An Open Letter

“This is what I meant when I say Philippines has a blind spot when it comes to mental health awareness and support. Filipinos don’t value it; the poor ones badly need it, only the rich can afford it.”

It is not only difficult to “get help”, it is much difficult to get the “proper help”. I am not after medications, I just wanted to know what’s wrong. I just talked to my doctor for 15 minutes, of course I was not able to say it all. I was very nervous. He diagnosed me for “mild depression” and advised me to go for a jog every morning, and since I don’t want any medication, he prescribed some Omega 3. Again, “HELP

I was so devastated earlier that I created this, something that will never be sent. I just needed to vent.

I am writing you this email because I know our first meeting did not go very well. Honestly, it was horrible. It made me break down while walking out of the hospital. I decided to see a psychiatrist because I know there is something wrong, I needed answers not medication. I just wanted to know what is wrong. I am hoping for relief or at least just a little clarity, but you only made me feel even worse.

Did you know that I am broke? My family is having financial problems. We are not that well off. I had the opportunity to be a model for Hair Asia, an annual event for hair stylists. I was one of the models for hairstyle competition, that’s the reason behind my Mohawk, my crazy hairstyle, the reason why I can afford your consulting fee. It’s out of budget but I needed help. I gave up my hair, I look like a cuckoo. I gave up the first and last money I ever had for nothing. I was walking down the stairs of your hospital feeling horrible. I can’t fight back the tears. Another day of lost hope.

I told you earlier that I get nervous when I talk to people. I am not exaggerating it. I’ve just had my panic attack in front of you. My words are jumbling, I am already breaking down but I tried to compose myself. Everything that I have said earlier is all bullshit. You asked me, what made it come back and then I told you about this girl and that this girl is very intimidating and that I can see myself in her. But I don’t even know why I said that. That’s stupid. This is one of the reasons why I don’t talk to people, one of the reasons why talking to people makes me nervous. Because all this bullshit is coming out of my mouth whenever I open it. I am not thinking at all. Everything that I say is not making any sense. Conversations bring me shame. Earlier, I’ve only made a clown of myself. But I thought you can understand, of all people I’ve talked to.

You asked me “What am I feeling?” That is the most simple and complex question a psychiatrist will ever ask and you are asking it while you are talking on the phone with someone, while you are talking to me. How can I say what I am feeling? If I am going to answer that, honestly, I feel like shit. I just sat down and you already made me feel like shit. How can I politely say that? That’s when I started buttering bullshit, my mind is not working, my inner mind is making sense but what I am saying is not. fgsfmgnsdk I am a mess. I started talking, I am already stuttering, but you still made me pause because you can’t hear the one you’re talking to over the phone. You asked me your very first question and you triggered my panic and social anxiety in a snap. I’ve just entered your room for 15 minutes and I just break down. Maybe you sensed it. You became disoriented as well, you asked the same questions” How was my sleep?” Then you started scribbling my prescription, I told you I am afraid to take medication, so instead, you told me, just do some exercise. Go for a jog. You told me, this is just mild depression. You prescribed some omega 3. You sure this will help me?

You haven’t heard my story, I haven’t talked.

I failed to tell you how my mood shift from this to that. How anger fills me right up, that I am afraid I might hurt my kids. How I am sometimes disrespectful to my mom because I snap, I don’t know why I snap, I don’t know how to stop. How I hate myself even more after that. How I don’t know how to apologize to my mom because I’ve been snapping quite a lot and there is no excuse. How guilt makes me even more crazy. How I change from personality to personality to personality that I am losing track of who I am anymore. How heavy my body feels, (or I think I already said it, how do you put it? Yes, I’m lazy) how light it is, how I feel hopeless for no reason, how I scream just for petty things like throwing me a funny face when I am talking. How my neck itches for a choke-hold that the idea of hanging myself always comes in my mind, but thankful I have kids, I have solid reason not to.  But it is just mild depression, right? I don’t know. You asked me to show up next Wednesday. Should I? Do you really want me to show up? Why would I?

I don’t know why, is it my haircut? What made you think that I am not someone to be taken seriously? Or is this how you treat your patients?

This is our first meeting, but all I wanted for you to do is to listen to me first. Let me talk. Let me speak like as if you are not in a hurry. Like you are not about to call your next patient. Like you are not about to hop in to your next hospital for more profit. Because this is my first time, right? I don’t even know what to say. How will I tell you what I’ve been having problems with, because there are a lot and I don’t know how to say them properly.

