#StopTheStigma

I am supporting the initiative of Philippine Psychiatric Association to raise awareness, promote mental health and protect the rights of people with mental disorders by signing the petition to make the country’s first Mental Health Act happen.

If you’re one with us, you can sign the petition here.

Do you know how hard it is to have a psychological disorder here in the Philippines?

  1. HMOs or health cards do not cover consultation to psychiatrists and psychologists.
  2. One consultation with a psychiatrist is worth P 1,500 – P 2,000.
  3. Medicines are costly.
  4. People can’t talk about it openly because not everyone understands.

You know how I know? I’ll let you in on a little secret…

Earlier this year, I was diagnosed with Agoraphobia, a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear or avoid places or situation that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped. Because of this, I had to take medication for 3 months.

I used to speak of anxiety and depression casually, like how I felt anxious when there was an upcoming presentation or how I felt depressed when I had my heart broken. But when i experienced it firsthand, I learned that anxiety and depression are much more than what we know.

How it started?

I felt a discomfort in my chest one day in December and I immediately had it checked; there was an impression of Mitral Valve Prolapse. I googled what it is and got anxious about it. I lost my appetite, I remember sitting at the dining table with my hands and feet all sweaty, I was scared of nothing in particular, my voice was trembling and I felt paranoid just by hearing my own heartbeat.

I was all cleared when I showed my tests to the Cardiologist and she said all the results were normal and I don’t have MVP. That’s when it got worse.

I came home from the doctor’s office feeling more anxious than ever. I had a hard time sleeping since then. Sometimes I am awake for 40 hours. That week I only got 8 hours of sleep in total. I had resorted to antihistamines, guided meditation videos, warm milk, warm bath and different kind of teas, but soon enough they no longer work on me. I remember being scared of coming home, because that means I have to sleep. I am scared of my own bed, I no longer sleep on it (until now). I had panic attacks. One time I was in a meeting room and felt like the room was closing in on me, I can’t breathe, I had to step out. I went for a walk and good thing St. Lukes was just a few steps away from the office. They gave me valium so I can calm down. It started to affect my work and my daily life. My parents and friends started to worry about me. I looked thin and stressed and depressed. It was a very dark time for me. I cannot make myself look forward to weekend. I felt as though I cannot make it to weekend. That’s when I sought help from a professional.

Was I ashamed? No. When I spilled out everything to my psychiatrist, I felt that for once, someone understood me. He prescribed me Serotia (generic name: Quetiapine), 50mg, which costs 70+ per tablet. I had to take it for 3 straight months, I cannot drink alcoholic drinks and I cannot smoke. My doctor’s one and only advice was not to google the medicine. (After 3 months, I googled it and found that it is for bipolars and schizophrenics, their usual dose is around 600mg)

My sleep improved, though the first few days, I had no dreams (deep sleep). And my friend who saw me sleeping said I looked stiff. I still felt anxious after, but I can control it. I stopped having panic attacks. I felt light and happy again, most of all, my appetite was back! After 3 months of taking the meds though, I had to see another psychiatrist because I cannot sleep without the meds. I prefer my new psychiatrist because she asked questions about my childhood and my family which helped a lot, I was able to release some baggages that I didn’t know I carry. My new psychiatrist advised to still take the medicine because I am still adjusting and I can gradually decrease the dosage until I can sleep without them. And it worked. It’s been 7 months since my last intake. And I feel like I am back to my old, jolly self.

What I learned and what I want others to know:

  • If you feel like something is bothering you and you are feeling unusually down that it affects your day-to-day life, do not be afraid to seek professional help.
  • To those who know someone who is depressed or suffering from anxiety, be supportive and patient with them. Don’t tell them to “just snap out of it” or “just think of happy thoughts” because it is no as easy as that. If we can choose not to feel it, we will definitely do it.
  • Also, do not tell them they are crazy or over-acting or exaggerating. One friend of mine told me that I have become un-cool because of my anxiety attacks. We tend to be extremely sensitive. So please, choose your words.
  • There are many incidents of suicide in the Philippines. If you feel like no one understands you or everyone is against you or if you feel down and unmotivated, please know that there are people who have been in the same situation as yours. There are people who will listen and who can understand you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There is a 24/7 hotline that you can call: 804-HOPE (804-4673) or 0917-558-HOPE. And there are psychiatrists and psychologists who know well what you’re going through.
  • I have read different forums and I realized there are A LOT of Filipinos who suffer from different mental disorders; they don’t know where to go and some can’t afford to see a psychiatrist.
  • You are not alone.

My psychiatrists are:

Dr. Los Banos (Healthway in Market Market and FEU – Marian Bldg, QC)

Dr. Demeterio (Cardinal Santos Hospital and Medical City)

Feel free to send me a message if you have questions.

LoveAndrea

 

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