, I am still a bookworm. The flack I got for it stopped, eventually. Or maybe it didn’t, but I have since learned not to care. I am glad my preteen self decided not to give in to peer pressure. I decided to have other interests as well. Now, all my interests go hand in hand with each other.

My life may not be a montage of wild parties, outings and all the “fun” stuff, I may be considered plain and boring, I’ve been told countless of times that I read too much and that I don’t have a social life (some photos on my Instagram account beg to differ, au contraire), but I am happy.

I don’t have to sacrifice my happiness for superficial expectations.

 

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