This Is Why No One Wants to Talk About Their Mental Illness (Published on Candy Magazine)

As I’ve said before, depression is an illness just like how cancer is an illness.

Like fluid released from a ruptured cyst, it will permeate your brain until you can no longer take the pain. You won’t know when it’ll hit you and when it does, there’s no escape. If you are suffering from this condition, then you are mentally ill.

It’s easy to claim that we are depressed; in fact, many people still mistake their sadness for depression. However, nobody wants to broadcast that they are mentally ill, to put the word out there for the world to hear. And it’s not so hard to see why.

For many countries, mental health is still an uncharted territory. With the majority of the population still turning a blind eye on mental health issues and with the stigma around it, admitting that you are mentally impaired is synonymous to claiming that you are crazy, psychotic, pathetic, crybaby, or whatever names they call mental health sufferers.

With the majority of the population still turning a blind eye on mental health issues and with the stigma around it, admitting that you are mentally impaired is synonymous to claiming that you are crazy, psychotic, pathetic, crybaby, or whatever names they call mental health sufferers.

It seems that we’re still far from witnessing the day when we can finally walk the streets wearing our mental health badges without being looked down upon by society. It doesn’t come off as a surprise, though, as women have been fighting for equal rights for so long already.

Depression, anxiety, OCD, bipolar disorder. You have to know these are not beautiful.

All those self-confessions and TV shows depicting the real-life struggles of mentally ill people are not beautiful. Nobody wants to talk about their struggles openly only to see a hint of prejudice in the eyes of those who are listening. Nobody wants to publicize a self-confession only to be rejected by a potential employer for being emotionally weak, for having a low emotional IQ. No one wants to be called “psychotic” by a colleague who has read their online article. No one wants to seek help from a doctor only to be judged by people as they walk down the clinic hallways. Nobody wants to suffer from any kind of mental illness. End of story.

Personally, I am not comfortable publishing posts about my struggles because one, I don’t want people to look down on me and treat me as if I am a vulnerable little crybaby and two, recruiters would see them, which means they could instantly dismiss my chances of working for them. I don’t want to be tagged as the “girl with depression.”

You see, this is not some kind of dating trend that people invent to have the internet talking about it. Our stories are not like those click-bait articles that people publish to boost their website traffic. We don’t invent stories for the sake of likes. We write the pain as we go through it because the process of letting out what we think and feel at the moment helps us heal.

We don’t invent stories for the sake of likes. We write the pain as we go through it because the process of letting out what we think and feel at the moment helps us heal.

And even though we’re not comfortable with publicizing our personal battles, we share them because we care. And you should care, too. You can start by opening your eyes. Because mental illness is not beautiful, but we can make the pain a little bit bearable by ending the hate.

Remember, everything affects everything; if the world were more open about the realities of the mentally ill, we would hear less news about people dying by suicide. Every action (and refusal to act) counts. Keep that in mind.

This originally appeared on Candy Magazine and was also published on Thought Catalog

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Intelligent People Are Land, Idiots Are Water (Published on Thought Catalog)

Trivial things used to kill my mood. And by trivial things, I mean perverts on the streets who think catcalling me will make me blush in a good way, politicians who are so dumb you’d wonder why they even exist, people who don’t understand mental health—things that may be insignificant to other people, but enough to leave me depressed for a day or two.

Now, when these things come knocking on my door, I smile.

I have had many unfortunate encounters with fuck faces. One time, I dyed my hair blonde because I felt like it. Surprisingly, this made perverts think that my blonde hair is a free pass to a kinky fuckery. I would tell my boyfriend I’ve had enough, but then he would always counter my arguments with his favorite point: if you don’t want them to disrespect you, don’t dye your hair.

What the fuck, right? I wasn’t even baring my legs when an ugly old beast touched them in public because he was captivated by my ethereal beauty (LOL).

My boyfriend’s point: that’s just the way it is, there’s nothing you can do about it.

My point: fuck you all stupid creatures with a small hot dog between your legs.

I also used to share long posts on social media and write blog entries about stupid politicians who are too bad to be true. These people just can’t seem to understand that women are human too and killing innocent people is immoral. Tell me, reader, am I wrong to hate those politicians?

Here’s the thing: one day, I posted a 200-word Facebook status about this misogynist-slash-sexist-slash-immoral politician and my dad told me that I shouldn’t waste my time with those shits. That I was just stressing myself for stupid little reasons.

What the hell, right? I told him “okay” but I secretly hated him for being one of the reasons why this world sucks. If people would continue to ignore these “stupid little reasons” and let those monsters rule the world, we’re hopeless. We’re doomed.

My father’s point: that’s just the way it is, there’s nothing you can do about it.

