Mental Illness and Relationships Part 2 of 3

***I’m sorry for the delay of this post. I know this blog post took a while. I got sick and got admitted to the hospital for my mental health.***

Unaware of my mental disability early on, I had poor management of my mood, and it reflected on my relationships with the people around me. The effects of the symptoms and my unhealthy core beliefs damaged my relationships with people. As they come and go in my life, these also affected my mood. So it is a vicious cycle. I had the impression that life is as complicated for everyone and that I was just not as good as other people in managing life. I was eager to build healthy relationships for my well-being. But because of my poor boundaries and low self-esteem, I tolerated toxic relationships that led me to have a significant mental breakdown.

Three months had gone by from my break- up with my long-distance boyfriend from my hometown in the Philippines; I started to find a cure for the emptiness I felt. I started dating Jason, and I felt like walking on cloud nine for the first few weeks. After five months of dating him, I moved in with him at the basement of his mom’s house. That was another bad decision I made. There were red flags on my relationship with him. The truth came out that he was emotionally unavailable, but I kept taking that poisonous toxic relationship. Few weeks after I moved in with him, I was three days late from my period, and I told Jason this concern I had. He was very upset with this news, and he told me that this is out of his plan. Jason has a plan to go to school to become a sound engineer, and he explained that having a kid will ruin his goals. While talking to him about this concern, and I least expected it, he punched me on my womb. As awful as it was, I continued because I am familiar with this situation. Since I was a kid, I was abused too physically and emotionally, so this pain is not new to me. However, I became resentful, but I could not leave Jason knowing that the good times with him was worth it. Until I married Jason because I thought this is what I deserved. He moved to a different city, Vancouver, to study. I supported him financially and emotionally as he went to school full-time for a year course. I followed him in this beautiful rainy city because I was stressed living with his mother as we did not get along well. I’ve known myself well enough to notice that I tend to run away from situations that are difficult to manage. I also do not process my feelings properly. I have bottled everything that I felt. On my baseline, I would say that I am a nice sweet lady. But when triggered, I explode. I shout, tend to speak rudely, sometimes passive-aggressive. Well, what the heck I’m going to say it here, I became verbally and physically aggressive. I cursed at people depending on whom I talked to. I’ve thrown Jason’s cellphone on the wall when I was paranoid that he was seeing somebody else. One time, when we were still living in her mother’s basement, I got upset at him, and I threw an object at him. This happened approximately five months after I moved in with him. The stress of supporting Jason financially, including my family back home in the Philippines and dealing with a mother-in-law my work was deeply affected. Until in November 2011, I dealt with issues with the team I worked with at the floor. Some staff came to me and reported that Care Aide Anne was not helping on the floor several times. I worked with her sometime, and I knew it was fair to talk to her to know what was going on and to resolve the issue. She got upset with me and treated me indifferently. Another time I spoke to her regarding the same issue, I got triggered by her response. I lost control of my emotions while talking to Anne in the medication room, and, I told her to stop acting like a b*tch. It did not end well at work, so I was forced to resign. A couple of weeks later, I came to Vancouver in December 2011; I lived with Jason and his brother. I also found new work as a licensed practical nurse despite what happened at my last job in Alberta. The big change in moving into a different city, having no friends and being in a toxic relationship, had profound effects on my life. Life became more complicated with all the stress and living with undiagnosed bipolar disorder at that time.

Near the end of April 2013, I had a big fight with Jason, and he went to live with his brother. A few days after he left, I started hearing voices and was suicidal. I called the police to report Jason. After they interviewed me; they took me to a women’s shelter. My night in that shelter was my worst night of psychosis. The following day, police officers came back and took me to the hospital. For the first time in my life, I was hospitalized for a mental breakdown. I only had Jason to call to see me in the hospital. I persuaded him to visit me, and he did about three times. Jason broke up with me, and he moved out of the apartment we were renting downtown. I felt all kinds of pain. The effects of a toxic relationship and mental illness left me abandoned and heartbroken. When I got confined in the mental health institution, the acute psychosis led me to lose the ability to make decisions for myself. Only a little self-esteem remained but eventually drained into nothing.

