#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 Rissa of Silakbo PH. (It’s a great resource, so be sure to check it out!)
Tell us about yourself.
I’m 23 years old, born and raised in Quezon City. I was a part-time teacher at a special education school (taught grade 1). I also write around the place (most recently for Scout Mag) and manage a blog called Silakbo PH that advocates for mental health awareness through art and mental health education.
Tell us about your condition.
Major depression and generalized anxiety disorder. Diagnosed since 2014.
My most severe episode–and deviation from productivity–manifested in 2013 when I was a BS Psych student at Ateneo de Manila University. I had overloaded my sem under the impression na “kaya ko naman.” Big mistake. My grades took a nosedive. I was having panic attacks and crying in the bathroom regularly. I gained weight from stress eating. I pushed away people. I was cutting myself.
I also had an episode in 2015 where I was holed up in my house and did not eat at all. I lost around 20 pounds languishing while watching romcoms and drinking absurd amounts of coffee. I did nothing but that for the summer. Breakups are tough.
In general, nowadays I can function properly, granted that I know my limits and my disorders pretty well now from both my psych subjects and my exposure to actual experience. I usually don’t think straight when I have a depressive episode, or when overcome with anxiety. I usually miss a lot of opportunities, iI think–like I was recently at a convention and had what I thought was a reasonably good question for the speaker. My heart started pounding at the very thought of just getting up and being brave enough to ask it. It’s not like he would bite, and I might have learned something new. Too bad that opportunity is missed now. My anxiety* is such a bitch sometimes, especially coupled with self-doubt.
(* I forgot to mention that I also have some degree of social anxiety, as well as performance phobia. The latter is kinda funny because I perform on occasion.)
What’s your back-up plan for days like these?
Over-prepare!!! I noticed while I was still at school that no amount of studying would help me if I didn’t “feel” ready, so I started overpreparing for things like orals, or big exams I was extremely nervous for. This also works for performances: I would have to run a song to the ground, play a song to death to feel prepared. It’s my current technique as I’m preparing for my upcoming MA interview–I’m writing my spiels for common questions or resume clarifications a la undergrad orals outline.
My current psychiatrist also gave me meds for use during very anxiety-inducing situations (beta blockers) and they’ve worked great. Don’t forget to take your meds if you were prescribed them.
For the depression, I guess it’s more of a state of mind than a plan but I’ve learned to go easy on myself. Sure I’d feel bad that I could be juggling more, as it was a point of pride for me to be a multitasker, taking on several projects at once. But if it’s at the expense of your work and your mental health, it’s really not worth it.
Again, for the anxiety and depression, I take SSRIs. I used to take some other meds, the names of which escape me at the moment. Don’t forget to take your meds, guys!
My number 1 support system is my boyfriend and best friend Nikko. He’s also a psych major, and has gone through his own experiences of depression, so there’s a lot of ~unconditional positive regard~ in the relationship. Likewise, he could also tell me anything that’s bothering him.
My psychiatrist is also fantastic. She was a former prof that I really liked the style of. I’ve gone through a lot of counselors, some psychologists, and a psychiatrist but wasn’t quite satisfied with the counseling relationship until now. I text her if something major happens (like a self-harm relapse).
I also tell my family and friends, but usually to an extent that I think is “safe.” My darker, more irrational thoughts are reserved for the first two I mentioned haha.
I’m not sure if this is counted as a support system, but I really find comfort in researching for Silakbo, and in the online community I’ve met through it. I’ve been able to check myself regularly, and interact with a side of the internet that is positive and supportive and affirming–such a different sight from what I usually see.
What are your top 3 rules for getting things done while depressed?
1 | Be kind to yourself.
2 | (For anxiety) Overprepare if you can.
3 | (For both) Take your meds.
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!