Sunday, August 24, 2014

No More Elephants In This Blog

                I particularly enjoy writing pieces that are relevant to current events. With Robin Williams’s passing, I thought it was time to write and publicly share this.

                I have depression. Dysthymia to be exact. Dysthymia is a chronic but relatively ‘mild’ form of depression. I’ve had two major depressive episodes. The first occurred in February 2011 and is the reason I took a medical withdrawl from UC Berkeley. It was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make, but it was the right one.

                I also have an anxiety disorder, which is actually probably worse (stronger, more present) that the depression. Apparently, it isn’t normal to remember being anxious in Kindergarten. This ‘dual diagnosis’ makes it more difficult to decipher the source of the problems I encounter.

                It sucks. No, I don’t want your pity. The last thing I want is your pity. I actually unfriended a high school friend on Facebook after meeting him for coffee because my pity radar went off.

                If you really want to do something, donate, anything, to . I am very fortunate that I have an incredibly supportive family who has also financed the entirety of my vast and plenty mental health treatments. Mental health does not have the funding, facilities, or personnel it needs to really make a difference in the lives of every person (or even American) who faces a mental health disorder. I have experienced this in the forms of poor therapists who actually made me feel worse and poor urgent care facilities that are something out of Sylvia Plath’s writings and will scare you out of whatever it is you are experiencing, temporarily.

                In my Title Explanation, I stated that I metaphorically Lost My Boots In Berkeley. I lost my identity. I was a student, a scholar a researcher – not a mental health patient.

                For approximately three years, the treatment of my mental health disorders became my primary focus, which did not allow for the time or mental capacity to maintain my former identity.

                The combination of time away from school and a deluge of prescription drugs led to a deterioration of my intelligence. It was almost like I could physically feel it in my brain. Words would not come to me in conversation despite my desperate attempts to recall them. My memory was poor. My neurons weren’t firing like they used to. I began to say “Well, I used to be smart/intelligent.”

                It became obvious that in order to treat my disorders, I had to accept them, but it seemed like their acceptance would result in the loss of my former self:  My wants, desires, passions, personality – everything that made me, me.

                Luckily, I now know that this is not true. One of the most important lessons I have learned over the past few years is the importance of balance. I can see a therapist but also attend school. I can take the right prescription medications but also hang out with friends and have a good time. Tears are sometimes followed by laughter and vice versa.

                The reason I am writing and sharing this piece is to bring awareness to mental health and all those who face its many disorders. Not talking about depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, etc. gives them a terrific power. It has taken me time, but I now know that my diseases are nothing to be ashamed of. So many people are hiding their mental health disorders for fear of facing discrimination and even ridicule. Many individuals are scared about mental health disorders because they do not have any knowledge about them. Luckily for me, the only time I have really faced discrimination has been in the dating scene. I can’t tell you how many guys have tucked their tail and run as soon as I said “I have depress….”

                My diseases are something I will live with for the rest of my life, but they will not define my life. And I have a lot in the life ahead of me.          

                I’m changing my major from Molecular and Cell Biology with an emphasis in Genetics to Psychology. For one thing, it’s less of a mouthful. (That’s not really a reason I’m changing my major, but it’s a good point.) I have taken two Psychology courses and thoroughly enjoyed both. My decision to change my major is both a selfish and selfless act because I’m making this change to make my life more enjoyable – despite my passion for Genetics, I do not deem Organic Chemistry nor Biochemistry enjoyable. It is a selfless act because I hope to one day use my knowledge and experiences to help others who are struggling with similar demons I have faced.

                I may one day return to gene therapy. I definitely still have a passion for it and am fascinated by the field, but, right now, that track is not for me. I am considering merging my two passions by becoming a Genetic Counselor:  Someone who relays genetic test results to patients and advises them on choices they may or may not make based on those results.

                If you have any questions, feel free to contact me or comment on the post. I welcome and encourage questions and discussion.

                Did you just hear that? I heard a stampede of elephants that is the secrecy of mental health.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Evolution of my views on Love and love

           That dreaded time of year is coming up again: Valentine’s Day. It’s been quite some time since I last posted. I apologize for that; I’ve been breaking in my “boots.”

