It is said that the names given to us at birth are never just personal parental choices. A name is more than just what it is. It symbolizes something. Within the universal concept of fate, your name becomes a calling.
Perhaps this is why Francis “Frank” Baraan is outspoken about mental health and is now becoming a convincingly strong voice in the advocacy to promote greater awareness and understanding on the issue of his particular challenges, having been diagnosed as bipolar. Here are his insights based on a questionnaire I sent him which was answered with much openness and candor:
“Diagnosed in 2010, as Bipolar 1 with manic rather than depressive tendencies, I used to be given to flights of fancy, delusions of grandeur and bouts of impulsiveness. Then, controlling my impulses was difficult even to comprehend. For example, I would go bingeing — shopping for books, DVDs, furniture, artwork. Then again, I would become hypo-manic. This tamer hyper self would tend to be more creative and productive. Thoughts would race through my mind, as though I had a lot of catching up to do. Therefore, socializing ranged from manageable to unmanageable. There was a lot of partying and drinking while feelings of euphoria filled me with a sense of invincibility. On one hand, I would experience extreme happiness that I felt would never end. And on the other, uncontrollable rage would suddenly seize me. I was a ticking time bomb.”
“Family support was a vital key to my healing. I find that talking to my siblings, especially my brother Deo who is a doctor. This is my own version of fast relief. Talk therapy with family does wonders for me. Voices of reason are able to overcome my racing thoughts about insecurities, negative self-talk, irrationality, doubts, impulsivity.
“And while this is considered a life-long condition, with the help of my family and my first psychiatrist, Dr. Rachel Acosta, I got better. According to her, substance abuse had triggered my condition. Admittedly, alcohol and substance abuse could awaken a dormant, genetic mental condition. Therefore, this is fair warning to those with a family history of psychiatric and mental issues. I knew then that anything could set me off. And for this reason, I sought help. I needed family and professional help.
I would advise those who are afflicted, diagnosed and still suffering and others who remain undiagnosed but experience this extreme range of emotions to please talk to someone — a friend or family member. Reach out to someone, even a perfect stranger.
“I would recommend to those who cannot afford a psychiatrist to call the Philippine General Hospital, which offers free psychiatric consultation and counseling. Just go to the website and register online. Others are Ateneo Bulatao Center for Psychological Services, which offers free short-term counseling; Mental Health PH (1553 toll-free); and the Philippine National Health Crisis Help Hotline.”
Fighting the stigma
“Yes, there is still a stigma attached to mental health. While the spotlight was focused on the enlightening stories of celebrities like Robin Williams, Catherine Zeta Jones, Britney Spears and Steven Fry which helped to create better understanding on mental health, it still does exist. And the more we talk about it, the better to further the goals of mental health organizations who are working tirelessly to help those in need of intervention and assistance. People like Kylie Verzosa and Baron Geisler have also used their voices in support of this serious advocacy. The #MentalHealthAwareness has definitely gone global.
“The lack of education on this condition, which includes the gamut of all other disorders from bipolar to PTSD to depression, anxiety and suicide, addiction to alcohol and drugs, is something that must be addressed.
“There is also fear of being judged on the part of the afflicted as a person who is disabled, unstable or even insane. We need to educate the public and raise the levels of understanding in people.”
This is why I have spoken up. I have stepped forward to add my own voice. What better way to raise better mental health awareness than to hear it from someone who is experiencing it and dealing with it as best as he can? I am sharing my story because I would like to reach out to more people, especially to those suffering from mental illness. And by inspiring them, they, too, can inspire others. We must find our own voices in order to build up our combined courage. Yes, there are many struggles which must be heard. Interestingly, the more I talk about it, the more I feel cathartic.
The more I share, the better I heal.
“It is important to know that people naturally fear things that they do not understand. And this is what I am trying to do with the mental health community — to overcome those fears.”
“This pandemic and frequent lockdowns has caused too much isolation. People are suddenly developing
post-traumatic stress disorders due to the sudden loss of loved ones, loss of jobs and income and the self-quarantines. Clinical depression and suicide are on the rise due to persistent feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness. Everyone is undergoing or has undergone some kind of mental episode. Some are able to cope with it better than others. But whatever it is you are feeling, please consider that maybe it is time to seek help. For whatever it is worth — from the lack of anything meaningful to do with so much time on your hands to the pressure of just that — perhaps this is contributing to your impulses to resort to substance abuse. Please reach out and talk to someone about it.”
Coping with acceptance
“I have learned to accept myself. I know that this condition will be with me for a lifetime. But with the help of a psychiatrist, medication, lifestyle changes and most especially family and friends who care for me, I know that I am healing. While some might consider mental health issues as a curse, I am looking at it differently. To me, it is a blessing. This gift has allowed me to become more creative. I liken the condition to someone with diabetes. Diabetics need to make sure their blood sugar is regulated. Bipolars need to ensure that their brain chemicals are stabilized along with their mood swings.
“My good days would be happiness by the sun, sea, sand and sky where I could watch Netflix, read my books, play with the dogs and have wonderful, stimulating conversations with my family and friends. And as for the bad days? Well, that’s one thing I would not want to think about. Happy thoughts only for me.
“For more questions and concerns, please follow me at @MrFrankBaraan on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Affirmation: “I am God’s work in progress”
Love and light!