SilakboPH, one of my favorite mental health resources out there, interviews and features a mental health advocate biannually. I am proud to be the featured advocate for the month of June. Read the interview below, or view the original on SilakboPH’s site!
Please give us a short description of yourself.
Hello, I’m Apple! I hail from a tiny Middle Eastern Kingdom called Bahrain, where I lived for 16 years before moving to Manila for good in 2010. My big dream is to be a published novelist and/or journalist and to have my own online business, but for now I’m a happy advertising writer. When I’m not fighting crippling depression, I read, write, paint, watch TV series and dream up passion projects.
What are the things you do to raise awareness of the importance of mental health?
Most frequently I write about my experiences on my blog in an effort to be transparent and to normalize mental health issues. Last year I started volunteering at various advocacy orgs, and this year I took up spoken word as a new artistic venue! I’m also planning more events and exhibits with friends to speak out about the advocacy.
May I ask about your history with mental illness?
I consider the 2010 migration to Manila (and the consequent culture shock) as my official trigger. I was battling a lot of things—homesickness, heartbreak, adjustment—and it was too much for my system. I always thought I was just weak or overreacting, so I didn’t really seek help until 2013. I saw a psychologist for a couple of months for talk therapy, but eventually stopped seeing her when I couldn’t see any progress.
Late in 2016, I watched a friend with Bipolar Disorder talk about his life with medication, and I asked for a referral to a psychiatrist. I was diagnosed with clinical depression in December and started taking medication from there.
I’m so lucky to have people around me who are supportive, whether they fully understand my condition or not. The worst stigma I’ve experienced is my own—thinking that depression meant weakness or a flaw in character. I’m happy to be learning differently now that I’m discovering my strengths even while diagnosed.
What did it feel like when you were at your absolute lowest?
There’s a lot of blame and self-hate. My key symptom is low energy, where I can’t do anything even if somewhere in my mind there’s a will to be doing things. So I’m really hard on myself, asking why I couldn’t just be an infinitely motivated self-starter who can get things done on command. I feel like when I’m not being productive, I’m not contributing to the world and to the people around me and am therefore useless. That’s the idea which triggers me the most: being useless. If I’m of no use to people, I may as well just disappear.
How are you able to cope? How are you now, currently?
My only method on days like these is waiting it out. I manage to convince myself that it’s just a passing storm and I will be up and about again in a couple of days. It’s kind of morbid but sometimes I also get together with my friends who are also depressed and we laugh about the futility of life and existence, haha.
Although I’m doing better as of writing (I have a few advocacy projects up my sleeve!), I do still suffer relapses. It gets difficult to carry my work and projects when a relapse strikes, usually lasting two to three weeks, but luckily it always passes, as hoped.