#VoicesOfHope: My Journey Through Bipolar Disorder

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My name is Amor. I am 34 years old, and I was raised in a broken family. I grew up a bright child, but a little reserved. My alcoholic father would frequently beat me and my mother whenever he was drunk. My parents separated when I was fifteen years old, after my father cheated on my mother.

When my parents separated, they sold the house we were living in. To his credit, my papa gave me some of the money so I could go to college. But the years I spent in college were also difficult. My mother began a relationship with a cruel man who was addicted to sex. He would often harass me both verbally and sexually, which eventually propelled me to move out of the house.
Thankfully, I was able to finish my studies in a private university, where I graduated cum laude. I worked for two years after graduating. I got engaged to my boyfriend, and when I was 23 years old, I went with him to Guimaras, his hometown. I was ready to get married, but it never happened. It turned out that he had gotten another woman pregnant.
When my plans of getting married dissolved, I went back to Manila and began work in the fashion retail industry. There I met another man, but the trauma of the painful events that had happened to me – my parents’ separation, my mother’s involvement with an abusive man who harassed and maltreated me, and my own failed relationship led me to become an alcoholic at the age of 25. My relationships would never last long. I had a great career in the fashion retail industry and earned enough money to even rent my own apartment, but I would smoke heavily, I would drink every night, rapidly moving from one guy to the next. My life was a living hell.

When I was 26 years old, I entered into a relationship with a guy, who eventually got me pregnant. In the sixth month of my pregnancy, he decided to leave me. He broke up with me one day when I was at his house. I remember having to make my way home after that, sitting on the bus, crying and laughing at the same time. Aside from the fact that I couldn’t figure out how I was supposed to take care of a baby on my own, I felt so depressed that I, who was once a part of a broken family, was here repeating history by creating my own broken family.

I managed to continue to work while I was pregnant. But I began to have nightmares and have episodes when I would cry and laugh at the same time. In 2009, during Typhoon Ondoy, I finally gave birth to a baby boy. My mama and my stepfather came to Manila from the province to help me with the baby, but because of the terrible things my stepfather had done, their presence just made things worse for me. My behavior continued to change. I couldn’t sleep at night, I began to see ghosts, and began to feel that someone was going to kill me. Worst of all, I developed this urge to want to kill and even eat my son, as if he was a piece of meat.

Because of all this I could no longer go back to my work. I could no longer pay the rent, and so my landlord kicked me out. My mother went to live with my aunt, and she took my son with her. My aunt did not want me in her home and so I had no place to go. I wandered around the metro like a stray, not just because I had no money for my own place, but also because I was not in my right mind.

It turned out that my boss had been looking for me, since I had not been reporting to work for so long. I had wandered to the area of our office one day, and my boss and other co-workers found me. They took me to the hospital where I was diagnosed with post-partum pychosis/depression. They fed me and told me I could go back to work once I had fully rested and seen a psychiatrist/psychologist.

I did try to go to a therapist, but because I did not have the money for it, I couldn’t return for more sessions, and just continued to live in the streets. I never got to go back to work, and it turned out that they had actually considered me as resigned. Often I would walk from Cainta to Quiapo to go to the house of my baby’s father to try to look for him. He was, of course, already hiding from me.

Eventually, my mama, my brother, and stepfather took me to the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) where I was confined for 3 days. That didn’t last long because my mama decided that we should go home to Bicol. In Bicol, they tried to help me by sending me to faith healers, but it did not change anything and I could still feel that my condition – whatever it was – still had an effect on me. At that time, I still could not say for sure what was wrong. I continued to hallucinate, and I thought my hallucinations were all real. I would even hallucinate that my son and my boss were zombies.

I decided I really wanted to go back to Manila, so I asked my mama to sell my laptop to pay for my bus fare to Cubao. During that whole bus ride from Bicol to Quezon City, my hallucinations continued, and I sat there in fear that my co-passengers were some sort creatures, not human beings. It was late night when I arrived in Cubao terminal. I walked from there to my auntie’s house in Cainta, hoping she would let me stay there. To my dismay, she refused. I had to live in an open area in Cainta which was near a well. There was a house nearby and the people living there let me sleep on their bamboo couch, which they had placed under a tree. Other people in the area would also give me food from time to time, and one of them even bathed me in the deep well out of pity for my condition. Everyday I would walk to different parts of Rizal and Metro Manila. I knew I was still having hallucinations because I would see who I believed were Jesus Christ and Mama Mary, here now for the second coming.

