Two close friends, Ann and Gia volunteered to share their story. They both came all the way from Pampanga to hang out in Manila and we took this chance to meet for this project. Both of them help each other in their struggles with mental illnesses which makes their friendship truly admirable. A separate post will be made for each of them so I will first share Ann’s story. For her privacy, her photos were not used.
Tell me about yourself.
I’m Ann and I was diagnosed with major depression. When it started, it was more of a seasonal depression. It would come every year. There was only a certain time of the year that I get triggered into depression.
When did it start?
It all started when I was in 6th grade to first year of high school. My tito (uncle)… he did something to me. He was touching me inappropriately and told me not to tell my parents. He isn’t a “tito” in the sense that he’s a friend of my mom. He’s a relative, her cousin and our neighbour. I’m also close with his kids. Usually, I just go to their house to research because they had encyclopedias. There was no sexual intercourse; however, his hands lingered on my behind which felt so wrong. I asked myself, “how do I cope with this?”
I couldn’t speak up because he’s my relative. I know I have to tell someone, but at the same time, I didn’t want to create family tension. Being neighbors just made it harder.
How long was the duration of his inappropriate touching?
It happened every time we were left alone in his house during our visits and it lasted for months. He would also show me comics with sexual content. This led me to lose motivation in school. Sometimes, I would already be at the school gate and still decide not to go to school. I’m a good student usually getting grades in the line of 8’s but I allowed it drop until it came to a point where I started having line of 7’s in my other subjects.
Around December or January, I couldn’t endure it any longer and told my mom and my sister about the incident. Up to this date, my father is still unaware of it because of our fear of the possibility of a heart attack if he knew. He’s a hypertensive and diabetic.
Around January, towards the end of the school year of my first year of high school, I stopped going to school. It felt pointless. I would just shut myself inside my room.
I managed to go back to school within a few months feeling sorry for my parents, especially my mom, because she begged my teachers to make me pass. Since then, I avoided my uncle.
After some time, I found out I wasn’t the only victim. He also did it to my cousin and my childhood friend. I think what he did brought serious repercussions to my cousin. I felt that it was the reason why my cousin became a lesbian.
Then came November, my depression relapsed and I didn’t go to school at least once a week. I was about to exceed the maximum number of absences but they won’t be able to kick me out because my grades were line of 9’s.
During third or fourth year of college, my depression didn’t relapse and I was in a good place. I successfully lost weight but I felt that the reason why I don’t try to lose weight as much is because it’s also like my self-defense that I’m fat. I just feel like there’s a lower chance I will get noticed by men. People were frustrated that I’m fat but I couldn’t explain the reason to them.
My depression was further triggered when I had a very stressful job coupled with family problems. My sister married an Indian and lived in India with her husband. All this time, we thought that they were doing fine until my sister confided with me her problems. Her husband had problems and probably needed help more than I do. He’s a sex offender and a sex addict. He lost his job prior to marriage and tried to find a job in India for 6 months but to no avail. At home, my grandmother is also bedridden and I was like a caregiver to her. Whenever my mom was not around, I was the one who looked after my grandmother.
I had a lot of responsibilities at home, issues with my mom, issues with my sister and a stressful work that accumulated a lot of negative energy. One time, when I was in Guadalupe MRT station, I contemplated, “what if I just jump here?” My suicidal thoughts started when I was in high school but never considered acting upon it, but this time, I had urges to act upon it. I lost motivation at work and went AWOL.
That was the time I started reaching out. I told my mom that I couldn’t endure this anymore. Luckily, she was supportive and my doctor helped a lot. I completed taking my medications for 6 months. Within that time span, I made a big improvement because my doctor imparted a huge amount of self-awareness to me. I was able to find a work again around 3 months after that and I was doing well.
Did the depression relapse?
I still did have relapses but I was able to better handle my depressive episodes through the effective coping mechanisms that my doctor taught me. I also used writing and drawing as an outlet, and at the same time, I learned how to step back from negative thinking and absorbing other people’s negative energy. I also learned how to say no to people and cutting negative people from my life. I even had to tell one of my bestfriends, “You’re not good for me and my mental health… so bye”. Now, I only have a few people in my friendship circle.
How would you rate your progress in recovery?
I feel that you cannot really fully overcome depression. It comes and goes but the difference is in the way you handle it. Now, I can just say to my depression, “Here you are again. Hi friend. I can handle you, bring it on.” I believe I can manage my depression well now.
What were the biggest factors of your recovery?
Going to a psychiatrist. We can only do so much on our own and having a doctor can guide you. Another factor is staying away from negative people. Sometimes the toxic level of people around you are so high that you tell yourself, “What’s the point of the psychotherapy and medications that were given to you when the source of negativity is just around you?”
My advice for others is the same. Cut away people who you think aren’t healthy for you. Don’t be afraid to say no, and if you need help, reach out. People won’t understand you at first, even you wouldn’t be able to understand it at first as well. So reach out to someone who are willing to listen without bias and prejudice. Now, if that person doesn’t want to listen, then go find someone else who will.
Being depressed is not a choice because it’s not something you can control. The only thing you can control is how you’re going to handle your depression. Are you going to move forward with it by asking for help? Or are you just going to keep it to yourself? One of the important things I’ve learned is that if you just keep it to yourself, you will just nurture the feelings of depression. It will bottle up and explode.
You really have a lot of good advice.
Yes, especially when I come across people who seem to have depression. At first they won’t usually admit it but I just tell them personally, “First things first, ask for help. I know a good doctor I can refer to you. Just because you’re feeling depressed doesn’t mean you’re crazy. I am willing to help you out if you need someone to listen or if you need someone to accompany you to the doctor.”
I’ll just reiterate, don’t be afraid to reach out to someone and cut people out from your life.
Share Your Story is a project aiming to provide mental health awareness by featuring stories of people who are courageously willing to share their experiences in struggling with a mental illness.