Some Travel Advice (Japan Trip Part Two)

Hello, fellow earthlings! As promised, here is the part two of my Japan travel blog post. Let’s start with this vlog I released days ago:

(click this and come back here, plox)

And now for the tips:

  • Consult your doctors if you are fit to travel to your destination of choice. You need to check your stats and to know how to best manage your treatments while you are away.
  • Travel with someone who knows your medical history thoroughly. It’s better if he/she is your primary care.
  • Research your destination! See if they have the facilities and spaces that are suited with your needs.
  • Stock on all of your medical supplies! Make sure you have a ~little~ more than what you need.
  • As much as possible, travel as light as you can. (I know this is hard.)
  • Write your things-to-do on post-its, etc. We don’t want brain fog to strike us hard, right?
  • Have plans of action to medical scenarios that might happen. It’s better to be prepared at all times.
  • REST. REST. REST a lot days before your travel. You need your energy when you sight-see and experience the places!
  • HAVE FUN. Traveling is a privilege for us warriors. Once our health permits us, we gotta take advantage (with caution). 😉

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Brand New Step

One of my greatest fears ever since I got sick is my future prospects as a chronically ill /PWD person in this country. I’ve been wanting to talk about transcending chronic illnesses and working on something meaningful in life. But I didn’t know how. This is why it’s been taking me such a long time to write something here again.

Until I read about Claire Wineland, her clairity project and Claire space foundation. She’s been battling cystic fibrosis since childhood. Then, I discovered Jaquie Beckwith and her service dog, Harlow. Through her IG posts and vlogs, she’s been documenting how she lives daily with multiple illnesses. I wondered what makes them tick.

A eureka moment led me to believe that they are not only embracing their vulnerabilities but also keeping an open mind on gambling on life. As what one of my favorite researchers said, they have “character…the ability to dig down and find the strength when things are going against you.” They are working with their limits to go higher and to expand their boundaries. They connect with people; they are not doing this alone. I realized I’ve been taking risks half-baked because I was letting fear overwhelm me. When I created this blog, I had a vision of it primarily being a space where people can reclaim their own stories as I reclaim mine. However, I was letting fear hamper me on touching on some issues.

Where do we go from here? Now that I have a handle on my present reality, I will consciously and courageously throw my chips. No more mediocre commitment. I’ll share whatever I can about my journey and push to transcend awareness of multiple chronic illnesses into actions through 1)  writing, vlogging, and photographing to stop the stigma of chronically ill people NOT having a “life”; 2) stop the stigma against mental illnesses because hey, we are not what the common stereotypes depict; and 3) discussing the intersectionality of the issues the chronically ill face.

Please look forward to my future content here and at my youtube channel, Chelly Caritativo. I need your hands to make this happen! If there is any way we can collaborate, shoot me an email or simply message me here.

My FIRST youtube video will be out very soon! I’ll post the details asap. EXCITING!!!!

 

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P.S. The part two post of my Japan trip will be posted soon. I’m a woman of my word; sorry for the delay. Hospital admissions got in the way. 🙂

Japan Trip (Part 1)

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This trip should have happened back in October 2015. Unfortunately, I got hospitalized. The plan was pushed back and back because of my sister’s busy clerkship schedule (She’s a medical student!) and my unstable health.

Fortunately, this year, my mom started planning this trip again because I was gaining more ground on managing my symptoms and my sister was informed she’ll have a two-week vacation.

Fast track to the the first week of May. Everything was coming together – we had our visas granted, booked our tickets, and chose major places to visit. However, my health started to decline. Because my current mix of medicines then, I began to experience my second major fibromyalgia flare. My neck, back, hips, knees, and calves were burning almost everyday. I cannot walk beyond 15 mins nor I can stand for that long. My TMJ flared too. The stress of my heavy academic requirements amplified it.

As such, my parents and I consulted my psychiatrist and rheumatologist. They told us that there must be an improvement every week before they grant me a travel clearance. Thus they gave a new mix of medicines, upping 8 pills to 11 on a moderately bad day.

Thankfully, the pain lessened. And so, they gave me clearance provided that I will take a wheelchair in the airports, the amusement parks and other tourist spots. After all, I was still in flare albeit at the *hopefully* tail end.

