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.