I SRSLY Have A Mental Health Problem

      I have a mental health problem. Yes, you read that right, friends.

     I realized that the perfect time to share this is during this time of the year, when we get to banner Mental Health Awareness within the month of October. This topic is very personal and inconvenient for me to open up about initially because like most of us, I am afraid of the criticism that comes from a widely and frustratingly misinformed society. For my blog entry this month, I resolved to communicate as clearly as I could about a mental health problem of mine, and why we should all care about it, too.

     1.) The Problem Seems Abstract Until It Happens To You

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2014. The Philippine Mental Health Act of 2014 has already been filed in the Senate by Senator Loren Legarda, but online petition for signature from the public as support to push the passing of this law is still ongoing

     As a college student, I have encountered peers and colleagues who have claimed to be mentally unhealthy yet failed to seek professional advice or help because of the shame that comes with it. One friend and colleague in particular had shared to me how she often tried to have therapy sessions but was mocked about it by friends she valued. By the time we became friends, I had witnessed how her anxieties had taken its toll on her, resulting to her frequent break downs, alarming social paranoia, and uncontrollable aim for perfection. I could not understand by that time how reluctance had consumed her from taking the necessary steps to help herself, until a similar distress happened to me.

     Within the same school year, I found myself in being increasingly professionally-dysfunctional, socially-withdrawn, physically-exhausted, and emotionally-drained. I experienced refusing to go to school altogether which led me to having accumulated absences and barely passing grades. I also broke down a lot in between classes, school activities, social gatherings, and even at home during the most random times. My ability to focus and cope in day-to-day tasks was numbing down. As an achiever, these red flags were overwhelmingly defeating because I knew that if choice was enough to pull myself together, there was no way I would have dragged myself around like that for months. While I will not know anymore for sure if what I experienced then was really anything serious because I never got to confirm it with a professional, it sure left me a lasting personal evaluation of how it is like to suffer from an unhealthy state of mental health.

     2.) The Problem Has Stigma Which Come From People That Matters

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2016. Various and diverse Filipino personalities unitedly advocate about the essence of addressing mental health problems through passing a legislation about it

     The thing about the stigma surrounding mental health problems is that they usually come from people who are our greatest influencers and support system. Going back to mine and my colleague’s experience regarding seeking professional help, we similarly felt we needed to keep everything to ourselves because it’s close peers who emphasized their lost of confidence in us if we continue to make our struggles apparent. Addressing mental health concerns just then turned out to be exposing unnecessary vulnerabilities. Another experience affirmed this implication as I recalled that once during a class with a Psychology professor, we were asked if who among us would honestly be seeking professional help if we happen to recognize red flags in our respective mental health. It appeared that there’s barely to almost none who actually would. This is interesting given that we were all Psychology majors within that room.

     Furthermore, it’s sad to experience first hand how the stigma proliferates through the words, behaviors, and decisions of even the expected professional helpers because of narrow-mindedness, unnecessary labeling, and incongruent actions with principles. I say this with admission of participating in these because I also tended to be unemphatic with the needs of the people within my immediate circles, close-minded through guiltily labeling others with “just seeking attention” or “simply unmotivated” from time to time, and unavailable to even just lend an ear or extend a hand to people who asks for them. What we oftentimes miss is that we all similarly observe and influence our network of friends and family, therefore contributing significantly how we, the people we value, and the people who value us, view problems like this one. If we are serious in eradicating the stigma, I believe all of us have a responsibility to demonstrate it first and foremost with the people closest to us.

     3.) The Problem Ignites Initiatives Which Need To Be Supported

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July 2016. I started supporting the petition for the Philippines’ first ever Mental Health Act and used my twitter account as my primary medium in getting the word around

     Although our country is undeniably lagging behind in implementing a solution towards this problem, the good news is that there is an actual legislation ongoing and that we can all participate conveniently in spreading the word around about it. I found it disturbing to ponder that the statistics do not lie when it displays a 1 in 5 ratio of people suffering from mental health problems worldwide according to World Health Organization, and that there only is an estimate of 5 psychiatrists per 10, 000, 000 Filipinos to render service. It is absolutely necessary for us to unite in signing this petition and sharing it with all of our loved ones so that most health insurance companies would finally cover mental health-related issues and the stigma on those suffering from mental illnesses would vanish eventually, just to mention a few of the scope this act is covering. Upon my social withdrawal for a few months after my college graduation this year, I stumbled upon this petition to advance a mental health act in our country which would address the mental health problems our countrymen have.

     I made sure to keep myself updated about it so I reached out to the organization who initiated the petition and got myself in touch with people who similarly desire to see this act be passed.  Opportunities to talk about all this actually do not just happen during such a month like this when mental health is promoted, but even also through the examples of mainstream celebrities who show value to recovery and openness about it, the popular movies and shows we watch which has a plot or character associated with mental health problems, and even the trends in different media platforms which we could utilize to engage in more meaningful and relevant discussions with other people. One simply needs to be passionate enough to care and vigilant enough to pay attention to such transitioning points about this matter. I myself am working on this, and I believe all of us could start contributing our respective and collective parts, too.

