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My Battle With Depression

It was a cycle of guilt, anger, misery, and a constant state of hopelessness.
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If you (or someone you know) need help or just want to talk to someone, you can get in touch with mental health facilities such as the UST Graduate School Psychotrauma Clinic, which offers free psychological services even to non-UST students.

It all started in June 2016, at the beginning of my one-month internship. I was only required to report in the office twice a week for just two hours. Most of the time, I was just alone in my dorm room so I was very bored and lonely. That's when my appetite sank and when I started losing weight.

Things got tougher for me when the school year started in August. We were required to come up with the first three chapters of our thesis in just two weeks. I didn't even have a topic in mind then. The fact that my other major subjects were so difficult didn't help either.

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I realized that something was wrong with me when I spent a lot of time locked up in a bathroom cubicle, crying; when, every time I tried to work on my school requirements, my head buzzed; when I continued skipping meals and losing weight; when I spent more hours in a day asleep than awake; when it took me a week to do a one-page essay that I could've normally written in an hour; when I felt guilty for relaxing and having fun; when I got so mad at myself for being dysfunctional; and when I felt that there was no escaping the misery that I was experiencing. It was a cycle of guilt, anger, misery, and a constant state of hopelessness.

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It was a cycle of guilt, anger, misery, and a constant state of hopelessness.

My breaking point was on the day my then boyfriend told me that we needed to talk. I received his text message while inside a veterinary laboratory, filming a swine autopsy. I tried to bargain. I asked if what we're going to talk about was good or bad because if it's something bad, I didn't want to hear it. But he insisted that I needed to.

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Suddenly the room grew smaller and I found it hard to breathe. Tears pooled in my eyes and my classmates caught me staring into nothing. That's when they told me to take a break. The moment I left the laboratory, I removed my face mask, sank to the floor in the hallway, and started crying really hard. Good thing a friend (who's clinically diagnosed with depression) was there to comfort me. She made me open up about everything that was going wrong with me. She listened. And I listened to her story, too, afterwards. At the end of our conversation, when I already stopped weeping, she suggested a psychiatrist and her consultation hours. Suddenly I was brave enough to validate what I have been suspecting I have been going through.

But right before I was able to schedule an appointment, I saw a Facebook post telling people to refrain from describing ordinary emotions as depressed or bipolar. This is not the first time I saw a post like this; I've read a lot of posts saying that other people aren't allowed to use the word "depressed" because they don't know what it really feels like, or they haven't done a thorough study about it.

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This discouraged me to have myself checked. What if my symptoms weren't enough to be called "clinical"? Does that mean that the misery I've been going through for months is nothing but an ordinary rage in emotions? Other than being rejected, I feared confirming that I do have depression. If I didn't know, if I wasn't diagnosed, I could just ignore it and shrug it off. But if I confirm it with an expert, it will be like carrying an elephant in every room I go to.

Other than being rejected, I feared confirming that I do have depression. If I didn't know, if I wasn't diagnosed, I could just ignore it and shrug it off. But if I confirm it with an expert, it will be like carrying an elephant in every room I go to.

I wasn't able to escape the stigma. Whenever I tell this story of how I got depressed, people would ask if I was clinically diagnosed. I could see the judgment in their faces whenever I say that I just knew that I was—as if it's not legitimate, as if it's some cool kids' club to have a medical record stating your right to be chronically sad. As if when you're not clinically diagnosed, your case wasn't depression at all and just some overreacting skit.

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When the semester ended, I continued being a limp noodle at home. My parents scolded me for not eating and for not getting out of bed. I explained my condition but they didn't understand. It was so easy for them to call me lazy. They started taking me seriously when I started talking about my suicidal peers. I guess they got scared that I might get the same idea. But, truthfully speaking, I fear death.

They still did not acknowledge my condition for depression because to them, that's synonymous to their first-born child losing her mind. But they did make the extra effort to take me out shopping, allowing me go home past midnight, not complaining when I spend a week's worth of money in a day. It's like my parents lost their right to be parents over me because the slightest scolding might trigger me back to depression.

But I was thankful that they were patient and understanding in this sense. I hope they knew that I did those things not because I wanted to (because I know we're not rich to be living that lifestyle) but because I was trying to find happiness in anything and everything. I was trying to help myself.

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Did I get over it? When 2017 came, I still found it hard to get out of bed and attend my classes. What I did was I forced myself to wake up very early and jog. I hoped that exercise would produce more happy hormones—and it somehow helped. I also focused on going easy on myself because I let myself suffer too much the past year. I worked on showing myself love and care.

Surprisingly, I rarely get into feeling depressed since 2017. I don't know what happened but I'm thankful that I can recognize hope again. I'm thankful that I can feel happiness without guilt again. I'm thankful that I'm slowly turning into myself again.

Things will get better.

To those who are still battling with depression, I know there's nothing I could say to make you feel lighter. But know that even if it's hard to believe, things will get better.

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Ivah Ely 3 hours ago

Forget Me Not: A forgotten entry in Tokyo

Watching well-made films often fuel the desire for adventure and excitement in our own lives. Like many in their youth, I've felt that childlike feeling of seeing myself as the main character in my own movie. The genres often change with time and it goes from comedy to tragedy really quick. I used to think that if I closed my eyes for too long, I'd miss the best parts. That if I close my eyes then I'd be covering the lens to the camera in my mind. But I also believed that I could dream about what I see again when I lay my head to sleep at nights or that I can re-watch all my memories after I die. But now that I'm older reality has a tighter grasp on my throat as I trudge my rocky road to adulthood. My memory is failing me. I write this entry for that reason. Because I am scared to forget. I was emotionally and mentally worn. I didn't know it at the time but I desperately needed that feeling of childlikeness again.

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Senior high school came with so much unnecessary pain and pressure that I didn't realize I was gasping for air. I always sat by the window to stare out during class as the voice of my teacher became background noise that faded into my daydreams. Before I knew it, I was packing a small backpack in the middle of the semester on a cold November evening to go on a trip to Tokyo. This time it wasn't a dream and it felt as if time stood still.

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While my friends and classmates were back home in their classrooms going on with their lives and schoolwork, I on the other hand was two-thousand miles away in a foreign land with a foreign language where my basic knowledge was not enough for me to survive on my own. Like passing through the Torii gate which the Japanese believe brings humans into the land of the spirits, I was in a new world. The breeze felt like a cold nip at the tip of my nose as autumn was nearing winter but I've never breathed in air fresher. I was welcomed into a small and warm Japanese home with lovely little folded cranes on a humble dinner table.

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My aunt who was far lovelier and even more vibrant than the colors on the delicately folded cranes was there to welcome me as well. The paper cranes weren't the only things she prepared for my one-week stay. On a little pink card, she had my name along with my Tokyo address handwritten in Japanese for our rides on the bus & bullet train; and in case I get lost. She also prepared a small pink pouch with cute yellow elephants on it. The pouch was filled with coins of different amounts. The coins were for me to spend freely on drinks and snacks in vending machines. It was all more than enough since beforehand she already prepared us 2 weeks' worth of snacks for my 1-week stay. On top of all that she prepared winter clothes since I traveled light and she insisted that I wear the pink parka that she brought before I came over. I find it funny that she still thinks I like pink but it's still just like the good old days. She's still one of the most thoughtful people I know. My aunt is a missionary in Japan and has always been like a mother and a friend to me. I sobbed like a baby in front of a thousand-member congregation on the day my family and I sent her off. A few years later, with my father being our Church's missions pastor, I was given the opportunity to travel to Tokyo and see her. Seeing her again was bittersweet. It's sweet since she raised me and is a big part of who I am and my interests today. But bitter because it hits you like a ton of bricks when you notice someone you love is has gotten older or weaker. Don't we all feel that at some point with our parents and guardians? On my father's side of the family, we have issues of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Dementia. It's hard to pretend that it doesn't hurt that after years of being with my grandma, she doesn't know who I am. As for my dad, on top of having Parkinson's he is starting to show early signs of dementia too. It's scary how quickly one can forget decades worth of memories. I wonder if I may go through that as well one day.

