Languid

Perhaps the most recurrent theme of this depression cycle is ‘searching’. I craved to be alone most of the time to listen to music, to write down thoughts, and to embrace all the privacy I can get. I knew that my way out isn’t through the help of people this time.

Somewhere along this year, I lost my sense of self. I lost a part of my identity in my fight to be alive.  I became someone’s advocate, another’s girlfriend, a daughter, a friend, a patient etc. But all these did not mesh together well. I did not know the sum of my parts.  I ended up being more broken.

As such, I’m using this restlessness to provoke me to do self-care and to feel something, anything, as me for me. To find out once again what I like, what I love. To find why I’m trying so hard to have more time here. To search who I want to become.

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On Weight

Hiya, interwebs. It’s been a month since I blogged BUT I’m here now. Today, I’ll be talking about weight.

Ever since I was born, my built is not skewed towards the skinny type. I was just okay, appearance-wise, and I never became obese.  Still, I got called fatty all my life. It used to upset me so much that I never upload whole body pictures of me unless I thought I looked thin in them. I was so afraid of the judgments and comments.

When I became sicker, this insecurity came rearing back from the dead. My weight fluctuated a lot because of my medicines (and now because of my gastrointestinal illnesses. My illness count is now at 9.)  In fact, an acquaintance told me that “I look “healthy” aka chubby for someone who is seriously sick.” It was a hard slap of reality on the face…

…because F*CK beauty standards. Weight does not judge someone’s beauty. I’ve had enough. No more. 

Looking back, I thought there was something wrong with me. I didn’t look like the models and the artists I saw on TV, IG, and other media. I wasn’t size 2 or 4. At my skinniest, I was a size 6 or 8 due to my health condition. I remember getting compliments about it and thinking that the society must be shitting me. I was in pain and yet I get praised for it?!

 

So, to the people reading this blog, please remember:
Your worth as a person can’t be weighed on a numbered weighing scale. Do not based your values on society’s norms because society sets up some rules that are wrong anyway. If there is something you should care about regarding weight, it should be your BMI.

You are more than numbers. 
We aspire for healthy. 
Your worth is inherent.
You deserve to be loved – your body, your heart, your mind – all of you. 
You are beautiful. 

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!

 

 

My Anxiety Self-Care Practices (Part 2)

Thank you for the lovely messages, everyone. I deeply appreciate the concerns and your sharing of your stories. I am glad that my experiences and coping strategies are helping. Your comments aid me too in deciding which topics I can write about in the near future. 🙂

Anyway, here is part two of my self-care practices on anxiety.  (Read part one here) If you have any clarifications or you want to share some of your own, you are more than welcome to drop a comment or an email. Wahuuuu!

During and after panic attack

  • Before I reach full escalation, I muster the strength to call one of my primary care. As soon as I am in contact/ I am with him/her, I release my emotions.
  • My primary care helps me gain focus on the reality by:
    • doing breathing techniques with them
    • letting me hold their hands / hug them
    • soothing me by NOT saying “Calm down.” ; she/he knows the command just does the opposite
    • listening to my concerns and responding gently, always aiming to ground me back to the present moment
    • by my request, assisting in taking my attack medication
  • “This too shall pass.” I repeat these words in my head until the attack dissipates.
  • After the attack, I acknowledge and process the experience by not blaming anyone especially myself. I rest.

General Self-Care Practices

  • Practicing mindfulness. This therapy has helped me cope with a lot of stressful situations by meditation, walking, and journaling. I’m perusing Dr. Bob Stahl and Dr. Elisha Goldstein’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook.
  • Exercise! In my case, my exercises are carefully reviewed and prescribed by my physiatrist due to my Fibromyalgia. Doing my sets (especially cycling!) everyday helps me manage my mood and keep myself in touch.
  • Overcoming triggers one by one. HA! This is a work-in-progress since I have a LOT of anxiety triggers. I’ll write a separate post for this.
  • Listening to soft, classical music. Cliche as this sounds, Yo-Yo Ma’s playing of Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major relaxes me when I write or review for my academics.
  • Painting. I just started this two years ago and I found it as one of my effective outlets.

Recommended Resources:

  • If you are curious about mindfulness, click this free, online MBSR site that offers an eight-week course! Swearing by this because I get some of my meditation recordings here.
  • If you find yourself having the urge/are experimenting with drugs as a way to cope with anxiety, please visit DrugRehab.com. I found the site insightful and reassuring.
  • AnxietyBC has a lot of downloadable resources on anxiety disorders. It also has a self-help section that you may find useful.
  • If you are dating someone with anxiety disorder, check out this list of advice.
  • If you want to help someone cope with anxiety, this site explains the do’s and dont’s.

I will constantly write about self-care practices and experiences on anxiety here. 🙂 If you are experiencing anxiety, please please please remember:

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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.