     At present, I could say more strongly than ever that I have a mental health problem as much as everyone in this country does, due to all the risks we all similarly have and the stigma which worsens this problem. But at the end of the day, I believe that we all are going to take accountability in standing side by side of each other about this matter when we start caring and sharing. If you find yourself interested to do something about this, you can start by signing this petition or even connecting to mental health advocates. Let us all help build a mental health concerned society! ☺

Road to RPm BTS

     The result of the 2016 Psychometrician Board Exam Passers proved to be something I have not truly earned and deserved on my own. The journey and outcome of this ordeal undeniably seemed surreal even as I publish this. I almost did not push through with this board exam. I was constantly torn between abandoning the ship and trusting the Shepherd. Logic would tell me one thing, yet faith would tell me another. Looking back, I thought that I would want to share some of my journey’s highlights and my musings about them. Here are three among many:

1.) When God purposed, He delivers.

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January 2016. I was one of the first in our school to enroll in a review center.

     I was in constant fear and anxiety all throughout the experience because God seemed to always answer just in time. Being an obsessive planner, I found this frustrating because I always wanted to have things settled as soon as possible. I was trying to slowly fade out from my commitment in taking the board exams by missing out on almost half of the entire classes I had to attend in my review center, breaking off with the group study squad I had been part of, and neglecting my self-study duties in finishing at least an entire book per subject.

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July 2016. This group study squad kept me in perspective by being a source of support through their presence.

     By God’s grace, He provided me the comfort by visibly showing how He is moving through keeping up with His promises and sending people along the way to grow with me in this journey. In retrospect, I was glad I eventually paid attention because it has increased my faith as He led me to truly witness how He works in the lives of His people. He truly is a God Whose power do not entirely or significantly depend on us because when He purposes, He truly delivers. If I had not followed His leading as He blessed every step despite the uncertainties, I would have missed out grasping the reality that He truly delivers according to His purposes.

2.) When we honor God in the process, He ultimately gets the glory.

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June 2016. This is the set of people I surround myself with in order to grow more in my faith.

     If there is one thing I learned in my past trials, it was to live uncompromisingly with my values. The preparation stage of every goal usually demands from us according to the goal that we have set in mind. The usually logical thing for me to do in the past was to labor extensively and have God understand that the results are all for Him. However, as with this journey, He taught me that how I spend my days at present determine where my treasures truly are. 

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June 2016. Putting my family first among the list of which I have been blessed with to be a good steward of.

     So instead of setting aside my values in life, I took a leap of faith for the first time in my life to continue on seeking God first through attending bible studies and church services, never neglecting my devotion time with Him, and attending to the needs of the valuable people He’s entrusted me in my life. This has not been an easy task for me at first because there was usually a resistance within me to abandon these for a while and just go back after all has been done. However, I also realized that when my life is at its busiest, what I put first determine which I am truly after. 

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May 2016. Enduring and enjoying my friendship with these people who have been God’s instrument of love towards me since Day 1.   

     I realized that how I live my life for God now reveals how I would live my life for Him throughout this lifetime because it will only get busier and tougher from here. Choosing Him consistently at present is the best decision I have ever done. Through putting Him and His entrusted people to me first before my ambitions, I was able to clear it out with myself Whose glory it is going to be ultimately be as I submit to His will and design. When one honors God in the process, He truly ultimately gets the glory.

3.) Where there is a blessing, there is a responsibility.

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September 2016. Glory is truly only God’s!

     It was almost midnight of September 5, 2016 when the results were released by the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC). As I saw my name as one of the passers, I couldn’t help but feel misplaced among list of fellow passers who had rigorously committed all of themselves to prepare for the board exam. This is because I admittedly just lacked the effort, focus, and passion to pass it. I never had the confidence to claim fully and consistently that I could make it, because I knew myself and my preparations (or the extreme lack of it) too well to say that it would just be humanly impossible to make it. But I knew then that if this is going to be something God is going to bless me with, I would definitely have to be responsible and accountable to Him about it.

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September 2016. Grades I never got during review center drills yet God somehow made possible in the actual exam.

     When all has been said and done, and the results have been both a source of joy and sorrow for the test takers, I realized that what would matter more are the days that come after the board examination period. Whether one passes or fails would only signal to a better direction which God had prepared in advance for us to accomplish. Realizing that the real battle starts after this entire board examination journey only led me to know that every blessing has a corresponding responsibility to which I need to live up to. As for me, only by connecting to Him as my Source, would I be able to perform and manage according to His provision and purpose, which will in turn point my endeavors’s results back to Whom they are truly due. At the end of this experience, I can therefore conclude that truly, the best is yet to come!

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October 2016. Newly Registered Psychologists and Psychometricians morning oath-taking at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC)