#StrongerThanStigma: How X Gets Things Done With Depression is a series featuring different people handling productivity while battling a mental health condition. Hopefully, you and I—mental condition or not—pick up tips and lessons to help us be productive, and fight the stigma that to be depressed means to be useless.
Today, we’re interviewing my only sister, Ech, and her battles with Bipolar Disorder while running a production house.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a 25-year old photographer and video editor working in advertising. Raised abroad, but residing in the Philippines for almost 8 years. I enjoy good films, funny shows, and dogs.
Tell us about your condition.
Although I had been experiencing depressive symptoms since 2010/2011, I was only diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in late 2015. I don’t know much about my diagnosis because I stopped seeing a psychiatrist and taking medication to seek talk therapy instead.
My usual symptoms are irritability, crying and isolating myself, anxiety attacks, and generally wanting to “be far away.” It affects my energy and ability to get anything done, my ability to interact with people properly, and I find it difficult to focus. There’s usually a lot of self-hate, mostly because I used to excel in a lot of things like sports and school, and then suddenly it feels like I have no personality.
What’s your backup plan for days like these?
There’s a lot of deep breaths and slowing down. I try to compartmentalize, especially if there are deadlines, but that’s mostly a personality thing. If my episode is the more anxious and hysterical kind, I try to reach out to someone to either distract me with conversation until I calm down or to process it with them. Then I try to take things one step at a time, no matter how small–eating a little, getting up, or trying to go out. I try to accomplish small tasks whether for work or for myself. The success rate isn’t too high but that is usually my process.
Sometimes it’s a trusted friend who is aware of my illness. On other times that I just want to distract myself with random activity or conversation, I reach out to anyone I feel like talking to at the moment (it’s usually a short list). A lot of the time it’s one of my best friends, because the thought of having to explain things to other people just usually adds to the stress.
Does your workplace have a system in place to help people with mental illness?
We currently don’t have any official system in place. But since we’re a small team and I’ve explained my condition to most of them before, I know that they’ll adjust to provide me with support. Our HR Director has previously offered to let me take at least a month-long LOA should I need it, so I’m pretty lucky in that regard.
What are your top 3 rules for getting things done while depressed?
1 | Breathe. It helps me calm down, take a step back, and reassess what needs to get done–whether it’s work or just simply taking care of myself.
2 | Feel the feelings but don’t stop trying to get back on your feet. It’s difficult for sure. But it’s important to try, no matter how slowly and no matter how small the task.
3 | Ask for help for absolutely anything: to go get food with you, to find something to do so you’ll be forced to get up, to assist you in finishing a task, etc. Not only will you feel “not alone” but being around another person’s energy does sometimes help me push a bit. It also helps to let someone you trust know what’s going on with you.
Reading others’ testimonies is helpful, but there’s really no strict formula to getting things done! Try to take the advice and adapt it to your own strengths and personality.
No matter what you believe about mental health conditions, I encourage you to be kind in the comments. If this inspired you to be a mental health advocate, or if you’d like to be featured next, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can help each other out!