For many who suffer from mental illnesses, writing can be a therapeutic relieve from the sufferings, but poet Gratiagusti Chanaya Rompas takes a step further. Her latest poetry collection actually centers on her bipolar disorder.
Non-Spesifik, which was launched at NITRO Coffee on July 26 articulates Anya’s, as the poet is popularly known, journey as a person living with bipolar disorder. The book is her second poems collection published after the successful release of Kota Ini Kembang Api last year. The book is a compilation of her work from 1997 to 2016.
“All the poems in the book has its own place in my heart. But, I guess the distinguished ones are the ones I wrote in 2015-2016 after I figured out I have the bipolar disorder,” said Anya. “Writing has been helping me see what’s going on inside my head and in the depth of my heart,” she added.
Writing has been a great relief for her, she said, particularly in getting her emotions and feelings out of her chest, even before she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. During the event, she recollects her childhood memory of when she started to feel “off” as her emotions seemed to change too quickly and easily.
“One second I was happy; the next second I was sad. It kept going like that until I grew up as a teenager. But, I thought it was normal. I thought, ‘Oh, I probably just have PMS’. Everybody has their mood changes all the time, right?” she said.
She then realized how she had been building up things inside her; the experiences she had gone through, her thoughts and feelings that she had never shared with anybody.
“As a result, in 2015, my body can no longer bear with it. I collapsed, but the doctor could not find what was wrong with my physical body. I was brought to the emergency room twice in a month. That was the first time I was diagnosed with ‘non-psychotic non-specific bipolar’, hence the title of the book,” she added.
Anya also invited her psychiatrists Dr. Widyawati and Dr. Endah Ronowulan to the book launch. They both expressed their concerns that mental health issues are still overlooked and how seeking professional help is considered taboo in Indonesia.
“The first time I met Anya, her eyes looked hollow. So I tried to unravel her deepest memory, back from when she was in kindergarten until she graduated high school. I found out so many things that Anya had never actually told anybody,” said Drl Widyawati.
In addition, Dr. Endah Ronowulan points out the importance of raising awareness on the issue because many Indonesians prefer to look for alternative medication as their first aid instead.
“Common people think that the symptoms have to be bad enough to show that a person with mental health problem needs a professional help, like it has reached a point when the person is taking off their clothes or eating trash or laughing without any reason. But we can actually identify the symptoms long before their condition worsens and prevent it from happening,” said Dr. Endah.
Non-specific bipolar disorder it is the type that doesn’t exhibit constant mania or constant depression as a symptom.
“We cannot underestimate even the slightest evidence. It’s normal to feel sad, but be aware of how long the sad feeling lasts. If it’s over two weeks, it’s depression. If it’s frantic, euphoric and lasts seven days, it’s most probably mania. If it lasts for four days it’s hypomania. While for non-specific bipolar that Anya suffered, it can be triggered by certain stimulus,” Endah added.
The book launch also featured a poetry reading session by emerging poets and writers Syarafina Vidyadhana, Cyntha Hariadi, Junior Soemantri, Norman Erikson Pasaribu, Utari Intan, and Mikhael Ray.