Apple Nocom is Silakbo's Featured Advocate for June.
I always knew she had a knack for writing and literature, as we met at our college library’s official org. It makes me so proud to see how much of a splash she’s making with her mental health initiatives.
And a lot of Apple’s passion projects are concerned with mental health. Her regular blog series, #StrongerThanStigma, features those with mental health needs and their productivity strategies to stay on top of their condition. She’s been featured in a video by no less than the team of Senator Risa Hontiveros. She is a performer of spoken word pieces that expose the realities of living with her condition. She is also affiliated with mental health communities like the Buhay Movement and Youth for Mental Health Coalition. Stay tuned for our collab, as well. 😉
Please give us a short description of yourself.
Hello, I’m Apple! I hail from a tiny Middle Eastern Kingdom called Bahrain, where I lived for 16 years before moving to Manila for good in 2010. My big dream is to be a published novelist and/or journalist and to have my own online business, but for now I’m a happy advertising writer. When I’m not fighting crippling depression, I read, write, paint, watch TV series and dream up passion projects.
What are the things you do to raise awareness of the importance of mental health?
Most frequently I write about my experiences on my blog in an effort to be transparent and to normalize mental health issues. Last year I started volunteering at various advocacy orgs, and this year I took up spoken word as a new artistic venue! I’m also planning more events and exhibits with friends to speak out about the advocacy.
May I ask about your history with mental illness?
I consider the 2010 migration to Manila (and the consequent culture shock) as my official trigger. I was battling a lot of things—homesickness, heartbreak, adjustment—and it was too much for my system. I always thought I was just weak or overreacting, so I didn’t really seek help until 2013. I saw a psychologist for a couple of months for talk therapy, but eventually stopped seeing her when I couldn’t see any progress.
Late in 2016, I watched a friend with Bipolar Disorder talk about his life with medication, and I asked for a referral to a psychiatrist. I was diagnosed with clinical depression in December and started taking medication from there.
I’m so lucky to have people around me who are supportive, whether they fully understand my condition or not. The worst stigma I’ve experienced is my own—thinking that depression meant weakness or a flaw in character. I’m happy to be learning differently now that I’m discovering my strengths even while diagnosed.
What did it feel like when you were at your absolute lowest?
There’s a lot of blame and self-hate. My key symptom is low energy, where I can’t do anything even if somewhere in my mind there’s a will to be doing things. So I’m really hard on myself, asking why I couldn’t just be an infinitely motivated self-starter who can get things done on command. I feel like when I’m not being productive, I’m not contributing to the world and to the people around me and am therefore useless. That’s the idea which triggers me the most: being useless. If I’m of no use to people, I may as well just disappear.
How are you able to cope? How are you now, currently?
My only method on days like these is waiting it out. I manage to convince myself that it’s just a passing storm and I will be up and about again in a couple of days. It’s kind of morbid but sometimes I also get together with my friends who are also depressed and we laugh about the futility of life and existence, haha.
Although I’m doing better as of writing (I have a few advocacy projects up my sleeve!), I do still suffer relapses. It gets difficult to carry my work and projects when a relapse strikes, usually lasting two to three weeks, but luckily it always passes, as hoped.
I admire you for publicly speaking out and writing about your experiences with mental illness. Are these the main art forms through which you express your story about mental illness and recovery?
Writing is my main art form, always has been; but I recently ventured into spoken word poetry and I’m excited about how much more I can do with it. My psychiatrist was proud of me for putting my negative experiences into positive channels such as “giving back,” so I’m trying to do more of that. Spoken word definitely reaches more people, and it’s not a huge sashay away from my comfort zone, which is writing. It’s also a personal practice in overcoming my anxiety to be up there, being seen by people.
How does art help you cope?
I’m a huge advocate of creative therapy so I’m trying to show people that art, writing, and spoken word can be modes of therapy alongside taking medication and seeing a professional. My goal is to become a licensed art therapist, and/or to be an art therapy advocate in the form of creative workshops (More on this later!)
How do you feel about mental health in our country?
I was recently featured in a video from Sen. Risa Hontiveros’ office where I read aloud and reacted to social media comments about depression and suicide. It saddened me to see that people still think mental illness equates to weakness and lack of effort. I’m terribly lucky to have a supportive environment, but my heart aches for those who don’t get the supportive community which is so important in maintaining mental health. I think that’s where my fears really lie—while I try not to care what people say, I’m learning more and more that stigma is a huge obstacle in seeking help. If I had internalized the stigma more deeply, I wouldn’t have gotten professional help either.
What I wish is for mental illness to be universally understood and for mental healthcare to be accessible, reliable, and affordable. I badly want everyone suffering to be able to get help.
What would you like to say to anyone who is reading this and currently struggling with their mental health?
You. Are. Not. Alone. You are not weak. You are not imagining it. Mental illness is real and serious, and it deserves care. There are people who are waiting to help and support you. I hope you find it in you to be brave and ask for help. I’m so proud of you.
You can check out Apple’s blog over at applenocom.com (don’t forget to check out the Stronger Than Stigma series, which she says is her favorite). To stay updated, follow her on Twitter and Instagram as @missmansanas, or on Facebook as facebook.com/moongirlblog.
Also stay tuned for her upcoming event, in which she cooks up various workshops as creative therapy sessions.
If you–or anyone you know–would like to know how to be a featured advocate, head over to this page.
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