“Tear off the mask. Your face is glorious.” – Rumi
I was seated comfortably on the couch on a Wednesday afternoon in my counsellor’s office, facing Nina, my counsellor. Thanks to my employer’s generous Employee Assistance Program (EAP), I am able to avail of 5 counselling sessions for free, which were normally priced at A$230+ per hour. I’ve gone deep into my “dip” episode again and decided to seek professional assistance this time.
Nina: How are you feeling right now?
Me: I’m exhausted.
I was trying to fight back tears as I was sharing to Nina my story, my thoughts and my emotions but it was just impossible to bare it all and not cry. After a few sessions with my counsellor, she described me as a ‘time traveler’. If you’re (un)lucky to meet me over coffee or drinks, or if I’m sitting in the meeting room for a meeting, there’s a huge possibility that I’m there with you physically but not ‘present’ in that exact place and time, since my mind is off to some place far, far away, wandering and ruminating about a whole lot of things. My mind has this hyperactive ability to process different thoughts in one given time, which probably explains why it takes me at least 20 minutes to take a shower, at least 30 minutes to wash the dishes, and at least 2 hours to iron the clothes. I have this inclination to reflect so much on the past and worry excessively about the future that I fail to be present at present time.
Exhaustion, I guess, would be the appropriate word to describe the state I’ve been in for the past years. I’ve been trying to sort things out on my own because I’ve held on to the long-standing belief that attending to mental health is arte lang or sakit pang-mayaman. I’m eternally grateful for living away from home for almost 4 years and have been exposed to an environment where mental health is an issue people take seriously. After having finished 4 counselling sessions this year, I came to a decision to undergo a mental health assessment. It’s time to give my friend or foe (depending on my circumstances) a name.
Nina referred me to a registered psychologist to have this procedure done. My psychologist was Hope Rigby. After 2 hours of seemingly endless questions, Hope started scribbling her diagnosis on a blank pad. I’m not sure if I was ready to hear the outcome but realised it was no use to delay. She started explaining about my growth factors and inhibiting factors and then later on spilled the beans. My diagnosis was ‘extremely severe depression’ and ‘moderate anxiety’. She went on to explain that it’s better to rule out my thyroid issues by getting a blood test and checking whether it was my hormones acting up and causing these mental issues. Otherwise, if my thyroid check comes off as normal, then we go down the mental health plan path and go for regular counselling/therapy sessions and/or medical prescription.
I told myself, I have thyroid issues in my medical history so there’s something I can put the blame on. Well, my blood test was done and my hormones showed to be normal. Nothing to point fingers on this time. I simply have to accept the fact that I haven’t been mentally okay. I told a few close friends at first but later on thought that there’s no point in hiding and telling it to a selected few.
I’m not okay right now, but I’m getting there. I’m not okay right now, but in time I will be. If I am to become a personal advocate of mental health, I need to tell my story. Welcome to my time-travelling journey, would you walk with me?