But I am going to give you another try. I don’t know how will I raise the money, but I will. I need you. I badly need you. Maybe you are not a great help, but you might still be a help. It’s partly my fault. I will give it another try, if it turns out the same, I don’t know what to do anymore. I am afraid. How will I change myself? I am not happy with this state.

A joyful heart gives health to the body, while a sad spirit dries up the bones.

That’s what it says in his card. Man, I was walking down the stairs with dried up bones. Sorry, this is badly written.  I feel bad. I still feel so bad. I’ve stopped writing for a while. I’ve finally had the guts to go see a doctor but look what it got me. I feel even worse. I have his email address, I don’t know if I could send it. I will sound even more crazy. I will instead show up next week. I will try to compose myself. I need him. Did you know that there are only around 400 licensed psychiatrists in the Philippines? That makes 1 for every 10 million Filipinos. This is what I meant when I say Philippines has a blind spot when it comes to mental health awareness and support. Filipinos don’t value it; the poor ones badly need it, only the rich can afford it.


How Can a Photograph Capture the Image of a Person Falling Apart?

I stared at the black and white photograph, “Is this how unhappy I look like?” I hadn’t realized it before. I was never beautiful, but looking at this picture.. This is not me. This can’t be me. This is far from the remark of “Oh. I look so ugly”

I took the photograph, studied a bit more closely. Is this how people see me? Since when did I look this empty?

Day by day, for years, I’ve watched confidence fade away. I’ve cut my hair short. I’ve given up on any pity attempt to look pretty. I neglected myself for a very long time. I look so dull and wasted, tired and drained. This hopeless face can never be covered up. This depressing, decaying body cannot be dressed up. Look a little more closely, you’ll cringe. You’ll cringe at the person beneath this veneer body.

Hate reflects. I didn’t know it reflects. People can actually see through me. How can I not know? I’ve been hiding all of this. I’ve been hiding. I’ve been hiding all this time.

How can a decent photograph capture the image of a person falling apart?

How farther can I descent?

What will I look like next year?

Where will shame and insecurities lead me to?

Is this photograph my cry for help?

Look at what you’ve done.

What have you done to yourself?

“When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in Black and white, you photograph their souls!”― Ted Grant

Actual photograph

The photograph was taken by our Photojournalism professor. It will be shown at our university’s photo exhibit next week. It is a black and white portrait of me. I have seen the photograph just a few minutes before writing this. It is like meeting my self for the very first time. A revelation of how I’ve let myself down. A potential wake-up call to pull myself up.

Prison of Truth

(This is how you lose your youth)

You started to wonder, how you’ve lost your voice
Was it the day you ceased speaking?
Or was it the day you started repeating,
repeating the chant everyone else is saying

You’ve lost your point of view, honey, it was all you.
You are always ready to bend and mold,
To conform, and nod. To find the truth
From different set of lies laid in front of you.
You always choose whatever it is that can fool you.

For years, you’ve been complaining about your lost freedom,
For twenty-two years you have been living,
Six years spent grieving,
Every persona you wore were lined up in a shelf
Six fucking years, spent building a prison for yourself

The next time rage fill you,
While you clasp and shake and grip the bars that surround you,
Remember this, the only thing that can set you free
Is the very thing that confines you.

With Blank Eyes, You Wait

The thing is, it’s a cycle.

You don’t know the reason behind the cycle,
but if you are going to observe it, there is.
For the past few months, you were doing good.
You thought you have finally became stable, okay;
ready to grab any optimism life has to offer.
You were so proud of yourself.

Then there’s this shift.

Slowly, or drastically,
it pulled you again to that pit,
that same pit you fought really hard to escape from.

But you’re at it again,
and this time you don’t know what to do.
It just swallows you.

You have no idea, there is no reason.
There is no clear reason.

You tried to talk to people, for normality’s sake, and it feels fake.
You don’t really feel like talking, but you have to at least try..
You can’t move, everything is forced.

At first, you thought it’s just a bad morning.
You just woke up on the wrong side of your bed.
Then it becomes a bad day.
Then you try to cheer yourself up,
you told yourself, tomorrow is another day.
Then the next day came, and you’re dragging yourself up again.
Then you hadn’t noticed it has been a month, it has been months.
You feel defeated without knowing what you are fighting against.

