I lived in the city all my life and struggled with bullying when I was in elementary until first year high school. I was always pressured to follow a certain norm, act a certain way, and be someone I was not. I did not have the freedom to choose what I wanted. I did not have my own money, nor did I have the power to make decisions on my clothes, where to eat, where to study for college, etc. I was sexually abused when I was 10 years old and never told anyone about it.
I struggled with depression all my life. I’m 33 now, and slowly but surely, recovering and fighting. The thought of suicide came to mind at least 4 times in my 20s. My friend, my only best friend, moved out of the country, and I had nobody to share what I was going through. I would eat alone, go to the mall alone, get my pedicure alone; in short, I was living my life by myself. At first, I did not believe it could happen, but I actually survived.
I have friends, but I am very careful with whom I share my life with, and I was able to work in a very big multinational company and only cared about myself… but I was a team player when the situations called for it. I turned to music, sports, reading books, and volunteering. I learned to care less of what other people thought of me. I learned to love myself more by focusing on the good things in the world or even the smallest thing that happened that day.
When I was 14, we moved back to the province because my dad wanted us to. It was so hard because I had to leave my comfort zone. It meant I had to give up things like my friends, my favorite place in Cubao, and so much more. With a heavy heart and eyes full of tears, I embraced life in the province. I went to a co-ed school for the first time, was bullied by a guy, blackmailed for money, and the worst, targeted by teachers because I came from Manila and an exclusive school for girls.
By God’s grace, I was able to graduate without any professional help or any medication at all. I woke up, dragged myself to go to school, and waited until the final bell rang to go home and eat, and then I would lock myself in my room. My parents and relatives were very curious about what was I doing inside my room. They didn’t know that I was reading a bunch of books about depression and mental health instead of focusing on the negative aspect of my life. I turned to music, books, and prayers too.
At 16, I was able to read 68 books in total about mental health and depression. When I had extra money, I would go to a doctor and ask for advice about my condition. The doctor did not give me any medication at all. I learned to embrace my situation. I studied the history of hip-hop and listened to all John Williams soundtrack at that time. I’d go out during the weekends to volunteer at a public school nearby to read stories to the kids and teach them how to write. I attended environmental causes in our town and was surprised to be active in that field.
Fast forward to today, I am working from home and currently going through several health conditions. I started a small group of women in our community that focuses on mental health and wellness. Most women in our community have 6 or 8 kids, and they don’t work. You often see them outside the house looking from afar or gossiping. They are not fulfilled, and they feel so demotivated. But they have no education on mental health. One mom committed suicide because she did not know how to handle a financial crisis. When help is not available and information is not ready, most people like them get into depression and anxiety.
With my little resources and knowledge found online and in books, I try to impart to them what the meaning of mental health and wellness is. Now, we have a sharing session, a Zumba session, cooking class, and business class to teach them how to make brownies, peanut butter, and gourmet tuyo. As hard as it may seem, I did try to teach them about faith as well. It was difficult, but through grace, they are now believers and reading the bible and putting it to practice.
I hope and pray that our government will have more information and resources to reach out to the small towns and barangays all over the country, and relay that mental health is not something to be scared about. Feeling lonely is not bad, and in times of loneliness, everyone should not be scared or ashamed to ask for help. I am one survivor, and I did it. I overcame depression. I pray that whoever gets to read this may be inspired as well. You are stronger than depression. You can get through this. It is hard, but we will go through this together. You are not alone.