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At the time these thoughts were overshadowed by the magical Disneyland rides and digital museums, sights like Mt. Fuji as well as traditional and Modern Japanese Architecture, pictures we took at the iconic Hachiko shrine, and Shibuya crosswalk, and even the small oddities of Harajuku fashion and merchandise. I took as many pictures every chance I could get. I wrote in my digital journal with plans to make a picture journal when I get back home. Japan was quite the story to tell that I believe rekindled my childlike spirit. Before we knew it, the week ended and I was packing once again. This time my luggage was more than twice as heavy and the destination this time was home. I dreaded leaving Japan but I dreaded leaving my aunt more. I didn't get to say a proper goodbye to her at the airport due to my not knowing that she was only allowed to see me off until a certain point. I cried on the flight back while holding a giant Donald duck stuffed toy as I just imagined her going to her small Tokyo home alone. I also cried since soon I'd have to face reality once again. After hours of travel I found myself back home in the all too familiar Baguio. But I was in distress. It wasn't because my lungs were starting to forget what clean air felt like or that I'm missing the life I've lived for the past week. But I was in distress because I couldn't find my phone. Why was that the biggest problem in the world to me at the time? It was because of the pictures and notes that were lost with it. All the pictures I took and the notes of the smallest details were a blurry mess amidst the panic in my brain. I never posted anything because I wanted to live in the time there and not worry about anything back home or anyone knowing what I've been up to. But what haunts me is that I don't remember a single one of the pictures I took. I was so sure that I'd be able to go over them when I get back home. I don't want to forget. It's been 550 days and it still bothers me. It's been 550 days and it's only now that I realize the lesson of this story as I write this.

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As scary as it is to forget memories, we have to understand when we have to hold on to something and when it's okay to forget. I tried for weeks to somehow recover the pictures on iCloud but to no avail. We may not be able to fix the mistakes of the past or avoid misfortune that is out of our hands but what we can do is to move forward and make more memories that are worth remembering. Treasure the beautiful moments and the lessons from the terrible times. Cherish them and fight to keep these memories on the surface. If you find that difficult to do then strive to tell your stories to others. Because in the times that we forget, then we have others will remember our legacy. We can't be sure about what happens next though we can plan all we want. Often life doesn't have spoilers and may have a plot twist around the corner. As for me, I may never find those photos again but I made it a goal to one day come back to Tokyo and make more memories. That is a promise that I won't forget.

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The Art of Doing Nothing

We have been confined with the worldview about the idea of success; thus, the word “productivity” has been diverted into a different meaning. We labeled the level of our success by identifying the weight of the works we’ve done – believing that the busier you are, the more productive you’ll be. But little did we know that this kind of mindset is a pitfall, ending up in a trap and restricting us to do more of what we can.

Every person has their own way of planning on how to get productive. One of the tips mentioned by Prosalendis was the “2 Hour Hermit Mode” where you just need to stay quiet for two hours to learn and reflect. Within the 2-Hour Hermit Mode, you need to completely shut down outside distractions and try to do nothing, this will help you to have a peace of mind and a quiet time. Focus. This word may be cliché, having a shallow meaning, but the reality is, focusing on one thing is one of the hardest things to do. Some people may have mistakenly understood “doing nothing” as unproductive, but this is actually a form of taking a break. I usually do this 2-Hour Hermit every time I am loaded with tons of deadlines. Just try to sit in the corner of a coffee shop and try to discover new things or just go to a place where you find yourself comfort and peace.

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The art of doing nothing makes you appreciate the beauty of the mundane things - you get to witness how the leaves sway on their own branches, you get to see the unappreciated smiles of the people, you get to hear the sound of the birds giving you lullabies. You will never have the time to focus if you are too disturbed with a lot of things. Give yourself a rest from thinking about all the work you need to do. Don’t get distracted and give yourself the freedom of unfolding new things. The power of focusing and art of doing nothing will help you to do things you don’t normally do, and maybe start to love the things you once hated. Trace your progress. We don’t know how productive we are unless we trace our activities. I have a journal where I can write the things I have done, and the things I wasn’t able to accomplish. This helps me to track and jot down the things I failed to do within the day.

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You are able to take a break and have a rest by doing outside the boundary of the tons of work you have. You will also be surprised that you have done so many things when you’re listing the things you’ve accomplished. This will not just give you the satisfaction but you will also be grateful for what you have done for the past twenty-four hours. You just need a minute to reminisce what you have done while enjoying the silence in the process. Small daily acts can be a solution to achieve our long-term goals. We’re always bombarded with distractions and piled up work, but nothing can beat the idea of staying on track and not feeling lost. By doing this, we will always be reminded why we started to commit on the things that we want to do. After all, what makes us love what we do is knowing why we started it in the first place. The problem with us is that we are too busy achieving, losing the time to see the colors of the ordinary. We are blinded with the idea that success comes with great productivity. We always think that we are defined by how much work we exerted, and not appreciating the effort we’ve given. The fact is you are already successful in acknowledging that you have done something, and nothing.

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