When I was in the hospital, I made friends with two significant ladies who helped me cross this colossal mountain. I informed my mom in the Philippines that I was in the hospital (acutely psychotic at that time). My worried mom and brother sought help from relatives living here in North America, my aunt in Toronto and my cousin in New Jersey. As the news reached my cousin, she asked her good friend here in Vancouver, Yara, to visit me in the psychiatric unit. I was not aware of these things until one day, Yara came to my bedside in the hospital. That day was my first time meeting her. She introduced herself to me and brought me food. Severely psychotic at that time, I did not understand who she was even after she had introduced herself to me. My friendship with Yara began that day. Yara visited me weekly and continued to bring me food and some things I needed while I was in the hospital. Yara is one of the best cooks I know in my life. She has a compassionate heart, and she cared for me very well. There were days I didn’t want to shower and just curled up in the hospital bed. The nurses in the hospital collaborated with Yara, and she took my hand and led me to the shower room when I was severely depressed. Even though I was not easy to persuade at those times, she was extremely patient with me. She listened to me intently as I poured out my sorrows to her since we met. Her encouragement is key to my recovery.

Within that week, I also met Jade, a co-patient in the hospital. She is one of the kindest people in this world. We became friends. I helped her design her pink wellness box one day while we were in the hospital. Together with another lady, they taught me to play cards, and those days are very memorable to me. These activities with them helped me to be at the present moment. My mom, even though apart, supported me. She always called me on the hospital phone and prayed for me. When I had a few hours pass from the hospital, I moved my things from the old apartment to another small rental suite located in Fraser St. with the help of two Filipino families. After three months in the hospital, I got discharged, and onto the apartment, I rented. Miserable as I was, I did my best to get back with my toxic relationship with Jason. I was not ready to give it up. Because I was not able to convince him to continue our relationship, I took it hard and blamed myself.

At that time, I convinced myself that my life was ruined and there was nothing more I could do to fix it. I resorted to attempting suicide, so I drank bleach around September 2013. As I lay on the floor, waiting for the poison to take effect, I prayed to God and asked forgiveness for taking my own life. Then I remembered my niece, who was only 2yrs old at that time. I asked myself the question, what will my niece think of me when she grows up? I am not setting a good example to her, I said to myself. I thought, my mom would be so sad to live the rest of her life grieving for me when I die. So I got up and knocked at the neighbour to call the ambulance for me. It was not easy to tell them properly what was going on until I threw up blood and so the couple panicked and called the ambulance. I was taken to the emergency room that night with the help of my neighbours.

I underwent a gastroscopy procedure that very same night. This procedure was to drain the poison on my stomach and also to see the extent of the injury. In the end, I survived, so here I am now telling you this story. 🙂 This was the time when the depression I went through was the highest, cruellest mountain I climbed in my life. Yara and Jade continued to be my guide. Without them, I would have given up life entirely and been long-gone by now. I stayed another month in a mental hospital. After I got out of the hospital, the company I worked for gave me 4 hours a week work to start slowly. In these 4 hours of weekly work, I met Alexa. Alexa was an entertaining person, fierce and full of joy. Due to the 4 hours of weekly work, I struggled to pay rent as I could not convince them that I am capable of more hours.

My aunt Sally and her husband uncle James offered me their place. I moved to Toronto and stayed with them for eight months. I learned valuable lessons from my aunt and uncle during my stay there. My aunt always reminded me that there are things I can’t control in life. There were many times I tried to manipulate people and situations to get what I wanted only to have terrible results. She always reminded me to “take it easy” as I tend to overthink situations and my worries were like dragons that attacked me day in and day out. I enjoyed gardening with my uncle James. He made me the best homemade apple juice made from an apple tree at their backyard. My cousin and his family, also in Toronto, supported me emotionally in the best way they could. They took me for a haircut and spent time with me. However, even with their amazing support, I continued to keep in touch with my toxic relationship because of the hole I felt and the unwillingness to give up a failed marriage. I tried to hide my symptoms of depression and mania. When it was becoming unmanageable, I became paranoid and doubted my relatives. There were even times I engaged myself in risky behaviour. I hid purchases from the money I got from employment insurance when I was in Toronto.

Due to the difficulty of getting a nurse license in Toronto with mental illness baggage, I came back to Vancouver, where my license as a nurse is active. I stayed at my friends’ place, and I rented one of their rooms. Due to the stress, my psychosis worsened. I contacted Jason and informed him that I came back to town and met him. Jason immediately dumped me after an hour of meeting me. Maybe dut to the fact that I was unstable. I went to the beach after meeting him to find refuge in my safe place. That day there was a firework display, and there were thousands of people on the beach. I became claustrophobic as I worked my way in and out of the crowd, and I experienced a panic attack. I was shaking uncontrollably, had difficulty breathing, so I took myself to the hospital. I called Yara and Jade to meet me there. Yara and Jade came to the Emergency Room. I got immediately admitted to the psychiatric unit.

