The concept of being sick: a journey of mental healing

The concept of being sick: a journey of mental healing

By Cesilia Faustina

Photography by Cesilia Faustina

“It was kind of out of control and then after that I decided to move back to my home country which was Jordan. I wanted to calm down and get my shit together.”

 

Jemma is a local Jordanian that has been experiencing symptoms of mental illness

 

Mental illness is a normal occurrence, however, does not define who you are, according to one Jordanian.

Jemma, a local Jordanian and mental illness patient, had been struggling with her mind and personal stigma since the emergence of her symptoms.

“How I realised something was wrong was through the extreme changes of just being completely out of it and not moved or stimulated by anything and kind of indifferent and just passive towards embracing the world overnight,” she said.

Jemma said she saw her life taking a turn after moving to Turkey to try and pursue a life there.

“I would dip into little moods but around two years ago, I attempted to move to a new city — which was vastly populated — and I didn’t have much preparations or savings,” she said.

“Throughout the first two weeks it was quite positive and I was overwhelmed by the change.

“I think I put too much pressure on myself to the point where I had a breakdown.”

The Jordanian said she had always noticed the symptoms but had shrugged them off as nothing too serious.

“I always noticed that I had cycling moods and I would often experience phases of sadness around college,” she said.

“I depicted that with the circumstantial changes in my life — like moving countries, adjusting to living alone, or at some point I thought it was seasonal depression — but it was never too intense.”

She pointed out that she had her vital moment after having adjusted some time in Turkey.

“I started losing sleep I was overstimulated, I started a technical course in the artistic field,” she said.

“Usually the first sign when things started destabilising — mood-wise — was the lack of sleep one gets.

“My mind was very alert, my mind was racing, you have one too many of them and you feel like you need to implement all of them and feel this certain sense of invincibility and you can power through anything.

“Then you get really chatty and speaking really fast. At first everyone is sort of charmed by your positivity and the sense of having it all figured out, then it gets sort of too intense and obsessive.

“So around that time that was the first time I started feeling afraid for myself, so I had a manic episode.

“It was kind of out of control and then after that I decided to move back to my home country which was Jordan. I wanted to calm down and get my shit together.”

 

The diagnosis

“After that I was diagnosed with bipolar and fell into a depression.”

 

Jemma was diganosed with bipolar

 

Bipolar disorder or manic-depressive illness is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in moods, energy levels, activity levels, and ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.

According to WHO, globally around 450 million people suffer from mental disorders and Jordan is known to be one of the countries in need of intense support within this sector.

“I have encountered depression in the past but this mania I never had as intensely in my life,” Jemma said.

“There’s this thing they call hypomania, which is not full-blown mania, so you’re excited and you know, it’s nothing anybody would consider odd, people would just think that you’re hyper or inspired.

“However, full blown mania is quite scary, it get’s uncomfortable — it’s fun in the beginning but then it just sort of takes over.”

She said she had always had suspicions of having bipolar but was unaware of the symptoms.

“I always had underlying suspicions that I had it but so many are so oblivious to the fact of what the illness actually is,” she said.

“What I read up about it, it’s just having things like opposite mood swings in different cycles, I just didn’t want to identify it as something so heavy.

“When I felt like things were definitely something out of the normal scope, that’s when it sunk in.

“Before I saw my doctors, I felt like I knew I had bipolar, however, obviously, I sat through long sessions with them and we were all on the same page.”

 

“Before I saw my doctors, I felt like I knew I had bipolar,”

 

The aftermath?

 

Jemma said she was happy her parents were supportive and took it well, however, there were always hard times faced.

“I think there was an extreme concern, but my family was understanding and helpful cause it runs in our family,” she said.

“It is genetic, but the people who had it before me is much older and had passed away, and there was a poor understanding of their condition.

“And apparently, intense medication was always a topic people were uncomfortable of discussing and it’s taboo to be mentally unstable.”

 

“I think often time depression comes in the form of numbness rather than sadness, so it’s like the inability to feel anything.”

 

Most bipolar symptoms appear around early to late 20s; having experienced her breakdown at 29 years old, Jemma said she was happy and felt much better currently.

“Now I feel normal, now I have this lingering of fear and a sense of insecurity that I may experience this again so I feel like I’m not pushing as hard in certain areas in my life,” she said.

“It’s so I won’t stress myself or trigger another episode that would be unpleasant or worrisome.

“I’m on medication right now in small doses — like mood stabilisers.

“You struggle a lot, because at first I just wanted to take them because I wanted things to slow down and then you start to feel as if is this changing my character? Am I becoming dull? Am I feeling numb?

“I think often time depression comes in the form of numbness rather than sadness, so it’s like the inability to feel anything.”

 

The after aftermath

“It might feel like it, when shit hits the fan, it might feel really really intense but things kind of stabilize if you’re not resistant towards treatment or accepting that people do need help.”

 

“I kind of kept to myself and judged myself and the stigma kind of came from within.”

 

Jemma said it was not always easy and that accepting and getting through the experience was not a simple one.

“The hardest part was accepting that it doesn’t define me, it’s something I have, it’s not who I am but I feel that I withdrew a lot from the people who were close to me,” she said.

“I kind of kept to myself and judged myself and the stigma kind of came from within.

“In the beginning I was really outspoken about it and felt like it should be discussed openly then quickly learned that people are super judgmental and there are a great deal of ignorance around it, so that was hard, trusting people again.”

Having learned a great deal about her diagnosis, Jemma also felt there were many alternative methods in how a person can deal with their mental illnesses.

 

She felt medication was not always the solution and saw other alternatives

 

“I think when the symptoms are really intense, medication is necessary but how I feel about taking it consistently even when things feel normal that’s the part I’m a little unsure about,” she said.

“I think there’s just too little research on the topic. Is it big pharma trying to push a lot of drugs? And with the case of antidepressants, I think people should resort to natural solutions like exercise.

“If you do 20 or 30 minutes cardio, your body will produce feel-good hormones with no side-effects.

“I think there are natural ways to cope but in extreme situations, some people should be hospitalized and some people should be medicated, however, you do need to work very very closely with your psychiatrist to see what works best for you.

“It’s something that needs to be regulated.”

Jemma said treating mental health was also not easy due to the stigma that appears amongst the community.

“There’s a big stigma big time. I think it’s largely misunderstood, people are not informed,” she said.

“To take care of themselves on a physical level and to resort in psychotherapy to talk to a professional helps at first and help eliminates any doubts and fears.

“I think that really helps and for me, also exercise does a world of good. I was a lot more positive and energetic and it kind of erases downer vibes.

“It also helps to have faith in your support system. Don’t curl up in a ball and completely withdraw, that’s dangerous.”

“Don’t let it take over your life,” she added.

“It might feel like it, when shit hits the fan, it might feel really really intense but things kind of stabilise if you’re not resistant towards treatment or accepting that people do need help.

“It’s hard to associate with illness really that’s not physical.”

 

“It’s hard to associate with illness really that’s not physical.”

 

Due to the personal nature of the story, the interviewee’s name has been changed and their identity has been kept anonymous.

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