Lorie Therese Locara’s Resume and Portfolio

The Psyche

Anatomy of a (Broken) Heart

“And thus the heart will break, yet brokenly live on.” -Lord Byron

You thought it would last forever, didn’t you? The sweet smiles exchanged, the silly nothings only the two of you could understand, the moments that seemed to stretch on to eternity and yet were ultimately too short… You just wanted it to go on. And yet it didn’t.

And so you go through the confusion of your “last days”: the dread of having to break the news to the other that you’re just not meant to be, or the gnawing fear that it was going to end soon, and the ultimate shock of the break-up. Or, the relationship just slips into the “decay” of the busy-ness of daily life and the “disrepair” of crossed or nonexistent communications. Whichever the case, you are in for one hell of a ride.

When it hits you, you ask so many questions: “what did I do wrong?”, “how did we just fall apart?”, “am I not good enough?”… And then you just find yourself falling into a tailspin.

You wonder why other people seem to have finesse in handling a catastrophic break-up, while you seem to regress into primordial ooze. You find yourself strolling through the house in bedclothes, unshaven, unbathed, a pathetic excuse of a human being.

You gorge on ice cream, sad movies, and listen to sappy songs ad nauseam1.

Wait. Stop. There has got to be a point where you snap out of it. But should it be now?

A heartbreak is just like a death. And as new findings are showing, physiologically, a person suffering from a broken heart goes through a somatic stress similar to a heart attack2. Is there some way to short-circuit or bounce back from the process?

Well, there are no etched-in-gold processes or checklists to follow. Each must go through it their own way. For some, it’s hard. For some, they do it gracefully. But either way, it’s a learning, growing process that hews the human character either beautifully or grotesquely—depending on where the person takes his grief, to a good place or to a bad place.

In the dying process, there are five stages, according to Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross3: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. We’ll try to dissect the heartbreak according to these five stages4.

In denial, the person tries to believe that the relationship can still be salvaged. Frantic efforts to “work it out” are maneuvered by some, to the point of being pathological sometimes. Some acknowledge that things are through, but they try to convince themselves that they are okay. They try to avoid the natural process of grieving.

Anger. A lot of people turn to anger when things don’t go their way. A break-up is no exception. Some take out the anger on themselves, others blame their ex-partners and ruminate on how they’ll never forgive the “offenders”, and some bottle it all in, simmering silently.

Bargaining. When the other party has made it clearly known that a reconciliation is impossible, the grieving party turns to God (if he/she believes in God) and bargains to be “good” or to pray more or to read the Bible more, or to be kinder, in exchange for a reconciliation, or for the painful feelings to go away, or for a replacement to come along. This is probably the phase where the griever is most vulnerable to a “rebound relationship”. Just to show the other party that he/she can “move on”, the griever may get into a new relationship, still raw from the break-up.

Depression. Do I need to explain this? It permeates your very soul. The sadness, the despondency, the feeling that you just want to die. Prozac, for you, you like? :p

And then, the ultimate. When you have reached acceptance, congratulations. You have now moved on. You are now well on the way to regaining your life and gaining more of it, what with the new lessons you’ve learned. You’ve conquered it! No more walking around in a bathrobe and bunny slippers, eyes puffed up from last night’s waterworks session. But the ice cream can stay. J

There is no way to short-cut the process. The feelings are real, and wrestling with them leaves you raw. But dealing with all the gamut of emotions makes you more human. True, they leave you with scars. But with the scars come lessons. They make life richer, and they may come in handy someday, when faced with similar situations.

My advice? Let yourself grieve. Although some people move quickly to acceptance or not grieve at all, most of us need to grieve to deal with the hurt. Grieving is a natural, essential process. If you short-circuit it, the issues may rebound later. Better to deal with it now than go through a string of “rebound relationships” and a heart broken beyond repair.

It helps, too, if you believe in God and have a support group of churchmates or close friends. Prayer works miracles, and cultivating a relationship with Him not only gets you out of the rut of the poisonous emotions, it also has eternal ramifications (i.e. gets you in Heaven? :p), and life lived with Him is richer and more wonderful than a life lived apart from Him. And, being a child of God comes with a lot of “benefits”. J

The bottom line is, life goes on. But it helps if you allow yourself a pit-stop in an alternate universe to heal. I hope you come out of it better than when you came in. J

1used to refer to the fact that something has been done or repeated so often that it has become annoying or tiresome

3Swiss and American physician/psychiatrist author of the influential On Death and Dying (1969)

4this is my personal analysis. Maybe later in life when I’m an authority on topics like these, you can quote me. :p

From Illness to Wellness: How to Cope With Bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that is related to depression. The key characteristic of this illness that differentiates it from depression is that there is a presence of manic episodes or mood periods. It is what was known as manic-depression.