            At this point in time, I don’t see myself ever getting married. I started dating a guy sometime around this past August/September. He didn’t know that I am not fond of the idea of marriage for myself. We went over to my friend’s family’s house one weekend after we had been dating a couple of weeks. We spent the majority of the day there, laughing, talking, eating a nice, home-cooked meal, etc. As the night started to wind down, he thought it would be funny to pretend to propose to me. He got down on one knee. He didn’t even have time to utter a single word before I experienced a full panic attack. Difficulty breathing, rapid heart beat, feels like a heart attack. Yeah, all that fun stuff. He quickly apologized and said he would have never attempted such a prank if he knew it would have that effect on me.

            Needless to say, I have a long way to go before I enter into a serious relationship.

The following essay was written in the Fall of 2009 and was part of my application to UC Berkeley.

            I lay under the covers beneath the warm, quiet light, reading a book as I awaited sleep to take me. There was one problem:  this book was not relaxing my mind. On the contrary, this literature was stimulating my brain. I knew this was not an ordinary book.
            One of the most enlightening experiences a human can have is learning that other humans share a philosophy about life similar to the one they have personally developed. Through a modern book, I learned an ancient philosopher developed ideas about life that I came to develop independently.
            One night, I began reading the book Sophie’s World. It didn’t take long for that incomparable sensation when you read something intellectually stimulating to occur at the back of my brain – almost as if my pesky little sister was using a feather to tickle my frontal lobe.
            As I began reading the chapter on Plato, I became excited. The fundamentals of his philosophy sounded familiar to me. I had somehow developed similar ideas.
            We both thought that ideas the human mind is capable of developing aren’t always realistic and can’t be manifested in the actual world.
            I talked to my English teacher about my exciting revelation and she recommended I read Phaedrus, a work by Plato. I couldn’t wait to delve into the writing of my new mentor. It turned out that we also have similar ideas about love:  true love isn’t really possible and humans always mess it up.
            After discovering that I thought in a way similar to an ancient philosopher, it felt as though I had received an endorsement to expand on my thinking. I now know that I have my buddy, Plato, to go to whenever I feel like I’m over thinking a quandary.

I wrote this on January 1, 2014 (wanted a good start to the new year) for an application to St. Edward’s University:

As children, we often initially fear things that do not actually exist:  The monster under the bed, ghosts, etc. For me, personally, I still fear something that does not exist here, in the physical world. I fear love. The kind of love that is all encompassing and life changing. The scariest thing about Love is that the average person thinks they have, at least at one point in their life, experienced it. But, according to Plato, the highest Form of Love does not exist here on Earth. My fear came into fruition when I first encountered Plato and his theories. Though it did make complete sense to me that humans are fully capable of thinking of, imagining, and analyzing concepts that are not possible of occurring in the physical world, it also led me to feeling disappointed. The scariest thing of all results when a person thinks they are experiencing the Form of Love. Generally, this develops into a brief happy period when everything is focused on this perceived occurrence of Love, but eventually results in a great, agonizing downfall when the people involved realize they are not actually experiencing Love. The root of this fear is my first failed relationship. I thought I had met the Love of my life and we would live happily ever after. Shockingly, this was not the case for my first high school boyfriend. I then began to look outward for signs of Love and was disappointed to find that I occasionally encounter elements of Love but never the full and complete concept. Couples will enjoy hours, sometimes even days, of blissful Love and Happiness, but then some element of reality hits and they are brought back down to Earth. There are bills to be paid, a family member has just been diagnosed with a chronic disease, the mother-in-law is still determined to break-up the marriage, you begin to realize your partner isn’t quite the person you thought he or she was when you first agreed to a committed relationship, or your partner has changed into someone you don’t recognize and don’t want to be with. My fear of Love represents my general fear and disgust of the world. As much as I strive for and desire perfection, it, too, does not, and will not, exist. Even if I dedicate the rest of my life to making the world a better place, the imperfections and tragedies will still significantly outweigh the Good in the world. I am still trying to figure out what I want in and with my life, but it is frustrating and disappointing when those things I begin to contemplate setting out to accomplish are either impossible or non-existent. This self-discovery has benefitted me in that I am slowly learning to cherish the small things and take one day at a time rather than plan the next fifteen years of my life. I am learning that it is healthy and important to have goals but also that there are so many things in life that are unexpected that we all just have to roll with what comes at us. I hope that one day, I am able to find a form of love. This love would be more about companionship and support rather than passion and change. It would be realistic, yet unexpected. It wouldn’t necessarily have to last a lifetime but be significant enough that its memory would bring a lifetime of joy.

One of my Facebook friends posted this link:

Where do you and Love or love stand?