I decided to go to my office again, hoping they would allow me to work, but they did not. They advised me to claim my SSS maternity benefit. I did so, and with the money, I went to Baguio. I stayed for three days until all I had left was just enough money to go back to Manila. I wandered around Baguio for a bit longer before finally returning to Manila. But since I was out of money again, and because I still was not in my right mind, I began sleeping in the streets again, feeding on whatever leftovers I could find. Sometimes, I would walk up to my former co-workers and beg for food. Each night, I would go back to my area with the bamboo couch in Cainta. Throughout this whole time, my hallucinations continued: I talked out loud with Jesus Christ; sometimes I believed I was the queen of Rome; other times, the wife of Satan, and that his demons were all prowling the Earth. I stayed this way for three months.

One day, my mama’s friend found me, took me in, and reported to my mother where I was. My mother and stepfather came and took me to NCMH. This time, I stayed for four months. Life inside the institution was yet another kind of hell for me. We were given medicines every night for our condition, but we were kept like prisoners. We slept, ate, and relieved ourselves in the same place. We were locked up all the time, and food was limited. All the patients shared the same toothbrush. We had no change of clothes. My hygiene got so bad that they had to shave my hair to get rid of the lice and ticks that were living there. We were, however, required to take baths, and if we didn’t, they would punish us by not giving us our breakfast. Once in a while, there would be groups of students who visit the institution as a field trip, and they would watch us like tigers or lions in a zoo. It felt so humiliating to be treated that way.

After four months, my stepfather took me out of the institution. But instead of this being a good thing, he began to maltreat and molest me again. He took it upon himself to be the one to bathe me, which he said was necessary because I had so many rashes and allergies from being out in the streets and staying in the institution. But he took advantage of those bath times. It is difficult for me to talk about this in detail. Remembering it still causes me so much pain.

My mother didn’t believe me when I told her that my stepfather was abusing me. My hallucinations came back, and this time, even worse than before. I begged a friend of my mother’s for money and managed to go to an aunt’s house in Pampanga. Despite her refusal to believe me, my mother sent me medicine when she found out that I was in Pampanga. I stayed there for five months, and there, I finally began to get well. After five months, I returned to my mother’s house. My stepfather had become sickly. I started seeing a psychiatrist in our municipality, who finally gave me a clear diagnosis: bipolar, with psychotic features. The psychiatrist prescribed antipsychotic and anticonvulsant medications for me, and I have been taking these medicines ever since. After a few more months, my stepfather died.

I have continued to live with my mama. Although I no longer have a full-time job, I have been working as a freelance tutor. I have a new fiance, and we have begun an online business together. Things are better, but still not so easy. My paranoia, hallucinations and delusions are still there, but I am fighting for my life. I now advocate for people who, like me, live with mental illness. I joined a group called Mental Health Awareness Philippines. I care for stray animals and people, and share my talents for singing and art with the less fortunate. I even do modelling jobs, although I am plus size as I have gained weight from taking my medication.

I continue to fight for my life. I fight even if my own mama is unable to understand my condition, even if she pushes me away because of it many times. I believe that everything will be better one day. One good thing in my life now is that I no longer have my vices; I live a more decent life than I did before.

There are many things in my life that are helping me on my way to recovery. One is seeing a doctor regularly and drinking my medicine religiously. It has helped a lot to prevent my psychosis, hallucinations and delusions from recurring. Another helpful way to recover is actually one of the hardest things I’ve had to do – to stop smoking and drinking. Avoiding these vices has helped me improve my mood and stop my psychosis.

I also support my recovery by doing what makes me happy. I enjoy creating art, caring for strays, singing, modelling, doing mobile photography. I have recently been selected as the head of Persons With Disability (PWDs) in our community, and through this, I will be able to further my advocacy of helping people who are also living with mental illness. I will also be offering Art Therapy for people who have mental illness in Ode to Joy Music and Arts Center in Cainta Rizal. It has also helped that I strive to work part time; with this, I am able to feed myself and buy the medicines I need. Finally, I exercise by way of dancing for thirty minutes everyday to boost my mood.

My road to recovery is to plan things for the future and not to focus on having this illness. In fact, I have more plans for the future now than when I was “normal”, or before my mental illness manifested. Hope came into my life this year. But my hope comes from myself, not from anyone else. I have come to realize that nobody is going to help me. The people around us have limited capacities, so we should also help ourselves.

I have heard from a friend that her sister who was suffering from schizophrenia has recovered fully. This gives me hope for the future – that I will also be fully recovered soon. To all of us who are suffering, no matter what life throw at us, we should keep on going. Keep surviving, keep fighting, inform everyone and raise awareness. Before you cut that wrist, think twice; there might be people out there suffering more than you do. I hope I was able to inspire and raise awareness through my story.

-Amor Ranosa


 

#MentalHealthPH believes that you and your story will help empower other people living with mental health problems and fight the stigma linked to it.
Be a voice of hope! Submit your story here: bit.ly/VOHstory

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