On the eve of my 28th birthday, I wrote an essay on depression and bulimia for Growing Up MNL. It took me maybe six hours to draft, and seven years to go through (though the depression part goes back to my preteen years).
When J. asked me if I could write a piece on my history of disordered eating, at first I was hesitant because it doesn’t feel nice to revisit that past. (Also, since I hardly read literature these days and instead subsist on academic tracts and papers, I feel like I’ve forgotten how to write with style, haha.) I still don’t quite know what I feel about writing it, though friends have told me they felt comforted as well as saddened by it. On the one hand, I’d already processed that experience years ago and made peace with it, so writing about it felt like picking on a scab. On the other hand, writing a kind of confessional made me feel more accountable to myself and to the people who’ve worried about me, especially my family (some of whom expressed their shock that I never told them I was going through something like that, and were like, How could you, don’tcha know we gotchu fam). My reasons for not telling were kind of complex, but I guess it boiled down to guilt and shame — for being depressed and for the reasons why I think I was depressed.
There’s a lot of stigma surrounding mental illness, such that people don’t get help, or even admit to themselves that they’re suffering from it. So even when J. offered to publish the essay anonymously, I said, no, put my name in the byline. People should be able to talk about mental illness the way we can talk about physical ailments, like a broken bone or a chronic migraine. People shouldn’t have to keep it a secret, for fear of discrimination at work or school. People get sick from time to time, okay? That’s part of human existence, so we have to accept that, and deal with it in constructive ways, give ourselves time and space to heal, care for ourselves and one another.
In other news, I successfully defended my PhD research proposal last week! Now comes the more difficult work of doing what I said I’d do.