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A Swinging Mind

I almost lost my life in 2018.

I was in Japan. As with my every trip to this country, being a favorite destination, I was in high spirits, until out of the blue I got extremely irritable, agitated, and for no reason at all, I lost my temper and suddenly loathed the people I was with on this trip. I hated them so much that I went on separate ways with them; not minding that I was on my own until the last day of our trip. On the day that we were scheduled to fly back home, I felt awfully sad and lonely. I was feeling so low that I decided not to take the flight back to Manila and instead take the shinkansen from Osaka to Tokyo. My thoughts were telling me that I was worthless, that I was a bad person for hurting a lot of people, that I was someone impossible to be around with, and that I immensely failed in my relationships, career, and my life in general. It was too debilitating that the only option to escape it all was to end my life in Japan.

Fast forward to two days later and back in Manila, I drove myself to the hospital. After close to three hours in a psychiatrist’s clinic, I learned that what happened in Japan was an episode of mania before it quickly shifted to depression. The psychiatrist diagnosed me with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, a condition characterized by persistent and excessive worry about a number of different things, and Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder in which extreme mood swings from extreme high to extreme low occur fast and frequently as a result of chemical imbalance in the brain. I was told that I was born predisposed to the illness having likely gotten it from my grandfather and that toxic situations in the past influenced the onset of my symptoms. Since I was initially diagnosed in 2017 by a different psychiatrist with having only depression and was given antidepressants to ward off the symptoms, those pills unfortunately induced my mania.

I was immediately admitted to a psychiatric facility because my case was urgent and life threatening. I had to be confined inside a safe space devoid of people and objects that could influence self-harm while I began getting treatment and undergoing therapy. I spent close to one month in that facility, in a restricted part inside a highend hospital in Manila, without access to the outside world, before I was stable enough to be discharged and get back to normal life.

I accepted my diagnosis wholeheartedly and took the treatments and therapies seriously. It finally made sense. Looking back, since I was a child, I had always feared happiness. A moment of happiness would always mean that a moment of sadness would come next. That was the cycle I have known for a long time and I have always believed that it was the same and normal for everyone.

It was a pity that I did not learn about my condition early on. I did not know that my mania would mean episodes of too much energy therefore working like a well-oiled machine when it struck, producing loads of output at lightning speed, that were outcomes of pulling non-stop all-nighters and working weekends. I did not know that my fits of intense euphoria was not normal. I did not know that engaging in too risky behaviors, being overly impulsive, having outbursts that terrified people, and getting extremely irritated and upset even with the most innocent people and with the most mundane things are also manifestations of my manic episodes. While I did not have delusions and psychosis as others do, my symptoms of mania are hard to control.

I did not know that, conversely, when it hit low, the many times when I slept on my work clothes on a Friday night and woke up on the same clothes on Monday morning, when I could barely move, finding comfort in the darkness of not opening the windows in my flat, withdrawing from family and friends, always thinking that I was useless, that people hated me, and that I no longer deserved to live because I was a bad person, were actually episodes of depression.

The shift in between my moods occurred faster and more frequently in the last few years. The bouts of manic and depressive episodes in 2015 towards 2018 had been so cruel. I could not understand what was happening to me. The anxiety and the mood swings scared and confused me; they were taking over my life. The mania worsened, the depression took longer to wane, and too many tough events at work and in my personal life transpired all at the same time, adding some level of severity to the condition. My career was disrupted, my overall health was impaired, and my professional and personal relationships were ruined. As the depressive episodes had gotten very bad, many times suicide was my only real option; many times in a middle of a meeting I would go on a restroom break so I could cry, and on several nights alone at the balcony of my 16th floor condo unit, I toyed on the idea of ending my life.

But I am still here. I am still here because of people who have always done their best to be patient with me. I am still here because of people sending me messages in the middle of the night to check on me. I decided to discard the Tokyo plan and take the flight home because of people who promised me that there is hope; I just had to take the flight and land first in Manila. I am still here because of a psychiatrist who accommodated me at 3:00 AM when I had nowhere else to go. I am still here because of people willing to take on the difficult job of being my support system. I am still here because I sought and accepted help. I am still here because of love, care, and kindness.

I am sharing my story to pay it forward, hoping to raise awareness and to help educate. With my anxiety and bipolar disorders becoming public, I hope I could show that it is real and for those who do not have it under control would seek help with all that is available to treat it. I hope I could help remove any stigma attached to it; hopefully replacing judgment with love, support, and understanding for people diagnosed with mental health illnesses. I do not feel bad about having this condition; if there is any regret about it, it is about not seeking help and not figuring it out early in my life.

My illness has no cure and therefore it is lifelong. I take five pills daily to help manage the symptoms and to help me stabilize my mood. I make sure to be able to sleep for seven to eight hours every night – this is the most important for me aside from medication. Exercise, awareness of my triggers, and setting boundaries help as well. I advise people around me whenever I become unwell so they know what and not to say and do. My illness is here to stay but every day, I try my very best to be good at what I do and to be an overall good person.

To the people I have hurt in the past because of my words, actions, and behaviors as I did not understand what was going on with me, please know that I am deeply sorry.

To the people who never stopped showing me love, care, and kindness regardless of the mood I was in, thank you. Life has been meaningful because of you.

I am no longer dreading the cycle of happy days and bad days, even many bad days. I have accepted the good and the many ugly things that come with this condition. As healing is not linear, I am a work in progress and it is through acceptance of my past and gratitude for the present that I am able to look forward to the future and trust the path that I am in.

Yayen is a sales professional, brand builder, entrepreneur, business consultant, designer, innovator, world traveler, and a foodie.

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