Thanks to Twittersphere, the dialogue on mental health is getting out of the offices of teachers, lawyers, and doctors and spreading over virtual streets. Now the professionals turn to the internet to raise the awareness. Among them is Dr. Gia Sison, a Filipino mental health advocate and a kind of hero who turns her personal pain into a greater lesson for us all.
Dr. Sison is a full-time physician, blogger, a social media influencer, speaker and leader and advocate of healthcare organizations. Aside from the professional titles, she is also a wife, mother and brave and proud breast cancer survivor.
In Rappler’s cover story, she drew on her own experience of living with breast cancer years ago to shed light in identifying, treating and dealing her diagnosis. We caught up with Dr. Sison recently to share her on-going journey.
“It was really something I could never think would happen to me honestly. But in a snap it was there, I was diagnosed. As a doctor, it was very hard yet easy to understand all at once. I remember at one of my lowest points when I tweeted something about it and a random person replied back genuinely just sending thoughts for me and it was surprisingly comforting. That’s when it hit me to do the same thing for others.”
Sison added to the conversation her admitting that the battle with cancer had instigated a suffering on her mental well being, too.
“It was isolating. I know I had a support system but I didn’t think they understood it. And that felt very isolating. You know the stages of grief? I jumped straight to acceptance. I’ve accepted the fact that I’m dying soon enough. That’s what I thought. Then I survived and beat it. But then, ironically, all suppressed emotions came through. There came denial, anger, bargaining, depression,” she said.
Because she’s been there, done that, and survived, she’s now a big-sister-type mentor figure for her nearly 90,000 followers on Twitter. Her followers mostly fall on the Gen Z group seeking advice on school, work, family, friends, love life and many other things.
@giasison doc, can you be friends with your ex po ba??
— amethyst (@amethystmariexx) June 5, 2018
Doc Gia @giasison, how do handle pressure from family? I failed a subject last sem and I cant tell them Im failing another 1 this sem. Idk if I can still bear to hear ‘binababa ko standards ko para sayo’ ‘ayoko kung pano ka lumaki’ ‘youre a disappointment’ one more time #AskDocG
— ☂ (@beathreees) June 5, 2018
@giasison Doc how to start a conversation with your bisexual friend na di na pumapansin sainyo dahil siguro akala niya di namin siya tanggap? #AskDocG @
— ⭐ (@younghungrypoet) June 5, 2018
“I like to engage in those subjects. If you’ll notice I’m all for bringing light to topics we’re all a bit ashamed to talk in normal settings – failures, dysfunctions and from what I’ve seen, more often than not, people dealing with a mental illness find it harder to deal with the stigma that is also created by us, in this culture and society.”
When Sison hears about more grave matter from someone with suicidal tendencies, an obvious cry for help, all she could manage to do is drop what she’s doing and make sure to address it.
“The power of this online platform can be saving somebody’s life.”
The rise of her presence has led her to continuously work for things she’s passionate about. Recently, she’s launched a project called “The Failure Journal.” Treat it like your personal diary only not involving your success stories but rather those ones you failed.
Here you go- pic.twitter.com/lEHawto4mT
— Dr. Gia Sison (@giasison) May 19, 2018
“It stemmed from when I was battling cancer. I found myself writing down things I wanted to do before I die. Then on the process I found myself jotting down things I wasn’t able to achieve too. My failures. And in correspondence I tried to counter it with an action I should make to achieve it and learn from it,” she shares. “All my advocacies, I want them to be as real and human. We’re already showered with celebrated successful people but what we fail to acknowledge are its opposites. And there’s so much strength in there. Our failures doesn’t make us weak. That’s what makes us all better.”
Proceeds of this go straight to another project called “Humans of Barangay” by Filipino actress and comedian Maine Mendoza, who features stories of people that she meets in the streets who need financial and medical assistance. Both internet personalities aim to raise awareness and offer a hand to those in need.
Dr. Sison’s also coming out with a book tentatively later this year titled, “Unsaid Feelings.” A collection of essays and poetry based on her life’s journey. There’s quite a lot of exciting things happening and we can look forward to. Granted, all the talks and campaigns she’ll progressively be involved with.
Before wrapping up, the Twitter star shot in her short wisdom in life.
“It’s always a choice.”
“It’s being able to wake up and rise another day.”
“It’s being strong.”
“They are tough.”
“It’s shit. The good type of shit.”
With her fair share of ups and downs in life, her beating cancer as one of her proudest moment, Sison tells us that nothing worth it comes off easy in life. It’s a lesson she had to learn the hard way. And that our mental well being should always be a top priority in line with our physical and emotional state.
“Let’s always keep in mind that self-care isn’t just about going on trips or doing hauls. It’s learning to say no to the things you always say yes. You can’t help others if you’re broken. You can’t give what you don’t have.”