[OPINION] Remembrance in the midst of suffering

Trigger warning: The following piece mentions bipolar disorder, thoughts of suicide, and self-harm.

There’s this saying that we’re all under the same storm but not in the same boat. But while it is true that some of us experience more privileges than others, and that I myself may have an advantage over some people reading this, I am writing from a place of pain as well. And I hope, with this story I am about to share, you may still gain some value, one way or another. 

I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 1 two years ago. These past years have been filled with their own kind of suffering, which few probably understand. They have been filled with days of depression, when motivation is low and it is difficult to even get up. And while I am usually extroverted, it can get tiring to reach out to people. There are pervasive moments of emptiness and this feeling that I just want to give up. 

Then there are moments of restlessness. Some may equate mania with fun, as it involves high energy, but it’s not like that. That energy is usually scattered and violent. There are times when I can create output during this period, but it is mostly not quality output. There is a lack of concentration. There are racing thoughts, and the feeling of wanting to die worsens. 

I go through therapy and am on medication. However, when the pandemic happened, I lost the motivation to find a psychiatrist online. It also became disheartening to avail of therapy and medication when you know your parents are working hard for your education and providing for the family's needs. 

Eventually, I did start seeing a psychiatrist again and even found a counselor in church who offered her professional services for free. Yet, as wounds get reopened, processing in itself is like going through surgery, minus the anesthesia. 

In light of all this, plus the usual problems that a college student has to go through during the pandemic, life can feel bleak. 

Recently a friend of mine asked me why I hadn’t committed suicide, knowing that I was at the point of giving up and have been tempted to do so several times in the past. Honestly, when you’re at that point, all logic can leave you. The feelings of emptiness and despair undermine the blessings you have in your life – loved ones, material things, and accomplishments. Sometimes the fear of pain and our natural instinct for self-preservation keeps us from ending our lives, but two things had kept me alive when I was utterly numb:

1. The acknowledgment of darkness

I had a close friend who was struggling with depression in the past. At that time, I was starting to experience the effects of my own mental disorder. It was then that I really wanted to die. I asked my friend what he usually does when he feels that way. 

He told me that he plans the date of his death so that he doesn’t act on impulse, so I decided to do the same. A few days later, he visited me. Towards the end of that hangout, he told me: “Ysobel, remember that time when I told you to plan the date of your suicide? Well, please don’t. There are so many people who care for you, and I am one of them.”

What he said made an impact on me beyond his words. This person knew what it was like to go through pain. He had been experiencing depression longer than I had, so he knew how hard it was to keep going. Yet, he wanted me to stay. I knew that I was not alone in this fight, that people are fighting for their lives along with me. That is hope in itself.

2. The acknowledgment of light

There was a week when I was hospitalized for self-harm. I had become so numb to everything that I was so sure that I was soon going to die in some way. However, after my hospitalization, my dad brought me to Vietnam a couple of days for my birthday. It was certain instances of life in a park there that gave me hope. I saw a dad carrying his baby, children walking together for a field trip, and old people who were probably in their 70s or 80s hanging out with their friends. 

Those instances reminded me that my world had been so small. There is more to life than my own, and even if I don’t have happiness right now, the joy of others can be infectious. It reminded me that when I was a baby, people were happy to see me. When I was a child, I had so much hope, and there is hope that is strong enough to stay with you until you are old. 

Overall, remembrance

Right now, we cannot see each other, nor is it safe to leisurely travel to other countries and see new people. However, remembering that hope from the past can perhaps give us enough hope for the future. Remember the memories you’ve made in the past. Remember the dreams and hopes you once had. Remember those who have lived through trials longer than you and have somehow thrived. 

I am a Christian as well, so one thing I also hold onto is the hope I find in Jesus Christ – that I can connect with God and lament over everything that has happened and is happening. It means deciding to turn to God, bringing your complaints to Him in all honesty, boldly asking for help, and then choosing to trust Him by remembering who He is. 

Above all, remember these things and press on. – Rappler.com

Ysobel Joaquin is a sophomore college student, currently studying AB Development Studies. She is a person who has put her faith in Jesus Christ, having been a Christian since she was a child. Though she is still in the process of healing and coping with her mental illnesses, she hopes to share some insights she has learned on her journey and share the hope she has been given.