So you just wait…
With blank eyes, you wait.

Written in August, during the early days of the shift.

(Featured photo was from 

Fighting the Cycle of Depression

Depression has become a universal battle, and the one were fighting against with is ourselves; each of us is our own silent opponent, stealing our own identity, ruining established relationships, putting away  our own opportunities.

I have tried everything that I could to avoid the dark clump of clouds hovering on the back of my head. Last semester, my hard work finally paid off. I’ve finally become my most productive self; I was able to do my schoolwork on time, I was able to help my mom at home, I did a clerical job on the side. Yes, finally, I was able to fight it! Or maybe ignore it, live above it. All the while, Depression is still beside me, like a known enemy, sitting at the corner, relaxing at my side, puffing his smoke with his feet up high, and his usual companion, Anxiety, is there, too. They are taking their time.

This morning, these two caught my full attention again. I found myself zipping up my humane mask back on.  Depression just stands in there, smirking at me, mouthing the words “Welcome back”. The heavy feeling is here again.

This is the tricky part, it had you again and you have to start from square one. I figured, if there is one thing that actually worked during my 4 year battle with persistent depression cycle, it’s developing my own routine. I thought, the only thing that could fight this cycle, is also a cycle and I have to make my own.

Whenever the shift comes, this has become my cycle:

 1. Hibernation – This is the time where I ceased fighting it. I let myself submit to it, lie down in my bed, pretending I’m dead. Usually, during hibernation, I get  overwhelmed with the feeling of absolute nothing. It’s like climbing down to a deep and empty well, and when you’ve finally reached the bottom, all you do is stare at the opening, your slightest source of light.

2. Shower & Contemplation – After a day of two of succumbing to my emotions and lack of emotions, I will force myself to get-up. I’ll go to a long and nice shower, to think. To control my thinking. To think over and over, until my mind gives way to a new perspective. The after shower feeling helps, too. The light sensation of just-came-out-of-the-shower freshness makes me feel a little better.

3. Conquering the clutter – I’ve got this from a Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. Whenever Toru Okada feels restless, he would iron his shirts until his mind clear-up. I know, it is a productive way of taming the mind.

I know how hard it is to move when you are feeling depressed, but I always give this a try. I start with chunks, from small things, to organizing the cluttered desk, until I get to that piling plates on the sink. It is not a fun thing to do, but it gives me more time to think. I am always stressing about thinking. You see, I am battling with my own thoughts. I have to think, to change these thoughts. And conquering my clutter usually works, it even gives me the feeling of relief once I’ve made my place neat and comfy.  A clean place, can bring peace. And peace, in the moment of darkness, is exactly what I need.

4. Proper Rest – This is something I cannot do right now. You see, I’ve been writing a midnight diary, and midnight diaries can only be written during midnight. Hah! But having a good night sleep can be helpful. It gives the brain a time to rest (so it has more energy to fuck with you in the morning). But in all seriousness, the relationship between sleep and depressive illness is complex – depression may cause sleep problems and sleep problems may cause or contribute to depressive disorders. As much as possible, I want to cross this one out, I don’t need any more depressive contributors.

5. Making my own morning routine – Mornings are for happy people! I believe in “fake it till you make it” and I will try to pretend I am happy this morning, until I can be truly happy the next morning.

I go for a jog, exert my energy, rage, self-hatred, into running. Some days, I really have no interest in anything at all,  I’ll just give myself a simple breakfast, and by simple, I mean the easiest one to cook. Maybe a bowl of cereals. Not much, but progress is progress. One of the ways to fight depression is to continue fighting it, it is fighting to do something against my will. So serve I myself a decent breakfast, even if I don’t feel like it.

When I am feeling a little better after this full cycle, I’ll continue with it, but I skip Hibernation, I’ll proceed to step 2. Going back to step 1 is my last resort. Never let yourself fall apart over and over again, it’ll be a habit. This is certainly not a good habit.

Remember, only cycle can break a cycle. I will keep on establishing new cycle, as long as I can fight myself, as long as I have the will to fight myself.

If you find yourself facing a battle with yourself, you might wanna give this cycle a try. Let’s surpass this, I will keep on encouraging myself, and I will keep encouraging you. Depression can be persistent but I will never lose hope, and I will share this hope with you.