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The first three days had me feeling okay for most of the time. The streets, transportation, buildings, and parks of Tokyo were a thousand times more PWD-friendly than my own home city in the Philippines.  This definitely lessened my stress and worries. It was easy asking for wheelchair assistance because the people were very accommodating. Shoutout to Disneyland for having priority seats during shows and views during parades! Visit my photography portfolio here for more photos 🙂

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Stay tuned for part 2 wherein I will share some travel tips for chronic illnesses sufferers!

 

 

On Bullying and Depression

Note: I wrote this weeks ago and planned to publish this on my site at the end of the month. But I’m having terrible nightmares and post-traumatic flashbacks since last week. I have a feeling I’ve been triggered by the posts about Thirteen Reasons Why. Thus, I’ll be detoxifying from any social media save for FB messenger, email, and my blog for…I don’t know. My health is my priority. Have a safe holy week and vacation, guys.


 

Bullying was the one topic I actively avoided. If I were to refer to it, I would use euphemisms and just brush past it. However, I learned in my history classes that dark periods must be acknowledged so they may never be repeated. (#NeverForget!) Plus, I got questions on how I discovered I have bipolar disorder, general anxiety disorder, and panic disorder.

Before you read my story, understand that my bullying experience was a HUGE RISK factor, and NOT the DIRECT CAUSE of my disorders. I do not blame anyone for what happened to me. I accept the fact that I am physiologically vulnerable to having them in the first place. My illnesses have biological causes.

Trigger warning as well. This may not be easy to swallow. Here we go:

I was bullied from fifth grade to second year high school. There were no words that can explain how I hated being called smart, intelligent, or a nerd. I hated that I love learning and studying. I hated that I like anime and books. I hated that my tastes in music are not mainstream. I hated that I am curvy. I hated a lot of things that I used to love.

I hated myself and no one knew. At age 11, I had my first attempt. I remember being a walking emotional wreck who hid inside the comfort room cubicles during lunch.

At age 12, I cried every after school dismissal. I remember congratulating myself for surviving another day. No one knew.

At age 13, I stayed in the corners of the class with my three close friends. Social outcasts stayed together. I had my second attempt; no one knew.

At age 14, I almost had my third attempt. My sister, bless her heart, stopped me.

At age 15 and 16, I filled my schedule with lots of extra curricular activities and advance classes. The busier, the better. The more I did, the more I was not forced to admit that I was having panic attacks and recurring nightmares. I thought they were normal. I thought I moved on.

Invalidating my pain for a long time, I realized, had difficult consequences. 2015, the tenth anniversary of my first attempt, saw me attempting three more times. Coupled with the stress from work and meeting a person I allowed to bully me, I…just drowned.

I felt hollow. I was empty. I thought there was nothing to look forward to. I didn’t move from my bed most days. I didn’t sleep. I didn’t eat right. I cried a lot. I cancelled plans with my friends. I isolated myself from my co-workers. I was disconnected with the world. I had no energy to keep up with life anymore.

My mom and my sister urged me to seek help before it was too late. Two days after my 21st birthday, I was confined for severe depression and severe suicidal tendencies/ideations. Months later, my psychiatrist formally diagnosed me with bipolar type 2 disorder and two anxiety disorders.

But I want to end this post in a positive note so these I can tell you:

It’s been seven months since my last suicide ideation.

It’s been eight months since deep depression hit me.

It’s been nine months since my last attempt.

There is no hatred or anger in me that is directed towards anyone anymore. I understand that there must be something they were going through too at that time. Bullying is a cycle and I want our cycle to end it with me. No more hurting.

I wish my school supported me more throughout my stay because I can’t seem to go back and visit. No matter how wonderful my senior year was, every bathroom stall and space under the stairs remind me of the girl who wished to die. I hope the system has changed and now have the capacity to help students who are facing bullying, depression, and suicidal thoughts among other mental illnesses.

Suffice to say, I am in a better place. I came to accept that I will always carry my experiences with me. It has taken me more than a decade and I am proud to be a work-in-progress. I am not a victim; I am surviving and thriving.

Depression Fast Facts + My Self-Care Practices!