One day, the couple I lived with came to visit me and informed me that I’m evicted at their house and asked me where they could take my belongings. The couple were very kind people. Evicting me from their place did not mean that they did not care for me. They were taking care of themselves, just as I had to, and having an unstable roommate was probably too much for them to handle. So I contacted Yara, and she agreed to take my belongings in her home. I met Vanessa, a co-patient in the hospital. Vanessa was an extremely educated lady, has Phd in Mathematics. Super intelligent professional with a fantastic family. One day, while staying at the hospital, I asked for a three-hour pass from the psychiatrist for Vanessa and me to go to a church she recommended. I made some friendships at the church, but it was short-lived.

During this hospitalization, I stayed longer in the hospital because I did not have a place to live. Eventually, I was referred to a mental health worker Mercy. Mercy helped me in applying for disability support and helped me find a place to rent. We found this place I am renting up until now. My friendship with Vanessa only lasted for 2 1/2 months. As she lived frugally, she did not agree with the choices I made for my spending habits. For her, it did not add up, and it did not make sense. It became evident to me that buying things to numb the pain inside me was a growing habit. For this particular reason, she made it clear that she didn’t want to be a part of my life. The pain of being rejected came back. My spending habits worsened, and as I medicated the emotional pain. Mercy continued to support me as my mental health worker, and her guidance was an indispensable tool for my road to wellness. Yara and Jade continued to be there for me. Their support has encouraged me to keep walking. To keep living life.

When Vanessa left, I reconnected to Alexa. I was jobless at that time. As Alexa has a car, she took me to places; we had bubble teas, she gave me her password on Netflix so I could watch movies as I couldn’t afford many things at that time. She did all her best to support me as she knew that I had a mental illness. I had the time of my life with Alexa. After eight months of a beautiful friendship with Alexa, she suddenly left without a word. I have said something awful that has offended her. As it came out from my mouth, I did not realize that I’ve hurt her feelings that led her to end her friendship with me. I tried to get our beautiful friendship back with Alexa, but unfortunately, I did not have success. I called Jade, and she shared me this beautiful quote that opened my eyes.

People come into your life for a Reason, a Season or a Lifetime. – Unknown

As I recall, lying in my sofa thinking about this quote, I began to understand it’s meaning in my life. Each of the people we have in life falls on one of the three categories. I realized that the mission of the people who left me got fulfilled. I am very grateful to these friends who helped me come down to the mountain. Jade and Yara continued to guide me while Mercy retired on her job as a mental health worker. I had another toxic relationship in July 2017 with Daniel that lasted for five months.

I made peace in my heart for the ones who have hurt me for the toxic relationships I had in the past. This is not a straight line, either. I know that Jason and Daniel are also human with imperfections just like I do. But these do not mean I would retake the road of a toxic relationship. And when I think of forgiveness, there is an invisible on and off switch button to that depending on how I feel. This is work in progress. I also realized that I made poor choices in life and just within the last few months that I realized I am worth so much more than I thought.

The best part is yet to come. Please let me know what you think in the comment section below.

Love you all!

Mental Illness and Relationships Part 1 of 3

The legendary Greek Philosopher, Aristotle once said, “humans are by nature a social animal.” We build relationships for our well-being. As for me, with a mental disability, I have struggled with relationships throughout life. Because mental illness is an invisible disability, building relationships is like a blind man navigating the world. There were many contributing factors to this struggle of building relationships. As my ever so changing mood fluctuated, so does my trust and sometimes paranoia has affected it too. Often, when I did not feel good about myself, I took it out on others. I repelled potential friends because I was so negative. Maintaining a good and stable relationship with friends and family was challenging to handle. Even more so with a romantic partner.

As a result of childhood emotional and physical abuse and declining emotional stability, I was prone to settling with abusive partners. Before my diagnosis, I thought that this is normal for everyone. My first boyfriend was a great guy. Things happened, including my big move here in Canada. There were 16 of us Filipino nurses who came to Alberta and we all met at the airport and rode the same plane. I made friends with these fantastic people, we lived together in groups and have made the transition of moving into a foreign land less difficult. My long-distance boyfriend and I grew apart until he found someone else that led to our break-up.

I couldn’t eat for almost a month. I drank Ensure to compensate with the skipped meals. My roommate Lynch and another friend let’s call her Grace in this story (both amongst the 16 nurses), helped me get through this break-up. This experience was one of the significant mountains in my life. Lynch and I went out of town to a rock-band concert to the big city called Calgary following the break-up. We planned this trip for me to get over the break-up, and for both of us to have a little scape. I was ecstatic at that concert party, dancing and jumping up and down. Lynch laughed at me and told me that I was acting wild, but I encouraged her to dance too and have fun. We had a blast. I wore make-up and dressed up those days to compensate with what I felt. I felt like someone else. That time I didn’t know what it means to be manic.

