For reasons he didn’t know what, he lost the drive to do anything, even the things he used to enjoy. He wasn’t feeling right, but he couldn’t exactly say why. He was lethargic and moody. He lacked appetite, and would only sleep. Though he knew that there was something wrong, he just couldn’t put his finger on it, until he went to a psychiatrist.
Often referred to as Manong Ari among his peers, Ari Verzosa—father of Miss International 2016 Kylie Verzosa—was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder more than ten years ago. He has been on medication since then.
Bipolar disorder causes dramatic shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels. Formerly known as manic depression, this condition has two extremes: the manic side characterized by much excitement, and the depressive side (which he manifested by the time he consulted) distinguished by not having the will to do anything.
“For the first three years, I was still in denial. Maybe on the fourth or fifth year, natanggap ko na, and it made things easier for me. Kami ‘yong tinatawag nilang may sira, may sayad, may topak. That’s us,” Manong Ari said.
Manong Ari is just one out of the millions of people currently afflicted with a mental health condition, and Bipolar disorder is also just one among many other kinds of mental health illnesses that are the leading cause of disability worldwide, according to World Health Organization (WHO).
In commemoration of the Mental Health Month, and in light of the recent issues downplaying the significance of mental health, the mobilization of efforts to support mental health awareness becomes ever more relevant.
On understanding the people with disorders
Having been diagnosed with a disorder himself, Manong Ari understands mental health issues on a personal level. But many people are unaware that aside from him, his daughters Kylie and Chelsea are also diagnosed with mental health conditions.
Kylie wrestled with depression more than three years ago, and it is the primary reason why she became a mental health campaigner. As soon as Manong Ari saw the symptoms of depression in his eldest child, he insisted her to visit a psychiatrist despite her apprehensions.
“When you’re depressed kasi, you can lay down like dead for a month or two and just suffer. Minsan nakatulala ka, then iiyak ka na lang, and you don’t even know why,” he said.
Manong Ari also clarified the difference between extreme sadness and clinical depression, and used the remarks of TV host Joey de Leon about depression equating it to just stress, as an example of misinformation. He added that it is possible to feel depressed without being clinically diagnosed with depression.
“Everybody can say they feel depressed, pero iba ‘yon eh. That’s more like sadness; you have a breakup, you get bad grades or bad trip ka. You feel sad and depressed. But it’s a fleeting emotion,” he explained, saying that clinical depression might extend for two weeks or more, and might jeopardize one’s everyday activities and quality of life.
Chelsea, his younger daughter, was also diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, along with Trichotillomania (the irresistible urge to pull the hair including eyebrows and eyelashes) and Histrionic Personality Disorder (the constant craving for attention and emotional overreaction).
Manong Ari said that in their case, as with most cases, genetics plays a part; that once it is in the family, a member or the other members are predisposed. But the diagnosis is still not guaranteed.
Scientifically speaking, mental disorders also have something to do with the production of serotonin and dopamine, and since people can’t regulate these so-called “happy hormones,” some end up in depression.
“It’s generally nature, and partly nurture (lifestyle),” he said.
Regardless of the condition, Manong Ari was quick to note that people with mental health disorder are not expected to adjust, “Just be there for them. Know what words to say. Don’t make us feel like kasalanan pa namin na ganito kami. Do you really think we want to be in our state?”