In recent news, Joey de Leon, a popular actor and TV host here in the Philippines has made rounds on social media for down-playing depression, stating that depression is brought onto ones self and that it is a person’s decision to be depressed or not.
Some of us may or may not have our own depression stories. I know I do and I know that there will be a lot of stories shared from here on.
In 2005, I was diagnosed with depression while admitted at Makati Medical Center for gastroenteritis.
At the time, I was an athlete for the UST Judo Varsity team, having had to move from Team A to Team B due to ineligibility because of my residency status. I had spent the whole year training hard to play for the UAAP Championship game, and not to mention needing to lose and maintain my weight at 48kgs. Even days prior to the event, after finding out I wasn’t going to play in the team games, I was living off crackers and water, running around UST with layers of jacket on and spending nights in dry sauna baths. It was a bad tactic but I was desperate even if I was only playing in the individual event.
After the tournament, while on a holiday with mum and my little brother in Bangkok, I started throwing up and rejecting everything I consumed; even water. For the next 10 days, the toilet was my best friend and my bones were slowly starting to peek through my skin. My arms, toned from days of throwing people of different weight categories, had started to show its true cuts. Each day spent in Bangkok was painful as I forced myself to do tourist-things despite wanting to just curl up into a ball next to a toilet.
Once we were back in Manila, I was admitted and apparently given the strongest gastroenteritis medicine there was out there but my body was also rejecting those and I was basically living off dextrose. After a couple of days, a new set of doctors came into my room and started asking questions unrelated to the things that I had eaten and how I was physically feeling. Their questions were about my personal life, being part of the Judo team, the stress I was feeling, my relationship with friends and family. I didn’t think much of it because of the state I was in and I was more worried about throwing up into the plastic bag that had become a staple piece of accessory next to my hospital bed. I was also given a different type of medicine which was described as something that would make me feel more relaxed and sleepy so that I wouldn’t have to think about how I was physically feeling and that perhaps it would help me stop myself from throwing up.
I was finally allowed to go home once I was able to consume food and drink fluids without needing to vomit. I had taken home two sets of medicines; one for gastro and the other, the relaxant. I didn’t think twice about the relaxant because it was effective and I found myself thinking less about the pain I was in and the need to throw up. Come to think of it, I thought less about anything.
It wasn’t until I was lying in my room the day I left the hospital when my step mother knocked on the door and asked, “Do you want to rest or do you want to talk?” In my head I was thinking, “Talk? Talk about what? What’s going on?” So I agreed to “talk”. She then continued on to telling me that I was actually diagnosed with clinical depression and that the doctors that had been seeing me were psychologists.
I laughed at first, and was immediately in denial. I thought about how happy I was being with my team mates and my friends and that there was no way I was depressed. I couldn’t think of how throwing up could relate to being depressed. During that talk, I’m sure my step mother had tried her best to explain the situation to me but my thoughts had started trailing off to why exactly I was depressed and it wasn’t until she gave me my medicine and soon, I was lying in bed, staring at the ceiling and just feeling oddly relaxed. All thoughts of my state ceased to exist in that moment and continued on that way for days.
I eventually turned the basement into my personal bat cave and moved my computer and bed down there. I tried to get things back to normal again. Every day, I would turn on my PC and would try to start a new blog entry on Livejournal but found myself staring at a blank screen. I wanted to write, just as I was normally doing prior to getting sick but I just couldn’t find the words to express what I was feeling. After days of just lying in bed, trying to get better, it took one thought and one question for me to get up and research on this relaxant I was taking. Anti-depressants. It all made sense now, the blank thoughts, the feeling of just wanting to lie in bed and not do anything, wanting to see my friends but not wanting to move and not knowing what to say to them.
The therapist tried to pinpoint why I was depressed during a couple of sessions and without going into much detail about what she had discovered, it was concluded that I needed to have a healthier relationship with my father and that I needed to learn to get things off my chest and not to let my past eat me up. I decided to stop taking antidepressants because it was making me feel more bottled up than anything and from then on, I slowly started to live my life again.
A year later, I packed up my bags and left the country, not to run away from things, but to start afresh.
I never thought I was depressed and I never thought I was bottling up my problems until it started physically affecting me.
For a celebrity to say that depression is merely a joke to one’s self is disheartening. For someone that highly influences the public on TV and to make such comments, it’s no wonder that some people who do suffer from depression fail to reach out for help. Depression is real, and people like Joey de Leon have to learn to be sensitive about what is said in public.
My story is of course one in millions out there, perhaps similar to mine or perhaps even worse. But the bottom line is, depression is a killer and is not a joke.
If you know someone who has symptoms of being depressed, be the first to reach out because they may not have the right state of mind nor the strength to ask for help.
It’s never too late.
Rather than sharing an article about Joey de Leon’s insensitive remarks, I’m sharing these phone numbers instead.
Here’s a link to my psychiatry report: https://aubrey-rodriguez.com/2017/07/01/psychiatry-report/