Today is World Health Day and this year’s focus is on depression. I find it fitting because I know people who have this illness who are afraid to share their experience due to the current stigma and misconceptions. Plus, Netflix’s show, Thirteen Reasons Why, delves into this disorder BUT does not do anything to show viewers how to handle/manage it. If anything, the show can trigger sufferers because of the graphic nature (Pleeeeease, if you think you can relate to Hannah, I encourage you to stop watching it. )

Fast Facts

Depression has different forms with major depression, persistent depressive disorder, other specified depressive disorder and unspecified depressive disorder among them. There are specific criteria required for each as stated by Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5). Psychiatrists determine the severity and duration of the depressed mood to be formally diagnosed as it is a common misconception that sadness equals to this disorder. (ICSI,2017)

Dr. Carey Gross of Massachusetts General Hospital developed SIGECAPS,  an acronym for the symptoms of major depression and persistent depressive disorder. It stands for:

  • Sleep disorder (increased or decreased)
  • Interest deficit (anhedonia)
  • Guilt (worthlessness, hopelessness, regret)
  • Energy deficit
  • Concentration deficit
  • Appetite disorder (increased or decreased)
  • Psychomotor retardation or agitation
  • Suicidality

Five or more of its symptoms have been present in a two-week or more period. Please remember NOT to self-diagnose; seek a healthcare professional.

Depression prevention is rare even in other countries. The prevalence rate worldwide ranges from 2.6% to 29.5%. (Oro-Josef, 2014) In the Philippines, every three hours and a half, a person commits suicide. (Butuyan, 2016)

Do not lose hope! There are treatments available such as medications and therapies. 🙂

My Self-Care Practices

My depression is co-morbid (aka related!) with my other illnesses: it is part of my bipolar type 2 mood disorder, affects anxiety disorders, and intensified by fibromyalgia. As such, my treatment plan is coordinated across all my illnesses; I have a team of doctors who help me manage them. Besides therapy and medications, I developed my own self-care practices. Here are some:

  • Alert my primary care (my family, my boyfriend, and my doctors) when I notice that my depressed mood is severe. It is hard to open up at first but I know I have more chances of overcoming the episode with them around.
  • Follow a daily-routine even on days I do not want to move. Small victories such as not overeating/undereating and taking a bath do wonders.
  • Do meditation/mindful breathing. I am a convert of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Therapy because it helps me change my mindset to something less negative. Plus, the stability I reach = priceless.
  • Respect my body’s limits aka I rest. A lot. I used to conform to the world’s obsession with being busy but I found out that such toxic lifestyle only worsens my conditions. Eeeek.
  • On days I feel a lot of despair, I eat ice cream. I watch my favorite movies. I let silence hug me until I am ready to be hugged by a loved one.
  • Keep a list of loved ones I am comfortable with. This is so I know who I can invite to hang-out when something is troubling me or when I just want to have fun.
  • Lessen social media use / social media detox every now and then.
  • Write and make art.

I hope this post *enlightens* you, even just a little, about depression. If you have any questions/comments/reactions, please do not hesitate to reach out. You have my ears. 🙂


Sources cited:

Bantuyan, J. R. (2016, July 25). Seven Filipinos commit suicide every day. Retrieved April 7, 2017, from http://opinion.inquirer.net/95929/seven-filipinos-commit-suicide-every-day
Oro-Josef, C. P., MD, FPAFP, FPCGM . (2014, October 12). Prevalence of depression in the Philippines. Retrieved April 07, 2017, from http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/prevalence-of-depression-in-the-philippines/

My Anxiety Self-care Practices (Part 1)

For my IG friends, I’ve been talking about my anxiety disorders and how they affect my day-to-day activities since I started opening up about my conditions. I realized that I haven’t shared what tools I use to battle them. Thus, I thought that maybe the habits and things I do to alleviate my attacks and to change my mindset ~might~help people too. As such, this two-part post.

Disclaimer: I am not a professional psychiatrist and the information I’m sharing here are based on two factors: a.) my experiences, and b.) the available resources my psychiatrist provides.  Most of my practices are rooted from Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Therapy. In no way I am forcing anyone to follow them or saying this is the solution to anxiety! It is still BEST to consult a healthcare professional. Also, the anxiety disorders I refer here are generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorder. 🙂 

Situation 1: I am feeling too anxious and too stressed out. What to do?! 

