Her name is Clara, I knew her because she's kinda well-known in her school back then. I found her rather attractive. We were never really friends when we were in school, I just knew her from our acquaintance. Then we continue to study in different countries, but I followed her on social media.
I tried to get in touch with her, but it seems that I never got the chance. She was always in a relationship. She was never alone. When we finally in the same city, we stumbled upon in a bar near my house. We talked, and it was an instant connection. And the odds were, she's single.
We talked through the whole night, and after a few dates, we became a couple.
I was expecting drama. I heard unpleasant rumors about her that she's can be 'crazy' at times. But it turned out the opposite, she's funny, amazing, and affectionate. She levels with all kinds of people, she can talk to you about any subject. And she's fun, she has the happy-go-lucky energy that never runs out. We have a happy relationship.
Yes, some things about her baffle me. She became fidgety if her mom comes to visit. She shuns family activities. She avoids bidding goodbye when anyone visits our flat, especially our closest friends. She cries at her office because her boss made a small sentiment about her eyeshadow. She can be difficult, she can be terrified about things that might happen in the future for no reason.
I never knew why, up until later.
I notice she's hiding something. It was long before she can really open up. After a while, she finally explained to me that she has Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I was shocked at first, she seems so normal. She never went to war, why she has PTSD? I am puzzled. She's social, how come she has anxiety?.
Then I realize something, those morning vitamins she took every day, those were antidepressants. At the beginning of our relationship, It took 5 pills every day for her to function, just to walk out from home to the office without being scared her boss will commenting on her work or her outfit. She has separation anxiety, especially with people she's comfortable with. That is why she's always in a relationship. Things that might sound manageable for ordinary people, but not for her.
Her Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder may not appear until years later. Symptoms of her PTSD triggers by distressing memories of how her mother treated her. Sometimes the traumatic event relives as if it were happening again, and even physical reactions to something that reminds her of her childhood, the sensation of kicking and slapping become surreal for her from time to time.
As for Generalized Anxiety Disorder is characterized by excessive anxiety and uneasiness about everyday life events with no apparent reasons. Her daily life is a constant state of worry and fear. GAD explains her continuous anxiety and dread about the future.
She had a rough childhood. Her mother was abusive, physically, and mentally, to her, her father, and her siblings. Her father was sick, and her mother threw a tantrum and made hurtful remarks on her dying father.
She was really close to her father. The presence of her father was the light and the comfort of her life. And when her father became really ill, living with her mom turns into a living nightmare. On the verge of self-harm and suicide, she decided to seek professional help with the support of her father, despite the stigma surrounding people with mental health. And she decided to leave home forever.
It took her 3 years of psychiatric visit to discover what exactly her problem, Yet it took only 1 day, when her father passed away, to make her world collides and all those hours of psychiatric visit comes to waste.
To admit she visited a psychiatrist was difficult for her at first. She kept it a secret for so long, and she took antidepressants for years to suppress her trauma.
Sometimes she had difficulty talking about her problem; at some level that she forgot things that occurred in her adolescent years that made her scared just to see her mom. She required 6 continuous counselling sessions, only to recollect pieces from her childhood memory. As if she has an invisible wall built to protect her from her jarring childhood memory.
It took 1 hour for her to get up and walk after her visit to the counsellor when she was asked to revisit her memories with her mom. I need to pick her up because she can't walk and her body shivers badly.
It's supposed to be hard living with people with mental health problems. There were nights when I really don't know why she's crying. Once in a blue moon, I got dragged down in her sorrow. Although I consider myself to be emotionally stable, her disorder drains me at times. But I am happy that she can talk about it with me now, and she picked up good habits like journaling and meditation, aside from clinical approach.
I know that she always sees the grim in life, but I adore how she never surrender to take control of her life. And no hard work goes unrewarded, because she is getting better every day. She take less medication, she has also become less reactive to her traumatic past. It made me realise that in order to live, I too shall never give up and stay positive.
She's still an amazing girlfriend, and I see that she still excels in her field of work. After years of acknowledging her problem and her trauma, she slowly knows how to separate her extreme anxiety from her own self.
I love her, I really want to build a better world for her, a safe ground. I'm still figuring out, together with her.
A story about a man who lives with a mental disorder partner. Interviewed and written by Apsy Soerjodibroto, for #PerempuanSeries and the People of Asia. The identity of the interviewee had been concealed for privacy reasons.
I would like to raise awareness about Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). If you have any of these symptoms above continually interfering with your daily life, contact medical professionals and never, ever, self diagnose.