I remember asking for a leave of absence from my university during my third year to prioritize my mental health. One of the adults I spoke to asked me, “You’re so young, how can you already be going through this?” Until now, that statement stays with me because it shows how misconstrued the idea of mental health is in our society and what initiatives we have to do to change that.
My journey with acknowledging my mental health came about when I started university here in the Philippines. Growing up in Canada then completing middle school and high school at an American school, I had initially struggled with a sense of belonging which came as a culture shock for me.
But, in order to combat that, I started working in the entertainment industry as a sports reporter and music channel host. Those were both my dream jobs, but, in the wake of life, that had to be put to a halt and immediately I lost my sense of identity.
My mom is actually a psychologist and started noticing changes in my demeanor then – how I didn’t want to talk to anyone and I had no interest in activities that brought me joy before. She advised me to see a mental health professional. At that time, I didn’t want to because I felt if people had known that I was going through something. they would look down on me. But taking that leap of faith and eventually consulting with a psychiatrist brought assurance that what I was going through was okay, it was normal, and I would get through it.
That was the same reassurance I needed about a year ago when my anxiety started to resurface during the pandemic. Here I was, years after I was first diagnosed – now achieving my dreams of becoming a beauty queen, an actress, and even a news reporter, but still on a rollercoaster journey with my mental health. Just like a lot of people, I had panic attacks because of the uncertainty of what will happen next.
During the pandemic going to see your mental health counselor face-to-face just wasn’t the safest option. Thankfully, telemedicine, like EVA Teleconsult, started to emerge and with guidance from my counselors, I was able to get back on track keeping myself in-check mentally, leading to holistic health as well.
There’s a common misconception in our culture that emotion equates to weakness. But truly, emotion only equates to reality. And as soon as we acknowledge that reality and find our place in it, that’s the first step in conquering our demons.
We shouldn’t allow our struggles with mental health to take over our life or define who we are. I know I am an incredibly strong, driven, and hardworking woman. Conquering anxiety is a part of who I am, but it does not completely define me. And I was only able to fully embrace it once I was unafraid to acknowledge how empowered I truly am in being vulnerable.