My point: cowards should go to hell because their tiny minds will be of no use when the zombies come

And then there’s my best friend who lives on the other side of the globe. She’s my sistah from another mothah and she knows everything about me—yes, including my frustrations. Whenever depression swallows us whole, we find comfort in knowing that people do stupid things because, well, they’re stupid.

One day, she told me that I should not let those trivial things get the best of me. After all, intelligent people are land and idiots are water. No matter how we baby our idealist selves by dreaming about a goody goody world, intelligent people can never outnumber idiots.

My best friend’s point: that’s just the way it is, there’s nothing you can do about it.

My point: oh my gooood you’re right why didn’t u tell me this b4

There. Intelligent people are land, idiots are water—this changed my perspective in life. And judging by how things are going, I think that, as the saying goes, I know too much psychology because I now understand everyone’s reasons for doing everything. Big props to you, bestie.

This was originally published on Thought Catalog

If You Want to Keep Me, Love Every Bit of Me Including My Anxiety (Published on Thought Catalog)

Me and my anxiety, we’re inseparable. It makes me do things I wouldn’t do under normal conditions. The thing is, my anxiety is so clingy it keeps squeezing itself into my daily routine. What was once an unusual feeling now became a norm. I become so used to it that I’m afraid it’s already part of who I am.

So I’m taking this chance to say sorry for all the things I did when I’m anxious. I just want you to bear this in mind: if you want to keep me, you need to love every bit of me including my anxiety.

I’m sorry I flooded your phone with messages when you forgot to text me last night. I was worried. The last time it happened, your phone got snatched from you. Can you blame me? I stayed up all night waiting for you. I wanted to hear from you, to know that you’re safe and sound. I’m sorry I worry too much. I guess that’s just the way I am.

Please bear with me if I say I love you too often. I know I can be annoying at times, but let me tell you this: the reason why my love for you is so big is because I know the world may end any moment and if I were to die, I would find comfort in knowing that the last words I uttered were “I love you.” I’m sorry I’m too sentimental. Perhaps I was born that way.

Forgive me for being such a pessimist. I always expect the worst. Disappointments trigger my depression and expecting the worst case scenarios prepares me for what’s ahead.

I’m sorry for always imagining that we won’t end up together. That’s my worst nightmare, do you know that? There are days when I talk about our future without the other and I only ask that you bear with me whenever this happens. If we’re breaking up soon, at least I’m ready. I’m sorry for making you listen to my negative thoughts, but I just can’t help it. My mind simply won’t cooperate.

Trust me: you may not see it yet, but I’m trying to fight it.

I only ask that you don’t mistake my anxiety for being crazy, needy, or clingy—I am far from those things. If you just learn to love me for who I am, you’ll see that I am more than just an anxious girlfriend.

I am more than my anxiety.

This was originally published on Thought Catalog

When I Ran Out of Courage to Keep Fighting, I Wrote My Way Through Depression (Published on Thought Catalog)

Last month was the worst.

Every night, I would try to shut my brain for the day and tell myself tomorrow is another day. Unfortunately, as if the Great Universe conspired to bully me and belittle my battleground skills, unwanted thoughts would always get in the way.

I would take a deep breath, stare at the ceiling, try to fight the pain, but the demons would always win. I always came into the battlefield defenseless, but I was never hopeless. Hope is the only anchor that keeps me alive.

And then I would wake up feeling empty, like there’s a hole in my chest that I can’t explain. I won’t tell you about the hell I went through, but if you’re a girl who always get catcalled slash poor writer slash anxious, you’ll get the picture. To say that I couldn’t find the motivation to get out of bed was an understatement. Long ago, I started to accept that perhaps I am an eternally lazy human being. But I was far from that–my family and co-workers can attest to that. As the symptoms became crystal clear, I found out that I’ve always been depressed.

Because when you can’t find a reason to go on, would you even want to face the world? Or worse, get out of bed to do the same old things? Work like a robot in the office, go home, try to sleep, repeat until dead.

I could try to talk with my best friend who lives on the other side of the globe, but we both know that trying to comfort each other through the screens of our phones is not a permanent cure. We can’t be physically there for each other, after all. I can hear Taylor Swift whispering in my ears: bandaids don’t fix bullet holes, bitch.

When the pain becomes unbearable to the point that my eyes become watery and it becomes even more difficult to breathe for no apparent reason, I would console myself by putting my emotion into words.

I won’t care if my sentence construction, grammar, and punctuation marks are correct. As a writer, you would expect me to become conscious of those rules, but when it comes to writing my pain, those shits don’t exist. I would let the words flow non-stop as if my life depended on them and I won’t stop until the tears aren’t there anymore and my breathing becomes normal again. Funnily enough, I even had the guts to submit those writeups to several platforms. That’s what happens when you’re depressed–you’re vulnerable and yo do crazy things you wouldn’t even consider doing in the first place when you’re fine. And then it dawned on me:

Last month was one of the best.

