#VoicesOfHope: A Story About My Battle With Mental Illness

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My name is Milo. I’m 22 years old. I have been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder.

My problems started when I was still young. Growing up, I was a sheltered kid. I wasn’t given the freedom to decide for myself and the chance to solve my own problems. My parents helped me in even the smallest obstacles. Consequently, I grew up shy, timid, fearful, and incompetent, which made me a target for bullies. I found it hard to interact and socialize with other kids. I was picked on and bullied in different ways, like calling me all kinds of names, pulling down my pants in front of people, or pushing me around. I had to transfer to another school, but I always found myself in the same situation. I had to change schools frequently to cope or get away. I attended five schools from elementary through high school.

The bullying got so intense in high school that I had to stop for two years. In this low point, I turned to computer games. It became my own means of escape, to temporarily disconnect from the ugly reality. But this newly found addiction soon took a toll on me when my academic performance got affected. In spite of all this, I managed to finish high school. I was so excited to go to college, driven by the thought of it as a chance to reinvent myself and leave the memories of getting bullied behind me.

Boy, was I wrong? The bullying continued. That’s when I realized that it doesn’t really matter where you are. If you don’t do something to change the situation, to help yourself, then the same thing will just happen again and again.

On my first year of college, I didn’t get the best schedule. My morning classes would end at 12:30 PM and the next was at 7:30 PM. I had too much free time on my hands, and I was forced to rent a room in a nearby boarding house. The room that I stayed in was petty and very small with no windows. It only had some ventilation above. My days went by in a routine: I’d wake up, go to school, and afterward, I would go for a jog or roam around with no particular direction. When I’ve had no classes for the day, I go home. I think this part of my life was the most productive that I have been. It’s when I learned most of the principles that I still keep today.

I was comfortable for the first couple of months, but as the time passed by, I found myself having trouble concentrating during classes. I tried to focus but retained nothing from lectures and activities. My condition worsened and suicidal thoughts soon became more prevalent, especially at night when I’d try to fall asleep. I cannot stop myself from thinking of different ways to end my life until I fall asleep tired and in tears. I started to avoid classes where I had to speak in front. Whenever I spoke in front of the class, I experienced shaking, stammering, and intense nervousness. During those times, I found myself frequently hanging out on the school rooftop observing the students from a bird’s eye view. There was only one sight — students chattering and laughing. They had friends. They had a bright future and the whole world in front of them; all oblivious to the fact that there was a fellow student who wanted to jump and end his life because, at that moment, he was sure that he would never have those things. It was then that I realized I needed help. I forced myself to finish the semester despite knowing that I’m certainly going to fail in some of my subjects.

Subsequently, I decided to take some time off from school to have myself checked by a psychiatrist. I told this to my parents, and they supported my decision since they already had the intention to have me see a psychiatrist when I was younger. It just didn’t push through due to financial constraints. I tried going back to school a couple of times since then, but I still couldn’t handle it. I don’t think I’ll be able to finish college anymore. I could walk away knowing I did all I could, but it’s just wasn’t meant to be. I’m also a survivor of multiple suicide attempts. However, I am happy to be able to say now that my current condition is stable since I changed my medication. These days, I also have a decent relationship with my parents unlike in the past where I felt resentment towards them and blamed them for my condition. I’ve learned that we are responsible for our lives.

I am currently taking an antidepressant and an antipsychotic medication. I have been regularly getting check-ups from a psychiatrist in NCMH (National Center for Mental Health), and it has been a huge help in my recovery. There has been a vast improvement in my condition compared to before. Going out of the house was something I couldn’t do before, but now I can.

One of the biggest factors to my recovery was certainly seeking help from a psychiatrist and taking medications. Other factors that helped were being aware of my thoughts and feelings so I can discern, avoid or fight the triggers of my depression and anxiety, and constantly move or do something. I have no job as of the moment since I’m having difficulties finding and maintaining a job. As they say, “An idle mind is the devil’s playground.” Being idle makes me vulnerable to negative thoughts and feelings. That’s why I make it a point to always be doing something — be it helping with the house chores, watching over our store, or walk around with no direction in mind. I also try to live in the “here and now”. Thinking about the future is just making me anxious, and thinking about the past is just making me depressed.

I’ve also started a support group in Facebook called Social Anxiety Support Philippines, a group that caters to people with social anxiety as well as other mental health problems. Feel free to join us. I’ve created the group because I know how hard it is to have a mental health problem. I wanted to create a place where people with mental health problems can help and encourage one another. I guess I’m one of the lucky ones. I was able to detect my mental health problem and sought help early in my life. I’m grateful it saved me from enduring more pain. With this kind of life, you need to have things to be grateful for and hold on to them for dear life.

-Milo Borja


 

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