September 26, 2023

I am young and vibrant. I have a strong body. I do not experience any form of illness. I feel like I could ably handle any physical task ahead of me.
But why do I feel that my relationship with my family and friends is poor? Why do I feel that my life seems to lack direction? Why do I constantly experience negative emotions? Is there something wrong with me?
These questions have been lurking subconsciously in my mind, waiting to be answered. When our lesson in school was on mental health and well-being in middle and late adolescence, it was then that everything became clear to me. I came to understand that our mental well-being is an equally important element to living healthily.
The challenges, difficulties, and stresses that come with the transition an adolescent goes through can make an adolescent psychologically vulnerable. In effect, mental health and well-being can be weakened, and this can lead to mental health problems. The most common mental health problems among adolescents, according to the Philippine Mental Health Association, are depression and anxiety, conduct disorder, and eating disorders. Poor mental health is also associated with negative health effects and negative social outcomes such as alcohol and substance abuse, teenage pregnancy, school drop-out, and delinquent behaviors.
It was likewise made clear to us that mental illnesses or disorders are not our fault. For instance, the chemical imbalance in our brain is causing depression – an illness, just like how the kidney, liver, or any other organ fall ill – and it is not because of our own doing, and like most illnesses, mental illness is manageable.
Most of all, I was incredibly enlightened by the essay we were asked to read in class, an essay written by a young girl, Ashley, who has a mental disorder, specifically, bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is commonly known as manic-depression, a mental disorder characterized by periods of elevated mood, that is, being overly happy and energized and periods of depression, that is, feeling very sad, hopeless, and loss of energy.
She described vividly the pain and suffering she had endured even up to the point where she was feeling hopeless and suicidal. The point where she realized that suicide is not the answer, that she needed help because she got scared of her own self. She wrote that yes, it was hard at first because it’s not easy to admit that something is wrong with you. But it had to be done. I agree with what she said that sometimes in life, it’s not about what you want to do, but what you should and need to do.
I really admire her courage and passion to share with us how she was able to maneuver through this disorder. According to her, first, it is extremely important to dig deep into your emotions; be keen about how you feel and what you are thinking. Ask yourself, what happened? What made you feel that way? The answer may seem overwhelming and you may just finally say, “I don’t know” but swim through all the emotional and mental chaos because there is always an answer. If you know yourself well, you will know how you will react and how you will fight.
Second, find your passion and turn your battles into brilliance. She went on to write that she has always been an achiever in school because she is always worried that if she doesn’t do well in school, she would end up in the streets with torn clothes and nothing to eat but scavenged leftovers. So she didn’t waste her crazy. It served as a creative pool for her poetry. When she’s sad, she writes. When she’s angry, she writes. When she’s happy, she writes.
Third, she said that support is everywhere if we just learn how to look. We have our family and friends. We just need to verbalize what we need, “I need a hug,” “Please assure me that I won’t fail.” Choose quality of friends and support over quantity. You will be surprised at how far people are willing to go for you.
Finally, build a relationship with God. She cited that her doctor always tells her to talk to God. It doesn’t matter if you question or doubt Him or even get angry at Him. She said the talks to God have helped her beyond what she expected.
My dear friends, let us be like Ashley, who knew there was definitely something wrong with her, but she assured herself of one thing – that it can only be wrong if she allows it to be.
So, is there something wrong with me? The answer is yes, only if I allow it to be, but I am not going to. I shall allow it no more! (HEIDI C. ASAN)