Looking back, I realized that despite being the worst month of my life, March has also been one of the best. I even wrote a blog post about thanking the Great Universe for all the wonderful things that took place last month and to be honest, I almost forgot about the days I cried in public and nights I fought the monsters inside my head when I realized that. All 11 writeups I submitted was published on those platforms, and I couldn’t find the right words to describe what I felt when I realized this.

At the times when I couldn’t find the courage to keep fighting, I wrote my way through depression. Writing has always been my therapy and it hasn’t failed me ever since I published my first post in my personal blog. I’ve always known this, but I never knew that it could help me overcome the worst month of my life. And boy, what a month.

I welcomed April praying that this feeling wasn’t just the Great Universe’s way of fooling me. And even if it was, I know what to do now. If the monsters were to come to my door again (which is very likely), I’d turn my depression into art and hold on to the belief that if writing saved me last time, it would keep me sane today and for the rest of my life.

(This was originally published on Thought Catalog)

Why We Must Keep Fighting for Our Mental Health Even After Amy Bleuel’s Death (Published on Thought Catalog)

If the name Amy Bleuel does not ring a bell to you, she was the founder of Project Semicolon, a support community that advocates for mental health awareness. Fans of the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why would know Selena Gomez and the cast’s matching semicolon tattoos. Amy was the woman behind the meaning of those tattoos.

“A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.”

Amy was an anti-suicide activist who pulled thousands of people out of the shadow. While the world laughed at and bullied people who were battling mental illness, she inspired these warriors to see the light and keep fighting.

On March 23, this anti-suicide activist took her own life.

When the headline first appeared on my news feed, I was at a loss for words. Wave after wave of emotions flooded over me as I processed the information. I never thought I would see the words “founder” “Project Semicolon” “dead” and “committed suicide” stitched in one sentence.

Although the news left me miserable for a week, there was a voice inside of me that told me she was selfish. How come she took her own life when she made it her life mission to save lives? Didn’t she think about how her death would resonate to the thousands of people who believed in her, stood by her, and held onto her words as if their lives depended on them?

Amy was selfish, I kept repeating to myself.

The news bothered me for days. Like Amy, I made it my mission to inspire others to never let the monsters in our heads win. When she lost the battle, I, too, lost all hope.

One night, when I was wallowing in depressing thoughts and contemplating Amy’s death, an idea hit me: I need to reach out to the administrators of the Project Semicolon Facebook page.

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Me: Hello. I want to know. Now that Amy’s gone, how can you inspire others like me to keep going when the founder herself committed suicide? Hope you can give me an honest answer. Her death shook me to the core. After being an inspiration to many, it seems that one can only handle so much pain. To me, her death means suicide is still the answer.

Project Semicolon: Airen, Suicide isn’t an illness, but in most cases it’s the result of a mental illness. Amy was very open about her struggle with suicidal ideation, she never tried to hide that. She walked the halls of her darkness just like anyone else who finds inspiration in Project Semicolon. She struggled daily to find reason to stay here, and she won many battles but ultimately, she lost the fight against her mental illness.

Amy’s ending isn’t a snapshot of your destiny. She was a person vulnerable to bad days just like you. Her position with Project Semicolon didn’t make her immune to the same symptoms you experience in your own struggle. You continue; to fight for your life! Seek help and stay active in your mental health recovery. We support you;

At first, their response didn’t seem convincing enough for me. Even if I read it over and over, I kept coming to nothing but the following conclusions: that the phrase “Amy’s ending isn’t a snapshot of your destiny” was the administrator trying to belittle my battles; that the sentence “You continue; to fight for your life!” translated as “Amy didn’t continue, so why would I?” and the sentences “Seek help and stay active in your mental health recovery. We support you;” were plain bullshit. If Amy didn’t find comfort in the company of these people, why would I?

I kept justifying these points to my best friends, but now I know.

Amy Bleuel’s death is anything but an act of selfishness. We may have had our fair share of challenges, but each battle is unique and her story isn’t a mirror of my own. The administrator who replied to my message was right, after all. Amy’s position in the support community did not make her immune to the battles she faced. Just because she gave up, doesn’t mean I should, too.

It might have taken me days to realize this, but one thing is for sure. If anything, Amy’s death is a reminder that we should continue to fight the stigma and spread awareness about mental health.

If, like me, you lost all hope when Amy lost the battle, remember your journey from being a worrier to a warrior. You’ve gone a long way and it’s about time we work hand in hand to lift people up, ourselves included.

