Independence Day. It makes me appreciate the freedom we now have. I am happy we can freely practice religion, freedom of expression, and have choices on what we can watch, buy, or wear. But it also reminds me of some moments when I felt I have lost my freedom.
I was once a prisoner of my thoughts, even though my mind was capable of escaping to places and imagining or dreaming of great worlds. It was not because I couldn’t see the light that I should see, but because I usually felt my heart was not connecting to my mind and actions. This feeling caused me to limit myself even if no one was limiting me.
I know that I was not the only one who experienced it as a youth. I know of people today who experience it in greater intensities. These are the people I met who have mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder. They haven’t found their freedom just yet.
Oppression of Depression
In 2004, I graduated from UP Integrated School as an honor student and got accepted to the BS Civil Engineering program of UP Diliman. I can say I was an achiever because I was having high scores in Math and had some talent producing great artworks. But I was unhappy and ungrateful, paralyzed by perfectionism, and tormented by anxiety.
Then by 2005, I hit rock bottom. Despite having good grades, I decided to drop my subjects and head to the province due to many stressors bombarding me at the same time. Little by little, I battled problems in the family, with our finances, and with the many voices in my head. That last one was not figurative.
I got diagnosed in 2008 as having bipolar disorder. It felt as if all the struggle had some meaning. At least I knew I was not experiencing all the racing thoughts for no reason at all. With some help from relatives, friends, church mates, and classmates, I slowly recovered. In my case, the guidance of experts, medications, exercise, Bible-reading, and volunteering were also most helpful among those “treatments” recommended to me. Each one I discovered at just the right moment.
On May 11, 2011, May Juliet Dizon or “Teacher May” put up a group called Mood Warriors and Phoenixes (MWAPh) to give support to people like me. Teacher May was also dealing with her own struggles. But instead of being limited by it, she went out of her comfort zone to reach out to others. That inspired me very much.
That same year I joined the support group and by 2012, I became an active volunteer. Since then I have been helping “Mood Warriors” battle their way to coping.
Warriors and Phoenixes
As I was volunteering as an administrator of our Facebook page, I got to chat with some lost warriors. Usually, I found myself in the same situation too; I was also being bothered by a lot of fears and worries. I did not feel like I was credible enough to give any advice at all. But what was strange was, even if I was also struggling, the decision to extend my help to them made me escape all the negative thoughts and feelings I had.
I consistently felt good too about what I did. And by the Grace of God, the people I tried to help also found their way out of their own prisons. They later became Phoenixes, ready to share light to others too.
Trying to look back at everything, I realized that maybe, just the simple thought of giving importance to the needs of others makes a lot of difference. I believe I also learned the best when I was saved by God’s Grace. It was said in the Bible, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45).
It was all about putting others first before yourself.
While handling my thoughts is still a battle today, trying my best to think about other people has brought me peace. It made me go back to school, finish college, and pursue my dreams not only for myself but for others too.
Being self-centered steals peace and it brings forth iniquity. And so I have come to believe that as long as I try to help others without the intention to just benefit myself, I shall find my heart, mind, and actions in perfect harmony.
As we usually say, freedom is a choice. Once we have it, we must do our best to keep it. I hope others will learn from this experience.
About the Author
Sheena Kristine Cases is a Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability, and Learning Officer of Save the Children Philippines. She is currently engaged in a youth employment program which aims to help thousands of marginalized youth in Cavite, Laguna, Batangas and Metro Manila. As she finishes her thesis for her MA Demography, she also serves as an administrator of the Mood Warriors and Phoenixes Support Group.
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