Manic episodes are defined as a distinct period of abnormally elevated, expansive or irritable mood, characterized by three or more of these symptoms: talkativeness (more than usual), distractibility, excessive involvement in pleasurable activities, inflated self-esteem or grandiosity, racing thoughts, decreased need for sleep, and an increase in doing goal-directed activities. In the manic episode, there may or may not be a presence of psychotic delusions and hallucinations.

Depressive episodes, on the other hand, are characterized by: having a depressed mood for most of the day nearly every day, evidently diminished interest or pleasure in all or almost all activities most of the day nearly every day, significant weight loss despite not being on a diet, insomnia or excessive sleep, restlessness, fatigue nearly every day, feelings of worthlessness or excessive inappropriate guilt (which could be delusional in nature), diminished ability to think or concentrate/indecisiveness, recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying) or recurrent thoughts of suicide.

There is also a type of mood in Bipolar Disorder that is not as intense as either extreme of mania or depression. Hypomanic episodes are milder than manic episodes in the sense that though hypomanics experience the same symptoms as those with manic episodes, these symptoms are not severe enough to impair daily life functioning. Sometimes, this mood is even mistaken for just a really happy, fun, or party-loving mood.

There are two types of bipolar disorder: Bipolar 1 and Bipolar 2. Bipolar 1 is typified by a complete set of the manic symptoms all throughout the illness, punctuated by some depressive episodes in between. Bipolar 2, on the other hand, is more of hypomania interspersed with depressive episodes.

Bipolar disorder is not as scary as it seems, despite the symptoms presented above. It is highly manageable with medications. A manic-depressive has a strong chance of being reinstated in mainstream society and functioning as well as the next person: through medications, hard work, and constant self-monitoring.

Medications, however, are not a cure-all. Despite medicating with the best atypical antipsychotics in the market, dealing with the issues deep inside is a thing the bipolar sufferer must work out on his or her own. Medicines can only control the symptoms. If there are issues that must be resolved, like parental hatred or relationship problems, these could be worked out by reading self-help books, taking Psychology classes or simple introspection. However, if these issues are too intense or tough to handle, an appointment with a Clinical Psychologist or a Pastoral Counselor, is in order.

There are different kinds of therapists around. They usually have Ph.d’s in Clinical Psychology, and specialize in a certain methods of therapy. Cognitive therapists work on the thoughts that patients have of themselves. They challenge the erroneous and self-defeating thoughts and teach the patients to think positive, self-affirming and constructive beliefs about themselves.

Behavioral therapists work on unhealthy habits, patterns, behaviors and actions, and seek to change these without really trying to work on the thoughts behind these behaviors and habits.

A Cognitive-Behavioral therapist works on both bad behavior and the self-defeating thoughts behind these, seeking to give a well-rounded and more effective treatment to mental illness.

There are also Psychoanalytically oriented therapists who would find out about your childhood relationships and try to understand the connections between the quality of these relationships and your current issues and behavior.

Pastoral Counselors, on the other hand, are trained to help individuals cope with personal problems and sort these out with them using psychological and spiritual perspectives.

It might be hard to admit that one needs help, but once one does admit that he does need help, he’s already taking the first step to wellness.

The journey of having Bipolar Disorder is not easy. Despite the medications, there might still be moments of deep depression or hyperactivity. One has to constantly check himself if he feels “normal” or not. Keeping in mind the symptoms is a big help, so that when one experiences any of these, he can immediately consult his doctor.

For me, the best medications out there are Anticonvulsants (antiepileptics) and Atypical Antipsychotics. Anticonvulsants work well with controlling mood swings, while Atypical Antipsychotics effectively control abnormal thought patterns without causing tremors, tardive dyskinesia (robotic movements), or pseudoparkinsonism. The only downside is that this class of medications can get pretty expensive.

Lithium carbonate is the foremost option in first-line treatment for mood swings, but my personal opinion on them is that they might be toxic, as Lithium is a toxic element.

Old-school antipsychotics might also be used, however, they cause tremors, tardive dyskinesia and pseudoparkinsonism, along with a host of other unpleasant side effects. The advantage with these drugs is that they cost so much cheaper than the Atypical Antipsychotics.

The best thing to do is to weigh one’s options for treatment. Whether it is more important for one to be able to fit the treatment in the budget, or if one’s well-being is the foremost concern. To strike a healthy balance of these two factors is key in the process of treatment selection.

Knowing one has Bipolar Disorder is not the end of the world. In fact it is the start of a rich awareness of the beauty of life. Knowing one’s purpose and finding out how one can help others greatly enriches the experience of having Bipolar disorder.

It’s not about “Why me?” but it’s about “How can I help others, given my illness?” This is no time to wallow in self-pity. This is a time to work on what one can do with oneself, progressing from illness to wellness.

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