Remember this when you want to give up: Amy’s story might have ended, but the mission goes on. Continue your fight against the beasts inside and make others see the light. Her story might be over, but yours isn’t yet; Ours isn’t yet;

(This was previously published on Thought Catalog)

PSA: Being Busy Doesn’t Mean That You’re Living A Full Life (Published on Thought Catalog)

When was the last time you sat at the dinner table with your family?

You were at the office, discussing plans with your team and anticipating the upcoming week because your month-long project is about to come to an end at last. It’s Friday and your workmates invited you for a drink. It’s been a hell of a week, after all, and it’s time to give yourself a break.

Meanwhile, in your humble home stood your mom, waiting to catch a glimpse of your shadow at the door. It’s 8:30 PM and the food she prepared were left untouched on the dining table. Your dad was watching the replay of his favorite football game, munching on the red velvet cake that your elder sister brought for his birthday.

By 11 PM, when you were too tipsy to remember anything, you remembered. It was your dad’s birthday and you should’ve gone home early for dinner.

When was the last time you spent time with your best friend?

She was there for you when you were at your most vulnerable. Remember when you found out your boyfriend was sleeping with another girl? Your best friend, your soul sister, your sister from another mother, was there to comfort you. She made you laugh all the time, brought you to music festivals and museums to help you forget the pain.

Now she’s going through a difficult time, but you are always out of reach. She wanted to break the news personally, but you’re always busy. She wouldn’t hit you up for fear of getting rejected. Lately, you’re always canceling out on your lunch outs and dinner dates. She’d invite you to meet up with her, but then you’re always doing freelance gigs, always taking your work at home because you want to get promoted. She didn’t want to bother you anymore. You’ll have time for her after this project, you’d always say. But the projects at work never ends and her time is running out. She’s terminally ill.

When was the last time you treated yourself to a movie?

You used to love adventures. You’d go backpacking with strangers and conquer the highest mountains, hit the most beautiful beaches with your squad, try new things with your significant other. You used to enjoy what life has to offer.

Now all you ever do is aim for promotion. You want to step up your career for a brighter future. You have side gigs to earn additional income and save up for the future. You keep planning for the future when all that really matters is now. You keep forgetting that all you have is the moment.

You always think about the future, but have you ever considered living for the moment?

You keep planning for old age that you fail to remember that your parents are getting older and older each day. You keep making new friends that you fail to remember the value of true friendship. You keep focusing on your career that you fail to make time for things that matter.

Just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you’re living life to the fullest. Keep your priorities in check and remember that we only have one life to live. If you want to make the most out of it, love who you love and give them your all—the rest doesn’t matter.

(This was previously published on Thought Catalog)

This Is What Depression Actually Feels Like, Because We’d Give Anything For It To Stop (Published on Thought Catalog)

At 4 AM, I woke up to a great news: my submission was accepted and was now live on an international platform. What a wonderful start to a normal day, I thought.

At 6 AM, it seemed that the universe wanted to spoil me a little more: another article was accepted and was now live on a local magazine’s website. I was so happy that I literally jumped out of bed.

At 8 AM, I went to work. I was all smiles as I braved the heavy early morning traffic. I had two reasons to be happy, after all. I tried to not let those things get in my head as I prepared myself for the long day ahead.

At 12 PM, I just returned to my workstation when my boss sent an announcement on our group thread: she commended me for writing praise-worthy blog posts. Our clients were pleased. Could it get any better than this?

At 5 PM, I clocked out and went home. I thought about the 101 reasons to be happy, about how my dreams as a writer were slowly coming true, and suddenly the monsters were there. Beside me. On my ride home. Taunting me. Sucking all those happy memories out of me. Eating me alive.

“What the fuck were you thinking? You’re going to die, anyway,” echoed the monsters. I thought about how time flies. Of how anything could happen any minute. Of how we’re all doomed.

I thought about the 101 reasons to be happy, and suddenly I was not happy. I thought about all the things that could happen that could break the streak. And the mere thought of it did it. My worst fears were creeping up my soul.

At 6 PM, I was crying. On my way home. In public.

At 7 PM, I lay in bed. Thinking about how my parents could die at any moment. Of how my siblings were growing too fast. Of how my boyfriend and I could suddenly realize we’re not meant to be. Of how the much-feared seven-magnitude earthquake could ruin all of us. All of my dreams. Of how the universe could collapse any minute. Of how I would face my death. I thought about how Jeremiah Saint-Amour killed himself at 60 because he didn’t want to grow old. I don’t want to grow old.

At 7:30 PM, I was thinking. Always thinking. I couldn’t stop thinking. I wanted to stop thinking.

At 8 PM, I received a notification that three of my posts were featured on this women’s platform. I locked my phone. I cried. I had 101 reasons to be happy and yet I was not. I cried some more. Fuck you, I thought. I opened my laptop. Please stop. I took a deep breath. I stopped crying. I wrote this.

This was previously published on Thought Catalog