January 13, 2016
Dealing with Depression and Anxiety: My Saving Graces

'During times when I failed at work, I equated that to failing as a person'

by Ryan Macasero
Lifestyle // Health and Beauty
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I woke up this morning wishing I hadn't. Trying to force myself to go back to sleep until my head began to throb. The pain in my head forced me to get out of bed, and I was disappointed that I had to face the world and my reality once again.
 
I've already sought professional help, but the past several weeks have been an on-and-off battle with something I've had since I was a kid: depression.

Some days I can bring myself out of bed without a hitch, go for a run or go to the gym, have breakfast on time, share a laugh with friends, get work done, and have a perfect day. But at any moment, a sound, a word, a picture that triggers a memory can cause the progress I've made to make me go spiral back to square one. So this time it was a photograph and an old song that sent me rolling down the mountain.
 
Here I am again, struggling to get out of my room, not wanting to communicate with the outside world, not eating, or eating too much. Overthinking, then spacing out for hours. Then the sun goes down again and I've accomplished absolutely nothing.
 
"What do you have to be depressed about?" someone recently asked me in an elevator. The answer is, nothing.
 


Depression is not always about being sad. Most of the time it's about feeling too much, or feeling nothing at all. It's about not having the drive to do things you normally enjoy doing, and not understanding why. It's about being fixated on something, and ignoring everything else. Or not being able to focus at all.
 
I've previously written about battling depression and anxiety, and where I went wrong was thinking that once I was able to manage those conditions, the battle was over. It's never over.
 
Instead of learning to manage, I learned to mask my inner feelings with a smile. The cleaner and put-together I looked, the more I was trying to hide the emptiness inside. Besides, what right do I have to be depressed when there are people who can't even eat 3 times a day in this country yet still manage to laugh? What is their secret?
 
Those questions made me feel like a guilty, entitled – as they say in Manila – "coño."
 
But what brought me here to the Philippines in the first place was my passion for journalism and rediscovering my ancestral motherland. While I've had great memories, it hasn't been an easy road.
 
These days remind me of a time when I was younger and didn't know what I was good at, and was constantly reminded and told by bullies that I wasn't good at anything, which contributed to the anxiety and depression.
 
College happened, then an internship at a Filipino-American weekly newspaper changed all that. For the first time ever, I had a sense of purpose and the confidence to say I was doing what I was put on earth to do.
 
From a shy boy who couldn't introduce himself to his classmates, I was ambushing government officials for interviews or asking to schedule sit-downs with high-profile individuals. It was like a dream, my saving grace, falling in love with a profession that was loving me back. Journalism helped me feel whole and lessened the feeling of emptiness.
 
But as I moved across the world, it was a whole new game. New rules, new environment, I had to unlearn and relearn everything I knew. There have been a lot of rough days and truth be told, I've fallen out of love with journalism, but I'm learning something else: to fall in love with myself first.
 
Recently I figured out why I've slipped into isolation and depression more often lately. For 5 years, I've latched my identity to my profession. This is wrong in so many ways.
 
I am not only my profession. I realized that who I am is the sum of the people I've learned to love, and share my life with me, my friends, and family, they are my true saving graces.
 
After I learn to be whole as a human, hopefully everything else will follow.
 
Ryan Macasero is a 2013 awardee of the New America Media Ethnic Media Awards for Southern California and was nominated twice by the Philippine American Press Club for the 2012 Plaridel Awards for Filipino American Journalism. He sees the news as the adventure of a lifetime. It has taken him from the city halls and county offices of the San Francisco Bay to the concrete jungles of Manila.
 
This story was first published in Rappler.com, a Manila-based social news network where stories inspire community engagement and digitally fuelled actions for social change.