#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 Katherine, who chooses to remain anonymous.
Tell us about yourself.
I grew up in a quaint town in the south of Luzon, but spent most of my teenage years abroad. I still am living abroad — but this time all by myself with some friends — working in administration. I’m 22 years old.
I studied art, but gave up on it, so I transferred to a different school where I finished BA English. I’m currently working on a poetry and short story anthology when I’m not working. I’m trying to learn origami as well.
Tell us about your condition.
I have Major Depressive Disorder. Previously, with psychotic qualities due to delusions, which went away after months of antipsychotic medication.
I was diagnosed February 14, 2012. As you can see, it’s not a difficult date to remember.
My sleep and appetite will go haywire before an episode will really set in. It’s either I eat a lot or nothing at all, and either I sleep a lot or I can’t.
My negative thoughts will increase and will become louder for me to keep in check. I will become increasingly aggressive towards myself, which will result in self-destructive behavior, such as self-harm and depending on alcohol for quick relief. I will start to withdraw from people, even close friends and family. Suicide ideation becomes too strong for me to handle.
I also become spaced out, unmotivated, unwilling, and I become forgetful. I become detached. Sometimes I cannot taste or smell anything, and I feel empty all the time.
I recently got a verbal warning from my company’s owner due to me underperforming and becoming lazy. I cannot blame them for thinking that way.
What’s your back-up plan for days like these?
I keep a to-do list. I feel hopeful when I find myself ticking off a box after I accomplish a task. Knowing what I expect from myself every work day and every day helps me push myself.
I religiously follow a routine, too. I set things I regularly, even on weeknights and weekends. Again, knowing that I HAVE to do a task is a great push to getting out of bed and start moving.
I was very secretive about this due to the stigma and my guilt for feeling this way (unfortunately, still unresolved), but I recently started to speak to my close friends about it. Right now, we’re all very casual with the topic. It helps validate that I’m just sick.
One of them is my roommate, A, who takes great care of me. She stayed with me during a recent episode. She treats me just like how a mother would treat a child with the flu. It’s very comforting.
Does your workplace have a system in place to help people with mental illness? If not, what would be a good policy to have?
No, we don’t. In this country, mental illness is not clearly specified as a disability, although in the labor law, people with disabilities are protected. You can say it is pretty disappointing.
My immediate manager knows about my illness. Although she is very accepting, she thinks I should stop my medication because I “should just control” myself. I’m not exactly sure if she takes it as a valid excuse, as a sickness, but she’s really forgiving and understanding even though she asks me not to make it as my excuse — I’m not. Actually — no, I’m not sure about what she thinks.
It would be great if mental illness can be recognized as a disability. I hope it will become a valid sick leave excuse, so I can tune out whenever I feel like imploding, rest, and give myself time to partly recuperate (even partly).
What are your top 3 rules for getting things done while depressed?
1 | Follow your routine no matter what.
2 | Even if you don’t feel like it: show up, start, tick that box.
3 | All deadlines must be feasible.
Photo: Evan Mischelle, via Creative Commons
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!