Although I have studied it in a nursing textbook what is mania, I did not know the feeling of how it is to be like one. I have arranged parties with my friends in Alberta. I distracted myself with material things. All of these were the ways I knew of getting back to my feet and divert the pain I felt. I ran away from the feeling of rejection, sadness and the loss of a loved one. Due to low self-esteem, undealt emotions and a history of abuse as a child, this led me to a toxic relationship.

This article is the first part of 3. I changed the names of the people involved in this article for privacy reason. Please tune in for more. I would love to know your thoughts about this topic on the comment section below.

Love you all!

A Bipolar Disorder Journey: I See the Light in the Tunnel

There were many times I felt that I was tired of being sick and tired. One day in January of 2018, I once again found myself in an ambulance heading towards the nearest hospital here in Vancouver. The cause was an episode of depression with suicidal thoughts. As I sat in the ambulance being assessed by the paramedic, I was thinking about how angry I was at myself. At that time, I was so mad at myself because I failed again in not being able to hold it together. I hated my life and asked angrily at God why I was given this miserable life? At that time, I cared less about myself and cared more about what other people thought. Working full-time as a licensed practical nurse, many questions flooded my mind in the ambulance like “What excuse will I tell work again this time? What will I tell my friends and coworkers on where I was? What will I say when they call?” Knowing that last time I went into the hospital, it took a month for me to be able to return to work. I thought that my family, especially my mom, would be sad and disappointed that I am in the hospital again. I live paycheck to paycheck and going to the hospital means that I will not be able to work to catch up with the rent, the monthly bills and the massive debt. Thank God for the employment insurance that there is something there I can use for rainy days like that, but it does not take away from being annoyed at myself. There were many times that people told me I am too hard on myself, but this is the way I learned to deal with myself from a very young age.

Since June 2013, when I got first diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, I struggled even more with self-esteem and all sorts of emotional turmoil. When I was in the senior year of my nursing course in the Philippines, the class went to train in the largest mental health hospital in the country for the field of Psychiatric Nursing. There I found the worst-case scenario in my entire life where patients were confined in one big room because they lacked funding to give them the proper care. Fifty people were in one room. The nurse working there told us that one patient there got into a fight with one of the other patients, and bit one of his ears off. That was the reason they explained he had only one earlobe. Assigned to one patient for my case study, they brought me to a lady who was abandoned by her family for more than twenty years. Confined within that same facility, and deep in psychosis, she was not able to handle a normal conversation. They diagnosed her with Bipolar Disorder. This is the reason why I was so scared when I was diagnosed with the same condition because I saw her state of mind and I knew it was not easy. Similar to what my patient experienced, I had my first full-blown episode of psychosis and the most significant breakdown of my life started in May 2013.

The struggles I experienced during the episode were severe. I grappled with my identity; so confused about who I was. My reality was in a completely different setting; I believed I lived in prehistoric times. It was a daily battle as I was living at a different stage in time, and my belief of the place and people I saw was not the reality. I stayed in hospitals for three months at that time. During those three months, I believed I was living in prison and was expecting the worst punishment. Eventually, I was let out after three months, still psychotic and fell back into the hospital system again for another month. My license as a nurse was put on pause. I struggled for three years to go back to my nurse job. As my life spiralled down, I lost all belief in myself and doubted God.

I began to join therapeutic groups, as recommended by my mental health team. There I realized that many others within the mental health community struggled and that I was not alone. The thing I latched onto was my Christian faith. Finally, I returned to my job as a nurse in 2016. One thing I believed in myself was that I am a good worker and that I am passionate about what I do. There were many times I struggled with the motivation to go to work, but I understood that my illness hindered me to do consistent work. My life lacked consistency; it was especially tricky because of my illness, and yet I continued to do my absolute best at work under the belief that work was all that I had left. For years I allowed my thoughts and feelings to dictate my life. Over time, through therapy and healing from God, I began to realize that even upsetting emotions do not last forever, they are temporary. I began to believe the truth about myself. I started to see that I am beautiful, to feel whole, and to understand that I have been fearfully and wonderfully made. As I realized these things, I started to see the light in the tunnel. Thankfully, now I have hope inside of me, an assurance that I can live a happy, healthy life. So be encouraged, it is possible. Wherever you are in your journey right now, I hope that this gives you hope and a smile today. Let me know what your thoughts are in the comment section below.