  • Whatever I’m doing, I stop doing. I go to a corner devoid of any noise or I plug my earphones on
  • I close my eyes and focus on my breathing.
  • I remind myself that I am HERE, and NOT in the past nor the future.
  • I count slowly while taking deep breaths.
  • Then I do a five-minute mindful sitting meditation. (https://palousemindfulness.com/docs/sittingmeditation.pdf)
  • Or, if I’m feeling too jumpy for a sitting meditation, I do the walking meditation. (http://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/walking_meditation)
  • After that, I acknowledge that I needed that me time. There is no need to feel guilty or judgmental. Everybody needs rest and breaks.
  • If my meditations or breathing techniques do not work, I take my prescribed meds and/or tell a family member/friend to stay with me.

**It took me a while to get used to mindful meditation – my mind is often buzzing with worries, fears, and plans (especially when I’m manic!!!) – BUT, I kept on practicing. I recently reached a phase where it became automatic for me to do it whenever I can feel my anxiety levels are high.

Situation 2: I’m going to a crowded place. CROWD. Lots of people. How to navigate without launching into a panic attack? 

  • Days before the event/outing/trip, I make a ladder of situations. (https://www.anxietybc.com/sites/default/files/FacingFears_Exposure.pdf)
  • Then, I familiarize myself with the place. I identify areas where I can stay if ever my anxiety overwhelms me. I do this cautiously because I still have the tendency to catastrophize and to focus on what I should be. I remind myself that my goal is to push my boundaries but to respect my limits.
  • Right now, I’m still in the stage where I cannot go to a crowded place alone. As such, I call/invite someone who understands my conditions to go with me. Being with a familiar face grounds me to reality.
  • On the day of the event/trip, I pump myself. I acknowledge negative thoughts but do not dwell on them.
  • Just in case, I have my emergency medications with me. I remind myself that if ever the need arises, I will take my medications w/ little-to-no self-criticisms. I’m a work-in-progress.

**My boyfriend helped me adjust to crowds a lot by inviting me to Ateneo’s basketball games last year. We went to five. By the last game, I lasted the whole four quarters.

Situation 3: I’m having a fibro flare/asthma and allergy attack!!!!

  • For these attacks, I immediately alert my primary care (my immediate family or my boyfriend, whichever is nearby. They are trained by my doctors how to respond.) I know I cannot alleviate my situation alone.
  • On fibro flares: I identify which parts of my body are in pain, and rate them. If I rate the most intense pain 6 and below, I lie down and do a five-minute mindful breathing. (http://www.mindful.org/a-five-minute-breathing-meditation/) Then I allow myself to rest. If the most intense pain is a 7 and above, I ask for my meds, do the meditation, and rest.
  • On asthma and allergy attack: My goal here is for the attack not to escalate into a full-blown anaphylaxis shock. After taking my prescribed medications, I close my eyes and remind myself that I am still here in the present moment. I may not be able to breathe properly and I maybe itching all over, but I will be alright. My primary care is here, ready to help me gain control over this situation.

For part 2, I will discuss how I manage my panic attacks, my general anxiety self-care, and what I teach my loved ones on how to help me handle these situations. Anxiety disorders are not only affecting the suffer but also the people around him/her.

Tell me what you guys think! 🙂

Hiya, interwebs!

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Formally introducing myself here. Hello, I am Chelly Caritativo, a twenty-something education advocate and dark chocolate lover. Any *fresh* dish with salmon is something I’d love to eat. Books amaze me. Writing, taking photos, and painting keep me sane. Dogs revive me.

I also live with multiple chronic illnesses.

Before I became sick, I’d dream of becoming an educator who will

  • establish an arts school in 2050
  • own five dogs
  • marry a good and kind-hearted man
  • co-own a social enterprise (a cafe!)
  • care for as many children as I can

Now…I can still do those. Surprised?

My five illnesses will not make things easy but ya girl is determined to live a life I’ll be at peace with. Currently, I’m taking my second degree in education studies major in instructional design and technology.  Together with my two friends, I am also planning to start a mini online art shop.

Topics of this blog range from chronic illness awareness and health to arts and politics. I’m excited to write about my experiences and thoughts here.

See you next post, yes? 🙂